Saturday, February 28, 2015

what and where i am

Thought behind the thought:

In India every evening at dusk, most homes will have a lamp lit in the household shrine. Light signifies enlightenment. It paves the way for knowledge and prosperity. It is a normal practice to chant evening prayers and sit in quiet, in complete solitude trying to be one with the creator. These quiet moments allow you to gather your thoughts, think about your actions through the day and mentally refresh you to take on challenges of tomorrow. All day you have questioned your existence and whether you have reached the place you wanted in life. In these quiet moments you realise that in the bigger picture, what you are and where you are, should be the same thing.

About the art:

What stands in our path towards personal growth are mostly we ourselves. Faith in a higher order or in a person or even in a cause helps us conquer ourselves. India is a land that abounds in places of worship belonging to a large number of religions. Jainism is one such religion that is an ancient and a prominent one in India. The Palitana temples located on the Shatrunjaya Hills by the city of Palitana in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat, India is a remarkable Jain temple city. Considered one of the holiest of all pilgrimage places by the Jain community, this temple-city was built as an abode for the divine; no one is allowed to stay overnight, including the priests. People of the Jain community believe that a once in a lifetime visit to this group of temples is essential as a chance to achieve nirvana or salvation. The meaning of Shatrunjaya is "place of victory against inner enemies" or "which conquers inner enemies.

The Palitana temples were built over a period of 900 years starting somewhere in the 11th century. They were destroyed by Turkish Muslims invaders in 1311 AD. The rebuilding began soon under Samara Shah. It was two centuries later that it picked up momentum in 1593 following which there was a major building activity here. What is remarkable about the temples is not just that they are incredibly crafted marvels in marble but the statistics of the complex is staggering as well.

There are hundreds of temples with estimates ranging between 863 and 1,008 present on the hill. Temples are arranged in systematic groupings with variation in height and space. They are grouped in nine separate wings or tuks, each wing having a separate central shrine or temple with minor shrines surrounding it. Many of the temples are very small buildings of only about 3 square feet in area (0.28 m2). These are decorated with Jain emblems, and sacred to Mahavira.

Amongst the larger temples are the Chaumukh temples, which were large halls used for holding discourses, are present. They are four sided buildings with doors located such that images would be visible from all four sides or directions. The four sided buildings are considered auspicious as they allow view from all directions. The religious texts of Jainism also suggest building "cities of temples" like Palitana and Ranakpur.

The architectural detail and intricacies of the temple are awe-inspiring. The marble floors have elaborate tessellated patterns. The interiors are intricately ornate, with carved ceilings of geometrical lace designs, clustered together to form a canopy. The entire cluster is a fabulous example of architecture of this style. Obviously highly skilled craftsmanship under the supervision of stringent patrons has resulted in this marvel. Legend goes that the sculptors' skills and capacity to carve intricate designs was paid on the basis of the marble dust that they had collected every evening after their hard labour. Maybe, in the modern world too one needs to introspect at the end of each day, “What is the dust that I have gathered today”?


Friday, February 27, 2015

standing tall

Thought behind the thought

It is so easy to blame one's circumstances for everything! For every failure that we meet, we think of something or someone that blocked us from achieving success. It cannot be that life burdens some people with problems all the time and lays a red carpet for others. What is it then, that differentiates the survivors from the losers?

The way they make the most of their situation, of course! Just like the coconut tree, that stands on a sandy beach, with seemingly unstable anchoring, and faces gushing wind day in and day out. And still manages to stand tall, gracefully and effortlessly!

There's surely a lesson to learn there. No matter how difficult it may be to hold on to the ground, no matter how much the winds may make you sway, you can still hold your head high and look beautiful too!

About the Craft

The coconut (nariyal in hindi) is justly known as the 'kalpavriksh', or the tree that can fulfill all your wants. Every part of the tree is put to good use. The trunk, the fronds, the fruit, there is no part of the coconut tree that does not lend itself to use, and beauty!

 Small pots and pans, spoons and ladles made out of coconut wood/shell. 

Carving a coconut shell into jewelry takes a lot of skill too.

Watch the videos below to see how amazing coconut craft is created!

Making of coir from coconut husk

Credit and Source of information:

for more, do visit
do read: Coconut: The Art Of Coconut Craft
by Vijaydatta Lotlikar, Master Craftsman, Ed. Fredrick Noronha

Thursday, February 26, 2015

me inside me

Thought behind the thought

Am I really what I seem to be? Is anyone, for that matter? I always feel that I have a number of 'me's and 'myself's hidden inside the person that I outwardly appear to be.
And they are an infinite set, no doubt! All the big and small 'me's neatly nestled within each other's shell. And if one were to open the outer shell, one would discover another shell inside, which in turn would open up to show one more!
And so it goes on. A 'me' within a 'me' kind of existence!

About the art
Is that what the Russians thought when they created these wooden dolls?

matryoshka doll , also known as Russian nesting doll, refers to a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside the other. The first Russian nested doll set was made in 1890 by Vasily Zvyozdochkin from a design by Sergey Malyutin, who was a folk crafts painter at Abramtsevo. 

Traditionally the outer layer is a woman, dressed in a sarafan, a long and shapeless traditional Russian peasant jumper dress. The figures inside may be of either gender; the smallest, innermost doll is typically a baby turned from a single piece of wood. Much of the artistry is in the painting of each doll, which can be very elaborate. The dolls often follow various themes, but the 'mother' and family remains the favourite.

The name Matryoshka may be derived from Russian female name Matriona. In old Russia among peasants the name Matriona or Matriosha was a very popular female name. Scholars say that this name has a Latin root "mater" and means "Mother". This name was associated with the image of of a mother of a big peasant family who was very healthy and had a portly figure. Subsequently, it became a symbolic name and was used specially to image brightly painted wooden figurines made in a such way that they could taken apart to reveal smaller dolls fitting inside one another.

The first Russian nesting doll set, consisting of a peasant mother and her 7 children, was painted by Maliutin.

Credit and Source of information:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

ironing out wrinkles

Thought behind the Thought

It occured to me one day, as I was ironing clothes in the morning, how much effort we put into being dressed right for work every day. We never reuse a soiled shirt that has withstood the rigor of a 9-5 day at work. We clean it and iron it and make it spotless and wrinkle free before we wear it to the office again.

Not so with our minds though! And that is the irony!! Do we bother to wash and clean our mind after a hard day's work? And do we iron it to remove all the wrinkles before beginning another day in it?

Not many people, I believe, do that. We go back to work in our worn, unclean, wrinkled minds more often than not. Wouldn't it be much better if we put as much effort in ironing out the wrinkles of our mind?

About the Art

Wrinkles need not be bad, always. Going by the work produced by the artist in this advertisement, wrinkles can inspire art!

In this commercial for Philips Russia created by DDB Russia, an ad agency, the artist irons fabric into famous works by Great Masters like Vermeer, van Gogh, and Rembrandt. He actually irons wrinkles into fabric to create amazing art!

Girl with the pearl earring : Ironed portrait

Original painting:  Girl with the pearl earring by Johannes Vermeer

Van Gogh : Self Portrait : Ironed out art

Original painting : Van Gogh : Self portrait with bandaged ear

Rembrandt : Self Portrait : Ironed out art

Original painting: Rembrandt : Self Portrait 

And this is how he creates all these amazing ironed out portraits!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Thought behind the Thought

We go through life on paths chosen by us. Sometimes, we choose with a fair understanding of the terrain we are treading, and sometimes without. Sometimes, we just take a path and hope it leads to where we want to go. An unexpected chasm or a uncrossable river would then cause us much chagrin.

On the other hand, if we carry a map, study the terrain and then chart out the best path to reach our destination, we save time, effort and frustration too. The moment we are sure of the situations facing us, the context and the people, it is easier for us to go through life, and reach where we want to!

'Geography', as I learnt it in my school days, seemed to be just another 'subject' to learn. But on second thoughts, it did teach me this very important lesson .... "know your terrain" before you start your journey.

About the Art

There is something about Geography and people that is inexplicably linked. And Ed Fairburn expresses it so beautifully in his artworks that are part maps, part portraits!

Ed Fairburn graduated from CSAD (Cardiff School of Art and Design) in 2012. Shortlisted for the AOI (Association of Illustrators) Awards in 2013.

“Paper maps are essential to portrait artist Ed Fairburn, who uses them as the canvas for his detailed work. His thoughtful integration of human portrait and topography make it appear as though the two have always belonged together”

“Fairburn has enjoyed a startling amount of success and notoriety since completing university in the Summer of 2012. His work has been featured in numerous art magazines, journals and blogs, leading to extensive European and US media attention and quickly earning him a global following. Fairburn appeals to a particularly wide audience, bridging age, gender, and culture gaps”
(2014 press release excerpt courtesy of Sara Melzer)

See the artist at work in this video, creating portraits out of territorial maps.

Monday, February 23, 2015

either / or

Thought behind the thought

Many a times, we stand at crossroads, staring at a seemingly difficult situation. Its either 'this' or 'that'! Tough choice. But it need not be so. So many things are seemingly complex, and if you think comprehensively from a totally different perspective, you discover that we could actually have the best of both worlds. We need not choose between 'this' and 'that'. We can have 'This' and also 'That', both at the same time!

Because things, situations, people, life ......  is always a composite of opposites, as most oriental cultures acknowledge. Be it the Yin-Yang of Chinese philosophy, or the Maya-Bramha of Hindu thought, the fusion of opposites to form a 'Whole' remains a dominant theme.

About The Art

Hindu philosophy is replete with examples of the fusion of two seemingly opposite concepts, the most well known of them being 'Ardha Narishwar' the half-male, half-female form of Lord Shiva.

An early Kushan head of Ardhanarishvara, Mathura Museum

Ardhanarishvara (Sanskrit: अर्धनारीश्वर, Ardhanārīśvara), is a composite androgynous form of the Hindu god Shiva and his consort Parvati (also known as Devi, Shakti and Uma in this icon). Ardhanarishvara is depicted as half male and half female, split down the middle. The right half is usually the male Shiva, illustrating his traditional attributes.

The earliest Ardhanarishvara images are dated to the Kushan period, starting from the first century BC. Its iconography evolved and was perfected in the Gupta era. ThePuranas and various iconographic treatises write about the mythology and iconography of Ardhanarishvara. While Ardhanarishvara remains a popular iconographic form found in most Shiva temples throughout India, very few temples are dedicated to this deity.

Ardhanarishvara represents the synthesis of masculine and feminine energies of the universe (Purusha and Prakriti) and illustrates how Shakti, the female principle of God, is inseparable from (or the same as, according to some interpretations) Shiva, the male principle of God. The union of these principles is exalted as the root and womb of all creation. Another view is that Ardhanarishvara is a symbol of Shiva's all-pervasive nature.

relief in stone from elephanta caves, near Mumbai

relief in stone from gangaikonda cholapuram temple

view of the Ardha Narishwar temple, Velapur, Maharashtra, India, built around 1300 A.D

Credits and Source of information:

Do also visit for a mesmerising recital of the Ardha Nari nateshwar stotra by Pandit Jasraj.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


Thought behind the thought:
We are assuming too many things all the time. That too from only one standpoint, namely ours. We unnecessarily jump to conclusions and draw baseless inferences causing us more harm than anyone else. Martial arts are forms of dynamic art that teach us patience, forbearance and disallows being offensive. It teaches us to strike only when provoked. The single most important thing it teaches us is to always focus and concentrate on what important. It makes you circumnavigate a problem before attacking it and in this way one gets less harmed or hurt in the process.

About the art: 
Kalaripayattu is an Indian martial art which originated in the state of Kerala. It is considered to be the oldest fighting system in existence this martial art technique is taught in the payattu kalari, meaning fight school. Kalaripayattu includes strikes, kicks, grappling, preset forms, weaponry and healing methods. Different exercises in Kalaripayattu are as follows:

Meipayattu means body exercises. It is a series of 18 different lessons designed to achieve peak physical fitness and flexibility of the body. They include specific exercise for legs, hips, hands and the torso areas in the body.

Marichilukal means Acrobatics. The acrobatic moves ensure that the body is fit, it’s a regular and good exercise regimen, helps in building and improving concentration and focus, and imparts confidence to the student. It also tones the body, makes it agile and improves reflexes.

Kaikuththippayattu means exercises with hands on the floor. Kaikuthipayatttu strengthens the body and conditions the student for proper breathing control. Breathing control is vital in offensive as well as defensive combat. All Kaikuththippayattu exercises are structured on the movement of snakes. Punches, leg moves, stretches, twists and jumps and 18 such lessons of exercises are there in this kalari practice.

Chuvattadi means stances and attacks. Mastering Chuvattadi helps the student to minimize injuries during combat. Chuvattadi exercises are based on Kalarippayattu techniques. They are performed in such a way as to respond to attacks in all four directions. Divided into 18 stages, it consists of punches, cuts, throws and blocks. Chuvattadi is practiced with intense speed and power.
Kaithada means blocks with hand. Kaithada comprises of bare handed fighting sequences and helps the develop a student’s instincts. Kaithada involve blocks to fearlessly defend against both, armed and unarmed attacks. Kaithada comprises of blocking attacks using physical power, avoiding or dodging attacks and utilising the opponents speed and power and turning these attributes to defend oneself.

Weapon Combat: This is the advanced program for persons interested in the practical use of martial arts. Training in weapons begins at the intermediate level, when there is a better understanding of the mechanics of movement and improved coordination. A weapon becomes an extension of one's body and a further test of one's skill.

The Kalari Asan or Gurukkal will start weapons training only after the guru is convinced of the students dedication to the art. Also the guru needs to be confident that the student will use this art and partake in armed combat only in self defence. To begin the advanced course one must prove that they will never misuse the combat techniques of Kalaripayattu.

Cane weapons are the first weapons that one commences with. Followed by the Short Stick (Cheruvadi), Curved Stick (Ottakkol), Mace (Gada), Dagger (Kattaram) and Spear (Kuntham)

Once the spear is mastered, the student starts with the glorious combats with sword and shield.The ultimate weapon is the Urumi, a six feet long flexible sword that is considered the most dangerous weapon in the Kalari system along with the human body.
Empty handed fighting techniques impart training in what is called Verum Kai Prayogam. This is a unique method of offence and defence with various holds, grips and locks combined with knuckle and elbow hits directed at Marmas or vital points of the opponent's body. One can disarm and disable an enemy completely using this technique. Usually, knowledge of this kind is not passed on indiscriminately and is imparted only to those with a disciplined life who guarantees that the knowledge will not be misused.

Watching a Kalaripayattu combat is no less engaging than a choreographed dance sequence. the graceful moves of the participants, beautiful lines of movement, graceful stances make it a visual delight. the speed and agility leave you speechless.