Searching 'samudra' stories

The Jehangir Art Gallery will be witness to an exhibition that recalls the magic and the eternal quality of beauty in the 'Samudra Manthan stories' at the hands of artist Arpitha Reddy – a brilliant artist who lives in Delhi and is a practitioner of the Guruvayoor Temple Arts. Arpitha is an artist who spends time researching the 'Samudramanthan', and works for unending hours on the details and narrative of the epic nature of divine and evil forces, which is a rare breed in this modern millennium.

Arpitha has the gods and goddesses on her fingertips; her meticulous strokes of painterly embellishments can conjure up even the finest of jeweled crowns and silk laden robes for the many forms of divinity that crowd and punctuate her canvasses. Her study of Kerala murals has taken her into deeper shores of the tales of divinity.
Temples are known to be spiritual, political, cosmological, astronomical and geo-physical centers. They are, in other words, intended to represent microcosms of the universe and are organized as mandalas – all these microcosms come alive in her little dictats that come coded with colours and contours that have been created with perfection. While we see the many characters that dot the story, it is the smaller hybrid creations that catch our gaze. The 'Kinnari' or the 'Kamadhenu' are as charming as the 'Nagaraja' and the 'Nagarani'.
'Airava-ta' the mythological white elephant is a divine creation of majesty. 'Airava-ta' who carries the Hindu god 'Indra', also called 'Ardha-Matanga', meaning "elephant of the clouds"; 'Naga-malla', meaning "the fighting elephant"; and 'Arkasodara', meaning "brother of the sun," is a fascinating creature of symbolism with its four tusks and seven trunks and is spotless white. The treatment given to the contours is what is riveting. The embellishments, an amalgam of terracotta toned orange and gold with a hint of vermillion red thrown in.
Equally fetching is 'Kamadhenu Nandi' and 'Kinnari.' Arpitha creates 'Kamadhenu' as a creature of beauty and bounty as she stands nestled midst the leaves of the kalpavriksha and adorned as an emblem of divine majesty. While she does not focus on her well endowed breasts we are given a pair of richly ornate feathers and a crown that addresses her position as the queen of the kingdom of milk giving cows.
Kamadhenu's motherhood and nourishing attributes are emphasized through her twin breasts. The Puranas declare "she is a goddess with marvellous powers and attainments who gives milk whenever needed by gods and sages," and that "all the cattle in the world today are descended from 'Kamadhenu'.
According to the VayuPurana, 'Nandi' is the son of Kasyapa and Surabhi. In the SauraPurana 'Nandi', his role as Shiva's gatekeeper is described as, 'adorned with all ornaments, glowing like a thousand suns, holding a trident in his hand, three-eyed, adorned with a sliver of the moon, a thunderbolt in his hand, four-armed, like a second Sankara [Shiva]'.
Besides being Shiva's vehicle, 'Nandi' is also the chief of the god's team of ganas or attendants, and consequently he often carries a golden staff of office. His other duties include being the guardian of all quadrupeds and the provider of music as Shiva dances the tandava – the cosmic dance of creation. Arpitha's 'Nandi' is white and pristine; it gazes directly into our eyes as it stands as a model of perfection in devotion of its service to Lord Shiva.



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