Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Colour Saffron

Saffron is widely used in Indian, Persian, Arab, Turkish and European cuisines. It is also used as a dye, and for its traditional healing properties. It is an autumn flowering plant, and saffron fields make a pretty sight, like this photograph in The Hindu newspaper today, of a girl plucking saffron flowers at a farm in Pampore, on the outskirts of Srinagar.

In bloom:A girl plucking saffron flowers at a farm in Pampore on the outskirts of Srinagar on Monday.— Photo: Nissar Ahmad

As per local legend, saffron first arrived in Kashmir in the 11th or 12th century AD, when two foreign and itinerant Sufi ascetics, Khwaja Masood Wali and Hazrat Sheikh Shariffudin, wandered into Kashmir. A tomb in Pampore is dedicated to the two saints. However, some scholars maintain that saffron has been grown in the Kashmir valley since two millennia, and came much earlier through Persian rulers or through trade routes.  

Here is an example of saffron being used to provide the yellow-orange hue, in a painting known for the earliest portrayal of Thomas Becket's murder in Canterbury Cathedral:

File:Thomas Becket Murder.JPG

A huge amount of about half a kilogram of flowers are required to yield about 5 gm. of dried saffron. We know - from paintings again, as available in ancient palace frescoes - that monkeys helped in the picking of saffron flowers!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Say No to Crackers

"The National Green Tribunal has ordered relaxation of the firecracker noise norm in Bengal from 90 decibel at 5 metres from the source to the less stringent central standard of 125 decibel at 4 metres from the source. The green lobby and society at large had hailed the Bengal norm framed in 1997 as a pioneering effort to check noise pollution."


With all the discussion going around the topic, what caught my eye was this picture of school children participating in a rally against noise pollution and crackers in Kolkatta on Sunday. This sure was a pleasant way to protest.

Schoolchildren participating in a rally against noise pollution and crackers in Kolkata on Sunday.– Photo: PTI

Patronage of the Arts

An article in today's Times of India highlights that the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, has not acquired any new work of art in the last 6 years. While no gallery would feel proud about such a statistic, NGMA in fact has the lofty stated objective that it "helps people to look at the works of modern art with greater joy, understanding and knowledge by extending their relationship with our daily life and experiencing them as vital expressions of the human spirit."

It would be better probably for NGMA to set a few achievable and pedantic goals for the year like the number of artists they would support; the number of artworks they would acquire, restore, display; and the number of art students, teachers and general public whom they would establish some relationship with.


The fine arts have a dependence on patronage, government or otherwise, and in return they contribute so much to enhancing people's imagination and empathy. So one hopes NGMA will get its act together fast.

With its splendid collection built up over years, the art community and the general public has huge expectations from the NGMA.

Source: http://ngmaindia.gov.in/

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Papier-mâché elephants

Imagine life size elephants made out of paper. Obviously the pachyderms were strong, as the report below mentioned children and adults mounting the animals! The children could not have had joy rides, but could have patted the animals, and sat on them as long as they wished. 

I have heard of baby elephants being made of paper, and displayed in fairs or school functions. But this one is a commendable feat. I do wish the organizers bring these elephants to other cities too!


Papier-mâché elephants greeted the city’s Malayalees at Aavanipoovarangu 2013 on Sunday. Photo: M. Vedhan

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Banksy on your building?

British street artist Banksy set up a pop-up booth in Central Park, New York. He sold signed original canvasses for $60 each, on Saturday, 12th October. He is said to have sold $220,000 worth of art for $420. One woman who bought two small canvasses is said to have bargained her way into getting a 50 per cent discount.

On a one-month residency in New York, the artist has been painting new work at surprise locations every day, evoking delighted or horrified responses, depending on the residents' preferences.

The tough-on-crime Mr Bloomberg said during a press conference in Manhattan that graffiti



Friday, October 18, 2013

Rangoli patterns

While the majority of Indians honor the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi on the day of Diwali, Bengalis do a special "puja" or prayer ceremony for Lakshmi on the full moon following Dussehra. It is called Kojagari Lakshmi Puja and fell on the 18th October this year.
One important part of the puja is the "Rangoli" patterns or "Alpana" done on the floor. The second important part of course is the food, made of grains from the new harvest, accompanied by sweets made of coconut and jaggery.
The Rangoli is easily done even in urban homes, with a paste of rice soaked in water for a few hours. The patterns are all woven around the feet of Lakshmi, stalks of the new harvest or lotus flowers, the favorite of the goddess. The feet of Laksmi are always drawn pointed towards the house, to depict her entering and blessing the house.
Here are a few traditional patterns:

Lakshmi Pada Rangoli 9

Lakshmi Pada Rangoli 4

You will find many more patterns at these sources amongst others:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Of masters and heroes

A collection of contemporary artists from South India called "Of Masters and Heroes" has been mounted in the capital. It gives a glimpse into the cultural, social, political as well as aesthetic perspectives of the region. The Madras school of art was apparently the first arts college in the country, and has played a significant role in development of artists from the region.

A painting by Pon Ragunathan on display at the exhibition.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Bhimbetka cave paintings, near Bhopal

The Bhimbetka rock shelters in the Raisen district, Madhya Pradeh, India, have been declared a world heritage site. They contain a large number of paintings, some of which are more than 30,000 years old! The colours used are vegetable dyes, and the ones that have endured have probably done so being so deep inside the caves, or being inside rock niches.
The name Bhimbetka is said to have been derived from Bhima, one of the Pandavas, in the epic Mahabharata, and as per legend, Bhima sat here.
The paintings themselves are supposed to bear a significant resemblance to the Lascaux cave paintings in France. There are clearly scenes of hunting, dancing, and other community activities with large numbers of men, women, animals, birds, weapons and instruments.
It is wonderful that so much has survived of these cave paintings to the modern age, and that they do get shared and talked about from time to time:

Art across eons. Photo: Baaran Ijlal

Source: http://www.thehindu.com/features/magazine/rocks-of-ages/article5075148.ece

A sample of rock painting at Bhimbetka.

Source: http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-otherstates/bhimbetka-a-treasure-of-prehistoric-art/article1260868.ece

Source: http://www.hindu.com/mag/2006/01/29/stories/2006012900410800.htm

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sanjhi Art

Sanjhi is the art of hand-cutting designs on paper. It originated in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, India, and therefore motifs from stories of Krishna abound in Sanjhi creations:


Like most urban artists, I did not know much about this art form and was driven to explore only because of a few mentions in the media lately. The one above was in the Times of India.

One of the main proponents and National Award winner, Mr. Ram Soni was covered in The Hindu recently:

Stencil:Playing with designs.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Puja pandals

Pujas are a great occasion to bring alive the spirit of  "Ma"/ "Devi" with spectacular puja "pandals", decorations and cultural events.
This time there has been a renewed interest in Jamini Roy, witness this great effort at Dwarka, Delhi:

Art divine: Students of College of Art, Delhi. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar.

Source: http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/a-brush-with-mother/article5217775.ece

And these (above) were the scenes from puja pandals in Delhi and Gurgaon.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

At the end of the Day

Art provides some peace of mind to these troubled young girls:


Bless the staff at Protsahan if they can bring a few smiles and a few moments of solace to these young girls and women.