Sunday, November 15, 2015

A heart warming Children's Day Doodle

India celebrates 14th November as the birth anniversary of its first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, and as an annual celebration of all the talent and potential in its children, the nation's future. This year's Google doodle was a great reminder of this talent, and our responsibility to nurture it.

The doodle was drawn by a nine year old boy, Karthik, a class III student. Karthik and his sister Ramya, a class IV student, had both taken part in a national level Google Doodle competition on the theme "If I could create something for India, it would be..". Karthik had envisioned "a machine to recycle all the plastic waste from our country and turn it into a material which helps the growth of mother nature..."

Both the children made it to the short list in their own age groups, and then into the final list of twelve doodles being considered.

Karthik's doodle was the final one chosen for the Google page. When the children got a phone call at home with the news, both of them got ready as fast as possible and ran to the school.

They didn't nave a computer at home, and the first thing they did was to put on the computer in the school lab, and check the Goggle search page. and there it was! It was true!

Karthik and his sister study at Sri Prakash Niketan, in Vizag, Andhra Pradesh. Their father drives one of the school buses in the same school. He was beaming with pride and happiness. He said he       couldn't help the children with their homework, but supported them as much as he could.

The school has now decided to reward the children's school by taking care of their educational expenses till Class X.

I had loved the Children's Day Doodle. It was even more heartwarming to read the story about the children behind the doodle. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The second Avatar of Vishnu

After the "Matsya (or Fish) Avatar" of Lord Vishnu which was the first, he next descended on earth in the "Kurma (or the giant turtle) Avatar". What I find most interesting about the Hindu stories of the Avatars of Vishnu is: They seem to be following a natural progression of the species, starting from water, proceeding slowly to land, and evolving towards more human forms (Narasimha, the half-man half-lion; Vamana, the dwarf) to the super-human or godly Avatars (Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Lord Buddha).

Also, each of the Avatars follows a major turning point and crisis on earth, and results in a total transformation of the earth and life on it. The last of the ten Avatars or "Dashavatars", yet to come, is Kalki, who is supposed to descend on earth at the end of the present age, "Kali Yuga". All the Avatars have been interpreted and celebrated by artists through the ages.

 Contemporary artist Sangeeta  Murthy finds the turtle a symbol of  stability and calm. In the story of  the "Kurma Avatar", the great turtle  helps in an epic battle between the  good (Devas) and evil forces  (Asuras), by bearing the weight of  the great mountain "Mandara".

 Sangeeta Murthy believes the  message is about the strength in  slowing down, in forbearance,  patience and strength, as opposed to  constant speed, intolerance and aggression.

She says she finds a lot of calm just doodling black and white images of "the great turtle". The acrylics and oils depict more complex tales and interpretations of Lord Vishnu, and the "Samudra Manthan", or churning of the great ocean.

It is as a result of the churning of the oceans, that Goddess Lakshmi is born. While all the icons and the events of the story have their own interpretations, the artist is at liberty to interpret them in many ways, to combine them, superpose them with other tales and symbols, giving rise to literally several more twists and tales. Sangeeta has used several techniques used in the tribal Gond Art, Tibetan Mandala art as well as Mithila art in her works.

In fact, it is amazing how turtles have found space in some of these traditional art forms, and the uniformity with which they have been perceived across the world as a symbol of longevity, wisdom and stability. Probability as a result of their long lifespan, wrinkled appearance and hard shells, no doubt!

Some turtles migrate large distances across the ocean, adding to the mystery surrounding them. They have even been found in ancient rock art, like this piece from the Baku Museum, where they symbolize creation, fertility and long life.