Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Vasantotsava Vaibhava

There can be no existence without Shakti, ‘energy.’ Shakti, that  essential aspect of  existence, is the source of every animate and inanimate objects. Thus, veneration of Shakti during the first nine days of Hindu new year (Yugadi) is a very old tradition that lies buried in myth.

Let us recall that myth... King Dhruvasindhu of the Ikshvaku lineage dies leaving behind two wives. The first wife, Manorama's son Sudarshana is  to succeed his father according to regal laws. The second wife Leelavati's father Yudhajit stages a coup and places Leelavati's son Shatrujit on the throne. Manorama and Sudarshana are banished into the jungle. Though beset by trials and tribulations, the unwavering devotion of Manorama and Sudarshana, to the Supreme Mother Goddess Devi, is rewarded by a revelation of Her Grace. Blessed with Devi’s grace Sudarshana, defeats Yudhajit in a battle and regains the throne. To commemmorate his victory, Sudarshana begins the nine-day worship to Devi during lunar month of Chaitra in Spring.

After several millennia of the continued tradition of Vasanta Navaratri, there occurs change which is brought about by Sri Rama who belongs to the same lineage. To defeat the mighty Ravana, Sri Rama seeks the blessings of Devi. It is autumn and Rama invokes Devi and offers her similar worship that was offered to her during Vasanta Navaratri.

The ultimate defeat of Ravana results in an identical worship of Devi during autumn (lunar month of Ashvayuja). Continued over time, it gains popularity and Vasanta Navaratri is relegated to background. But nevertheless, Vasanta Navaratri is an inextricable part of Vasantotsava.

Vasantotsava, the celebratory rite of  the Spring begins with Holi, the festival of colours. This is nature which joyfully regenerates Herself with renewed vigor. The God of Love, Manmatha, triggers the bounty of Spring with his bow of sugarcane and arrow of flowers. Hence wood or clay dolls of Manmatha and his consort Rati are worshipped. This tradition is prevalent in Hubli and its neighbouring districts in North Karnataka during Holi through Ranga Panchami. A gigantic effigy of Manmatha, with a naughty epithet Kaamanna, is consigned to the fire whose flames rise to the skies. This flaming fire is symbolic of an enraged Shiva who reduces Manmatha to ashes with the blazing gaze of his third eye.

Beginning from the third day after Yugadi, a beautiful doll of a divine damsel, clad in saree, standing upright and holding a mango in an outstretched hand is installed in many households in North Karnataka and southern Maharashtra. She is Chaitra Gauri... the Fair damsel of Spring. This doll is often made out of light wood and is brightly painted. There is also an interesting parallel tradition during same time and in the same region and that is Tottilu Gauri. A doll of Gauri, seated on a swing within a decorated canopy is venerated until Akshaya Tritiya. Rati-Manmatha, Kaamanna, Chaitra Gauri and Tottilu Gauri are forms of doll traditions.

There’s much more but suffice to say that India is rich with myriad doll traditions which vary from region to region. Bombe Mane has been introducing such doll traditions in each of its exhibitions. This year's Bombe Mane features Vasantotsava in all its aspects.

Kinhala artists Dharmanna Chitragar (wooden Rati Manmatha dolls), Ekappa Chitragar (Chaitra Gauri and Tottilu Gauri figures), Kishor Chitragar (Kinhala Chaukis), Annappa Chitragar (wooden head of Kamanna), K.V. Shankar of Hubli (six canvases of Ranga Panchami festival), K.S. Shreehari of T. Narasipura (Mysore style paintings of Navadurga, Rati and Manmatha),  J.S. Sridhar Rao of Mysore (Mysore style painting of Kamakameshwari), National awardee A. Sekar of Puducherry (papier machie model of Mysore's Royal Golden Throne) and Kartikeyan of Cuddalore (dolls of Navadurga in papier machie) - all these artists have contributed to bring together the visual extravaganza of Vasantotsava.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Silver Jubilee Clock Tower of Mysore

The iconic clock tower (Dodda Gadiyaara) of Mysore which marked the Silver Jubilee of the Coronation of Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV (coronated in 1902) was inaugurated in 1927. This landmark lies within an arm's distance of Dewan Rangacharlu Memorial Town Hall and is bang opposite the Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar Circle. 

Bombe Mane 2013 will feature hand carved wooden models of the clock tower in two sizes - 10" and 24". The one featured here is the latter.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Mysore Couple - Channapatna Dolls

The design wing of Ramsons Kala Pratishtana is an one-man-army and yours truly is its whole and soul. I have designed few dolls to be developed in Channapatna lacquerware craft form. Last year I had posted the dolls of Krishna. Now I am posting the dolls - Mysore Couple. In a doll festival, dolls of man and wife is considered important. They also represent the King and Queen.

I have designed the man wearing panche (veshti) and shalya. the thing about the shalya (uttareeya) is that he is wearing it in unique Mysore style across his naked upper torso.He also wears a Mysore peta. But because of the limitation of the craft form, the peta had to be changed, which looks like a Kodava peta.

I designed the lady with a side head bun, but again the limitation of the craft form came in the way. But she is wearing the unique Mysore style gatti thaali which has been painted on the doll.

Here is the design that I created on my system, following that is the picture of the dolls created from my design. Please give me your valuable comments.

Design given by me

End product

ORI Mini Model

This is a miniature model of the Oriental Research Institute of Mysore. Following is an article on ORI written by freelance journalist Sri Jagadish Prasad.

Deep inside the catacombs of one of the oldest Benedictine monasteries in Bangalore, is a huge, cavernous hall stacked with rows upon rows of books, illustrations and manuscripts. A legend above the door-less  arch reads, “Here the Dead speak“ It is of course in Latin but the English translation is equally emotive.

The Latin maxim may well serve to describe the hundred and odd years old Oriental Research Institute (ORI), just a stone's throw from the Mysore University Vice-Chancellor's office building, Crawford Hall. The ORI is an extraordinary treasure trove of some 35,000 extremely rare books, 16,000 palm leaf manuscripts and more than 18,000 paper manuscripts, in Sanskrit and Kannada, all of which continue to entice the serious scholar, student and even contemplative passers-by to delve deep into the esoteric rubrics and canons of  Indian philosophy.

It's hard not to miss the ORI with its ochre-red domed roofs and the impression that it gives of being door-less. One of the early editions of  the 'Indian Engineering' which critically reviewed many of the buildings that were constructed in honour of some visiting English royalty  and more often lesser royalty, makes this snide remark about the ORI…, “…a promiscuous jumbling of semi-circular arches, Ionic  and Corinthian columns with imitation  Hindu architecture...”

Yet in spite of the 'promiscuous' blending of architectural styles, the Oriental Research Institute, which came under the administration of the Mysore University in 1916, came under the gaze of scholars worldwide with the discovery of an original copy of Kautilya's 'Arthashastra', the classic 400-year old 4th Century C.E.  palm-leaf manuscript by the ORI's first librarian, Rudrapatnam Shama Sastry.

The story of this discovery makes interesting reading. It is believed Shama Sastry was going through several cloth bound bundles of palm-leaf manuscripts when he came upon what turned out to be the Arthashastra. The manuscript was in Sanskrit written in the Grantha script and it was also discovered that it was the copy of the original Kautilya magnum opus and had been gifted to the then fledgling ORI by a scholar from Tanjore  who remains unidentified  to this day. Shama Sastry  copied the manuscript  and ORI published it in 1909. Arthashastra's publication led to paradigm changes in the study of ancient treaties as till then Niccolo Machiavelli's 15th-century work, The Prince, was believed to be one of the oldest authentic texts on the subject. Shama Sastry went on to become an Indologist of great repute.

Kautilya's Arthasastra is just one of the 50,000 odd rare treasures that are housed under the red-ochre domes of the ORI even though a few thousand have gone to the libraries of the Kannada and Sanskrit departments of the Mysore University. The establishment of the Oriental Research Institute as a repository of hoary tomes was due to the foresight of Maharaja Chamaraja Wadiyar, who was himself an erudite scholar.

Chamaraja Wadiyar first 'organised'  the Oriental Library as it was known, in 1891 in a part of the Maharaja's College. In 1897, the fledgling library was shifted to the newly constructed Jubilee Hall ( the present location of the ORI). The Jubilee Hall was itself built to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria's ascension to the throne! Indeed there are a great many heritage structures that owe their existence to the arrival or knighting of some English royalty!

With a treasure trove of some 50,000 rare books, palm leaf manuscripts and diverse documents, there is bound to trepidation and even skepticism that mere mortals will not be allowed to tread the hallowed halls. But that is unfounded and all that one has to do is meet the director of ORI or the head of the department of Sanskrit of Mysore University and presto! One is free to do astral travelling without a map into the esoteric world of illustrated masterpiece written by another enlightened king, Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, Sritattvanidhi. The Sritattvanidhi is in nine volumes or Nidhis:  Shaktinidhi, Vishnunidhi,  Shivanidhi, Brahmanidhi, Grahanidhi, Vaishnavanidhi, Saivanidhi, Agamanidhi and  Kauthukanidhi. So far three volumes have been translated into Kannada and English and published by UoM.

Right from its inception the ORI has been fortunate to have scholars like Kasturi Rangachar, Prof. D.L. Narasimhachar and Prof. T.N.Shrikantayya (Tee.Nam.Shri.), B.M. Srikantayya, Prof. C.R. Reddy, Prof. M. Hiriyanna, and  N. Ramanujacharya  at its helm and it is due to the untiring efforts of these stalwarts  that ORI is one of the preeminent research centres for Indology in the country.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Golden Royal Throne of Mysore

Papier Machie model of the royal throne of Mysore Wodeyars. Seated figure is of the 25th Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wodeyar (r. 1940 to 1947 C.E.). This is a limited edition doll produced exclusively for Bombe Mane 2013. Size of this throne is - Height: 76 cm (30 in or 2.5 ft); Width: 76 cm (30 in or 2.5 ft); Depth: 30 cm (12 in or 1 ft).

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

2013 Bombe Mane Brochure

Parvati, consort of Shiva, created a doll out of the sandal-turmeric paste that she had anointed on her divine self. Overcome by maternal love, she breathed life into that chubby doll and named him Vinayaka who later became Ganesha, the remover of obstacles. He is, probably, the first ever doll to be created.

Dolls are thus the creation of love. Just like Ganesha who later acquired divinity, dolls have also acquired different human aspects overtime and have become an inextricable part of human lives. It is a common belief that dolls are silent witnesses to the happenings around them and hence are considered intelligent.

Once upon a time, King Bhoja of Ujjain came across a cowherd.  He was just an ordinary boy but was transformed into a shrewd and intelligent judge who delivered swift and sensible justice whenever he sat on a particular mound. King had the mound excavated. Lo! behold.  There laid buried a beautiful throne adorned with 32 dolls. It was the throne of mighty Pandavas and later, Raja Vikramaditya.

As the excited Bhoja tries to ascend the throne, he is stopped by 32 dolls who have miraculously come to life. Each of those doll-damsels narrate a story regarding the qualities of an eminent king worthy of the throne. The stories elaborate kingly virtues like generosity, knowledge, strength, etc. Thereafter the Rayas of Vijayanagara had the unique honour of sitting on this bejewelled seat and ultimately the great fortune of inheriting this 'Karnataka Ratna Simhasana' fell on Wodeyars. Ever since, this majestic throne has adorned the royal court of Mysore.

Perhaps this throne and its dolls could be the reason behind the doll festival of Mysore. This hoary tradition  goes back to a few millennia. 

The stepped arrangement of dolls as seen in households during the Dasara doll festival across Mysore, perhaps signifies the throne itself. King and Queen dolls find a pride of place in the top most platform. Angelic dolls that once adorned the throne of Pandavas are
represented by a variety of dolls.

At the ninth edition of 'Bombe Mane' we pay homage to the sacred relic from the glorious past. A miniature model of the golden throne along with the figure of the 25th Maharaja of Mysore Sri Jayachamaraja Wodeyar will be unveiled.

The Navaratri Devi puja of Sharad Rutu (Autumn) is the offshoot of the original which took place during Vasanta Rutu (Spring). Spring is also witness to two other doll traditions - Rati Manmatha and Chaitra Gauri - which have been depicted at this year's Bombe Mane.

The doll tradition of Rati-Manmatha is prevalent in Hubli and neighbouring districts during Holi and Ranga Panchami. The god of love and his consort are venerated; the celebration is a riot of colours heralding the advent of Spring.

The districts of Bellary, Koppala, to Belagavi and parts of Maharashtra observe a month long vrata of Chaitra Gauri/Tottilu Gauri. This is another remarkable doll tradition. Starting from the third day after Chandramana Yugadi until Akshaya Tritiya the gorgeous doll of Gauri, either standing (holding a mango) or seated on a swing, is offered worship. The worship of nine mothers is an important aspect of Vasanta Navaratri which is being highlighted through traditional Mysore paintings.

Hordes of dolls from across the country along with their accessories, utensils, instruments and ornaments are in attendance at this doll paradise.

Welcome to 'Bombe Mane'