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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tanjore Art: Aalilai Krishnan

Tanjore Art painting Aalilai Krishnan

Until recently, this adorable Aalilai Krishnan art work was hanging in my parents' home in India, and I had forgotten all about it. This trip, when they came to help out with Oggie's birth, they decided to bring it for my home here. This art work depicts Krishna as a baby, sucking on his toe, floating on a Banyan Tree leaf.

This is a potent representation of Vishnu, the manifest Preserver of the Universe, floating on the water after the deluge that destroyed the corrupt and decomposing old Universe, free to create a pleasant new Universe. I am not sure of the entire mythological significance of His baby form, and the reason for His toe-sucking. But, this representation of Krishna has always been my most favorite among the depictions of Baby Krishna.

Krishna as Partha Sarathy, the charioteer for Arjuna, is another of my favorite representations of adult Krishna, especially when he assumes Vishva Roopam while delivering what we now know as Bhagavadh Geetha.

I learnt Tanjore Art, as it is called, from a master when I was in Madras (aka Chennai, India). I love the gold foil and stones, but, more importantly I love the style of rendition of the Gods in this art form.

When my master asked me if I wanted to do the traditional Ganesha for my first independent work, I hesitated... I was eyeing the Aalilai Krishnan sample longingly. And that's what he guided me to finish - starting from preparing the board, to tracing the figure, to making the base outlines with the paste to adding gold foil and stones and finally painting the image.

I was terrified of ruining the laborious work by jerking my nervous hand when painting the eyebrows and mouth, and I remember appealing to my master to finish it for me.

When my mom decided to use it for the Krishna Janmashtami decorations a few days ago, I was quite touched. So far, it was just art work, despite the divine subject. But slowly it has begun to exert a mesmerizing influence on me, almost teasing me with images of this Baby Krishna getting up from the leaf and coming to me!

I have done a couple of small ones since - just elephants, not Gods - and am still not confident of taking on a large project. But, someday, when kids are older and I have a ton of patience, I hope to take it up again...

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2 Comments:

Blogger Dale said...

Oh, how wonderful! I studied tangka painting once for just a few weeks, enough to get a sense for just how exacting it was and what a wonderful devotional path it can be. I imagine the Tibetan tradition derives from this one.

I've never seen this representation. It's just so full of good humor and enjoyment. (I'm sure it's chock-full of symbolism and what not, but it's also a picture of a little one sucking his toe, and wonderful just as that!)

9:04 PM  
Blogger Kay said...

Wow! you are a very talented person, Sheela! That painting is just beautiful!

5:31 AM  

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