Tuesday October 17, 2017

Indian art: The folkish inclination

traditional indian paintings

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a traditional painting of Indian deities
  • By Megha Sharma

The Indian terrain has always been an amalgamation of different art forms. It encompasses a whole range of Indian art fields from literature, paintings, various handicrafts etc that are bought throughout the world. The  traditional Indian paintings will be focused in this article and how these traditional artistries elevate the cultural heritage of India. Moreover, the lands where these are widely produced and their historical significance will also be seen.

  • Bengal Pat

18 sahib pat

As the name suggests, the art form is rooted in the Bengal region of the country. It is observed to be hundreds of years old. It came as an entertaining part at the court to intensify the performances by painting and also depicted the life of the contemporary period. It also was a thoughtful process of preserving for the later beatification of the artist.  Interestingly, this art also uses natural colours like that of minerals, soot or other things. It observes paintings of some social evils prevailing in the society and was made to expose it to the common masses.

  • Miniature Paintings

a scene of the queens' room in a miniature painting
a scene of the queens’ room in a miniature painting

Miniature paintings are beautiful hand-made arts which developed in the Mughal period. They were short and descriptive paintings which through their subtleties expressed great ideas.  Mughals even introduced Persian tradition to the same. The earliest example of the paintings was seen in the 11th century that was related to the Pala school. The phenomenon of hothouse cultivation helped for the widespread of the art and it got manifested in a lot of schools. The colours were handmade from minerals, vegetables, precious stones, indigo, conch shells, pure gold and silver. It flourished a lot under the reign of Akbar, Shahjahan and Jahangir.

  • Tanjore Paintings

a beautiful Tanjore painting of Radha-Krishna
a beautiful Tanjore painting of Radha-Krishna

Tanjore is a city in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is a classical art form of the place. It is made with dense, beautiful colours and embedded with stones, pearls and glass pieces which give it a 3-D effect and add to their glory. The paintings flourished in the 16th century under the reign of the flourished Chola kingdom. It was patronised by various kingdoms of the period. The specimens included the pictures of gods and goddesses. They are also known as ‘Palagai Padam’, which means a painting made on a wooden plank.

  • Patachitra

the patchitra art of Orissa
the patchitra art of Orissa

The art form is a unique invention of Odisha. It is a painting made on canvas, as the word is taken from Sanskrit “pata” which means a canvas whereas “chitra” means a picture. It is usually painted on mythological themes with beautiful colours. “Some of the popular themes represented through this art form are Thia Badhia – depiction of the temple of Jagannath; Krishna Lila – enactment of Jagannath as Lord Krishna displaying his powers as a child; Dasabatara Patti – the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu; Panchamukhi – depiction of Lord Ganesh as a five-headed deity.” The art undergoes deep concentration and take up to five days for completion. The basic cloth or the canvas is painted yellow using turmeric and preparing it well. It is also interesting to note that the colours are made of natural ingredients with kaitha tree gum as the basic ingredient. As to this day, the form has seen transition from being painted on a yellow cloth to now as wall-hangings. However, it has not lost its essence and is still done with this natural touch.

  • Madhubani Painting

a madubani painting
a madubani painting

This form is as old as the Ramayana epic was written. It is believed to originate in Maithili village in the space of Bihar, a state of India. Maithili was the capital of King Janaka, father-in-law of Lord Rama. Though a specific time period cannot be discovered for the form but it is assumed that Sita used to paint beautiful pictures in her adolescence and even the king of the space ordered Maithili paintings on the auspicious occasion of his daughter’s wedding. “Maithili paintings make use of three-dimensional images and the colours that are used are derived mainly from plants.” The paintings were thematised on mythological figures and natural elements. It was used to be made with natural colours and the brush was made of a bamboo stick. It also recorded certain auspicious events and celebrated the nature Gods like- Surya Dev, Indra Dev, the religious plant of Tulsi and many others. In those times too, they used different geometrical shapes and hold significant position in the Indian arts.

  • Gond paintings

a recent painting of the art
a recent painting of the art

Gond is an indigenous word which means the people who lived in the hill forests of Central India. Thus the art acquired its name, formulated by these tribes. The paintings had mundane themes which represented the life of these tribals. There was no grand theme for them as they have always been considered as marginalized by the society. It was painted on the walls and floors of their houses and was considered a factor of good luck for them. It is parallel to the art of tattooing. Each painting possessed a certain signature of the artist who made it, which provided a quality of individualism to their art. “The paintings are a combination of earth tones and vibrant hues, which bring the canvas to life.”

  • Kalamkari Painting

a still from Hindu scripture Mahabharata in Kalamkari style
a still from Hindu scripture Mahabharata in Kalamkari style

The art has attained this name with the way it is been carried out, as ‘kalam’ means pen and ‘kari’ means work. It is considered to originate about 3000years ago in Kalahasti (80 miles north of Chennai) and at Masulipatnam (200 miles east of Hyderabad). It became popular under the ancient tradition of using organic colours. The artists executed it using a bamboo stich, sharply pointed at the end. Initially the main themes were to highlight the Hindu deities but today it has advanced to quite a great level and is used on various fabrics, mainly cotton. It undergoes a long process of dyeing and hand-printing and thus take a long time to be finalized.

One sees how the traditional art forms of India, acknowledged the gods and mundane things and gave a rich panoramic idea to the world of painting. It is also interesting to note that all these arts used organic and natural colours for their paintings. Today, they have not lost their name but flourished more and more with national and international identification. The widespread of these forms make it possible for Indians, all around the world, to admire them. They attract a lot of foreign audience as well because of the beautiful colours and natural touch they possess.

Megha is a student at the University of Delhi. She is pursuing her Masters in English and has also done her studies in the German Language.) Email: loveme2010@gmail.com. Twitter @meghash06510344

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10 Customs of the Hindu Dharma Explained by Science

Have you ever wondered the rationale behind the customs and traditions of the Hindu dharma?

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Hindu dharma
A deeper look into the practices of Hindu dharma reveal that they are based on scientific knowledge. We tell you how! Pixabay

New Delhi, October 4, 2017 : You might have been moved by the way followers of the Hindu dharma bow down and welcome you inside their homes. Or by the way Hindu women dress, with jewellery adorning their hands and legs. Who doesn’t like the crinkling of their bangles, after all? But have you ever wondered the rationale behind their customs and traditions?

According to popular notions, the traditions and practices of the Hindu dharma have been equated with superstitions. However, a deeper look into the practices reveal that they are based on scientific knowledge and have been observed over generations , keeping in mind a more holistic approach.

Hinduism can hence, be called a dharmic scientific religion rather than just scientific religion. We prove you how!

 1. Worshiping the Peepal tree

Hindu dharma entails a myriad gods and goddesses and there exist a variety of reasons that propagate worship of Peepal tree. According to Brahma Purana, demons Ashvattha and Peepala hid inside and lured people to touch the Peepal tree and consecutively killed them. They were killed by lord Shani and hence the tree has been worshiped ever since. Another legend believed Goddess Lakshmi resides under the Peepal tree every Saturday which lends it a divinely touch. Another school of thought believes lord Hanuman sat on top of the Peepal tree in Lanka to witness the hardships faced by Sita.

Hindu dharma
Leaves of the ‘holy’ Peepal tree. Pixabay

The Peepal tree does not have a succulent fruit, lacks strong wood and does no good other than provide shade. However, it continues to enjoy increasing devotion from people practicing the Hindu dharma. Science confirms that Peepal is the only tree which produces oxygen even during the night. Hence, in order to preserve this unique property, ancestors of the Hindu dharma related it to God. Additionally, the tree is of utmost significance in Ayurveda and its bark and leaves are used to treat diseases and illnesses.

 2. Do not chew leaves of Tulsi plant

The Tulsi plant is revered in the Hindu dharma. Apart from its medicinal qualities, the plant is also known for its symbolic presence in Hindu mythology.

According to popular belief, Tulsi is the wife of Lord Vishnu. Hence, biting and chewing it is considered disrespectful.

Hindu dharma
According to popular belief, Tulsi is the wife of Lord Vishnu. Pixabay

However, according to botanists, Tulsi has high quantities of mercury. If raw mercury comes in contact with teeth (calcium), it can possibly result in inundation, making the teeth fall. Hence, leaves of the Tulsi plant are suggested to be swallowed and not chewed.

 3. Applying tilak on your forehead

Application of tilak is a religious ac. According to the Hindu dharma, the forehead signifies spirituality. Hence, application of a tilak on the forehead denotes an individual’s thoughts and conviction towards spirituality.  Various Vedic scriptures and Upanishads maintain that energy, potency and divinity comes to those who apply a tilak.

Hindu dharma
A flute player from India with a tilak on his forehead. Wikimedia Commons.

However, science asserts that during the application of a tilak, the central point in the forehead and the Adnya-chakra automatically pressed which encourages blood supply to the facial muscles.  According to body anatomy, a major nerve point is located in the middle of the eye brows on the forehead. Application of the red tilak is believed to maintain vitality in the body and prevent the loss of energy. The Tilak is also believed to control and enhance concentration.

 4. Obsessive cleaning during Diwali

Diwali, the festival of lights honors the goddess Lakshmi, the deity of wealth. The festival also commemorates the return of lord Ram after an exile of 14 years to his kingdom in Ayodhya. According to Hindu mythology, the night of his return was a new moon night. To illuminate his path in the pitch dark night, the villagers of Ayodhya cleaned the entire village and lit it with lamps.

Hence, Diwali is preceded by extensive cleaning of the entire house in honor of both the deities of Hindu mythology. Legend also believed goddess Lakshmi comes home on Diwali and thereby, the entire place should be cleaned and decorated to welcome the goddess.

However, science backs the concept and explains that Diwali essentially falls in October and November, and mark beginning of winters and end of monsoon season.

Hindu dharma
People indulge in cleaning, repari and beautification of their homes ahead of Diwali to welcome goddess Lakshmi. Pixabay

In older times, the monsoons were not a good period as they were characteristic of excessive rains that often resulted in floods and damaged homes, which then needed repair. This is why people indulged in repair, cleaning and beautification of their homes.

 5. Folding your hands for ‘Namaskar’

You will often find people practicing Hindu dharma greeting people by joining their palms together. The ‘Namaskar’ is believed to signify respect for people.

Hindu dharma
People practicing Hindu dharma greeting people by joining their palms together. Pixabay

This pose requires an individual to join all finger tips together that carry the pressure points of ears, eyes and mind. Science says pressing them together activates these pressure points, making our mind attentive.  This aids us to remember people for a longer duration.

The Namaskar can also be backed up by an act to maintain hygiene and cleanliness since it does not involve any physical contact.

 6. Wearing toe rings

Traditionally, toe rings are worn by married woman on the second toe and are treated as a sign of holy matrimony. However, they are believed to be a part of the Indian culture since the times of Ramayana when Sita threw her toe ring for her husband lord Ram, upon being abducted by Ravana.

Science says that a nerve on this toe connect the uterus to the heart.  Wearing a ring on this finger helps regulate blood flow, thereby, strengthening the uterus and regulating menstrual cycle. It is also believed to have an erotic effect.

 7. Applying henna on hands and feet

Mehendi or henna is usually applied during weddings and festivals to enhance the beauty of the women-folk. According to popular beliefs, the color of the henna denotes the affection a girl will enjoy from her husband and mother-in-law.

Hindu dharma
Mehendi or henna is usually applied during weddings and festivals to enhance the beauty of the women-folk. Pixabay

However, science provides rationale of applying henna during the stressful times of festivals and weddings. Festivity stress can bring fevers and migraines, which when mixed with excitement and nervous anticipation can prove to be harmful for an individual.

Thus, besides lending color, henna also possesses medicinal qualities that relieve stress and keeps the hands and feet cool thereby shielding the nerves from getting tense.

 8. Fasting during Navratri

There are four major Navratris throughout the year, however only two are celebrated on a grand scale. Throughout the nine day festival, devotees observe ritualistic fasts, perform several pujas and offer bhog (holy food) to Goddess Durga in an attempt to gratify her.

Hindu dharma
Durga, the Goddess of strength. Wikimedia

But according to science, these navratris are celebrated when the seasons are transitioning. As the seasons and the temperatures change, our eating habits also do.

Fasting during Navratri allows our bodies to adjust to the changing temperature. Individuals get a chance to detox their bodies by quitting excessive salt, sugar and oil. Additionally, Navratris allow them to meditate and gain positive energy. This helps them prepare for the upcoming change in seasons.

 9. Applying sindoor

In traditional Hindu societies, the Sindoor denotes a woman’s desire for their spouse’s longetivity. The red powder is believed to be the color of power, symbolizing the female energy of Parvati and Sati. The Hindu dharma holds a woman is ‘complete’ or ideal only when she wears Sindoor.

Hindu dharma
Sindoor a cultural identity of every Hindu women. Wikimedia

Science explains that sindoor is made out of Vermilion, which is the decontaminated and powdered type of cinnabar (mercury sulfide). Because of its characteristic properties, mercury is known to reduce anxiety, control blood pressure and also initiate sexual desire, the primary reason why married women are advised to wear the ‘holy’ red powder. This is also the reason why widows are prohibited from wearing sindoor.

10. Wearing bangles on wrists

Bangles have been worn in the Hindu dharma since times immemorial- goddesses are also pictured to adorn these beautiful rings in their wrists. Bangles are believed to enhance feminine grace and beauty. The Hindu dharma almost makes it mandatory for newly-wed brides and to-be brides to wear bangles as they are believed to symbolize the well-being of the husbands and the sons.

Hindu dharma
Bangles are believed to accentuate the beauty of the Indian woman. Pixabay

Science suggests the constant friction caused by wearing bangles in the wrists expands the blood flow level. Besides this, the energy passing through the external skin is once again returned to one’s own body due to the round-molded bangles which has no ends to pass the energy out.

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Rituals Exist in All Cultures and they are Important

Rituals play a prominent role in every culture

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Religion
Ancient Indian Religion.

Hinduism is a practice, which is known for its rich rituals. From the Vedic ages, Hindus perform certain activities right from the time they wake up in the morning until the time they sleep. These activities may include, Pooja (worshipping lord) and Karya (Working), which integrate their culture. The events manifest a certain beauty, without which Hinduism is incomplete.

Different sects of Hindus worship different deities. Various Poojas are held for different festivities and occasions called the ‘Utsavas’. People during different festivals not just gather to worship the god, but also come together to celebrate life, with beautiful colours, clothes and delicious food. This itself proves that rituals manifest the beauty and celebration of life in Hinduism.

Meaning Of Rituals:

However, certain sections of the society have a preconceived notion about the rituals Hindus perform, which leads to them being called ‘superstitious’ or ‘overtly religious’. But is it fair to tag them? What is the meaning of the ritual? Ritual can be any activity which you perform. It is a way of communication. A teacher teaching his or her students can be a ritual. A mother feeding her baby is a ritual. Ritual is a generic term, which must not be linked with traditions, religion and beliefs? And, even if it is associated with these customs, then Hinduism should not be the only target. Every religion follows some beliefs. For example, a Muslim reading Namaz is a ritual; Christians visiting church on every Sunday is a ritual or Thanksgivings, when people have dinners with their friends and families. Hindus may have more rituals to act on than Muslims or Christians, but this gives no one the right to invalidate their belief. The rituals which Hindus perform don’t just have a connection with God, but also scientific reasons behind them. For example, Surya Namaskar is good for health as facing the light at that time of the day is good for your eyes, and makes you a morning person.

Also Read: Navratri 5th Day, The Tales That Speaks About Mother-Son Relationship

The reason why people not like rituals is due to their stifling and obligatory nature. Since our childhood, we have been asked to adhere to certain activities, and never taught the reason behind them. This develops disconnection towards them.

Benefits Of Rituals:

Rituals should be seen as art. We must not do it for the sake of doing it. We must sense its meaning like we sense the meaning of art. There is a side of these customs which we don’t want as well, but at the end of the day, they generate a sense of unity and belongingness. They bind you as a community. As long as we live as humans, these practices will have an integral role to play in our life, which can not be neglected.

by Megha Acharya of NewsGram.      Megha can be reached at Twitter @ImMeghaacharya.

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Ten Inspiring Quotes by Famous Personalities on World’s Oldest Religion “Hinduism”

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A Temple in India, Hinduism
Hinduism is a choice of living and is only one absolute, pure and eternal reality that can be found through enlightenment: A Temple in India. Pixabay

– by Tusheeta Kaushik

About hinduism:

June 24, 2017: “Hinduism” Being the oldest and the third largest religion in the world and with over a billion followers – many believe that Hinduism is a choice of living (way of living) and is only one absolute, pure and eternal reality that can be found through enlightenment. Its all about spirituality.

Some Hinduism practitioners and scholars refer to it as Sanātana Dharma, “the eternal tradition,” or the “eternal way,” beyond human history. Scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions,[7][note 5] with diverse roots and no founder.This “Hindu synthesis” started to develop between 500 BCE and 300 CE following the Vedic period (1500 BCE to 500 BCE)

Its sacred writings date as far back as 1400 to 1500 B.C. It is also one of the most diverse and complex, having millions of gods. Hindus have a wide variety of core beliefs and exist in many different sects. Although it is the third largest religion in the world, Hinduism exists primarily in India and Nepal.

The main texts of Hinduism are the Vedas (considered most important), Upanishadas, the Mahabharata, and the Ramayana. These writings contain hymns, incantations, philosophies, rituals, poems, and stories from which Hindus base their beliefs. Other texts used in Hinduism include the Brahmanas, the Sutras, and the Aranyakas.

This faith has taken on the form of everything we see today- including gods and goddesses. So even though they worship many gods, in reality it’s a monotheistic religion. 

10 Inspiring Quotes on Hinduism By Famous Personalities

 

  1. George Bernard Shaw believed Hinduism to be a monotheistic religion. He said that Hinduism is so elastic and subtle that the most profound Methodist and crudest Idolator are equally at home with it.”
    10 Inspiring Quotes on Hinduism
  2. Sir Charles Norton Edgecumbe Eliot didn’t consider Hinduism as a religion but a way of life. He also said “The Hindu has an extraordinary power of combining dogma and free thought, uniformity, and variety, here utmost latitude of information is allowed and in all ages Hindus have been devoted to speculation”.
10 Inspiring Quotes on Hinduism

3. Mark Twain believed that the only way to save oneself from any danger, loss or harm would be through Hinduism. He also said ” Our most valuable and instructive materials in the history of man are all treasured up in India, it is already becoming clear that a chapter which had a western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if its not to end in self destruction of the human race. In Hinduism we have the attitude and spirit that can make it possible for the human race to grow together into a single family.”

10 Inspiring Quotes on Hinduism

4. Dr Arnold Toynbee believed in the concept of spreading love, honesty and attaining enlightenment- mentioned in the holy book of Hindus. He said that “This spiritual gift i.e Hinduism that makes a man human is still alive in Indian souls, go on and give the world Indian examples of it, nothing else can do so much to help mankind to save itself  from destruction.”

10 Inspiring Quotes on Hinduism

5. Mahatma Gandhi strongly believed in hunting of truth through non- violent means and that Hinduism is a constant trailing after truth. He also said ” Ancient India has survived because Hinduism was not developed along material but spiritual lines.

10 Inspiring Quotes on Hinduism

6. Swami Vivekananda was proud to belong to a religion which taught the world forbearance at the time of adversity and a worldwide acceptance. He also said “I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all the nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelite s, who came to the southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which there holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny.”

10 Inspiring Quotes on Hinduism

7. Sir Monier Monier Williams relentlessly believed in the strength of infinite adaptability to the infinite diversity to the human character and human tendencies mentioned in the holy books of Hindus. He stated that “no description of Hinduism can be exhaustive which does not touch on almost every religious and philosophical idea that the world has ever known.”

10 Inspiring Quotes on Hinduism

8. Will Durant fervently believed in the teachings of Bhagwat Gita on tolerance, gentleness of mature mind and spreading love in the world. He further added – “It is true that even across the Himalayan barrier, India has sent such gifts such as grammar, logic, philosophy, fables, hypnotism, chess and above all numerals and the decimal system to the west.”

10 Inspiring Quotes on Hinduism

9. Thomas Berry believed Hinduism to be a dynamic process and said “For this reason, Hinduism must be studied not as a fixed body of doctrine but as a developing tradition that has changed considerably throughout the centuries and which is still changing in the creative direction, everything in India makes sense in the light of the changing process.”

10 Inspiring Quotes on Hinduism

10. Alain Danielou a.k.a Shiv Sharan believed that the Hindus live in perpetuity, while in Banarus, Danielou converted to Hinduism taking the initiates name of Shiv Sharan.

– by Tusheeta Kaushik of NewsGram