Saturday, 15 February 2020

Moghul Miniatures : Reflection of flora and fauna

Jahangir with Falcon
     When we look at paintings, we slowly realize how these paintings communicate to us. Each line, each form, each colour, the spatial arrangement speaks volumes. By studying these paintings, we can realize what kind of culture prevailed during that period. The very word ‘culture’ itself denotes lot of things like material culture, the way of living, the behavioral aspect, tastes,  ideas, concepts and values. Keeping all these things in mind, one can have a look at these rich paintings for deeper understanding. When I look at these mogul miniature paintings in the backdrop of  fast growing urbanisation in recent years, which is a matter of concern for all of us,   these  paintings beautifully unfold before us the richness of vegetation, which the artists have captured in fine lines and colours. Now cities are growing both horizontally and vertically because of the greediness of real estate people and that too at the cost of beautiful, rich vegetation.  If urban development continues in the same manner, the next generations will see vegetation only in paintings and books.       
Moghul  and Rajput miniatures, two independent schools of art,  are considered to be the cream of Indian art, which flourished from 15th  to 17th century. The Moghul Dynasty was established in India by the emperor Babar. Emperor Babar was much more in interested in expanding his empire, so he could not give much attention to the developments of art and architecture, though he had a strong liking for art, literature and music.  But the emperors who followed  Babar have given India a huge collection of unforgettable miniatures  and architecture of excellence to India.  The emperor Barbar’s son Humayun, when he ascended to the throne, was forced in to exile to Persia in the beginning as one of his generals rose against him. Emperor Humayun as a refugee was given shelter by Safavid Dynasy which was ruling Persia then. During his stay in Persia, Humayun got acquainted with the Persian art and artists. As a result, while coming back to India after defeating the general with the help of Safavid  emperor, he brought a couple of famous artists from Persia. Those Persian artists and Indian artists worked together and produced a body of interesting works , which is the fusion  of Indian and Persian  sensibilities.  Today also, we see these works with great pleasure as these have tremendous charm.
Coming to the point, in Moghul miniatures we see a lot of importance being given to vegetation. The rulers and the artists as well gave priority to detail about the vegetation. It shows their close connectivity with nature and love for it. While going through the pages of Moghul history, I read that emperor Jahangir, the grandson of Humayun, was very much interested in collecting the rare spies of birds, plants and flowers. He used to instruct his ministers to collect rare things and document them through painting. And these paintings were preserved in a systematic manner in a chronological way.  As a result, we see mogul miniatures, especially the borders embellished with beautiful flora and fauna. Most of the portraits of these emperors and their family members have beautiful borders interlaced with flowers, birds and plants.  Human being as a part of nature, his/her association with nature is essential for harmonious living and these borders inhabited with vegetation reflect the same concept.
Shah Abbas II with falcon
During his time, the emperor Jehangir used to get his portraits done by famous artists. As a result, we see a series of portraits of Jehangir in various moods. Not only his portraits, his family members too had got their portraits done by the court painters. The court painter culture had developed during the reign of Jehangir, who was very much interested in art, literature and music. Those highly respected court painters were very skilled   and  each one was expert in a certain field. Sometimes the artists expert in a certain field used paint that part and other artists used to contribute their expert skills to the remaining parts, so it used to be a collective work. So, most of the paintings are not signed by the artists.  Due  to the existence of these court painters, the practice of painting had continued for a long time. The emperor Jehangir had an eye for beautiful and rare species;  the rich portrait of Jehangir with Falcon on his right hand is the indication of his genuine interest in nature. The falcon seems to be in a sweet mood as wings have been raised to cheer up the majesty and the emperor is looking at the bird intently. The most interesting fact is the long gown of the emperor has been covered with animals like deers, tigers, birds and plants.  Roland Barthes has written extesively about the dress and decoding, and we can apply the same decoding theory here to get deeper meanings.
Here is one more painting belonging to a dynasty called Safavid Dynasty, which  ruled Persia then. The portrait belongs to Shah Abbas II who ruled Iran from 1642 to 1666. He was the seventh Shah of Safavid dynasty. The emperor Jehangir’s portrait and the portrait of Shah AbbasII have similarities. Shah Abbas has been shown with a falcon on his right hand and the borders have been covered with the thick vegetation with animals and birds. Life of animals and birds has been observed closely and depicted naturally by the artists in both the paintings.  Romancing, copulating, killing – all have been depicted through delicate sensuous lines and colours. Though these borders give pleasure at the first sight, on the second and third look, the paintings reveal the secrets of the vegetation. The birds, animals, tress, plants have been rendered very realistically.

The Moghul Miniatures are a source of eternal inspiration for artists and the onlookers. Though small in size, they speak volumes.      

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Cultural Changes: Keep communication alive and language usage intact


           Myriad cultural changes have taken place in India within a decade and plus. With the advent of technology, life all over the world has changed drastically in every aspect. Everyone, young and old, has become techno savvy and is enthusiastic to adapt to new changes that the time demands. No doubt, it is a very positive sign to change oneself to the contemporary situation as life is governed by the technology these days. An awareness of cultural , social, political  shifts along with the pros and cons of technology enable one to deal with daily affairs with maturity and dignity. Social networking sites have brought people nearer across the world, and yet, at the same time they have distanced the immediate neighbors. These radical changes are really disturbing and need a sincere and honest thought. As a result, the charm of communication, human relations, and human values -- where physical presence matters, physical touch matters, eye contact matters, hearty smile matters—all are missing. Many times, to my utter surprise, I find  young boys and girls sitting indifferently engrossed in surfing their smart phones even at birthday parties and religious functions-- communications is on the decline.  Language, the essence of communication, too has been changing with the passage of time.  Nostalgically speaking, friends used to gather at somebody’s place or at a restaurant  in the evenings to chat and share their ideas, and to discuss. Now people have suddenly become busy and professional – No time to engage into a hearty communication – all these changes have been taking a toll on the usage of languages. In the present situation, visual language is taking precedence over verbal and written language. Visual language through visual images like photos, posters, hoardings is governing the whole cultural scenario. Social networking sites like FaceBook, Instagram, WhatsApp – all bombard with visual images. If some FaceBook friends try to engage friends with written message—without a visual -- these written messages  are surely going to be brushed aside.   Leave alone simple communications or discussions, my heartbeats become uneven suddenly when I read in the newspapers about closing down of the famous book stalls.  Treasure houses of knowledge, books stalls, and the famous ones in cosmopolitan cities too, have been disappearing one by one. It really makes me sad!  Earlier, books were the main source of gaining knowledge and to feel the diverse cultures of the world. By reading the book of different authors of different countries, one would get the perfect feel of  those diverse cultures. The authors would make us journey into those countries with such vivid descriptions that we never ever felt an alien while traversing those countries in to those pages. The writer’s elaborate description fused with reader’s fancy created a wonderful journey and a wonderful world for every growing child and an adult.  Those mental journeys in to abyss kept us busy, happy and well informed.
                                         Recently, when I visited printing press in a neighbouring small town, I saw a small poster pinned to the display board. The small poster was conveying a huge message, directly and indirectly. Take care of apostrophes and commas -- language is changing ! Since the technology has entered into our life, the usage of language has changed considerably. Specially,the language of messages in social sites has taken a new shape—it is conveniently shortened and without any punctuation marks.  We have already lost several languages and some are on the vanishing verge. It is time to think seriously about usage and saving of languages. 

Monday, 25 November 2019

Language of Dress

 In 60s and 70s, tailors were very much in demand.  Ready-to-wear clothing was not available in small towns, and in fact, nobody liked to wear readymade dress in those days. To discover a good tailor and get dresses stitched properly by them was an uphill task.  With lot of hopes and dreams, one used to give the fabric material along with a page torn from the magazine, which carried the photograph or sketch of a latest fashionable skirt or top, in it.  Seeing the photograph, the tailor would nod and say he would stitch it the same way. He used to enter the details of measurements in a long note book, which had turned yellow with the passage of time and the pages at the corners had curled by constant usage. He would ask us to come after a fortnight.  Since we were in hurry, that fortnight seemed to be like a quarter year, stretching endlessly.  When the particular day approached, with all possible positive thoughts we used to go to the shop to get the dress. On climbing a spiral staircase, we used to enter into the shop. On seeing us, he used to grin sheepishly.  Taking the receipt from us, adjusting his spectacles, he would look again into the long notebook to get the number of the bundle stitched. After a long search in the cupboard, he would finally pull out the bundle as if he had accomplished a mission. With all eagerness, we used to open the bundle to see whether it had been stitched the way it was instructed. To our surprise, the outcome is entirely different and the tailor would explain that design was slightly altered to fit properly.  What an audacity!  As he could not digest the new fashion, he had stitched it the way he knew.   In spite of the measurements given correctly, dress used to be either too short or too long in the end.  Since then fashion has evolved differently and with great speed, now more and more people are becoming aware of trends. Fashion channel on T.V highlights the latest trends around the world and shows how fashion language has changed over years..
Those who are avid followers of fashion are well acquainted with fashion magazines.  Vogue magazine, started in1892, is one of the oldest fashion magazines and has been popular throughout the world for its rich photographs of ladies in fashionable dresses in glossy papers. It  is a great credit for one to appear in this magazine. Usually, fashion has been associated with actors and the rich. Actors dressing in different way create their own fashion language.  In semiotics, Roland Barthes says fashion works as a language – coded language, a sign. Dresses when decoded speak out the truth and classify people as rich, poor, elegant, conservative, artistic, flamboyant and so on.
      Fashion is a popular style at a particular period and that is associated with culture.  With the passage of time, fashion has evolved better and better- design wise, material wise, and aesthetic values too have changed. Fashion is a trend in a particular time and it keeps changing time to time. To be on the bandwagon, it is essential for one to move with the time and accept the trends that are latest and fashionable. The word fashion is applicable to all fields.  
                                         One could assess the personality of a person by the way he or she is dressed and how it is carried on. Dress denotes character, taste, attitude, sophistication and elegance of a person in detail. Some persons look amazingly beautiful and dignified in simple attires and command respect. This is  possible because their attire reflect their philosophy of life. It does not matter whether one looks trendy or not, one has to be graceful and dignified. Every human being, basically, desires to be loved, respected and complimented. For that, one has to make efforts to choose the right dresses with right colors for the right occasion. The colors of the dresses indicate the qualities of persons. Persons who are very active usually prefer bright primary colors.  Those who are usually sober go for brown and grey colors. Highly elegant people always blend their dresses with grey, black and white shades. Colors indicate the psychology of a person. Dressing is also an art and it comes in hand while working out on combinations of materials, colors and trends. Preference for colors vary as one ages and maturity reflects through the dresses one wears. Apart from dressing elegantly, one has to be comfortable in the dress.
Observing the latest trends and its adoption by en masse has made me to reflect seriously on this particular issue. In the present condition, everyone desires to look one’s best with all the readily available dresses and accessories. T.V. is the main source through which everyone gets a dose of fashion and latest trends every day. Films play a key role in setting up trends and dictating

en masse.  Window shopping and online shopping have facilitated people at great lengths. Fashion trends keep changing very fast as consumers are willing to consume more and more.  Mass production means identical items in huge quantity. By using identical objects people all look alike, like Xerox copies.   
To be fashionable, there is no need to purchase all the fashionable things that land in the market, try them, and present oneself as a big goofy.  Age, body structure, nature of a person, job status, education, religion and family background   all these  play key roles in selecting  dresses.  One has to visualize how a dress would look on one when it is worn on.   A conscious effort will definitely will bring some changes in one’s tastes and selection of dresses. In  Bollywood  ,Simi Garewal,  Shabhana Azami,  Rekha, Deepika Padukon  are remarkably well dressed and have left  their  indelible individual statements on the viewers. One can combine readymade garments and accessories in one’s own way with personal creativetouches and can make individual statements.

Monday, 3 June 2019

From Postcard to Whats App

Sculptor Vilas Kulkarni [ first one from the right]

          When our show was going in the Jehangir Gallery,Mumbai , at the same time, in the same place, Delhi artists were exhibiting their works in the spacious auditorium gallery. In the auditorium hall, postbox sculptures made in the fiber glass medium stood as testimony to the bygone period and caught the attention of each and every visitor's attention since the post boxes are connected to everyone's life. Delhi based artist Vilas Kulkarni had this concept of post boxes in his mind since a long time but the concept got materialized when he was planning for his Mumbai show. When asked about these sculptures, he was emotionally remembering the olden days. The technology has smoothened the ways and people are getting news very fast today but the new gadgets cannot bring the warmth and emotional touch that the letters used to bring, the artist expressed. Now the messages and emails are very brief and devoid of feelings as everyone sees and feels. Now the conversation is carried mainly in English. So the works displayed were satirical and reflecting the contemporary truth. From the red post boxes were spilling out only English letters as if all the regional languages have taken back seats. As English is flourishing across the world as global language, the regional languages are slowly vanishing one by one. If serious efforts are not put in , the regional languages will fade away within no time. Now the total scene has changed completely due to the invasion of computers and mobiles and new applications, so naturally the post box has taken a back seat. The post boxes used to play a very important role in everyone's life a few years back. The post cards , inland letters and covers which carried messages to friends ,parents and relatives used to be carried by this post box. Those were the days when connectivity was difficult and a distant dream. One had to wait for many days to get news. Post cards usually carried brief messages especially the death messages written in two three lines. Inland letters were lengthier than postcard and shorter than covers. The educated people opted for inland letters and inland letters were not as open as post cards. The postcard letters used to be read by one and all, whether one intended to read it or not, one could not abstain from eyeing its contents - open letters, open secrets. The covers always contained long sheets of paper either white or lined or tinted ones written with ink pens. While writing, sometimes the bluish or blackish ink used to smear on the pages here and there. In those days news and messages travelled slowly and reached the destination many times after its importance diluted. But everyone used to wait eagerly for the post man to come and deliver the letters at one's door step.

The invention of computers and mobiles has ultimately has put an end to the letter writing. During the high school days, language question papers used to have one question about letter writing. Now only for official purpose letters are written and dispatched as hard copies. Emails , messages and WhatsApp have become popular these days. Nobody bothers to sit and write letters elaborately now a days.

The small post boxes spread in the auditorium, catching everyone's eyes, stood as the testimony for the bygone period of emotions. The post boxes present in the auditorium belonged to different cities, and one them belonged to my place as the artist is originally from my place. The post box had our city name and pin code. I was really happy to see the particular post box. Some of the works were very interactive as some small children wrote small, small messages on paper and put into the boxes. After some years, the post box will become an antique piece and will be kept in the museums.