Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Artist Silpi and the rules of divine art


I stared at another work of this great artist, a form of Shiva, dancing within his chamber, that brings alive the heavens. The definition of paradise has been described in riches with flowers and fragrance, lit up with fiery lamps housing the very lord within it.

To decorate the heavenly abode of the Lord on earth within the temple is one thing, to create the same vision through the mind's eye with devotion is yet another. This is not about proportion or color of hue or form as much as it is about the power to create the vision of the Lord by hand into paper, meticulously capturing every detail without even an inkling of personal imagination mingled with that displayed in reality as per the defined rules of Shilpa Shastra and Samudrika Lakshana.

The Vishnudharmottara describes the methodology of painting, the power to create and imagine and yet remain within the realm of the canons of divine art that describe the true essence of a deity. Artist Silpi, maybe unknown, but he displays such devotion, that is beyond words and leaves us really awe struck, with that "something" in his paintings that we ourselves really don't know how to explain.

When we see the paintings of this artist, there is a sublime sense of awe, there is a sense of emotion that render us wondering whether such power is pure skill and talent or much much more than that. Artist Silpi, follows the canons of art, as well as those described in the Vishnudharmottara that define the rules of divine painting as put down by Sage Agastya himself.

Sage Agastya displeased with the performance of the apsaras in Indra's court, described in mango juice, the form of Urvashi, the epitome of beauty and grace in dance and gave her life to perform at the court. Such was the potency then that her beauty and grace was appreciated by all.

The same appreciation, if it comes from all quarters, be it a perfectionist looking for divinity and grace, or a connoisseurs looking for hue and color, or a lady admiring the jewelery or a layman appreciating the glamor; the painting has achieved its divine status.

This form of Shiva, captured by the artist, indicates clearly that he surpassed every qualification of a divine artist, not just in mere brush strokes, but in his deep devotion for the Lord as well as his immense love for Paramnacharya Chandrasekhar Swamigal.

He is an example of one who attained Nirvana, in his meditation of 40 days, every time he picked up his tools to create divinity in a different form. When we see his paintings of divinity, we are touched by his devotion, by the power of the deity captured in his canvas, by the grace of the Lord living and awakening us to their presence every time we set eyes on them.

This artist is a miracle to us, an example of developing and reproducing beauty through the mind power to create and give life, and not just a painter who got the picture right!

Artist Silpi, is not just another painter, and as I rediscover the secrets behind this great artist, I witness the very grace of divinity dance in my mind.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Aghora Shiva, Thiruvengadu, Tamil Nadu

Within the darkness of the night, walks this form of Lord Shiva, Shiva Aghoramurthy. He rules the night, kala and these hours are for the other world spirits to worship him. Aghora Shiva is worshiped by all, the night is alive with divinity as it wakes the other world, of ghosts and ghouls and aghoris to follow this form - the left hand path of worship.

Its not scary as much as it is eye opening, that we prefer to see a beautifully clad aghora rudra within the temple wall in stone and not the real fiery self that walks the night. Aghora Shiva, raw energy, raw power, raw beauty of anger and fury rising from the being, from his eyes, forming a halo of flaming light around his head, this multi handed deity adorns the temple precinct around the main shrine of Lord Shiva in his iconic form.

In the early hours of the morning at the temple of Thiruvenkadu, Veerabhadra, resides within his chamber, surrounded by flickering lights that turn this earthly chamber into divine heaven with his presence. Adorned in the glint of gold, decorated in royalty this ash clad Lord is dressed like a King. Decked in jewellery and covered in flowers, one can sing the Rudram and bathe themselves in his presence. Such beauty can be found nowhere else, which is just brought to light by the glowing lamps.

Aghora Shiva is powerful, fierce, graceful, and yet terrifying. He kills all evil, he protects us, he brings us our peace and yet we fear this form! And as we mindlessly move on, little do we notice a painter furiously at work. Seeped
in silence, a passionate painter catches the glimpse of this fiery Lord into his canvas.

40 days of passion, with hours spent during Brahmamuhurta, the painter sits before Him and absorbs his form. And in a lightening flash he awakens the very Lord Veerabhadra to come alive in his brush and begins to render this unthinkable form!

The glint of gold, the sheen of silver, the blackness of mahakala just bathes the dimly lit interior...such a beauty that the mind just rests, there is no room for thought, there is just music in the heart to see the Lord display his presence through the eyes of the painter who prays to him, requesting him to make his appearance divine in his canvas.

The mind is a powerful tool and it performs many unthinkable miracles. One such miracle is the way this painter religiously renders the beauty and form and divinity of every God as he imbibes them into himself. Truely miraculous. There was never another of his kind, Artist Silpi was the chosen one, one who would paint, one who could capture even Lord Aghora Rudra into his brush and request this fiery Lord to descend into his canvas to stay there and bless all those who worshiped him.

With the rhythm of the Rudram in my mind, I salute this great artist for his passion and bhakti, a silent devotee who left his art and expression behind for us to feel the presence of the Lord.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Siddhar Bogar Samadhi, Palani Murugan Temple

The definition of enlightenment has many expressions; the value of perfection can turn the unreal into a spectacular world of intrigue of what is possible in this world that we live in. In the era 3000 B.C. that we so misjudged as belonging to the primitive period has recorded the life of at least one person who surpassed most human beings in the quest for knowledge and the power of wisdom.

3000 B.C. a world that was still waking up to evolution witnessed the presence of Siddhar Bogar, a powerful astrologer, and a yogi who had mastered the science of medicine perfectly. The highlights of his life maybe plenty but those that would intrigue us today are recorded in the Saptakanda, a work that describes in detail the presence of an aircraft that took him all the way to China where he imparted his knowledge. Another intriguing fact is that he used 9 poisons or the Nava Bhashanam to make a statue of Lord Muruga (Dandapani vigraha) which has since been installed in the Murugan temple at Palani near Madhurai and is still worshipped. The interesting aspect of this idol is that its composition of 9 poisons (made out of 4000 rare herbs), elicits life giving essence into the fluids of libation as the abhishekam progresses which cures all human diseases when consumed.

Siddhar Bogar’s shrine, his Samadhi is what remains today as a powerful example of the difference in lifestyle, the deep rooted principles and values that once governed the people of this soil. We all live in the same world, making use of probably the same things to evolve, yet the intensity of worship and the much needed awareness to realize these methods of living are not half as strong now.

Few things come to light in the life of this phenomenon called Siddhar Bogar. He initially worshiped the Kamandalam on the peetha and the rishi muni dandam or staff atop the hill at Palani. He subsequently prepared the idol of Muruga (Dandapani vigraha) out of 9 poisons that magically cures people of their ailments when the fluids of libation are consumed after abhishekam. Bogar is known to have made his own Samadhi, his final resting place in this form which is a cave he dug out, a chamber under the very idol of Muruga (Dandapani vigraha). It was here that he took Jeeva Samadhi. Siddhar Bogar lived for aprox. 300 years and 18 days.

The life of Siddhar Bogar is amazing, intriguing and gives us an idea of a world we wish we were a part of. Few have brought alive the picture of his Samadhi, and among those who have is Artist Silpi who has vividly captured every essence of what is found back in this cave that still exalts Siddhar Bogar’s energy. This is a potent place of worship, which is crowned by a throne that was created by Siddhar Bogar himself. He used the 8 shaktis, the nava Durga, Sri Bhuvaneshwari, and most importantly the Maragadha Lingam (emerald Linga) that crowns this throne. It is a complex vigraha comprising of a stone altar that hosts the main emerald Shiva Linga at the top surrounded by the Goddesses at various levels. As part of the worship is also the present the right faced conch shell, and two yantras that capture the essence of the Goddess and Lord Shiva within them.

It is a potent world, energized not just by the presence of a dual yantra, but by the powerful magnetic field present in the Samadhi of this great Siddhar. The passage way to heaven is not just a journey down spiritualism, but a unique magical world of powers expressed in various forms depicted through the life of this great Siddhar. Few others are blessed to express this beauty by representing it in color for lesser mortals like us. The profound depth of sacred reality is rendered by Artist Silpi in this painting who spent 40 days within this cave to capture this unique throne for the world to witness, a throne found nowhere else, a profound example of salvation being found in intense devotion be it science, medicine, art and sculpture to inspire humanity in the years to come.

Also read: Samadhi: Path to the Perfect Cave

Photo courtesy: Silpi Mahalingam, son of Artist Silpi.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Kamakshi Amman in the Soundarya Lahari

Kamakshi Amman, Kanchipuram - Year 1951

In the calm of the night, when the world sleeps, the breeze brings with it the fragrance of fresh water lilies in full bloom. With the moon’s reflection dancing around these full bloom lilies, it is the blissful moment of the night to be imbibed within the soul. The tranquility of the breeze in the leaves, the shimmering waves of the water as the moon shines through, dotted with lilies letting loose their fragrance is for the world to catch a glimpse of this inner beauty. The brightness of the sun by day parallels the calm of the moon by night as time moves from the sunshine to the moonlight across the brow of the Mother Goddess Kamakshi.

Such are the words that describe so beautifully the form of the Mother in the Soundarya Lahari. An ocean of beauty, far deeper than the star lit clear sky by night glowing in the presence of the moon. Within the chamber that houses the Goddess one can feel this silence of the night, this fragrance in the air. The darkness of the inner chamber, lit up with the lamps that bring the glow to her face, the Mother sits within, calm and compassionate to her children, her lotus eyes in partial bloom which is just truly divine.

The Mother was first captured on canvas by Artist Silpi in the year 1951. As the Artist meditated on the Mother, he asked for fewer flowers to cover her form so that he could capture her in greater detail. He describes her seated on her lotus seat, her feet covered in sacred kumkum powder, a different form of turmeric that is offered to the Goddess and later adorns the foreheads of her devotees. Kamakshi Amman, in her calm form is decorated with jewelry taken from the temple treasury. Her idol made of black stone, adds beauty to her face with the glow of red on her forehead depicting her third eye, one that she too possesses apart from her divine lord Shiva.

In front of her lies the sacred Sri Chakra yantra within its yoni peetha surrounded by 8 Goddesses, 3 to 4 of whom are captured here. The chamber is lit up with oil lamps that bring out the sacredness of her form, while the incense adds fragrance to her room. The brass bell is rung occasionally to present the Mother with the light, the flame of the arti that light up her divine face for the world to see. The brass pot with the spoon contains sacred water for her children to take, as a blessing of the Mother. The floor covered with offerings of flowers and kumkum bring peace to the mind when the ocean of beauty glides through.

Kamakshi Amman, Kanchipuram - Year 1963

Artist Silpi had this chamber and the Goddess dressed with a difference in the year 1963, a form that is not always in our luck to see. Every element that adorned the Mother during a festival was pulled out of the temple treasury. The utsav murti is grandly decorated in these treasures, so much so that much of the Mother gets hidden among the shower of flowers that are offered to her. Within the chamber, the Artist observed every piece of jewelry that adorned the Mother. The pearls that adorns her neck, is described in the Soundarya Lahari as those found within the skull of elephants, in this case from the head of Gajasura, the elephant demon that Lord Shiva vanquished. She holds the silver sugarcane in one hand, and an intricately designed veena covered with precious stones in the other. The Goddess has been captured as she would be adorned on Vijaya Dasami day during Navaratri. During this time she takes the form of Saraswati and therefore holds the Veena. A parasol covered her head on this day, clearly painted for the benefit of the devotees, by the artist.

Brass lamps give way to silver, few flowers cover her divine beauty and her third eye glows on in red, while she displays compassion on her face. This form of the Goddess is unknown to the world at large; it is a glimpse we get if we are lucky enough to visit her shrine. It is through the paintings of this gifted painter, that we realize his silent sensitivity towards bringing this divine form of the Mother to the world. It is bringing alive the ocean of beauty of the Soundarya Lahari, through is paintings for those who have never set eyes on this form of the Mother.

Also read:
Shakti worship during Navaratri

For reproduced hard copies of these pictures, please contact me through email.

Photo courtesy: Mr.Mahalimgam, son of Artist Silpi
© Silpi, these pictures should not be reproduced on the internet.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sri Jagath Guru Chandrasekarendar Saraswathy Swamigal - 1956

It was a moment in unsung history when the Mahaperivar of Kanchipuram granted Aritst Silpi an audience, a moment that the artist had waited for over a month foregoing his work; it was a moment that changed the life of Artist completely.

In the late hours of the night, after the entire world had sunk into deep slumber, a dialog commenced between two people. One was a revered saint, loved and respected by all and the other was an artist, talented but unsung. Within the sacred room, in the light of an oil lamp, the bright and clear eyes of the saint lit up as he whispered the truth to the painter.

He said, “You have lived many lives, and in all of them you have worshipped the Lord sincerely. You have been a Sthapathi at various temples in your past lives where you have sculpted various forms of the Divine. This is your last birth. Do not dilute this sacred skill anymore. Take a vow that you shall paint the form of the divine alone hence forth. Your talent is divine, you are blessed, and you are already aware of the sciences of the Shila Shastra and Samudrika Lakshanam, you need no more education. Go into the world again, at sunrise tomorrow, with a goal to bring the divine into every home, through your paintings.”

The artist took leave and went across the land, to the remotest temples across the country to capture the very form of the Divine into his canvas. It was not an easy task that lay ahead, for the restrictions were tough, and only the orthodox and pure hearted could perform such a miraculous feet. He was told, "You shall not use your imagination, you shall not change anything that you see within the shrine chambers, you shall follow the law of Shilpa Shastra, and you shall capture the character of the Divine in various forms as described in the Samudrika Lakshanam. You shall not use extra lights, you shall work within the limited lamps lit within the chamber, and capture the changing swarupa(features) of the Divine as you meditate through the experience of painting. In this way, you shall capture the power of the Divine within the shrine chamber into your painting, the secret of which shall be expressed through the strokes of your brush."

The artist did as told, and started a whole new life dedicated to the Lord, to his Guru, his guide who blessed his every breath through the rest of his life.

Artist Silpi, was a family man, and his wife was a staunch devotee of the Paramacharya. As age took over, she was unable to visit the saint at the Kanchi Matt and seek His divine blessings. She requested her husband to go and capture the essence of the Paramacharya in his painting and make a portrait that she could worship at home for the rest of her life.

In the year 1956, Artist Silpi made another visit to the Saint to capture His portrait, for his wife. It was a difficult proposition as the Saint did anything but co-operate. He moved around, to make it extremely difficult for the artist, testing his devotion and his patience to capture His being. When it finally ended, the painter held a master piece in his hand. An expression of devotion, one that captured every finger and toe that the Saint otherwise hid, one that even captured the divine light the enveloped the form of the Saint.

It was a true masterpiece. Within the color the Saint stares on, the clarity in His eyes so beautifully captured, the vivla leaves still so fresh, the divine glow of spiritualism in His being which no photograph could ever catch. The only lamp that lit the room lay at His feet, a light that lit up so much of his Divine form, this celebrated Saint has never been captured such. Within the chamber where he posed and watched an artist paint, He blessed this work by granting us a vision of His divine presence for the world to feel, to imbibe. Kanchi Mahaperivar Sri Jagath Guru Chandrasekarendar Saraswathy Swamigal lives on in the painting of Artist Silpi.

For further information on this picture, please contact me through email.

Photo courtesy: Mr.Mahalimgam, son of Artist Silpi
© Silpi, these pictures should not be reproduced on the internet.