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.


Raja said...

Its Wonderful. Almost One Year Back, I was fortunate to get a Calendar which had the Drawings of the various deities as the backdrop. All these drawings were by Shilpi and its a Treasure that I will cherish for all times. I look forward to knowing more and seeing more of his works being acknowledged for what they are worth.. Priceless..!!

aswin said...

Never heard of such an artist, but by reading this post, i think he must have been such a pious and dedicated individual. I would have loved to have one of his divine painting, especially if it had been that of lord Ganesha. Maybe, that would help me increase my thirst for spirituality!

ratna said...

Thank you for the blog....

Humble said...

Thank your for the Periyava painting.

Keep up the good work.


kavitha said...


Thank you for your wishes, I do hope I can do justice to the artist through my blog and capture the essence of his personality.

All your support for this new venture of mine is deeply appreciated.


JC said...

Nice painting, Kavitha!
‘I’ recalled the story by Yogananda about a shishya and his Guru. The shishya one day had a thought that he didn’t have any picture of his old Guru, who he thought might not last for many years. So he made him agree to pose for him in the lawns of the ashram. He made the Guru sit in a chair in front of a flowering plant and clicked the camera. However, when the picture was developed it didn’t have the Guru in the picture. He thought the roll was defective. He boiught a new roll and again took a picture. Still there was no Guru! He therefore knew it was some trick of the Guru and so asked him the reason.
The Guru told him that he wanted the picture, as souvenir, of ‘his Guru’. And, as it is the soul within the body that is his Guru, he had got it already! However, he then agreed to pose again and allow him the picture of his exterior body too! According to Yogananda that was the only picture available to his shishyas after the Guru took Samadhi!

Dr.Anil Joshi said...

Kavitha.Would like to know more about sila shastra & samudrika lakshanam as the blog progresses

aswin said...

Hi uncle joshi,
That was a nice interesting piece of information, Thanks!

JC said...

Hi Dr. Anil, As far as ‘I’ know, ‘Shila Shastra’ refers to ancient Hindu text dealing in building and sculpture techniques. Iron wasn’t used at all and only intricately hand carved stones were used in structures.

And ‘Samudrika Lakshanam’ was part of an astrological study, just as Palmistry is. As in the study related with Palmistry, observations on each body part were apparently studied in large number of known characters and general guidelines then compiled by sages to predict the likely character or behaviour of any given individual…However, as far as ‘I’ know, it is the face reading, particularly of the forehead, that is, its shape and lines upon it - horizontal and vertical etc. that perhaps was believed as the most important component…There is also a saying as its essence, “Face is the index of mind.”

I am not sure if Kavitha would discuss these two in details...

Dr.Anil Joshi said...

Joshi uncle,Thanks for the informatio.This clearly shows how much thought & inputs were given by the ancient scluptures

GOKUL said...

A great tribute to a great artist. Also see which says his native is Namakkal and not kumbakonam, as u said.

Kavitha said...

Not really sure because I got the details from his son.. I cant be too wrong :)

Vetri said...

Have always been in awe of this artist par excellence right from my childhood, and sure he had been an unsung hero.Good that you have tried to bring him out of the forgotten land@