Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sari Wall Art : All about Love

The inspiration for this artwork comes from the Sanskrit drama Shakuntalam. Shakuntalam (Story of Shakuntala)is considered a masterpiece of the classical Sanskrit Indian drama. Composed by poet Kalidasa, it dates to the reign of Vikramaditya (5th cent A.D) described as the the golden age of ancient India.

The original story of Shakuntala is a small chapter in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. It is basically a love story with all the familiar ingredients such as love at first sight, promises broken and redemption and reunion. Its protagonist is Shakuntala. Born to a celestial nymph and a human, she is abandoned at birth by her parents and is raised in a hermitage. One day, Dushyanta, the king of Hastinapura (Delhi) comes hunting in the forest and chances upon the hermitage. He and Shakuntala fall in love. He gives her a ring with a royal seal and pledges to send for her after returning to his kingdom. And things start going wrong for Shakuntala.

Due to a sage's curse, the king loses all memory of her and fails to send for her. Shakuntala, now pregnant, travels to his palace. However, on the way she loses the ring the king gave her and is unable to show any proof of their involvement. Heartbroken, she returns to the hermitage and in due course gives birth to a son. A few years pass by. Meanwhile, the ring is found and returned to the king and, as soon as he sees it he regains his memory of Shakuntala. Determined to right a wrong he goes looking for her. At the hermitage he sees this this young kid playing with a little lion cub. Impressed by the little boy's courage he asks him his name and the child answers "I am Bharata, son of Dushyanta". Deeply moved, he picks up the child and just then Shakuntala comes looking for the boy. Of course, all misunderstandings are cleared and the couple are reunited. The king, Shakuntala and their son return to Hastinapura and after his father's death, Bharata becomes a powerful and a famous king. It is said that Bharat, another name for India, comes from its most famous king, Bharata, the son of Dushyanta and Shankuntala.

Shakuntalam was the first Indian language drama to be translated into English by Sir William Jones in 1789. It is also the subject of an Italian opera. It continues to be a source of inspiration to dancers, musicians and other artists including my inspiration for this sari wall art

Friday, December 25, 2009

Transit of Sidereal Jupiter


Along with the winter solstice another important celestial event took place on Dec 20, 2009. This was the transit of Jupiter from its sign of debilitation Capricorn to Aquarius. Transit of slow moving planets are always significant and their effects are also felt quite deeply. In the case of Jupiter, it spent most of the twelve months in Capricorn in the company of Rahu (North node). In Indian astrology this combination is called Guru-Chandala yoga and is not viewed favorably. Jupiter is the planet of dharma whereas Rahu is a non-traditional planet. Generally, Rahu's influence on Jupiter is said to indicate deviant behavior or thinking.

For those of us who have been feeling the weight of Jupiter's debilitation and its conjunction with Rahu, its passage to Aquarius is likley to offer much relief. Aquarius is the positive sign of Saturn and Jupiter's transit in this sign brings out the humanitarian impulses present in our selves. Serious practitioners of Hindu astrology will also notice that with Saturn in Virgo, the double of transit of Jupiter and Saturn now falls on Gemini, a Mercury sign. Ketu, the South node, is also transiting Gemini. Depending on which house Gemini falls in one's chart, that house may become active during this triple transit. Of course, all transit interpretations should take into account the natal chart placements as well as the dasha sequence.

Similar to western astrology, Jupiter is regarded as a great benefic in Vedic astrology. Referred to as Guru (spiritual guide or teacher), it is described in classical texts as having a big belly and a fat body, pale eyes, virtuous nature, knowledge of scriptures and sciences, bright yellow complexion, Sattvic (higher nature), sharp intelligence, keenness in religious pursuits and yello colored dress.. Jupiter is the lord of Saggitarius ( the 9th house of dharma) and Pisces (the 12th house of spirituality) and has directional strength in the first house. In vedic astrology it is the significator of five houses: 2 (personal finances), 5 (creativity including children), 9 (knowledge, education), 10 (career) and 11 (income from employment). Here is a brief summary of Jupiter's planetary qualities and significations:

Jupiter symbolizes: Growth, kindness, spirituality, optimism, generosity, wisdom, idealism, friendliness
Day of the Week: Thursday
Position in planetary cabinet: teacher, mentor, advisor
Relationships: children
Colors of Jupiter: Clear, bright and transparent shades of yellow, orange, and gold
Metals for Jupiter: Gold
Gems for Jupiter: Topaz, citrine
Its natural planetary friends: Jupiter is hostile to no planet though its natural friends are Sun, Moon and Mars.

As is my wont, to commemorate Jupiter's transit I created this jewelry piece in golden swarovski crystals and pearls.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Remaking Art into Art: Sari Wall Art

Whether it is hand woven or made in a textile mill, whether it is natural silk or cotton or polyester, whether it is brocaded or embroidered, whatever its color, style or regional origin, Indian sari is a work of art. It is not only a work of art, it is uniquely Indian and you will not find anything to match its rich diversity in any other part of the world. It survived two hundred years of British rule and has managed to reinvent and thrive despite encroachment of jeans and other fashionable garments.

I love saris and I have tons of them. I got my first sari at age 16 and I still have my silk wedding saris bought 25 years ago. Yet, I hardly get a chance to wear saris these days in the US. The desire to feel the richness of the material and beauty of the design led me to create this collection of Saris as Wall Art .

Indian sari has three sections: body, border and the shoulder drape. The wall art pieces usually depict the body and the border. Every piece develops organically--using mixed media of watercolor, color pencils, permanent ink and genuine sari pieces in cotton, silk or polyester, I let the colors and the materials direct me in my composition. Sometimes, the end product looks very different from what I envisaged at the beginning. But none can be mistaken for anything other than a sari. The two dozen or so sari art in this collection cover a range of saris, from handloomed cotton to Kanchipuram silk and a bright palette of colors. You can view the entire collection here: