By Sumi Krishnan
The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur is open at the Art Gallery of New South Wales straight from the British Museum. As part of the exhibition with the help and sponsorship of the Indian Council of Cultural Relations [ICCR] and Natraj Arts the evening at the Art Gallery was dressed with music that was as ancient in time as its exhibits. Invited for this purpose was Natesan Ramani a renowned flautist and Manjiri Kelkar an upcoming singer whose beautiful voice moulded itself to the paintings that dressed the walls of the gallery.
The Garden and Cosmos Paintings from Jodhpur fell primarily into two categories. One of them created under the patronage of Maharaja Vijai Singh (1752-93), and another Maharaja Man Singh (r. 1803-43). The first consisted of popular themes taken from the mythological stories of ‘Krishna and the gopis (cowgirls)’ and the ‘adventures of Rama and Sita’ from the classic Ramayana. A famous painting was the artist’s depiction of numerous Krishna playing and dancing with several gopis in the forest showing the celebration of life.
The second set of paintings gave the spiritual message of Yoga and Vedas. Created under the patronage of Man Singh the pictures showed yoginis who roamed the earth covering their bodies with sacred ash, in saffron-coloured clothes with their hair unkempt in dreadlocks wearing large earrings. These paintings also depicted the various chakras on the human body, particularly the immortal ascetic Jallandharnath of whom Man Singh was a devotee. The Nath paintings signify the first movement towards giving a colourful pictorial artists view of the hitherto oral and text beliefs of Hatha Yoga comprising the Absolute and the immeasurable through gold pigments.
In keeping with the theme of the immeasurable the evening concert at the Art Gallery commenced with the melodic voices of Manjiri Kelkar booming in the Old Courts foyer after hours. Accompanied by Milind Hingane on Tabla and Suyog Kudalkar on Harmonium the evening saw a rare composition in Raga Gowri fill the halls of the auditorium to an entranced audience. This was followed by Raga Desh and other numbers. This was followed by N Ramani’s concert accompanied by his son Thyagarajan on the flute. The Ramani touch was still evident and the Hamsadhvani was so full of pathos that despite having heard it for so many years its beauty was still entrancing. Following Hamsadhvani with some major raga presentation in Varali and Shanmughapriya, Dr Ramani finished the concert with Jagath Janani in Ragam Ratipatipriya. A great evening. The music that filled the air in between the columns of the Art Gallery very deserving could have lasted a little longer. However this evening was not only for the connoisseurs of music but those who wanted to embrace and experience the timelessness of the history and culture of India.