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Volume 66 Number 3, March 2015

Volume 66 Number 3

Perspectives
Fragile Legacy: The Paintings of Ajanta Caves 9 and 10
William Dalrymple

Dating the Hamzanama: A Re-examination
Zahra Faridany-Akhavan

The Temple at Tirukurungudi: Flights of Fancy in Stone, Wood and Words
Pradeep Chakravarthy

Photo Essay
The Diverse Faces of Burma
Andrea Baldeck

Conversation
Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam
Latika Gupta

Profiles
An Early Woman Artist at Santiniketan: Chitraniva Chowdhury
Soma Sen

Journeys into the Sublime: V. Ramesh’s Works, 2003–13
Ashrafi S. Bhagat

Focus
What’s in a Name? “The Arts of Islam” at the Musée du Louvre, Paris
Alka Patel

Exhibition Review
Sahib, Bibi, Nawab: Baluchar Silks of Bengal 1750-1900
Monisha Ahmed

Book Reviews
Exotic Aliens: The Lion and the Cheetah in India, by Valmik Thapar, Romila Thapar and Yusuf Ansari
Nachiket Chanchani

Under the Banyan Tree: Relocating the Picturesque in British India, by Romita Ray
Debashish Banerji

The Making of a Modern Indian Artist-Craftsman: Devi Prasad, by Naman P. Ahuja
Ella Datta

Books Received

Contributors

Veenapani Chawla’s Adishakti
Kumar, Vinay
Vol. 66 No. 3, March 2015, 3 unnumbered + pp. 1–9

This article pays tribute to the late theatre artist and the performance space and company she set up. It focuses on her practice, especially the research put into understanding and then creating a physical craft methodology out of traditional forms like Kutiyattam and Kalaripayattu.

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Editorial Note
Ahmed, Monisha
Vol. 66 No. 3, March 2015, p. 10

Marg pays tribute to Veenapani Chawla, founder of Adishakti, and artist Mrinalini Mukherjee, both of whom passed away recently.

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Fragile Legacy: The Paintings of Ajanta Caves 9 and 10
Dalrymple, William
Vol. 66 No. 3, March 2015, pp. 12-21

The earlier Ajanta caves of the 1st-2nd century BCE and their picture cycles have received only passing scholarly attention because of the dirt obscuring them. Masterworks of early Buddhist art, they are the oldest pictures of Indian faces to have survived. The ASI chief of conservation at Aurangabad, Rajdeo Singh, began restoration of the murals in 1999 and it took over a decade. In doing so, these murals have been restored to their former glory. They pre-date by 600 years the better-known murals at Ajanta. The writer contends that they represent nothing less than the birth of Indian painting.

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Dating the Hamzanama: A Re-examination
Faridany-Akhavan, Zahra
Vol. 66 No. 3, March 2015, pp. 22-33

The present state of the manuscript consists of about 170 loose pages of illustration on cotton cloth, backed by a full page of text on paper. The distinguishing feature of the pages is their large size. The pages are dispersed in collections all over the world. Based on the primary sources, theories as to the date, production and function of the manuscript have been proposed with the hitherto accepted date of 1562–77. In 1993 the “discovery” of certain numbers on two of the illustrations were put forward as irrefutable hijra dates to discard the earlier dating of the manuscript in favour of 1557/8–72/73. Then in 2002 several single digits which appeared on the folios were used with the “dates” to place the folios into an earlier sequence of production. This article examines the merits of the numbers on the folios and their relationship to the text and the illustrations. It holds that as evidenced by the problems and contradictions presented by these numbers the new theory of dates and volume numbers is not consistent with the tradition of oral storytelling and manuscript dating.

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The Temple at Thirukurungudi: Flights of Fancy in Stone, Wood and Words
Chakravarthy, Pradeep
Vol. 66 No. 3, March 2015, pp. 34-45

This article examines in detail the various examples of art in the Azhagiya Nambi Rayar temple at Thirukurungudi in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district. The temple predates the 8th century though the earliest inscriptions and literature are from the 8th century. The building dates from the 17th century and has remarkable stone and wooden carvings. The themes are both Vaishnavaite, Shaivaite, secular and nature inspired. Some of these are individual panels, others complex narrative compositions. Rare themes include Arab sailors and their wares, the life cycle of a bird, boar hunts, unique forms of Narasimha, circus, people playing games, etc. The article calls for the documentation and conservation of the stone and wooden sculptures.

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The Diverse Faces of Burma
Baldeck, Andrea
Vol. 66 No. 3, March 2015, pp. 46-51

After 50 years of isolation under military rule, Burma/Myanmar is now re-engaging with the outside world. A sprawling country rich in natural resources, with a population as diverse as its topography, Burma contains 135 ethnic minorities, many of whom have long been isolated by geography and absent infrastructure. Now, increasing foreign investment and tourism are making inroads in previously remote areas, influencing and altering traditional societies. In this photo essay, photographer Andrea Baldeck captures images of cultures on the threshold of change.

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Conversation: Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam
Gupta, Latika
Vol. 66 No. 3, March 2015, pp. 52-63

Filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam are asked about their work in documentary filmmaking, the founding of the Dharamshala International Film Festival, collaborative practices and the future of filmmaking by Himalayan filmmakers. They speak about Tenzing’s roots in Tibet, the friction between tradition and contemporary political exigencies in the Tibetan diaspora, exile and language and the political activism that underwrites their work.

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An Early Woman Artist at Santiniketan: Chitraniva Chowdhury
Sen, Soma
Vol. 66 No. 3, March 2015, pp. 64-73

A re-discovery of Chitraniva Chowdhury (1913-99), one of the foremost women painters of the modern school of art in India. Early in life she showed her talent for the fine arts. She came to Kala Bhavan in Santiniketan as a married girl aged 15. Here she came in contact with Rabindranath Tagore. She was under the tutelage of Nandalal Bose, and learnt music from Dinendranath Tagore at Sangeet Bhavan. The poet himself taught her the rudiments of Bengali and English literature and gave her the name Chitraniva, like a picture. Many of her works were published in Prabasi, the Bengali literary magazine. After her five-year course in Fine Arts she joined Kala Bhavan as the first lady Professor of Art, a rare distinction. In 1938, at the end of five years of teaching, she went back to her family in Dacca. She returned to Santiniketan in 1946 for her children's education and stayed there for 10 years. In this spell she immersed herself in portraits of distinguished visitors and teachers. In 1956 she came to Calcutta and worked at Vidyasagar Bani Bhavan, a school of arts and crafts for women, till the end of her life. She was a pioneer of batik work in Bengal. Unfortunately only a fraction of her work has been displayed in exhibitions.

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Journeys into the Sublime: V. Ramesh’s Works, 2003–13
Bhagat, Ashrafi S.
Vol. 66 No. 3, March 2015, pp. 74-83

“Remembrances of Voices Past”, by the artist Vedhanbatla Ramesh was the first solo show hosted by the NGMA, Bengaluru with support from Threshold Art Gallery, New Delhi. Painting in a style that is realistic and quasi abstract, he made an attempt to interpret the intense and personal vision, emotions and experiences of the lives of Bhakti saint poets and philosophers who lived from the 7th to the 20th century by revisiting their work and rekindling the saliency of their piety and selfless devotion in search of truth. The works are rich in sublime, where the viewer is forced to grapple with the seen and the unseen, the fathomable and the unfathomable, through allegories and metaphors, gleaned from the poetic narratives to visualize their intuitive spiritual experiences, making his works not only emotionally rich but also spiritually elevating. Ramesh’s spiritual vibrations manifesting the reading of select poets and saints, was realized by his methodology of painting and the visual language that he efficiently engaged with.

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What’s in a Name? ''The Arts of Islam'' at the Louvre
Patel, Alka
Vol. 66 No. 3, March 2015, pp. 84-91

This essay reviews the new Arts of Islam galleries at the Musée du Louvre (Paris), a museum with extensive holdings of objects from the Islamic world, housed since 2012 in their own partially purpose-built space. The new building is an architectural statement in itself, leading the visitor to think about perceptions of Islam in the West. While a healthy representation of the Louvre’s Islamic collections is on display, some works and geographical areas are not, and the essay critiques some curatorial decisions. Ultimately, a walk through the galleries and a perusal of the wealth of objects displays both the global reach of Islamic culture and its dazzling variety throughout time and space as distant communities made Islam into their own way of life. Given the wonderful variation of multiple Islamic cultures depending on historical period and geographical location, the essay asks why the Louvre did not engage with the very concept of “Islam” as other major collections have in recent times.

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Exhibition Review: Sahib, Bibi, Nawab: Baluchar Silks of Bengal 1750-1900
Ahmed, Monisha
Vol. 66 No. 3, March 2015, pp. 92-95

A review of an exhibition of Baluchar silks of Bengal in the TAPI collection, largely consisting of exquisite saris. Best known for their quirky figurative motifs of British residents, nawabs, modes of transport, the textiles have long intrigued collectors and scholars. The weavers were largely centred in Murshidabad and the surrounding villages in the 18th and 19th centuries. Declining patronage and changing fashion trends led to the decline of a once thriving industry. It is believed that the weavers of Baluchar wove their impressions of a changing Bengal into their textiles.

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Book Reviews
Vol. 66 No. 3, March 2015, pp. 96-103

Exotic Aliens: The Lion and the Cheetah in India by Valmik Thapar, Romila Thapar and Yusuf Ansari, reviewed by Nachiket Chanchani; Under the Banyan Tree: Relocating the Picturesque in British India by Romita Ray, reviewed by Debashish Banerji; The Making of a Modern Indian Artist-Craftsman: Devi Prasad by Naman P. Ahuja, reviewed by Ella Datta.

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