'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Monday, August 31, 2009

More From The Third Corner

Calcutta has given me several images - and shocks. Here are a few...

1. My first ever visual impressions of this city came from the Amar Chitra volumes on Vidyasagar and Rabindranath Tagore. The illustrator of both was a certain Souren Roy, who was especially skilled in capturing the cultural milieu of Bengal in all its visual detail (to use a filmy phrase, as an 'art-director', he was easily the best in the Amar atelier - although in terms of 'action' and much else, Pratap Mulick was tops). Indeed, the older parts of Cal look straight out of Roy's artwork...

And when I visited the 'Jorasanko Thakurbari', the sprawling mansion where Rabindranath Tagore was born, grew up and returned to die, the place felt uncannily familiar. While walking down the the verandahs, I looked for the balusters which little Rabi, posing as a schoolmaster, would think of as his students - and would occasionally cane for 'not being attentive' in his class. But in the part of the building where he used to live, the verandahs have only grills - those hallowed balustrades might have got replaced during the century and a half that has passed since the Master's childhood....

There are several photos of the great man on display; the most striking to me was of him as a handsome, bright-eyed and bearded young man (mid-twenties types) sharing a casual meal with some elder relatives.

Should revisit the place.

2. In a shop was an old 'calender-icon' - A goddess draped in a sari but with tongue hanging out Kali-style and Siva lying in her lap -Siva not in his 'child form' (in which he is seen blissfully asleep in icons all over the country) but as an adult - the pose strongly reminiscent of Michelangelo's pieta. Further research gave this bit of info: when Siva bravely consumed the poison which rose from the churning of the Milk-ocean, he fell senseless. His 'Sakti' assumed the form of Tara (the focus of a very popular Tantrik cult in these parts) and took the prostrate God in her lap - and revived him with her own milk!

Another episode from the myths relates how a distraught Siva madly wandered around the world carrying the half-burnt corpse of his first wife Sati (who had immolated herself). Another calender icon I saw here shows this episode. Matters of detail: Siva's face was rather benign and almost smiling and the 'corpse' on his shoulder was a beautiful (though limp) girl, not burnt or anything.

3. At the Indian Museum (near Park Street station), the 'Bharhut gallery' which I had really wanted to see, was closed. There still were a few BC Buddhist reliefs on display. But the one image that has persisted in memory is not Buddhist but medieval Tantrik. It was a sculpture of a standing male with both legs fused into one, almost like a slender tree-trunk. The caption -'Ajaikapada'. A bit of web searching gave me this page:
A-pada seems to be a form of Siva-Bhairava. Aja (to me) is a strange Sanskrit word meaning both 'goat' and 'unborn' (eternal); and 'Ekapada' means 'one-legged'. There is nothing obviously 'goaty' about the sculpture (it is not satyrical!). Both images in the above page are 'ithyphallic' (like in the 'Urdhvareta' form of Siva which I have seen elsewhere) but I don't remember the Museum specimen to be such. Perhaps one could go there again and and check!


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