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WALKING IN AN ICONOGRAPHIC PAST OF SOUTHERN INDIA: GOMBE
MANSI DHIMAN MANDHWANI

‘The subject of India Iconography is one of the most fascinating branches of indology which found its origin in the womb of remote post.’
-D. N. Shukla

‘What is the earliest evidence for systematised use of images and symbols associated with cults in India? And what is the nature of these cults? New research on the origins of iconography in India is being brought to light with research on the popular arts of ancient India. Thousands of images of terracotta, ivory and wood were worshiped in the early historic period that are now understood as an entire pantheon of popular deities that were either transformed or forgotten after circa AD 200.’ Indian iconography is the outcome of the religious life itself. In India art found its home in region and flourished in temple which was not only the tangible care, but the essence and spirit of community. The significance of deities, the powers beyond the reach of men was felt in all ages and so was the importance felt of their shines which persisted from age to age, though its materials have changed from terracotta to bamboo to wood to stone to brick to marble, fibre etc.

Iconography is governed by rigid rules and regulations with regard to the formation of an Iconic form with the attributes and measurements of a theme are clearly defined in canons. Iconography presupposes icons in the same manner as the grammar presupposes a language, but there is nothing which can control an artist, though they follow and work within a legitimate structure but the flexibility to express as an individual gives a new dimension to the image. Art Konsult showcased ‘Gombe’ an exhibition of hand-tinted wooden sculptures from Karnataka, India, exhibiting some of the powerful sculptures which were earlier a part of temples in the Karnataka and later collected by art collectors to keep the tradition live for younger generation to peek into the history. Sculpture is the mirror of sociological values and social life of on age. In shaping a work of art the artist; and in accepting an artistic creation, the society, were strongly subdued by religious nations. The prevalent and dominant element in Hindu iconography is the image of gods and goddesses whose attributes mostly reflect the sociological trends of ages.

Gombe shows the sculptures of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh in different niches, Karthikeyan in niche, mother and child in niche, lady in niche, a seated pujari, vyalas, seated Kamadev & Rati, Vyalas. The sculptures are shaped in the traditional way, the presuppose iconography and the dimensions to make a temple sculpture. Initially they are carved, layered with cloth and binder and at the last stage hand-tinted; the process is executed by the locale traditional artists. No doubt without the instinct or a spontaneous overflow of power-full feelings of the traditional artist could not have attained a classical flavour, they always have had a rural and traditional touch to the sculptures. My pick from the exhibited sculptures are seated Kamadev & Rati and Vyalas; Kamadev known as an incarnation of Shiva and god of love, exhibited here with his counterpart Rati in the seated position and embracing each other; armed with flowery arrows, Kamadeva is thought to have been born of the creator god Prajapati’s heart without the aid of any female component. Kamadeva has two wives Rati and Priti; Rati, who was created from Daksa’s sweat and possesses beauty. There are two beautiful bright yellow hand-tinted Vyalas, one of the popular motif of ancient and medival Indian art. Vyalas are composite leonine creature with the head of a tiger, elephant, bird, or other animal, frequently shown in combat with humans or pouncing upon an elephant. Irrespective of its beauty yet it is a fearsome creature.

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