The Making of a Mural series has been expanded to include the making of the traditional Anantasayanam and Ardhanariswara murals.
Since as far back as I can remember, and that’s rather a longish patch of time I must mention, I’ve been pulled by the temples of Kerala. If I try and get objective about it, there are a number of factors that may have contributed to this, but while these may well have been necessary, they do not seem sufficient to explain the extent of the significance that very many of these temples have for me. I hope to explore these in some other posting but for now, this is only meant to serve as the context for how I came into contact with the mural paintings of Kerala.
I still have fragmentary memories of walking slowly around the sanctum of the Guruvayur temple, drinking in the amazing scenes painted on walls of the shrine. Over the last year or so, I’ve gone on to find that these are not among the best work there is and not the only style either, but that too is another story altogether. About a year ago, I literally stumbled onto the only institute that I’m aware of that offers a course in mural painting, based in Guruvayur itself. And the ongoing endeavor to catch a glimpse of the Goddess began!
Beyond stereotypes, beyond boundaries and frameworks, Siva stands at the periphery of social order. Siva is the eternal ascetic, famed for his excesses, whether in penance and austerities or in sexual vigor. Siva, the intrinsic unpredictability immanent in everything that’s created. Siva, the undifferentiated spirit, the potential from which everything manifests, Purusa, the primordial.
Parvati, the mother goddess, the creatrix, the primal spark which animates all creation, pure energy which when combines with primordial matter spins out all that is created. Parvati is Prakriti, the essence of nature. Parvati is Sakti, the primordial energy. Parvati is Maya, the divine illusion of form the cloaks the essential unity of all creation.
Matter is inert without energy to animate it. Energy is without purpose without matter to animate. Matter is made up of energy. Energy comprises matter. Both within the other, yet both needing the other for meaning. And perhaps to find the ultimate purpose. Ardhanariswara.
What you see here is 18-inches by 24-inches, natural colors on plywood, and a rather unconventional treatment. The traditional approach is to depict with full garments and ornaments, perhaps to capture the deities in the domesticized glory. Whereas here, Siva and Sakti are mendicants, denizens of the forests and the hills, living within and immersed in nature, immersed and enraptured in the meditation that is creation, creating, destroying, blossoming, absorbing, matter contemplating energy, energy animating matter. The eternal tension of dynamic equilibrium.