Here is an exceptionally simplified image of Lord Ganesh, Indian god of auspices. With his broken tusk prominently exposed he manifests his Eka-danta form. The artist has so used his motifs that each conveys at least two meanings. With bells attached to it, his ‘chhatra’ – umbrella, acquires a shrine’s status. The motif held in upper left hand is suggestive of both, a trident and a lotus. The form of a serpent hood has been used to become his ‘varada’-imparting lower right hand. As simple a form defines his ‘abhaya’-imparting upper right hand. The lower left hand is just a projection, not larger than a lamp-stand. It carries his favourite sweet ‘laddu’ – sugar-ball. The pot-bellied Ganesh is riding his mount mouse.
This emaciated figure of the Great Master is known as fasting Buddha. An identical fasting Buddha statue, perhaps its proto-model, of around the 3rd century A.D. is in the Lahore Museum, Lahore, Pakistan. Before Buddha attained Enlightenment, he underwent a long fast rendering him very weak and thin. The fasting Buddha images represent the same state. He had broken his fast with pudding offered to him by a ‘shudra’ girl Sujata. Perhaps, in veneration to her all figures conceived as devotees on the pedestal are women. The ‘Pipal’ leaf motifs on the pedestal’s upper edge symbolise the Bodhi tree he sat under meditating and fasting. The gesture of palms reveal determination and the lotus leaf like surging ‘antariya’, the unfolding of light within.
The image is an exceptionally simplified form of Shiva. His multi-arms have been substituted by two arms but with such length as could be managed only when contained in folds. In one of his hands he is holding a trident and in the other, a small drum – damaru. His ears, nipples, eyes and legs all correspond to forms that tribal womenfolk render with clay on their mud-walls. The deity’s face reveals an unearthly sentiment.
The lady is worshipping a tree, a representation of Savitri Bata-puja which takes place in the month of Shravana. Man’s association with tree dates back to unknown times. In a Bata, banyan tree, the Vedic seers perceived wish-fulfilling power and ordained its worship. They also proclaimed that a certain tree would burst with flowers when a beautiful virtuous young woman touched it. In Indian tradition, Savitri stands for exemplary virtue and womanhood, and Bata for accomplishment of wish. Savitri Bata-puja is a blend of two traditions.
The lady, from an affluent class, is whiling away summer by reading, with a fan in the other hand. Her rich and heavy jewellery and style of costuming, as well as her habit of reading link her with society’s upper strata. Her elongated figure, style of sari worn down to knee-height and round face, coiffure, ears etc. truly define the anatomical dimensions of Bastar metal casts.
This bagh, embroidered using belan motifs on the entire field and laharia on the ‘pallu’ – border, is an artifact characteristic of western Punjab. It might be classified as belan bagh. Unlike those from eastern Punjab the ladies of the western part used white in abundance. Apart, they used soft colours like orange, yellow or magenta. Motifs which they used were simpler and their range not as large as was in eastern part.
A phulkari is hardly different from a bagh except that while in a bagh embroidery covers the entire field in a phulkari it covers special areas. Even when embroidered motifs are scattered all over the field, as in this phulkari, the ground remains sufficiently visible. Not so strictly in a bagh, darn or a large running stitch is the essence of embroidery in a phulkari. Embroidery rendered using cross stitch or its any other type will not class as phulkari. As in a bagh in phulkari also ‘pallu’ is distinctly designed. A phulkari like this in which similar motifs are embroidered in groups like tree-groves is usually known as bella or grove phulkari.