Folk Art: Objects from across the World

Academy of Fine Arts and Literature

Objects from Across the World
This section includes a variety of artifacts which Mrs. Ajeet Cour, a living legend of Punjabi literature, and her daughter, Mrs. Arpana Caur, a worldwide known name in contemporary Indian art, collected from about sixteen countries, mainly, Nepal, China, Taiwan, Turkey, Cambodia, Egypt, Mauritius… during their visits to them. Apart, some rare Tibetan Thangkas and excellent Mandalas from China, one portraying the Buddha’s journey from his birth to the attainment of enlightenment, are works of great art. Puppets from Poland and Czech Republic narrate the miserable plight of post-World War man, especially Jews, one of world’s richest trading communities, than would do many written texts. Not merely the quality of their art or their rareness, the collectors have been keen in discovering in them the co-relation which each land’s artifacts revealed with their land’s culture, taste and overall character, something that made them represent a land, its lifestyle, traditions and ethos.
Broadly, whatever the kind of artifacts – votive images, ritual articles, human and animal forms, utility article, queer toys, decorative art-objects …, or whichever the country they come from, most of them reveal a kind of exoticism, ethnicity and a feeling of being rare. These are not mere tiny toys, divine icons, representations of men or animals, masks, puppets, ritual artifacts, vessels, lamps, containers, flower vases, baskets, glass-wares, musical instruments …. they are a whole world assembled under a single roof.

Originally the epithet of the Hindu god Lord Shiva Mahakala emerged in later Buddhism as one of the eight ‘Dharmapalas’. Mahakala has independent shrines dedicated to him but not too many. The deity is more popular among Sakyapalas, the followers of Sakya order. Often a frontispiece on a lintel Mahakala is believed to guard the door from everything untoward. From the 11th century onwards, after the known Buddhist teacher Atisha Dipankara envisioned his two forms for worship, Mahakala emerged as a more popular deity. The icons of Mahakala usually have a plump, dwarfish rotund body, square face with open mouth displaying gnashing teeth and a menacing appearance. He shares many personality traits and attributes – a third eye, skull-garland, enemy figure under his feet, snakes around his body, abode in cremation ground … with his prototype who is Shiva. He is holding in his left hand an urn containing Buddha’s relics as he alone was beyond time.

The icons of Mahakala usually have a plump, dwarfish rotund body, square face with open mouth displaying gnashing teeth and a menacing appearance. He shares many personality traits and attributes – a third eye, skull-garland, enemy figure under his feet, snakes around his body, abode in cremation ground … with his prototype who is Shiva. He is holding in his left hand an urn containing Buddha’s relics as he alone was beyond time.

Ibis is the most loved bird of Egyptian people. It is a bird that wades, has long downcurved slender beak, long neck and as long legs. It has several species, each having a somewhat different form and sometimes colour.

Ibis is the most loved bird of Egyptian people.

Garuda with folded hands and squatting with half bent legs is in a posture of paying homage to its Master. The icon of the great bird has been installed on a lotus pedestal.

Garuda with folded hands and squatting with half bent legs is in a posture of paying homage to its Master.

This thangka painting represents one of the most celebrated Buddhist deity, goddess Tara.
In Buddhist tradition goddess Tara has several manifestations, though the main among them are her green and white forms. This thangka represents her green form. Tara, a term developed from ‘Tar’, meaning help wade across, was initially worshipped as the goddess of navigators helping them successfully accomplish their voyages. For highlighting this aspect of the goddess the thangka paints behind her a sea-like waving blue background contained within the golden arch defining the universe that goddess Tara pervades. Subsequently she emerged as the deity, and the most powerful one among all female Buddhist divinities, who helped wade across the tumultuous sea of this material world and the cycle of life and death. Revived an old cult or originated a new, Dipankar Asita played the pilot role in the development of Tara cult.

This thangka represents her green form. Tara, a term developed from ‘Tar’, meaning help wade across, was initially worshipped as the goddess of navigators helping them successfully accomplish their voyages.

The oval shaped artifact represents three enlightened monks, venerated as three Buddhas. They are in the spiritual assembly. One of them seems to enshrine the sacred enclosure while other two are engaged in some serious discourse. One of these two monks is holding a child while the other is carrying in one of his hands a large pot and in the other, a staff atop which hang a bag-like article and a double drum.

The oval shaped artifact represents three enlightened monks, venerated as three Buddhas.

Wooden Mask from Sri Lanka

The statue portrays an old poor Jew earning his bread by doing petty labour such as did a porter. His face, most expressive as it is, reveals his poverty and pitiable condition. Jews were one of the richest trading communities but were completely destroyed during the Second World War. In the figure reflects the same phase of the Jewish community's plight.

The statue portrays an old poor Jew earning his bread by doing petty labour such as did a porter. His face, most expressive as it is, reveals his poverty and pitiable condition.

An excellent work of art, this mandala illustrates Buddha’s birth and attainment of enlightenment, the Buddha’s multiplication, Samvara images engaged in love with his consort, and arhats. The principal theme of the Buddha’s birth and attaining enlightenment has been depicted in the centre. The newborn divinity, as is the myth, soon after his birth walks seven steps and at all seven places lotuses emerge. Close by has been painted a figure of matured Buddha with typical Chinese features. He is standing under a tree, obviously the Bodhi-tree, under which he attained enlightenment. Around this central circle, in between it and the outer ring, are four circles, each enshrining nine Buddhas, and four vertical columns, each composed of two images of Samvara and his consort engaged in love.

The newborn divinity, as is the myth, soon after his birth walks seven steps and at all seven places lotuses emerge.

A skeleton motif, popularly known as ‘momento mori’, an auspicious sign warding off evil and keeping reminding of death, life’s ultimate fate, and hence inspiring us for doing good, by its presence, has been transformed here into a puppet.

A skeleton motif, popularly known as ‘momento mori’, an auspicious sign warding off evil and keeping reminding of death, life’s ultimate, and hence inspiring for doing good, by its presence, has been transformed here into a puppet.

Fabricated with silver-wire and leather base. Turkey.

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