Thursday, September 23, 2010

400 Years of Mysore Dasara - Logo

After staking claim to the throne of Karnataka empire and called himself ''Karnataka Ratnasimhasanadheesha' in 1610 CE, Raja Wodeyar first conducted Darasa celebrations; he least expected for the tradition to endure for 400 long years.

Cut to 2010. Secretary of Ramsons Kala Pratishtana (RKP), R.G. Singh is frustrated that nobody is taking cognizance of the importance of Dasara 2010. He tries to explain the significance of the 400 years of Mysore Dasara to few but to no avail. 'Charity starts at home.' He decides to make a difference himself. RG then asked me to design a logo to commemorate 4 centuries of Mysore Dasara. He told me that we shall use the occasion to be the central theme at this year's 'Bombe Mane' and also use the logo for the same.

So I sat one fine morning in front of my computer system with a blank mind and monitor. No idea was forthcoming. So I relied on a pen and paper instead. I wrote '400' as it is and a little bolder. 400 is a big quantity when you are talking about years, so I decided to make '400' the central design of the logo. The next question was to depict the spirit of 'Dasara' in the logo which has to be something that is easily recognisable by one and all.

It didn't take long to decide upon 'Jamboo Savari' (elephant carrying golden howdah) which is the most apt image that conjures up Mysore Dasara in our minds. But how to depict Jamboo Savari and also '400'? Next I made the '400' thicker still until the digits were sticking to each other. Lo! it looked like an elephant to me. I scribbled the silhouette of the howdah on top of it, made two human figures seated inside and a mahout. To make '4' look more like an elephant's head I added tusks and finally scribbled a tail onto the second '0'.

The rough draft was ready and I showed it to RG and MB Singh, the Executive Trustee of RKP. I redid this concept in Coreldraw with few editing in Photoshop. After a few tweaks, the logo was ready. Here it is...

When I asked RG what made him to have a logo for this occasion, he answered me that in a country of one billion people and thousands of cities, only a handful can boast of such heritage and Mysore is one among them. He added that whatever we do with love towards it is a tribute to Mysore.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

To See or not to See the Moon

Today is Ganesha Chaturthi, the festival of Ganesha. In many homes across south India (including mine) in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamilnadu, the lovable, pot-bellied, elephant headed Ganesha is welcomed and offered 16 course worship (shodashopachara). He is welcomed, offered seat, water, food, clothes, music, love and devotion and finally bid farewell.

It is said that when Ganesha was travelling on his mooshika vahana (the mouse vehicle) with a big belly after a heavy lunch, the mouse toppled over and Ganesha fell down. It was a night lit up by a gorgeous Moon (Chandra). Looking at the scene below, the proud Moon couldn't contain his laughter and burst out cackling. Ganesha felt insulted and in a fit of rage cursed Moon to loose his charming beauty. But after much coaxing by the entire pantheon of gods, Ganesha watered down his curse. He said that whoever looks at the Moon on the Bhadrapada Chaturthi (the day on which Ganesha chaturthi is celebrated; i.e., today), he/she will be a victim of vicious and false accusations for the entire next year. So Hindus usually avoid looking at Moon on this day.

Coincidentally, today is also finale of Ramzan (Ramadan). For Muslims the festivities of Qutb-e-Ramzan, after the month long fasting during Ramzan, is heralded by looking at the faint crescent of Moon. So until and unless they look at the infant Moon, they will not partake in festivities.

So, today at one side you have Hindus who are deliberately shunning a glance at the cursed Moon while on the other side you have Muslims celebrating the vision of a delicate Crescent. This is the irony of faith.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Can Someone Invent This - 1

Many a times I have thought about things that could be invented and thought 'why nobody has tried to invent such a thing?' This will be a regular column in my blog and I will keep posting my various ideas under the same heading appended with successive numbers.

My first idea:

A light bulb (or similar contraption) which will be connected to a bunched-up optical fibre cables whose other end will be connected to a dish-antenna-kind-of mirror (this can be made to track the sun, a device invented by Pranav Mistry) which is installed on the terrace of the building. The sun-light falling on the mirror will travel through the OFC bunch and will illuminate the bulb on the other end.

This way we can stop the usage of electricity to illuminate the interiors during day time.

I appeal to scientists to come up with such a thing.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Vijay Hagargundgi - Artist and a Dedicated Collector

Inheritor of a unique legacy and reviver of a forgotten school of art
During the fifties and sixties of 20th century, India was still learning to take infant steps in the world order of industrialised nations. People were being lured away from their hereditary occupations and villages to work in various industries being set up across the country. The main reason being economics, traditional craft forms were not a paying proposition as the patronage for the same had vanished in the new democratic setup. One such city migrant was Siddaramappa who along with his new bride Ratnamma, left his ancestral village of Hagargundgiand traveled a few miles away to Gulbarga to work as a supervisor in a cloth mill. Vijay was born in the fag end of  1957 as the first son of this couple in Gulbarga.
Monochromatic illustrations in his school text books attracted the young Vijay more than text. The firm lines of the drawings captivated his imagination. His formal education came to a naught during his 12th standard; Vijay headed to the Ideal Fine Art Society's MMK College of Visual Art and studied art for six years. A scholarship from Karnataka Lalitakala Academy gave him the opportunity to go to Shantiniketan. Modern trends in art influenced art education with abstract expressionism gaining momentum. Vijay was not satisfied by aesthetics, philosophy and politics of this modern art, disappointed, he left Shantiniketan after just a month.
Surpura was a small principality ruled by a dynasty of local chieftains for 6 generations before it was absorbed into the dominion of the erstwhile Hyderabad state. It was these royal patrons, local mutts, eminent musicians and rich merchants who commissioned paintings of religious subjects and portraits that led to the evolution of this school from Vijayanagar school of painting.
Vijay had visited Surpura, about 100 kms away from Gulbarga, during an educational tour, there he had come across beautiful murals on the crumbling walls of a royal mansion and mutts. Exquisite miniatures of this style had retained the original language of its forerunner, the Vijayanagar school of painting. He was drawn to it like a moth to the flame, and copied these miniatures. Since he had been taught in the contemporary painting system, he found it a hindrance to adapt to this ancient style. By then no artist who painted in this style was alive, it was road block. The inevitable stared him in the eyes; he could not pursue the art which he desired the most.
Vijay is a born fighter, who does not accept defeat easily, when there is no road to continue, he treads his own path, he did just the same in this situation. Rajasthan – famous for its miniature paintings beckoned him, he went to Jaipur and took the studentship of Dwaraka Prasad Sharma, a master of miniature painting. Vijay adapted the miniature technique, he mastered the nuances of miniatures and after two months of studentship in the desert state, he returned home. Using the techniques he learnt, he started copying the fragmented and damaged Surpura paintings. The fluid lines from the single haired brush began to take similar forgotten shapes on the paper, a new lease of life was given to Surpura paintings after almost a century.
This successful experiment created a sensation amongst the gallerists and seasoned art collectors, Vijay’s paintings were sold far and wide. Today, they adorn many a beautiful mansions, museums and collections across the globe. He has remained faithful to the language of his art; his favourite subjects for paintings are from Shiva purana, Dashavatara, Navagraha, Ashta Dikpalakas, Ashtanayikas, Kama Sutra, etc. His love for Hindustani music is reflected in his painting series of Ragamala. He is also adept at new compositions as evidenced in the illustrations he did for ghazals of Shantarasa; his miniatures can be described as visual poetry of flowing lines, solid colours and delicate gesso.
Another important facet of Vijay is revealed through his love to collect antique bronze icons and puja paraphernalia of the region. His mother Ratnamma did not discard old brass utensils or exchange them for new stainless steel ones as everyone else did. She put them to regular use in kitchen neatly arranged. Her passion for old utensils triggered similar attraction in Vijay. Old brass, bronze and copperware are sold as scrap or exchanged for new utensils in bazars even today, these junked items are sold as scrap for melting, Vijay instinctively bought these utensils and puja paraphernalia. This behaviour often invited derision and anger from other members of his family, but he never relented; these humble objet de arts form the core of his collection which has grown today to include Surpura miniatures, glass paintings, the long forgotten Uddharani paintings, extremely rare Edramay paintings, Mysore and Tanjore paintings, Bhuta figurines in wood and metal, innumerable bronze mukha lingas, equestrian bronzes of the folk hero Mailaralinga, etc.
Very often Vijay came across beautiful bronze idols being worshipped in friends' families. When he requested them to part with the same for his collection, many agreed on the condition that they should be given new ones in lieu. These folk bronzes were not readily available in market, they had to be made to order by a remaining few families of Kanchagars (literally, bronzesmiths) in the remote hamlet of Gajarkote in Gulbarga district which meant waiting indefinitely. Instead, he headed to Delhi and learnt the lost wax process of bronze casting from the accomplished artist Pushparaj Betala. Vijay became proficient in bronze casting and was able to create new idols and exchange the old ones for his collection.
Several awards and recognitions have been bestowed on Vijay by various institutions like Karnataka Lalita Kala Academy, AIFACS, Mallikarjuna Mansur Foundation, etc. Vijay has participated in 'Art in Action', which is held annually at London, for four years in 1987, 1988, 1989 and 2000. He has held several one man shows of his paintings in New Delhi (1983, 1986 & 1993), Baroda (1986), Bangalore (1983, 1986, 1988, 1990), Mumbai (1991) and Gulbarga (Vikas Bhavan 1997) along with shows at New Delhi (Art Today 1995 & Gallery Espace 2001) and London (Nehru Centre 2000). His paintings are in the collections of Lalitakala Academies of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Chennai, New Delhi, Neemrana Fort Palace, Modern Art gallery, New Delhi, South Central Zone Cultural Centre, Nagpur, Sanskriti Museum, New Delhi, Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, Venkatappa Art Gallery, Government Museum, Bangalore, Folklore Museum, Ramsons Kala Pratishtana, Mysore and many private collections in and outside India.
Vijay Hagargundgi's contact details are as follows:
C/o Abhay R Patil, Plot no 51/1, Kotambri Layout, Behind Central Bus Stand, Gulbarga 585103
Email: Mobile: 9480942377

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Kuppalli the Inspiration of Kuvempu

It was my long time wish to visit Kuppalli. Kuvempu, the first Jnanpith awardee of Kannada, is the bard of Malnad. He was born in 29 December 1904. Kuppalli was not only his beloved house, it was his inspiration throughout until his death in 11 November 1994.

In the beginning of last month, I got a rare opportunity wherein I was invited along with R.G. Singh to teach board games to children attending a summer camp there. The place is quite remote for people to reach, but there  is a direct overnight bus from Bangalore which will take you right in front of Kuvempu's house which is known as Kavi Mane (poet's home). Well people from elsewhere are not so lucky to have a direct bus to Kuppalli.

One has to go to Shimoga, take a bus from there to Tirthahalli and once there, jump onto another bus which goes towards Gadikallu. An autorickshaw will take Rs. 20 and 5 minutes from there to Kuppalli.

Well, anyhow, following are few photographs and panoramas I shot there. Let me know how are these...

This is the ancestral house of Kuvempu, Kavi Mane.

This is a panorama shot of the memorial of Kuvempu at Kavi Shaila. This is designed on the lines of Stonehenge which I feel to be quite lame. Why should we copy some one else? We should create original things.

This is a beautiful vista one can behold from Kavi Shaila. Just behind me from where I shot this panorama, there is a favourite rock of Kuvempu.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Sweeping Shadows

I had been to Talakadu (Talkad) last February with my family. After playing in the Cauvery (Kaveri) river we headed back to our waiting vehicle. The place was absolutely crowded with people except this small patch which seemed to be crowded only by sweeping shadows of eucalyptus. 

I asked my nephew Suraj to take a shot in his camera and neither did I waste time to capture the same.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Private Residential Museum - Mysore style paintings

If one wants to look at the private collection of Mysore paintings of royal family of Wodeyars, then the best place in Mysore is the Private Residential Museum. This museum is inside the premises of Mysore palace, just behind the main palace, near Kille Venkataramana temple.

I went there yesterday after a gap of almost 12 years to have a look at the paintings. The entry fee is Rs. 25 (Rs. 200 for foreign nationals, I find this ridiculous). Exhibits there contain many things, objects, furnitures etc., that were used by the royal family. But my main interest was Mysore paintings which are in quite a good number.

The first gallery is around an open-to-sky hexagonal thotti. At the far end of the thotti, the walls are adorned with paintings from Bhagavata illustrating the childhood and leelas of Krishna. Unusual thing is that these are done on canvas with oil colours. The sizes of canvas vary and seems to me that these were made for decorating the walls of a temple.

Adjoining this thotti is a big quadrangle, once again the center is open to the sky. All four walls have wooden galleries for royal ladies to sit and see the proceedings in privacy. Royal robes, accessories, palanquins are on display in this hall. Two narrow rooms adjoining this central hall have Mysore style paintings. The first of these two rooms have smaller paintings. There are two paintings which are round in shape which is quite unusual. One of the corner room has a painting by palace painter Y. Sundaraih which depicts Bheema receiving the blessing of Shiva. One painting depicts Nagas (snakes) which is very unusual. All snakes bear names.

In the second narrow room there are three paitings. One is Chakra which depicts Ramayana in small niches within. The second is Tripundra with Dashavatara and Lakshmi. Third painting is Shankha depicting Krishna leela from Bhagavata. As I moved away from this painting and on to the next, I was awe struck with what I beheld! A magnificent painting of Saraswati. My mind is still reeling recalling the minute detailed work all over this painting. Artist has not stopped with the canvas, he has painted with gesso on even the frame with same finesse and detail. Undoubtedly this is a masterpiece done by a master artist. Hats off to the artist. Another painting (Mahisha Mardini) of the same artist adorn the next frame. My day was made by these two paintings.

After this I just glided through to the exit.

If you are a connoisseur of Mysore style paintings, then these two paintings are a must see.

R.G. Singh - Maverick behind Ramsons Kala Pratishtana

Speaking as the Chief Guest at the inauguration of an art exhibition. 16 May 2011

R. Gyaneshwar Singh (b. 24 January 1967) is the second son of Sri D. Ram Singh and Smt. R. Kaladevi. Sri D. Ram Singh is a pioneer in the manufacturing and retailing of handicrafts since the last five decades in Mysuru.

R. Gyaneshwar Singh is known as RG in the city’s arts and aesthetic circles while close friends prefer to call him, ‘Gyani’ 

Ensnared by the magic of traditional paintings, old sepia photographs pertaining to the city of Mysuru and beautiful artefacts, RG became a collector while still a teenager. 

His first sight of a classical Mysore Style of Painting that hung in his ancestral home, led to embark on a mission to collect these paintings. He scoured the old photo-frame shops in Mysore buying faded old classic paintings. In fact it was while he was still in college that he bought his very first Mysore School of painting from a photo-frame shop in the city with his pocket money. From that beginning he built an enviable collection of Mysore Style Paintings. To nurture the Mysore Style of Painting, RG commissioned artists to specially create these masterpieces. Today Ramsons Kala Pratishtana has a private museum of these paintings in Mysuru. 

It was this passion for art and all that is related to art that led RG to take on the role of Honorary Secretary of the Ramsons Kala Pratishtana, a trust established by his father, Sri D. Ram Singh. Under the aegis of the Ramsons Kala Pratishtana Trust, RG was instrumental in reviving the ancient Doll Display Tradition of Karnataka as well as Traditional Board Games of India by hosting exhibitions that have today become iconic annual ‘must-see’ programmes on everyone’s itinerary be it the tourist or the Mysorean.

He, along with Raghu Dharmendra and Dr. C.R. Dileep Kumar Gowda, has conducted extensive research in the field of traditional board games of India since the year 2000. As part of Kreedaa Kaushalya, RG and his team mates have taught how to play traditional Indian board games to more than a thousand adults and children at various camps and workshops as resource persons since 2007.

L-R: Dr. C.R. Dileep Kumar Gowda, Raghu Dharmendra, Smt. Prema Simha and RG Singh at Kalale

RG has organised following special thematic exhibitions...

  1. Durge Durgatihaari - an exhibition of Mysore paintings depicting Durga in her avatars - 1999
  2. Exhibition of Mysore Paintings of artist K.S. Shreehari - 2001
  3. Kala Sampark - an exhibition of crafts of Karnataka - 2002
  4. Veda Kala - an exhibition of paintings of G.L.N. Simha interpreting Vedic Suktas - 2002
  5. Exhibition of Mysore Paintings of artist B.P. Ramakrishna - 2002
  6. Ganapaa - an exhibition of Ganesha images - 2005
  7. Mysore Masters - an exhibition of paintings of bygone artists (1830-2009) of Mysore - 2009. Works of distinguished artists who adorned the royal court of Mysore, worked in Mysore and accomplished artists who had a Mysore connection were included in this mammoth show
  8. Divya Varna - an exhibition of paintings of G.L.N. Simha - 2011
  9. Puttaraju Works Ravi Varma - an exhibition of inlay marquetry panels - 2011. A year-long project in which 37 select paintings of master artist Raja Ravi Varma were rendered in the art of inlay-marquetry unique to Mysore by master artist R. Puttaraju which culminated in a successful exhibition
  10. Baaro Krishnayya - an exhibition of Krishna in art - 2012
  11. Kalaa Dhaaraa - a 78-day expo of contemporary/traditional art of about 90 artists of Karnataka - Feb to Apr 2014
  12. Bombe Mane - a unique annual exhibition of dolls highlighting the doll tradition of India - 2005 to current year
  13. Kreedaa Kaushalya - annual exhibition of handcrafted board games and commissioned paintings on games - 2007 to current year
  14. Deepa Soundarya - annual exhibition of lamps in various media from across India - 2008 to current year

RG conducted following activities under the aegis of RKP.

  • 1995 to 1999 - National level Shilpashree award presentation
  • 1995 to 2006 - Rotary Ramsons Kala Pratishtana award presentation
  • 2007 to 2017 - Ramsons Kala Pratishtana award presentation in association with Karnataka Shilpakala Academy
  • 2005 - a twelve day traditional bronze casting workshop in association with Karnataka Shilpakala Academy
  • 2012 - Varnamrita - a seven day painting camp for ten artists in association with Artists Forum of Udupi
  • 2006 to 2018 - A six-page calendar of commissioned artworks with a special theme highlighting the cultural aspects of Karnataka is being released every year which has gained immense popularity
RG has commissioned art works from several artists (both contemporary and traditional) for the art repository of RKP. Art works of following artists are in the collection of RKP.

Mukta Venkatesh, M.J. Shuddodhana, G.L.N. Simha, B.K.S. Varma, Vijay Hagargundgi, N. Kamalesh, Raghupati Bhat, M.S. Nirmal Kumar, G.Y. Hublikar, Chandranath Acharya, B.P. Ramakrishna, J.M.S. Mani, Ramesh Rao, Bhaskar Rao, K.S. Shreehari, Prabha Mallesh, Manish Verma, K.V. Kale, Srinivas Reddy, Kamal Ahmed, Sridhar Rao, M. Girija, Giridhar Goud, Ramesh Selluturai, F.V. Chikmath, Manjunath Mane, B.B. Raghavendra, Purushotham Adve, G. Subramanian, Jagadish Kamble, M.V. Kambar, Sunil Mathad, Balu Sadalge, Sindhu Kamath, M.R. Pavanje, R.G. Hegde, Ganesh Somayaji, S.S. Shimpi, etc.

RG has also published, through Ramsons Kala Pratishtana, several monographs like, ‘Mysore Masters,’ ‘Puttaraju works Ravi Varma’ apart from a pictorial journal, 'Mysore Palace – Celebrating a century' published in 2012 and 'Indian Traditional Boardgames A Guide to the Art of Play'.

RG has given talks and lectures on art and heritage at events like the International Art Symposium organised by Sri Guru Vidyapeetha of Kalburgi (Gulbarga) and at Rotary Clubs, the Suttur Mutt (Suttur), INTACH (at New Delhi and Bengaluru), IGNCA (Bengaluru), NGMA (Bengaluru), Central Lalitkala Akademi (New Delhi), 19th International Board Game Studies Colloquium (Nuremberg, Germany), VAG Forum, Karnataka Lalitakala Academy, Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath Vermilion House (Bengaluru) and Amethyst (Chennai).

His skills as an orator were honed in school and college (during his graduate days) when he was actively involved as a member of the Rotaract Club and he has also held the post of District Rotaract Representative of Rotary International District 3180 (1994-1995). It was also during his school and college days that he became a philatelist and his collection of stamps on Rotary International is enviable. 

 RG has given several multi-media presentations on following subjects:

  • Rotary on Stamps
  • Pearls
  • Kreedaa Kaushalya - Indian Traditional Board Games
  • Vijay Hagargundgi - Surapura Miniaturist
  • Mysore Palace - Celebrating a Century
  • Mantra Mukura - Art of GLN Simha
  • Traditional Dolls of Karnataka
  • Mysuru Paintings in Kuldip Singh Collection
  • Traditional Mysuru Style Paintings
  • Art and Life of F.M. Soofi

RG prefers to relax with a book. His choice veers towards non-fiction and authors like Khushwant Singh, Mark Tully, R.K. Narayan, S.K. Ramachandra Rao and William Dalrymple.

He, has co-authored two books. First is 'Indian Traditional Boardgames - A Guide to the Art of Play' which was released at the 19th International Board Game Studies Colloquium at Nuremberg, Germany in April 2016 and the second was 'Thanjavurs Gilded Gods' (Dr. Anna Dallapiccola and Sri Kuldip Singh were the other co-authors) which was published by Marg Publications in the year 2018.

Image result for thanjavurs gilded gods

RG attributes his foray in the world of art, as a connoisseur, to the atmosphere of art created by his father Sri D. Ram Singh and mentoring by his late uncle M.B. Singh.