Thursday, January 13, 2022

Galaxy of Musicians

Ambling through the tens of rooms and hallways of the Sri Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery housed in the handsome Indo-saracenic building of Jaganmohan Palace fills one with the visions of beautiful artworks from across India of 20th century.
Artworks of Gaganendranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, S.L. Haldankar, Nicholas Roerich, K. Keshavaiah, M. Ramanarasiah, G.L.N. Simha and many more stalwart artists grace the hallowed walls of this gallery. Drinking the visual ambrosia as one reaches the 2nd floor hall, the huge oil on canvases of artist par excellence Raja Ravi Varma dumbfounds the senses. Among the 10 or 12 canvases of this great artist, the Galaxy of Musicians can be counted amongst his great works.
It has been composed as if a group of ladies are posing for a photograph. In fact I have seen a similarly composed photograph of a group of female students of Maharani’s College contemporaneous with the painting. What differentiates the painting from the photograph, though, is the fact that eleven ladies in two rows, have been dressed in variety of costumes each representing different regions of India like Malabar, Tamil, Maratha, Lucknow, Parsi, English, Rajasthani, etc. Four of them are playing different stringed instruments like a Saraswati Veena, violin, sitar and a sarangi, the Parsi lady is holding up a hand fan, the Lucknow girl looks like she is performing a thumri on kathak while others gaze out or towards the onlooker.

It seems like the artist’s favourite muses from across the length and breadth of the sub-continent have assembled within a frame decking up in their finest drapes and jewels. 

Probably Raja Ravi Varma was the first artist to symbolise Bharatmata in a composite portrait like this. He might have titled it as ‘Galaxy of Musicians’, but in reality he brought all the regions of India symbolically as the beautiful maidens and made them sing a common song of a single nationhood, a united and free India.

No comments: