Past glories and miniatures

Updated: Mar 21

We have all heard stories of Mahavir, Ramayana and Mahabharata from our parents and grandparents but never have we seen how our ancient manuscripts and maps looked. This art show gives a glimpse of Hindu and Jain miniatures dating back to 15th century.

Royal couple dancing on the terrace accompanied by musicians. Origin: Bundi; Period: Early 18th century; Medium: Gouache and gold on paper

There is a miniature work depicting a scene featuring Krishna and Balram seeking blessings from Devaki and Vasudev. Another one includes a set of three manuscripts in Devanagari from Panchatantra dating back to the 15th century done in opaque watercolours.


There are also miniatures showcasing how Lord Narsimha was worshipped in the bygone eras and how Radha and Krishna relaxed in the early 19th century. Besides this, there are some works that feature maps on Jainism related to spaces, a particular region (countries and continents) and share connection with cosmos and universe. These are not a part of an artist’s collections but are dispersed pieces that got lost in time.


The manuscripts, which once belonged to books or were written on separate pages, were collected and preserved by private collectors (not galleries). These works are now being showcased at an ongoing show ‘His Glory and His Monuments’ at the Lexicon Art Gallery.


Describing the exhibition, Sanchita Sharma, the gallery coordinator, says, “It is an exhibition of Indian miniature paintings that depict different eras, manuscripts and maps in miniatures. It features nearly 80 miniatures, starting from the 15th century till the 20th century. The first section is of manuscripts. We also have a section on Jain miniatures and on Indian gods and goddesses, giving a glimpse of their domesticated setting."

Lokpurusha map; Origin: Rajasthan; Period: Early 20th century; Medium: Opaque watercolour on paper

The works featured in the exhibition share the customs and norms followed by gods and goddesses several centuries ago. Since they belong to India’s historic treasures, the gallery has retained them in their original forms. Even their frames are as old as the paintings.


The Hindu miniatures are made in gouache using natural substances. The writing (or lipi) featured is particularly a combination of Devanagri and Brahmi. They also depict the stories/scenes from the Hindu mythology and share the way of life as it was for Lord Rama and Krishna in Ramayana and Mahabharata, respectively.


Explains Sanchita, “Different artists under different kings and patronage wrote these manuscripts to allow kings to pass on their religion and patronage to the next generation. Some of these works are registered with the Government of India and they are not for sale.”


The show also features a section on Jainism. From Jain Tirthankaras to the Sirohi Mandala, the show captivates and provides thoughts into the aesthetic, cosmological, and esoteric traditions of both ancient and mediaeval India. “Some of them depict a particular region (countries and continents) and the religion’s connection with cosmos and universe,” she shares.


This happens to be the first show at the newly-opened gallery. But why start with a show featuring treasured pieces?


“The gallery wanted to showcase the art that people have forgotten about. The conceptual art is booming right now. I feel it is important for galleries to showcase these kinds of works to remind them about Indian paintings and where we came from,” says Sanchita.


‘His Glory and His Monuments’ will be open to public till 12 April.

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