Monday, October 27, 2014

Lotuses at the Chhatarpur Flower Market, Delhi

We went to the Chhatarpur flower market early in the morning, where Gaurav photographed these beautiful lotuses.
It reminded me of the many lovely associations of the lotus from my childhood; especially this painting of the Goddess Lakshmi by Raja Ravi Varma, which hung on the wall in our family's prayer area. She is holding lotuses in both arms; she stands on a lotus; and there are lotuses in the pool, with swans. Her saree is also lotus-pink.
I always thought the lotuses in these paintings were exaggerated depictions of the flower. But that was before I actually saw a lotus close up. The beauty of this flower is breath-taking. Look at all the layers inside! I can actually imagine a tiny Lakshmi standing on top of this flower :)
At the National Museum in Delhi, there is a rather unusual miniature painting of Vishnu, Lakshmi's consort, holding lotuses in all his arms. He is seated on a lotus. A garland of lotuses is being offered to him; his head is crowned with lotuses; and even the fly-bearer's crown is similarly studded with lotuses. This is a Pahari miniature from the 1750s, from the Mankot-Basohli school. One of the chief characteristics of the Basohli paintings is the use of lotuses as a "must-have". It is a rare Baohli painting where you will not find lotuses. The Basohli school initiated Pahari art by illustrating scenes from literary classics, such as Rasa-Manjari, Ramayana and Gita Govinda (this one below must be from Gita Govinda; see how the painting depicts the Gaudiya tradition of Vaishnavite body marks).
Even more unusual is this phoolsajya painting, again from Basohli, where Radha and Krishna are clad entirely in lotuses. Again, this is likely from the Gita Govinda, which sings of the yearning of Radha for Krishna. The song is interpreted as the yearning of the human to merge with the divine. In the Gita Govinda, Radha first enjoys the bliss of being with Krishna; then when he departs, she is filled with anguished longing. The painting below depicts the bliss of the union of Radha-Krishna using the lotus as the motif. Like the lotus, this union is beautiful, divine, tender and pure.
Even in this depiction of the fearsome Bhadrakali, the Basohli artists found a way to incorprate lotuses: look carefully and you will find them.
Lotuses are everywhere in India. In Sanskrit, there are many words denoting lotuses - for example, padma, kinjala, mrinala, pushkara. We see lotuses in the names of many Indian people, both male and female. Padma, Padmavati, Padam Singh, and so on. It is also the name of the famous pilgrimage town of Pushkar. The legend says that Lord Brahma struck the asura Vajranabha with a lotus (which is Brahma's weapon). A petal of the lotus fell here at Pushkar, and a sacred lake was created.
Oh and also, I got a real kick out of knowing that in the Star Wars series, Padme Amidala is named after the lotus too :) :)

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