Depicting ‘Devi’ through folk & tribal art, calendar art and lobby cards

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An exhibition titled ‘Devi — depicted through folk and tribal art, calendar art, and lobby cards — curated by Seema Bhalla was inaugurated at the Kamaladevi Complex in India International Centre in the national capital on Friday.

On till December 29, it shows various manifestations of the goddess, as represented in art from different periods, regions and mediums. A striking wooden sculpture, representing the ‘Village Devi’, a wooden bust of the ‘Devi’ as the protector from snakes, both from Karnataka, and an early Bengal school oil on canvas, depicting ‘Mahishasur Mardini’, are just a few among many other exhibits representing the goddess.

‘Devi’ has been a popular theme in Indian cinema and the viewers often mistake the actors as real divinity and rever them with the same emotion and sentiment as they experienced in the temples. The exhibition includes some of the ‘lobby cards’ of the movies based on goddesses.

As a mark of respect, women in India are addressed as ‘Devi’, and the term has been part of the dialogues in the Indian classic cinema where the woman, regardless of her background, is addressed as ‘Devi’. The exhibition covers this aspect of usage that, once, was an ethical part of Indian society.

In the entire history of Indian art, woman has been the subject of worship, considered as the disguised form of goddesses. She remained a consistently favoured motif, even though the approach to its form and content has varied extensively in both time and space. Hence, she is portrayed in art in different forms and dimensions.

Out of her several aspects, she is revered most sacredly as a ‘Devi’, whose worship can be traced to a very remote past, almost 5,000 years old.

Seema Bhalla said, “The inspiration for this special exhibit, ‘Devi’, is female power. Indian art has always viewed the woman with reverence and depicted her in a very powerful manner. ‘Devi’ shines the light on this important theme through exquisite works from across the country: Striking Bhuta sculptures from Karnataka, wooden arches with Gajalakshmi carved on them, a three-feet high sculpture of Shiva and Parvati seated on the bull, an early Bengal school oil on canvas painting of ‘Mahishasur Mardini’, handprinted ‘Mata ni Pachedi’ textile from Rajasthan.”

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