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Buddha Charita – The Life of Buddha

“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.”

The Buddha introduced into the world a philosophy which helped mankind navigate through his suffering. The life he led and the experiences that made him confront suffering also guided him to his final destination – the attainment of enlightenment. Buddha symbolizes a path to liberation and detachment from the triviality of the material world.

The most well-known historical account about the Buddha is the story of his life. It is this divine narrative that has become the inspiration for my latest artwork titled “Buddha Charita”, which is also the culmination of my new series – “Buddha Sutra”. Here’s an image of the artwork I have created:

Buddha Charita

Link to a video clipping of the painting – https://www.instagram.com/p/CdSddp6JL2k/

This watercolor artwork is a visual narrative linking several events in the life of the Buddha from his days as Prince Siddhartha Gautama, his confrontation with suffering, his quest for a path towards the cessation of this suffering and his final liberation in the form of his “awakening”.

The first embodiment of the Buddha as the royal Prince Siddhartha has been represented in the right-hand corner of the artwork by an image of him, resplendent with royalty. This is followed by the next stage in his life, where he comes across the sight of a decrepit old man, a sick man, and a corpse which have all been portrayed one below the other in the artwork. These sights changed the perspective of the prince and opened his eyes to all the suffering that accompanies life. Also depicted in the painting, is the image of an ascetic that Gautama encountered, who had learned to seek out spiritual solace in the midst of these worldly miseries and sorrows. Determined to find the same enlightenment, Gautama turned towards the path of renunciation.

After exploring asceticism, or restraint from all physical needs and desires, he discovered meditation and used the practice as a path toward enlightenment. This led to the third stage in the life of Siddhartha, which is displayed in the artwork as the central image of the Buddha, “the awakened one”. The tree on the extreme left of the painting represents the sacred Bodhi tree or the fig tree (Ficus religiosa) under which the Buddha meditated and finally reached the highest state of enlightenment or “nirvana,” which simply means “awakening”.

In addition to the figurative representation of the Buddha himself, his teachings have also been represented in the artwork through iconographic symbols of the likes of the Lotus flower and the Dharma Wheel. Other icons displayed in the artwork include various Buddhist monuments like pagodas and stupas, specifically the Sanchi Stupa, which is considered to be the most sacred monument of Buddhism, as it represents and displays various Buddhist ideals.  

Through this artwork, I wish to honour Buddha’s life, for it is a reminder of the basic Buddhist principles that form the stepping stones to a higher spiritual level.  It is these principles that serve as a source of strength in the grief-stricken world. It is my attempt to convey the philosophy of Buddha by reflecting on his life’s experiences and pledging to practice inward reflection to overcome sorrows, just as he did.  

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“Moksha” – The Moral Compass

Hey all! I know I have been MIA for quite some time but I’m back now with a new post about my most recent artwork. This too has been long overdue, as I allowed procrastination to get the better of me, but finally, I have succeeded in completing it!

In one of my previous posts, I had talked about how a book can become the source of inspiration for my art, in particular the third book of the Ram Chandra Series – Raavan: Enemy of Aryavarta, by the Indian author Amish Tripathi. This work of fiction chronicles the life of Ravan and portrays him as an artist among other things. One of the excerpts from the book describes a painting made by him that is not only a character sketch of himself but also a logically befitting description of the concept of “dharma” or the “righteous path”. (Click on the following link to read this post – https://theartdungeon.blog/2021/06/06/inspiration-calling/).

The beautiful artwork created by Ravan and described in this excerpt was not just a vivid description of Ravan’s psyche, but also a profound portrayal of his struggle to attain the right direction through the “moral compass” called dharma.

This one-of-a-kind piece of art became my muse purely because of the distinctive way in which it brings out the true essence of Ravan. I was so enamored by his narrative that I couldn’t wait to interpret it in my own way and create my very own version onto my canvas. Finally, I managed to do that and here I present to you, my acrylic painting titled “Moksha”.

In the book, Ravan describes a painting created by him that depicts his struggle to attain enlightenment. I have attempted to depict his mental turmoil and his desperate attempts to scale the wall of the Nine emotions or the Navrasas that hold him down. The ten heads in my artwork correspond to the ten heads of Ravan himself. Out of these, 9 represent the Navrasas, one for each emotion, whereas the tenth head is the state of spiritual awakening that Ravan is striving to achieve.

I have further attempted to add on to the concept by depicting the 7 chakras or the main energy centers that control our body. My endeavor is to reaffirm that one can only transcend the wall of emotions by opening up all the chakras, allowing energy to flow freely, thereby harmonizing the body, mind as well as the spirit.  It is only this equilibrium that can help one attain physical, emotional and spiritual “moksha” – which was not just the “righteous path” being pursued by Ravan, but also the “dharma” attained by the Buddha.

Hope you all like my approach towards Ravan and his “moksha!”

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Lockdown Art – Light at the End of the Tunnel

“Sometimes life seems a dark tunnel with no light at the end, but if you just keep moving forward, you will end up in a better place.”

In the current COVID-ridden times, we seem to be stuck in an endless tunnel of lockdowns and curfews. Just when we think the exit is around the corner, it seems to stretch on further at the very next turn. That’s exactly what’s happening presently, what with lockdowns being extended incessantly across the world.

The worldwide lockdown has changed our lives drastically, engulfing us in the darkness of uncertainty as we remain restricted within our four walled fortresses.  People all over the world are experiencing this darkness in varying forms, be it curfew, lockdown, isolation or quarantine.

This Global Lockdown is what I bring to you as an artwork in today’s blog entry, which is inspired by and named after the very phrase – “Light at the End of the Tunnel.” Another rendering in watercolor, it is a symbolic representation of the multiple lockdowns that our world is being subjected to in order to slow down the pandemic. I have used the contour of a keyhole to depict the dark cavernous tunnel of confinement. Each keyhole silhouette represents a lockdown phase and together all the contours collectively form the tunnel that we seem to be traversing through.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

I have used the technique of perspective to illustrate the three dimensional view of a tunnel onto the two dimensional surface of a paper with an attempt to make it as natural and realistic as possible, at the same time creating an illusion of space and depth. The innermost keyhole signifies what lies beyond the tunnel – the light of hope. It’s this light that we need to see beyond the darkness of the seemingly never ending lockdowns, but to do so we have to travel all the way through the dark abyss with the faith that what lies at the end of the tunnel is the much needed relief of the confinements being eased.  This light gives us hope that the end is just around the corner.

The tunnel in my artwork symbolizes our journey through these dark times, which seems as gloomy as the path itself. We find ourselves entrapped in the darkness of this murky cavern unable to navigate our way ahead through the sufferings we encounter on the way. The only way to beat this darkness and get through to the other side is to divert our thoughts towards the light of positivity, thereby asserting our faith in the fact that respite in close at hand. We need to channelize and transform the gloom into our strength and illuminate our resilience to go through with the sojourn. To find the light at the end of the tunnel, advance through the darkness knowing that nothing lasts forever and this too shall pass. 

The light in my artwork also represents the hope-filled signs that this crisis will end soon. These signs include efforts of the likes of social-distancing, testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine which at least for now are helping us in controlling the spread, until effective treatments and vaccines can help us put the virus back in it’s box. I opted for a monochromatic grayscale color palette to render the contours of the tunnel as it represents how we view the world during the lockdown – in black and white.

In this global crisis of uncertainty and unpredictability, everything depends on the effectiveness of containment measures which can only attain their full potential when followed stringently. So let us all kindle the spark of positivity and help it guide us through to the end of the tunnel where the light awaits us. For –

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but the way out is through.” — David Allen

A Tryst with the Divine

Hey folks! Now that I am through with the Dragon Series, let me introduce you to the next couple of paintings, the subject being, Divinity. For this set of artworks, I have attempted to capture the essence of the Buddha onto my canvas.

Enlightenment

The first painting, titled “Enlightenment”, is a portrait of the Buddha. The word Buddha is not a name, but a title, which means the enlightened one or the awakened one. It is a Sanskrit word that means “a person who is awake”. What a Buddha is awake to, is the true nature of reality. When the Buddha passes into the peace of Nirvana, it is like a transformed state of existence.

This perfect state of existence, where knowledge or wisdom co-exists with compassion, is called Enlightenment. Knowledge here does not means worldly knowledge of things around us, but a true understanding of reality and the intrinsic nature of things surrounding us. Enlightenment is so much beyond the realm of outside ordinary experience that it cannot be described, but only be realized and felt within ourselves. If I were to put it in words, it would be a paradise within us.

I call this painting a partial portrait, wherein I have painted only half of the face of the Buddha, representing that true reality He sees upon attaining Nirvana. Once enlightened, He is oblivious to all external influences, thus the other half, which symbolizes a superficial exterior, ceases to exist.

The medium I have used for this portrait is oil paints. However, I have been a tad bit adventurous with the background of this artwork! I am greatly inspired by the palette knife technique of my all time favorite artist, Leonid Afremov. He is a Russian–Israeli modern impressionist, who works mainly with a palette knife and oils. Using his unique knife painting technique, he dabs paint onto the canvas in relatively thick and small strokes, creating paintings that seem to be a burst of countless bright colors.

Using a palette knife to paint is very different from a brush. A brush bends and flexes as you move it. The palette knife is a more rigid tool. It can be used to carefully add a straight line or toss on a huge blob of paint. While Leonid possesses his own signature style, I have attempted to reproduce similar effects using a brush instead of a palette knife in my painting. Also, instead of using several colors (like Leonid does), I have used different tones of blue to create an Ombre effect as part of the background of this artwork. Ombré (literally “shaded” in French) is the gradual blending of one color or hue into another, usually moving tints and shades from light to dark.


Sounds Greek and Latin to you? I shall attempt to “enlighten” you all in detail on these terms some other time. For now, it’s Adios till my next post!!