How to personify—deify, rather—wrath?
Who would know this better than the celebrated sculptor, Kalu Kumale?
After all, he is the Krodh Shiromani, an expert sculptor of repute on portraying the divine anger.
On the ground floor of the Nepal Art Council Building at Babar Mahal, his deification of red-hot anger adorns the pride of place.
There stands a blazing, fire-breathing image of Megasamvara with a female deity, copulating, with flames forming a perfect background. All this, even as other deities like Bhairav, Aryatara, Harit Tara, Lokeshwars, Ganesh and Akash Bhairavi look on from their respective corners.
Did I hear them whispering? Even if I did, there’s no way I can decode all that.
In the divine scheme of things, is love-making in the public is perfectly normal?
And what just caused Megasamvara to breathe fire? Is it the portrayal of Lord Shiva acting as the destroyer during the Yagya of his father-in-law Dakshyaprajapati? Or is it something else?
First, a bit about that incident involving the two in-laws.
Per scriptures, Dakshyaprajapati once organized a big Yagya by inviting distinguished guests like the sages, gods and goddesses.
But he made it a point to not invite his son-in-law, Lord Shiva, and daughter Satidevi. The idea was to settle an old score with Shiva.
From their hut, Satidevi could see the guests in all their majesty flying to the Yagya venue in their ultra-divine flying objects (UFOs). Seeing all this, an unstoppable desire to visit paternal home took root in her.
So, without heeding her husband’s wise words, she chose to be the uninvited guest at the Yagya where she demanded to know from his father as to why he snubbed them.
On his part, Dakshyaprajapati used the choice of words to humiliate Shiva, pointing that a destitute and an outcast was no match for a person of immense wealth like him. Satidevi, unable to bear with wanton disrespect for her husband, jumped into the Agnikund (the fire lit for the Yagya) and ended her life thus.
But the story did not end there. Shiva, upon coming to know about the incident, headed to the venue with his army, where it wreaked havoc and chopped off the head of Dakshyaprajapati, forcing several of the who’s who among the divinities to flee for their dear lives.
So much for the story, for now. Let’s return to the art exhibition titled Deities of Nepal, where Megasamvara has been hogging the limelight.
Beneath the feet of Megasamvara are the subdued lot, pleading for mercy. Some of them are recognizable (like Ganesh the remover of obstacles), while others need keener eyes.
Megasamvara, of course, has his hands full. Why wouldn’t they be? They have things like severed heads, a severed hand, speared male body and several other weapons seized from the subdued lot.
In subsequent writings, focus will be on finding out the cause of the divine wrath that has the whole floor literally ablaze, as if that hot posture were not enough. While the master sculptor’s artwork has not just the ground floor but the entire exhibition ablaze, an engaging conversation will surely bring the real story behind the artwork to light.
Staying hungry, staying foolish
Being uninitiated has its distinct advantages. Endowed with the lack of knowledge about, say, artworks, one can pore over them for hours. That way, the images make an imprint on your mind and things unravel, a tiny bit at a time in a matter of days, months or years.
Unable to figure out what this piece of metalcraft was all about meant observing it from different angles, sitting and racking your brains to know what on earth it really meant. That is far better than staying hooked to the screen for hours, isn’t it?
A brief description of the statue and what it represents (beyond wrath, of course) would surely have helped. Without it, the giant statue stood before you like a math problem, following you wherever you went.
But then came a chance encounter with another celebrated artist SC Suman and off we went to the adjacent chamber after reviewing artworks, including the one depicting the game of creation and destruction in the form of the Shriyantra. The ante chamber had a distinct Mithila feel to it, with the Mithila Sun burning bright and depicting the life and times of Goddess Sita, the daughter of King Janak of Ayodhya and the wife of Lord Ram, the Crown Prince of Ayodhya.
Through his artwork on display, Suman tells the story of the creation of the Universe.
Scriptures have indicated how the Universe came into being.
The Bible states: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
That Word, at least for large parts of the East, was Om.
How Brahma created this vast Universe out of the void? After this creation, how we the silent majority have helped create our own small worlds—from tiny dots to lines to a myriad geometric shapes—is well before our eyes in the form of a world and a country that’s fast atrophying. This is evident in the form of global warming, climate change, wars, slumps, rising crimes and miseries for the multitudes. As things stand now, great sacrifices of successive generations for epoch-making changes have brought one set of carpetbaggers after the other to power, making for great rags to riches stories.
The artwork in question is a microcosm of the universe with the imprints of the word Om. During casual conversation, the artist pointed out that we all are the Brahmans (the creators) in our own right as we build our own worlds.
In his vast Universe, there’s a small object that’s mostly dark but not without some glowing things like a crown and other jewels. Those glittering things are his works, his achievements, the honor and recognition that he has received as an artist.
As for the dark part, we all have them, don’t we? Otherwise, who would stop us from being the Supreme Being?
Walking like a bull in a china shop has its distinct advantages and so do looking at artworks for hours on end, as if it were some math problem challenging the intellect of a hobbyist. Had it not been for that trait, Suman the celebrated artist may not have found time to explain the artworks on display at the exhibition and what they meant. Apparently, most of what he said has passed this onlooker and become Shadba Brahma. But not to worry, for the word is Akshyara, something that is indestructible, isn’t it? It will surely return in the form of knowledge and wisdom to the deserving as all previously told tales return to the storyteller from Baikuntha (the abode of Lord Vishnu), as our belief system suggests.
Unhyphenated art and craft
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to act like a bull in a china shop one more time, chance upon the Krodh Shiromani and ask him some unintelligent questions about his artwork, his long and illustrious journey as a master sculptor? In the meantime, putting detailed descriptions about some of the works won’t be a bad idea.
With or without descriptions, the exhibition has shown once again that Nepali art and craft can stand tall on their own without hyphenation. All they need is more love and support for the art and craft and the artists.