Saturday, January 23, 2021



( Copper Alloy ,11th century sculpture created during Chola period in South India on display at MET Museum ,New York.)

" The whole thing is there, you see. The world of space and time, and matter and energy, the world of creation and destruction, the world of psychology…We (the West) don’t have anything remotely approaching such a comprehensive symbol, which is both cosmic and psychological, and spiritual."

( Aldous Huxley on Shiva Natraja sculptures of India)

Chola Kings were perhaps the greatest patrons of art and sculpture .The well-known dancing figure of Shiva as Nataraja was evolved and fully developed during the Chola Period and since then many variations of this complex bronze image have been modelled. 
 In Natraja sculptures, Lord Shiva is shown performing TANDAVA with a flaming halo .He holds a Damru and  Agni in his two hands and makes Abhayamudra gesture with another hand. This gesture is done to dispel all fears while he tramples the Apasmara Purusha (illusion, which leads mankind astray) under his right foot.The energy of his dance makes his hair fly to the sides.

The cosmic dance of Shiva symbolises the interplay of dynamic and static divine energy flow, containing the five principles of eternal energy — creation, preservation, destruction, illusion and emancipation.

French sculptor,Auguste Rodin ( 1840-1917)  was a great admirer of Natraja sculptures. Auguste Rodin, considered the ‘father of modern sculpture', was widely respected for his works such as ‘Thinker' (1904). I saw 'Thinker' in the MET Museum, New York.
Housed in a hall on the first floor, I saw many  Rodin sculptures in the  MET Museum,New York and also  came to know what Rodin has said about Shiva Natraja sculptures. I quote Rodin:

"Shiva Nataraja is  a perfect expression of rhythmic movement in the world. I saw the cascades of energy coming down from outer space in which particles were created and destroyed in rhythmic pulse. Shiva Nataraja has what many people cannot see—the unknown depths, the core of life. There is grace in elegance, but beyond grace there is perfection."

One of the world’s premier institute known as CERN, has the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments to study the basic constituents of matter – fundamental particles. It houses  the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. Interestingly, the scientists at this premier institute in Geneva  have installed a 2-metre tall statue of Shiva Natraja in the premises.The plaque to this sculpture reads this :-

“Hundreds of years ago, Indian artists created visual images of dancing  Shivas in a beautiful series of bronzes. In our time, physicists have  used the most advanced technology to portray the patterns of the cosmic  dance. The metaphor of the cosmic dance thus unifies ancient mythology,  religious art and modern physics.” 

The artist who conceived and fashioned the form of Nataraja has undoubtedly created the greatest masterpiece in Indian art.   The renowned art historian, A.K. Coomarasamy writes this :-

“A great motif in religion or art or any great symbol becomes all things to all men, age after age, it yields to men such treasure as .they find in their own hearts” 

 The grandeur of the conception of Siva as a cosmic dancer is a synthesis of science, religion and art with Nataraja, the Lord of dance as its greatest exponent

( Avtar Mota)

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Sunday, January 17, 2021




Emperor  Akbar spent a fortune in translating sacred texts of various religions into Persian. These texts were lavishly illuminated. For this, he created a translation department in his Darbaar that had many translators. Abdul Qadir Badayuni (1540–1615), historian and  the first Grand Mufti of India during Akbar’s rule,  was made overall in-charge of the translation section. Abdus Samad and Mir Syed Ali , artists from Shiraz were also engaged in the workshop that was set up at Fatehpur Sikri. More than hundred artists ( mostly Hindus)  were also brought from Gwalior ,Gujrat and Kashmir for completion of the task. 

  Ramayana and Mahabharta were also translated into Persian during this period. Mahabharata was translated by Naqib Khan. Many artists were also engaged for illuminating  Ramayana and Mahabharata. The prominent names in this category are Dharam Das  , Makara, Daud, Mahesh, Ahmed Kashmiri, Bhawani, Mohana, Narayan Khurd, Bhagwan and Lohanga.
This painting is a page from Mahabharata  ( Razmnama ) illuminated and translated during Akbar's rule.  Ahmed Kashmiri, the artist who did this painting has shown Arjuna attempting to quench the fire that Agni created to help his father-in-law, Niladhvaja, in his battle against Arjuna. This painting is held by the British Library (UK ).
Some paintings from Ramayana and Mahabharata in Persian translation are also lying with the Metropolitan Museum of Art , New York, Museum Rietberg, Christies and Asian Art Museum (San Francisco ).

Ain I Akbari informs us that Akbar would personally see the progress of artists on weekly basis. He would either increase the emoluments or give gifts to good artists. Abul Fazal writes that Basawan, Dasvanth, Nanha and Bishen Das were Akbar's favourite court  artists. Other artists  who were engaged included Kesu, Lal, Madhu ,Jagan and Mukund.

Ain-i Akbari also deals with Akbar’s administration, household, army, the revenues and geography of his empire. It provides rich details about the traditions and culture of the people living in India. It also gives statistical details about crops, yields, prices, wages, and revenues.

Akbar's  Darbaar had some the greatest artists, scholars, poets, and singers of the period . Akbar's  love for  art ,poetry, music  and knowledge made him collect  his “Nine Jewels or Naurattans” who excelled in their respective  fields . These nine jewels were :-

1. Birbal (Mahesh Das) the court Jester.
2. Miyan Tansen(Tanna Mishra) the court singer.
3. Abul  Fazl  (The chronologist) who wrote Ain I Akbari.
4. Faizi ( The court Poet)
5. Maharaja Man Singh (Army Consultant)
6. Fakir Aziz ud Din (Sufi Singer)
7. Mulla Do Piyaza (depicted as Birbal's Muslim counterpart)
8. RajaTodar Mal (Finance Consultant)
9. Abdul Rahim Khan e Khana (Writer of Hindi Couplets).

( Avtar Mota )


Badayuni wrote history of Akbar's rule in India wherein he criticized  the king for his practices ,which according to him,  were not in conformity with Islam. He also didn't like Akbar's liberal approach , reforms and elevation of non-muslims to key posts . This book on Akbar's rule remained concealed and was brought out only during the rule of Jahangir. Badayuni has also been critical of Abul Fazal .Abul Fazal,a  Vizir  in Akbar's court,  wrote Akbarnama in three volumes. Ain I Akbari  is the third volume of Akbarnama. He also translated the Bible into Persian . His details in Akbarnama are considered as realistic and have become the  major source of history with regard to Akbar's rule in India.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021


   ( Hatim Telvyon..The traditional  Story teller from Kangan, Kashmir wearing a Pheran with Laadh)
( A Kashmiri Muslim woman wearing a Pheran with Laadh )

  (Mrs Assiza ,the Doonga woman wearing a Pheran with Laadh Photographed by Marion Doughty in 1898 A.D. in Srinagar)


In olden days, there was little  difference in the Pheran  ( cloak or an overall ) of  a poor   Kashmiri Pandit and Muslim   . The pheran used by  Muslims also had the usual  'Laadh' . Both ,Pandits and Muslims would  use  Khraav ( wooden Sandals or Khadaaoon) or a Pull'hor in their feet .  Laadh was/is a fold of the cloth on a long Pheran at its bottom. The Laadh was possibly meant to cover shrinkage of the cloth .It could also be for some other reasons ; I am not sure. However , Khraav( wooden sandals)  and  Pull'hor ( dry grass sandal) was used by Pandits and Muslims. Later while Pandits retained the Laadh in their Pherans , Muslims made  Pherans without Laadh.

Beneath this long Pheran , a common Kashmiri   could easily hide  his poverty .See page 24 of the book :-

( Avtar Mota)


Marion Doughty was in Kashmir  sometime at the close of 19th century. Mrs Assiza cooked food for Doughty . Marion Doughty lived in a  Doonga. This photo and details are from  Marion Doughty's book"  Afoot Through The kashmir Valleys" published in 1901.
I have seen some old photos of 19th  and early 20th century wherein Pandit and Muslim Pherans have Laadh..

Hatem  Tilawoen ,the professional story teller from Kashmir was always seen in a  Pheran with Laadh. Aurel Stein  met him along with Pandit Govind Koul. He was a shepherd from Kangan area , illiterate yet a master story teller.

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 For this photograph ,I  wrote...

Shaand paeth gayi  kaarwaan  raatus pakaan 
Dard  shaharuss  rooz  raatas  trap-trapaa..
Kathh karav adha vaen khasav naarein natein
Chhopp karav  seenas andhar dazvien gaejja.

In English ,I would say this:-

( Caravans  moved    past  my bed pillow all along the night ,this city of pain   had night long activity .
Speak it out and you are  instantly in the gossip Bazaar,
should you go silent, 
then carry a   burning furnace  inside your  Bosom……)

(Avtar Mota)

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Monday, January 11, 2021



( Painting source: Website of  "The Jammu And Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages" )


River Vitasta finds mention in Rigveda , Kathasaritsagara , Natyashastra ,Varahpurana and Mahabharata . In Mahabharata we read this :-

“If anybody bathes in the waves of the river Vitastā, with vow and fasts, for seven days he would become as pure as a hermit.”

 (Mahabharata Anusasana Parva, Chapter 25, Stanza 7)

 The Vitasta Mahatmayas inform  that Goddess Uma, Laxmi, Aditi, Sachi, Diti and Ganga along with their spouses  had come to Satisar  to witness  the draining out of the water and killed  of the demon Jalodbhava . Rishi Kashyapa had also requested them to bless the land. The Rishi approached Goddess Uma or Parvati  first who in turn sought the concurrence of Lord Shiva. In Vitasta Mahatmayas, we read this:-

“ Parvati requested her consort Lord Shiva; "O, father of the World, I shall assume the form of a river but make a stroke with your spear near the abode of Nila, where O Lord while breaking the mountain was placed the pointed end of the plough. By that stroke, I shall flow to meet the great river, Sindhu."

And then while agreeing, Shiva struck his trident on Bhadra Shukla Trayodashi the 13th lunar day of the month of Bhadrapada to make way for the Vitasta to flow out of Vitastatra or Vyeth Vothur, its source--- the Neel Nag. Vitasta has flowed down for centuries over which the ancient civilization of Kashmir flourished. Kashmiri Pandits still observe the day Parvati manifested herself in the form of Vitasta. 

 Also known as Vetha Truvah, the day was celebrated by making offerings of cakes made of rice flour while reading Sholkas from Vitasta Mahatmayas. In the evening, the women would go down to the banks of the Vitasta and illuminate them with Diyas ( earthen-ware lamps ). Thus for the Kashmiri Pandits, the Valley remains the land of Shiva while river Vitasta is not only a symbol of Goddess Sati (Parvati ) but also the cradle of their ancient civilization.

   The festival of Vetha Truvah also finds detailed mention in Tuzik -i -Jahangiri as under:-

“On the night of Thursday, 19th, the Kashmiris had lined up with lamps on both sides of Bihat ( Vyath ). It is an ancient custom that every year on this day, everyone. whether rich or poor, whoever has a house on the bank of the river, should light the lamp as done on Shab e Barat. I asked the Brahmans the reasons for this, and they said that this day the fountainhead of the River Jhelum was disclosed and the custom had come down from old days that on this date must take place the festival of Vyath Truvah. Vyath means Jhelum and Truwah means thirteenth: As this day is thirteenth of Shawwal, they light Lamps. In this way, they call it Vyath Truvah. Undoubtedly, the lamp lighting was good. I sat in a boat and went round to see it .”

( Source page 167 and 168 of 
The Tuzuk –i- –Jahangiri or Memoirs of Jahangir translated by Alexender Rogers )

 In ancient and mediaeval Kashmir, river Vitasta was accordingly treated as sacred as Ganga. In the Kotitirtha Mahatmayas of Kashmir, we read this:-
 “Here in Kashmir exists Sati ( Goddess Parvati ) herself personified as river Vitasta, who destroys all sins and by merely thinking about whom, one gets the same reward as is received by bathing in holy places of worship. The water of river Saraswati takes three days to purify a man, that of Yamuna takes seven while the water of Ganga purifies a person instantly, but the water of Vitasta has the power to purify even by a mere thought of it.”

 Each Hindu deity has a particular Vahana or vehicle on which it travels. These vehicles are generally animals or birds. While painting the deities, artists have also painted respective Vahana. Generally, the deities are shown riding their Vahana, However, the Vahana ( bird or animal ) is also shown pulling the chariot of the deity or walking alongside the deity. A Vahana may enhance the powers of a deity and the deity's Vahana can be seen as a symbolic representation of his or her "power" or meaning within the pantheon of Hindu deities. In painting, we have seen Goddess Saraswati’s vehicle is a beautiful peacock or a swan while Shiva is shown riding a Nandi bull. Similarly, Ganesha’s carrier is shown as a mouse. The Vahana or vehicle of Durga is a lion. The chariot of Aditya or Sun god is driven by seven horses while the Vahana of Vishnu is shown as a Garuda or sometimes the Sheshnaaga.

In Kashmir, based on Nilamata Purana, Vitasta Mahatmayas, Kotitirtha Mahatmayas, Sharda Mahatmayas, Harmukatganga Mahatmayas and the folklore, river Vitasta is shown with Matsya or fish as its Vahana ( vehicle ). In painting , Goddess Vitasta with four arms is always shown seated on the Matsya   or a fish as its Vahana. 

In many  paintings , Matsya as a golden horned fish is  shown  pulling the boat with Rishi  Manu and the seven sages and saving them from floods. 

Matsya or fish is  an Avtara of Vishnu . In this appearance,   Lord Vishnu saved the world from a great flood. It was Lord Vishnu, who took the form of Varaha (wild boar) to pierce the mountains in the North West of Varahmula (now known as Baramulla) and drained the water  of Satisar lake to create Kashmir,  a land submerged under the lake.

( Avtar Mota )

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Sunday, January 10, 2021




In 1987, prior to leaving his office due to the end of his  term, the then President of India, Giani Zail Singh visited Kashmir along with his family . In  this  photograph, he is seen  with journalist fraternity of Kashmir. I can recognise  some senior journalists like M.L . Kak, P.N Jalali, Ghulam Nabi Khayal, Bashir Ahmed Bashir( cartoonist), J. N. Sathu, Zafar Mehraj, Mohhamad Sayed  Malik, Shyam Kaul, Shamsuddin Shamim J. N. Raina, Altaf Hussain, Mohan Chiragi, B.L.Kak, O.N.Kaul, Sufi Gulam Mohd,, Khwaja Sonaullah Bhat,C.B. Kaul.P.N Kaul Vakil  and some more .

.Giani Zail Singh was the seventh President of India, serving from 1982 to 1987. Prior to his presidency, he was a politician with the Indian National Congress party, and had held several ministerial posts in the Union Cabinet, including that of Home Minister.

He also served as the Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1983 to 1986.

( Avtar Mota)

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Saturday, January 9, 2021



                                                    ( The Dancing House )

                                                           ( The Dancing House )

                                                 ( The Dancing House at night  )
                                                     ( the Dome of the Dancing House )
                                                           ( Prague and the Vltava river )
                                                         ( Prague )
                                               ( A view from the top )

Prague , the capital Czech republic is a historic city . A beautiful city that has many baroque buildings and Gothic churches on either sides of the river Vltava . Like Jhelum , Vltava divides the city into two parts as it moves through Prague .From the Communist coup d'état in February 1948 to the ‘Velvet Revolution’ in 1989, Czechoslovakia was ruled by the Communists . The country belonged to the Eastern Bloc and was a member of the Warsaw Pact and of Comecon ( headquartered at Moscow ) . In what is now known as the “Velvet divorce” ,on January 1, 1993, Czechoslovakia split into two independent states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia .
The Vltava River is the waterway around which the city has developed over the past 1000 years. In Prague alone, Vltava is spanned by over thirty bridges and footbridges. Its water gently laps the edges of ten islands. Everyday , one can see dozens of steamers, rowboats and pedal boats glide through its waters. The river is the soul Prague . At 434km in length, it is the longest river in the Czech Republic.
Prague is a city of old bridges ,Baroque statues, museums , beer bars , cafes , restaurants , art galleries , river cruises, parks , old castles and happy crowds. In Prague alone , there are more than fifteen art galleries apart from several museums . Frenz Kafka ( writer and philosopher ) , Jaroslav Seifert ( Nobel laureate poet ), Karel Capek ( famous writer ), Bertha von Suttner ( Nobel laureate novelist ), Gerty Theresa Cori ( Nobel laureate medicine ), Jaroslav Heyrovsky( Nobel laureate chemistry ) ,and Alphonse Mucha ( famous artist ) were all from Prague . And then Martina Navratilova ( tennis player ), Madeline Albright ( Politician in the US ) . Rainer Maria Rike ( poet and novelist ) and Jan Hammer ( the great musician ) belong to Prague. Sigmund Freud was born in Prbor just four hours drive from Prague . The well known film director Milos Forman was a Czech from Caslav just one hour’s drive from Prague. And our Hindi writer Nirmal Verma lived in Prague for more than 10 years. He was invited by Oriental Institute to initiate a program of translation of modern Czech writers like Karel Capek, Milan Kundera, and Bohumil Hrabal, to Hindi. Presently Prague has about 500 Indians who are in business or jobs . Some of them have settled permanently.
Written as CZK, Czech Koruna is the currency of the Czech republic. On the conversion scale , one Czech Koruna is equivalent to about 3.50 Indian rupees .Euro may not be accepted at all places although Czech republic is a memeber of the European Union. Like at every tourist place , one needs to be careful at crowded night life area known as Wenceslas Square where some incidents of pickpocketing have been regularly reported . This area is full of strip clubs where some women go after the tourists groups and ask for a hug . Many innocent tourists have been pickpocketed during these hugs . Prague is otherwise safe and crime free.
The Czech people read a lot. They appreciate art and music. Even a cab driver or an apartment security guard can be seen reading a book if he has nothing to do. Talk to them and you find that they know who is who in music , performing arts and literatue.That makes a great society .
On the corner of Resslova Street and Rasinovo nabrezi, about a hundred metres downriver from the National Theatre, stands the best known - and the most controversial - modern building in Prague, the Tancici Dum, or Dancing Building. Featuring two curved towers "waltzing", it is also occasionally referred to as the Fred and Ginger Building. The location is a walking distance from the underground station Karlovo namesti.
The Dancing Building is the work of two men: Prague-based architect Vlado Milunic, who had the original idea for the building, and the celebrated American architect Frank Gehry, perhaps best-known for the stunning Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Milunic first conceived of the project back in the mid-1980s, in the company of his neighbour, the then-dissident Vaclav Havel. Both men lived beside where the Dancing Building now stands. Milunic writes this :-
"First we asked Jean Nouvel, but he refused, because he said we only had 500 square metres and that's not enough for two architects. We contacted Frank Gehry, and when Frank saw my beginning, my sketches, he promised to collaborate with me on this project. From that time, the first meeting was in '92 in Geneva, to the finish of the building in '96 we made a nice building with Dutch money."
At the site of the Dancing House, an old building existed that was bombed in second world war . The debris was finally removed in 1960. The neighboring house (with a small globe on the roof) was co-owned by Czech ex-president Vaclav Havel, who lived there from his childhood until the mid-1990s. He ordered the first architectural study from Vlado Milunic (who has been involved in re-building Havel's appartment in the neighboring house). Afterwards the Dutch bank ING agreed to build a house there, and asked Milunic to invite a world-renowned architect. Milunic first asked Jean Nouvel, who rejected the invitation because of the small size of the site (491 square meters); he then asked Frank Gehry, who and he accepted the challenge. Gehry had an almost unlimited budget, because ING wanted to create an icon in Prague. The construction started in 1994 and the house was finished in 1996.
The building is an example of deconstructivist architecture, with an unusual shape. It reflects a woman and man (Ginger Rogers and Fred Astair) dancing together. Construction is from 99 concrete panels each of different shape and dimension, each therefore requiring a unique wooden form. The external fixed frames look like windows . The external view gives a 3D effect to the viewer.
Its unusual shape and technical solutions caused a big public debate. After ten years emotions are over, and the house has its place in modern Prague. In 2005 the Czech National Bank issued a gold coin with the motif of the Dancing House, as the final coin of the series "10 Centuries of Architecture."
The Dancing House is used by offices , shopkeepers , hotels and restaurants . La Perle de Prague, a well known restaurant is located on 7th floor gives a grand view with of Prague and river Vitava with some landmark buildigs . To have this view , you need to enter the restaurant and buy something .There is an art gallery also in the Dancing House . The restaurant on the rooftop is also an ideal spot to sit and relax. Everyday , this place is thronged by tourists from all over the world who go up the Dancing House to have a majestic view of river Vltava and the historic city of Prague .
If ever you decide visit Prague then learn these words to recieve hospitality and smiles from people :-
Vyborne ........Great
Velmi dobre..... Very Good
Diky za skvely pokec... It was really nice talking to you.
Dekuju...Thank you
Diky ...Thanks
Moc dekuju.. Thank you very much .
Prosim.. You are welcome (after the other person says ‚Thank you‘ )
Vazim si toho.. I appreciate it.
Moc to pro me znamena ... This means a lot to me.
Ja taky dekuju .. Thank you too..
A common phrase spoken by Czech people is ‘Trpelivost ruze prinasi‘ meaning ‘patience will bring roses‘. So , Wait for my next post ; So long so much .
( Avtar Mota )

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