Monday, September 21, 2020

TANTRIC GEOMETRY IN THE ART OF GHULAM RASOOL SANTOSH

                                             

 











                                            








THE   ART    OF  G. R. SANTOSH  (1929-1997 )

It was N. S. Bendre, the doyen of modern art in India  who  took G. R. Santosh under his tutelage when he arrived at Baroda  in 1954 on a  scholarship granted by J&K Government   .It was Bendre’s teaching that exposed young Santosh to many   forms and genres  of modern art including cubism , surrealism and abstractions . At Baroda , Santosh also learnt the technique of colour application so as to create luminosity on canvas .Starting his journey with a deep fascination for Cezanne and the Cubist treatment of his canvases ,  Santosh did some wonderful landscapes, portraits,  ink sketches , pencil sketches ,pure abstracts and figurative abstracts . He also drew many impressive  portraits  especially of Poet  Dina Nath Nadim  , artist Triloke Kaul ,  Sharon Lowen ( Odissi dancer from the US)  and Yashorajya Lakshmi (wife of Dr Karan Singh) . He also drew some self-portraits  in the moulds of  Pablo Picasso and  Salvador Dali . However deep inside his heart , a  yearning had already taken birth to arrive at something that was rooted to his land. Some fringe  elements  of this yearning can be seen in some sketches or paintings of his early period.

Suddenly , something strange happened in his life. A visit to the holy Amaranth cave of Lord Shiva in 1964 was a great turning point in his art . Santosh describes this spiritual experience as under:-
“I was overwhelmed by a joy that I cannot describe in words. I wished I had wings so that I could soar like a bird all around and absorb all this purity in me, to wash away all the stains of my inner self. I felt that the Supreme Lord, in the form of Shiva, was divulging his ever benevolent presence there. The next night was spent surrounded by the mystique of the full moon over Panchtarni, the meadow of five shimmering rivulets. And finally the cave revealing the majestic crystal white ice Shivaling. That was spectacular. The florescent light emitting from it was heavenly...... After I returned from the Amarnath Yatra, a distinct change came in me.”

( Source : ‘ A  Monograph on Writer , Poet and  Painter , Ghulam Rasool Santosh’   by Padamshri  Pran Kishore Kaul  published by   Sahitya Akademi , New Delhi )

After his visit to Amarnath Shrine, Santosh  did  some serious work on Swayambhoo Sri-Yantra that he found on ancient Shila inside Chakreshwari Shrine at  Hari Parbat, Srinagar  . He learnt Sharda script and  kept visiting  Shaivacharya Swami  Lakshman Joo  and Prof. T. N Ganju for study of some ancient scriptures , Shaiv Darshana and  Rishi Vasugupta’s Shiv-Sutras  .   In his monograph on the artist , Padamshri   Pran Kishore Kaul  writes that during this period , Santosh  practiced meditation, took   Deeksha from his  spiritual Guru  and  got engrossed in creating a world in which one sees, through line and colour, the countless manifestations of Supreme Spirit embodied in the union of Shiva and Shakti  .This was the period when  Santosh moved permanently to geometric forms of the ancient Indic civilization and became synonymous with the school that came to be known as "Neo-Tantra" . And  from 1964, we find 'Sacred Geometry ' appearing in his work.

WHAT IS  NEO -TANTRA  ?

The terror unleashed by the Chinese communist authorities upon Tibetans in 1959 , which drove the Dalai Lama and other religious leaders into exile in India and the west, provided the world a first-time access to the mysterious traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, paintings  and sculptures. The sacred  paintings and metal sculpture that the fleeing Tibetan refugees brought with them had esoteric symbols and  elements of Tantra . Later, the Tantric teachings of Tibetan Buddhists in exile found a receptive  audience among the  avant-garde artists from the western world , many of whom already had long-standing interests in Hinduism, Zen Buddhism and other Asian spiritual and philosophical traditions and beliefs . The western world identified this new tradition with Sexual liberation , mysticism and countercultural movement. The western world  tried to use Tantric art   to fill  the  spiritual and cultural vacuum created by  the world wars , machines and the  runaway technology . The post-war American painters Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns have referred to their indebtedness to the universal and timeless aesthetic of Tantric Art.

In her article on Neo-Tantrism, cultural journalist, Rebecca M. Brown wrote that "the ‘Neo-Tantric’ art movement looked to Buddhist and Hindu Tantrism for its esoteric, abstract symbols and re-made this Tantric language into a contemporary Indian modernism. Neo-Tantrism appealed not only to Indian contemporaries but also to western audiences, as it represented an ‘authentic’ art form that escaped purely formalistic aspects of 1960s western art."
 
G . R. SANTOSH AND  NEO –TANTRA

In India , it was Dr. L. P. Sihare , the then   Director General of National Gallery of Modern Art  who coined the word ‘Neo –Tanra’ to describe  the work of some artists who were inspired by the sacred geometry of Tantra and used it on canvas .  And K.C.S. Paniker ( 1911-1977 ) was probably the first artist to use  these symbols , forms and elements in his work “ Words and Symbols “ that he exhibited . S. H. Raza (1922-2016 )  , the doyen of modern art was also fascinated by Tantric symbols and forms and so were G. R . Santosh  (1929-1997 ) ,Biren De ( 1926-2011) , Sohan Qadri ( 1932-2011 ), Mahirwan Mamtani ( born 1935 )  and many more.  Raza , Santosh and Sohan Qadri moved to this elite group in the sixties of the last century .  These artists represented  a movement  that began in the  1960s in which a new turn towards finding a universal visual language arose in the  modernist Indian art through an engagement with the geometric abstraction of Tantric Yantras and Mandalas .

What sets G. R. Santosh apart from others  in the Neo-Tantra tribe is  the overwhelming influence of Kashmir’s rich Shaiv Darshana or Shaivism on his work. This  influence makes him unique and  the foremost artist of this genre. Quite often he comes up with an abstracted  human figure that is central to many of his paintings done in Neo-Tantra style. This figure may appear like Yogi in deep meditation . It may look like an abstracted Ardhnarishwara representing  union of male and female energies or what is generally known as  Purusha and Prakariti or  Shiva and Shakti. There are intricate  geometrical formations surrounding this torso in Samadhi or Padamasana . The  divine colours that illuminate his canvases , leave a soothing visual impact. His paintings done in Neo-Tantra genre    are  deeply rooted to the indigenous identity while simultaneously  appearing  like modern abstractions .

Inspired by some  deep personal and spiritual vision, Santosh’s art appears to represent evocative responses to an inner transformation . His Neo –Tanric art is also an attempt to illuminate the link between an individual and the Brahmanda  ( Universe ).Looking at the  meditative art of G R Santosh , a serious  viewer is  inspired to  introspect upon his  own place in this Brahmanda or cosmos. He becomes doubly sure  that he is  a part of it and can’t act, think and live in isolation. He may accept the  idea of everything being premeditated or  a quest may drive him to look for something that may have  been left out  .

About the Neo  -Tantric art of  G. R.  Santosh,  Shantiveer Kaul writes this :-

“ Viewed from a certain perspective most of Santosh’s Neo-Tantric paintings look like stylised portraits of the female form, seated in Padmasana ( the lotus position ). This is no mere coincidence. There is a definite suggestion of the female torso in the placement of geometric elements within the composition. This stylisation is symptomatic of the devotion of Santosh for Shakti, the Divine Mother. Santosh wrote Shakti Vichara in 1980, a long poem in the hallowed tradition of the epic Bhavani Sahasranama , dwelling exclusively on Shakti in her various manifestations.”
( Source : ‘The art of G. R. Santosh ‘ A book by Shantiveer Kaul )

THE SACRED GEOMETRY  IN THE ART OF  G. R. SANTOSH

Created  in luminous colours that are radiant and unique,the paintings of G. R. Santosh  have  Bindus ,triangles , circles /Mandalas , squares, semicircles , oval shapes , hexagons , Yantras ,Lotus flowers and other geometrical formations surrounding a torso in Samadhi or Padamasana with waves of clouds  . What do the geometrical formations  in his art  represent ? Let us examine some features of his Tantric geometry .

A Bindu   is the centre of the  Brahmanda or the  cosmos .In Tantra , it is symbolic with both Shiva and Shakti . A Bindu is the  source of creation . According to Tantra, all creation is preceded by Bindu, the focal tension which becomes the centre of everything.

A circle represents  the Brahmanda or the  cosmos . This circle can be referred to as both Prakriti, or nature, and the  Brahmanda, the circular world of the Brahman ( ultimate reality ). The circle also refers to the horizon or the world  we live in. A circle is symbol of deeper connection of the self with  the universe .

A triangle  with apex upward is Purusha or male or Shiva .  A triangle with apex down facing earth is Prakriti or female or Shakti. A Kali Yantra, for example, shows only downward pointing triangles, because in Kali worship, nature is the ultimate reality before which man has to surrender. Shiva Yantra shows only an upward pointing triangle. In a Sri-Yantra, there are four upward triangles but five downward triangles. Five represent Shakti or female strength and point down while four point up and signify Shiva or male strength.

A square represents the space charged with spiritual energy. The  outside of a Yantra  often includes a square representing the four cardinal directions with doors to each of them or four gates, one in each of the cardinal directions. They are known as cosmic doors because it is through these gates  that the aspirant symbolically enters the Yantra. The square can represent basics, structure and balance. It can represent the four main directions of north, east, south, and west. The intersecting squares create Ashta-Kona or eight corners, the eight-petal lotus. The eight-petal square around one circle and within another circle is one more common feature of all Yantras . Sometimes the  Brahmanda( cosmos, is also represented by  drawing a  square in a  circle.

A rectangle  is very important in  the  ancient Shilpashastra (iconography). A worship place has an Antarala or vestibule that is always rectangular . This is the foundation of the temple architecture or the space leading to the inner sanctum sanctorum. It is the first spot of Dhyan Yoga or first place for a serious worshipper to arrive at .

An oval shape  ( Sanskrit Andam or egg or symbol of fertility and creation ) symbolises fertility, creation and genesis of life. According to the Chandogya Upanishad (3:19),  in the beginning there was nothing when the primal egg (Andam) manifested. The Vedas declare that creation began with the appearance of a golden cosmic egg (Hiranyagarbha) in the ocean of life (Prana). Symbolically, the egg constitutes the womb of the universe from which everything originates.

A Hexagon is created when  two triangles penetrate each other . It symbolises the fusion of polarities, the union of Shiva and Shakti or male and female. This union is the cause of the manifested universe. As the hexagon is found throughout nature, organized religions insist it is a symbol of harmony and balance.

The lotus flower is also visible in many Neo-Tantric paintings of G. R. Santosh. Though lotus is  associated with  Brahma,Vishnu and Lakshmi, in Tantra  ,lotus is a symbol of the expanding consciousness. This expansion  ultimately dispels  the dark   clouds of ignorance and brings light and radiance.  The lotus flower represents the highest level of consciousness  in search for enlightenment and purity. Padmasana (the lotus position) is assumed by those determined to reach for the ultimate highest level of consciousness which can be found in the lotus chakra at the top of the head. It is also  the normal pedestal for divine figures in Buddhist and Hindu art.

The Cloud  patterns   or wave patterns in the Neo-Tantric art of G. R. Santosh may represent Param-Gyana ( supreme knowledge ) . These cloud patterns are also seen in the Buddhist Thangka Art . It is found throughout Buddhist imagery or  from Thangka  to wall paintings /murals in monasteries’ .The Param- Gyana clouds are intensly visible  in the upper part (mind)  of Santosh’s paintings when an abstract image is shown in Padmasana . In some paintings of Santosh, these clouds also move like waves near the  Chakras of  an abstracted human figure  in  deep meditation.

Apart from geometry, Santosh also uses luminous and radiant colours to represent his Tantric imagery on the canvas. The colours  used by Santosh are like Mantras that have their interpretations . Red or the colour of Shakti , is also the  colour of sacred Agni (fire) . In  Tantra,  it is  oriented towards the ecstatic experience of the divine union of the male and female principle. Similarly green symbolises life and happiness .The white colour symbolises peace, truth  and purity while blue colour represents vastness and depth like the blue sky and the blue ocean.  In the Tantric art, white  colour is also  used to describe a spiritual path  which incorporates meditation, breath work, sounds, and postures. The colours perceived by the human eye result from a very narrow range of light waves. The entire scale of light's radiant energy is not visible as colour. In tantric thought, a wider concept of colour also exists in which every vibrating sound has a certain colour.

Apart from a painting , Santosh wrote  short stories, operas ,dramas and  poems. If his paintings represent spiritual verses on canvas , his poems also represent canvases in spirituality . Invoking Shakti, the supreme power  that keeps everything in constant motion, evolving and destroying, Santosh muses:-

“Light manifest, truth revealed O Shakti,
You are the axis of time and space,
You are the infinite revealed in me,
You are the field of love and action,
Consuming universe back unto you.
Every flowing stream of nectar,
You are dispelling darkness in me.
Every spreading primeval sound,
You are my mother;
you are Bhawani, O Shakti.”

( Translation from Kashmiri by Padamshri  Pran Kishore Kaul )


                                        

( G R Santosh with Germany based artist Mahirwan Mamtani )
                                        

( G R Santosh)

 Apart from many honours  that came his way,  Government of India awarded him a  Padamshri in 1977.In 1979, he won the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award for his Kashmiri poetic collection ‘  Besukh Rooh ‘. There is hardly any art gallery in the country that does not own his work. His work is also on display in many  art galleries across the world . It is also auctioned by reputed art auctioneers the world over.

On his death ,Shanti Dave, his friend and well known painter said  , “I have lost a brother. He kept on painting till his last. It was because of his courage that he alone took Tantric art to its pinnacle.”



( Avtar Mota )



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Friday, September 18, 2020

SHESHNAAG STREAM, PAHALGHAM, KASHMIR'


                                          





                                        
SHESHNAAG  STREAM

Sheshnaag stream flowing through Betaab Valley Pahalgaam ,Kashmir ..

Sheshnaag stream  joins Lidder and Lidder stream  joins Jhelum or Vitasta near Khannabal . Jhelum or Vitasta joins Chenab or Chanderbhaga and finally  after merging with mighty Indus it joins the vast sea. That is the journey  from Himalayas to the ocean.

To this photo i add two couplets from a Gazal of Majrooh Sultanpuri...

Paara e dil hai wattan ki sarzameen mushkil yeh hai ,
Shahar ko veeran kahein ya dil ko veeraana kahein..

Aey rukh e zeba bataa dhe aur abhi hum kabh talak ,
Teergi ko shama  tanhaayi ko parwaana kahein ....

( Avtar Mota )

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Friday, September 11, 2020

FIVE KASHMIR PAINTINGS OF S . H. RAZA


                                                                         

                                                  ( Srinagar city by S. H. Raza )




                             ( Bohri Kadal Srinagar by S. H, Raza )
 
FIVE KASHMIR PAINTINGS OF RENOWNED ARTIST S. H RAZA .
 
This is what Noted Artist Triloke Kaul and founder of Progressive Artists association in the state told me about S H Raza:-
 
"S. H. Raza lived free in the house owned by the Kaw family of Badiyar Bala in Srinagar city. S. N. Butt, the fellow artist had arranged this house for him. This kaw family later produced a brilliant artist. For many months, Raza roamed free in Kashmir. He became popular. He was seen in every gathering and at every place. People had little Knowledge about art or the lifestyle of an artist. So some suspected him to be a CID man. Raza loved the Maar or the water canal of the downtown Srinagar. He was a specialist in painting this canal and the bridges over it. He felt sad the day he learned that the government had filled up all the waterways. I was very depressed for a long time. I too was emotionally attached to the Maar canal. Together, we would paint these waterways. 
 
I believe it was 1949 when S. H. Raza held his first art exhibition in Srinagar. It was held at the Mujahid Manzil or the headquarters of the National Conference. For about seven days, crowds thronged to see how Raza had painted Kashmir. He had painted the Maar canal, bridges, houses, alleys, Bazaars, Idlers sitting on shops, Tongas, shrines, and so many things. "
 
( Avtar Mota )

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GULMARG DURING MAHARAJA 'S RULE


                                                                                     




GULMARG DURING  MAHARAJA 'S   RULE...
 
 
In 1928, Maharaja Hari Singh established the 'Tourist Department' in the state of J&K by abolishing the old establishment known as the Visitor's Bureau. The newly created department focused on the development of Gulmarg as a prime destination. Gulmarg had attracted the attention of the British population of North India during the rule of Maharaja Partap Singh. A polo ground was created in Gulmarg. A ski club was started in Gulmarg. A golf field was also developed. Huts with 2,3and 4 bedrooms were also built. Since Britishers would flock to Gulmarg with their families, Nedou's hotel created a dancing hall and a recreational club. In 1939, one could obtain a hut at an annual lease for five hundred rupees.
                                    

        ( Mahatta photo shop Gulmarg)
 
The Maharaja also brought piped water to Gulmarg from nearby springs. The Maharaja wanted to bring water from Ningli stream which happens to be about 10 Km away from Gulmarg but it was not feasible. Originating from Apharawat glacier (13990 feet altitude) and Alpather lake, it moves down to join Jhelum near Sopore.
 
Almost all the shops in Gulmarg belonged to Kashmiris. Pandits sold medicines, toiletries and wine while Muslim shopkeepers sold jewellery, leather goods, provisions, shoes, handicrafts, etc. Some Bandookhaars (gunsmith ) from Rainawari had their shops in Gulmarg. To this day there is a locality in Rainawari called Bandookhaar Mohalla.
 
A pair of good quality leather shoe was available for 3 rupees. Many Britishers would order shoes in Gulmarg. You had to give measurement and then a try to get your new shoe made in about 4 days. The shoes were made from leather imported from outside the state
 
A photoshop was also opened by W Lambert ( A Britisher who had his main business in present-day Lambert lane in Srinagar) at Gulmarg.W. Lambert also opened a Chemist shop at Gulmarg.
 
The Rani Temple in Gulmarg was built by Maharaja Hari Singh’s wife Rani Mohini Bai. She was from Dharmpur’s Sisodia clan of Rajputs. Maharaja Hari Singh had married three times before he finally married Tara Devi from Katoch Rajput family of Kangra who bore him a son. All the three wives died issueless ( Rani from Sisodia clan of Dharmpur died during pregnancy in 1915 AD ). A Kashmiri Pandit Jia Lal from Sathu Barbarshah, Srinagar used to be the caretaker of this temple. His Lal was well known to my maternal grandfather. 
 
The St.Mary's church in Gulmarg was built in 1902..
( Avtar Mota)


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GALA APPLE COMES TO KASHMIR

      






" GALA"  IS  A  BLUSHING RED  APPLE  .

I go to my fruit seller to buy apples and Kiwi. I buy the golden variety Kiwi for rupees  forty per piece. And he says:

" Today ,I am going to give you new variety of  apple .They call it GALA. We have tasted it in our family. Very sweet and juicy. It is a European or American  variety now grown in Kashmir.I am buying it for the first time .Try it Sir.I have tried it in  my family."

"Give this Delicious variety  . It is already tested and tried since decades."

" Sir , I give you Ambri, I give you golden, I give you American, I give you Maharaja,I give you Razaakvaari, Chamura  and the autumn Treil. Did you ever feel that I gave you something wrong?  Try this new apple  also. You will come again for GALA." 

" Okay, give me just one kg. Let me see this GALA."

And GALA from Kashmir tasted  sweet . It was Juicy and very close to the  Ambri apple of  Kashmir. Jammu fruit shops are filled with GALA  apples presently. Sold at rupees one  hundred per kg, it looks like an imported variety that is very recent to the  apple growers of Kashmir . I had seen this variety in  many stores in the US but never tasted it. In the US, I would prefer  the red Delicious  variety that was always  sweet  and juicy. 

Gala is  crisp and very sweet. You'll go gaga for Gala !


(Avtar Mota)

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Wednesday, September 9, 2020

FLOWERS IN THE SNOW AND POET DINA NATH NADIM

                                           

FLOWERS IN SNOW...

Some flowers are eager to show themselves . They may sprout untimely. They may sprout too early and not wait for the spring season. Fired by a desire to show off, they may sprout even under  snow . Be kind to them O lord. Make them  see the  spring ,the proper season.

And during  morning,  when the dew spread itself like  mercury or pearls on flowers and leaves , it forgot the lonely , uncared ,restless and the  tainted plant  in the garden . This bounty from nature should have come to the lonely plant as well.

Poet Dina Nath Nadim wrote:

" Ya yaavun myon non draav feanji fatanaai Sheena tal baaman,
Tse nai paneini nazar karhas bahaaras taam vaatun gotschh..
Subhan yeli  shabnam seemaab chhakkarov Yaad pyav kas taam
Ya ma tas daagh-daaras beqaraaras taam vaatun  gotchh."
( Dina Nath Nadim)

This is how Prof Arvind Gigoo translates the above lines:--

(My youth showed itself early,
a bud sprouting out of snow.
May it reach the spring
forgetting your looks !

In the morning, when the dew fell 
here and there like mercury ,
someone wished
 it reach the restless and the tainted.)

(Avtar Mota)

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Tuesday, September 1, 2020

A RAINY DAY IN MANHATTAN , NEW YORK








                                                                        


                              

A RAINY DAY iN MANHATTAN, NEW YORK...
 
" Kab mili thii kahaan bichhadi thi
hamein yaad nahin ,
Zindagi, tujh ko to bas khwaab
mein dekhaa ham ne ....
Tujhko rusva na kiya khud bhii pashemaan na huve
Ishq kii rasm ko is tarah
nibhaayaa ham ne."
(Shaharyaar)
 
In English, I would say this:-
 
 
(When did we meet?
Where did we depart?
O life, I don't remember.
To you, O life,
I only met in dreams.
Never were you put to any disgrace.
Never did I bring shame to myself
That is how I fulfilled
this ritual of love ...)
 
(Avtar Mota)



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THREE VIEWS OF SONAMARG , KASHMIR

                                                                              


                                                                          



SONAMARG, KASHMIR'...
Did poet Majrooh Sultanpuri write it for Sonamarg?
"Tu aey bahaar e gurezaan kisi chaman mein rahe ..
Meray junoon ki mahak teray pairahan mein rahe ..
Mujhe nahin kisi asloob -e-shairi ki talaash
Teri nigaah ka jaadu meray suḳhan mein rahe... "
(Avtar Mota)

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THREE VIEWS OF YOUSMARG, KASHMIR







                                                                   




THREE VIEWS OF YOUSMARG.(KASHMIR)
 
Surrounded by pine and fir forests, Yousmarg is a beautiful hill station in Badgam district of Kashmir. Located at an altitude of about 7850 feet above sea level, it is about 50 km away from Srinagar city. It falls in the Pir Panjal mountain range. Other important places close to Yousmarg are Doodh Ganga stream, Nilnag lake, Sang-e-Safed, Tosa Maidan and Tsraar e Sharief.Ziyarat.
 
I add some verses of Faiz to these three photographs..
"Saba se karte hain gurbat naseeb zikr e wattan,
to chashm e subah mein aansoo ubharne lagte hain.
Vo jab bhi karte hain nukt o lab ki bakhiyagari,
Faza mein aur bhi nagme bikharne lagte hain...."
 
(Faiz Ahmed Faiz)
 
 
( Whenever the exiles talk to the breeze of their homeland,
tears well up in the morning's eyes.
‌Whenever our lips are sewn up,
still, more the air resounds with songs...)
 
 
(Avtar Mota)
                                                                  
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RAJAN KHOSA , A BRILLIANT FILM MAKER FROM KASHMIR





                                                                       
                                                                          
(Rajan Khosa arrives at the 10th Annual Indian Film Festival Of Los Angeles,, California. April10, 2012.)
                                                                          




                                                                           
((LAL BAHADUR SHASTRI JI INAUGURATING PAINTING EXHIBITION OF SOM NATH KHOSA IN NEW DELHI.1958.....LEFT TO RIGHT .. INDIRA JI, SHASTRI JI , PREM NATH DAR AND S N KHOSA ...... )
 (Gandhi Ji visiting political prisoners lodged in Dum Dum Jail in 1947... A painting by Som Nath Khosa grandfather of Rajan Khosa)
 (Mahatma Shambhunath caves Hampi . Statue of Mahatama Shambhunath   great -grandfather of Rajan Khosa)
                  (Sir David Lean shooting near Fateh Kadal, Srinagar  ,Kashmir)

                  (Transcendence 50x65 in. by Kashmiri Khosa father of Rajan Khosa .)
                                                                         
                                              (Anjali Khosa Kaul's  abstract painting )



WELL DONE RAJAN KHOSA

“Hum Parvarish e lauh o qalam karte rahenge
Jo dil pe guzarti hai raqam karte rahenge
Ek tarz e taghaful hai so voh un ko mubarak
Ek arz e tamanna hai so hum karte rahenge ”

( Faiz Ahmed Faiz )

( Forever will I nurture pen and paper,
forever express whatever my heart undergoes.
This posture of indifference, let it be their prerogative –
For me, it will always be my desire’s entreaty .)

Some days back, I read in a newspaper that ‘Gattu’,  a 2012 feature film directed and co-written by Rajan Khosa has been declared one among top ten
internationally recognized Indian films along with ‘Aawara’, 1955 and ‘Lagaan’, 2001.  Gattu was premiered at Berlin Film Festival (2012 ), winning a  Special Mention - Best Film, and between the years 2012-13,  this film alone
had received fourteen plus international awards with  many honours following these awards.

Rajan Khosa’s another film ,  Dance of the Wind (1997 )  which was a co-production between six countries, the very first of its kind in India was distributed worldwide winning accolades and awards. The film was  premiered at Venice Film Festival and won major awards (Best Director, Best Actor, Audience Award etc.) at the various festivals including Rotterdam, Chicago, London and Nantes . The film is based on Guru-Shishya Parampara of Indian classical music. Renowned artist B.C. Sanyal, Kapila Vatsayan (scholar of Indian classical dance, art, architecture and art history), Kitu Gidwani and some well-known names acted in this film.

In 2009-10, Rajan created India’s first feature-length multi-media biopic, combining film and holography, on Sadhu Vaswani, the well-know social worker and spiritualist who worked for  upliftment of the mankind. And in 2014-16, he developed a large scale feature film with Disney based on a Satyajit Ray’s  novella.
Rajan has  also several short films to his credit including half-hour film ‘Bodh-Vriksha’ (Wisdom Tree) that deals with the theme of nursing and caring for the  old people. It brought him a National Award and three Oberhausen Awards in 1987.
His latest directorial venture  is a biopic on tribal leader Bhagwan Birsa Munda (2020 ).

Trained at FTII, Pune and Royal College of Arts, London, Rajan  spent his formative years at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. He practiced filmmaking in the UK for fifteen years (1990 to 2005) and finally moved back to India. Presently , he  lives in Mumbai with his wife and son.

But then who is Rajan Khosa? Let us know him.

 ORIGIN AND ANCESTRY OF RAJAN KHOSA

Khosa is the surname of a sect of Saraswat  Brahmins from Kashmir who trace their roots to Rig-Vedic sage Gautama (Gautam Maharishi). The Gotra of  this sect is  ‘ Swamin  Gautama ’. In Srinagar city, Khosas were living in Rainawari, Habba Kadal, Syed Ali Akbar locality and some more areas of the downtown. 
Ancestors of Rajan Khosa were from Syed Ali Akbar locality, an area close to Fateh Kadal, Srinagar . This locality is close to Sri Raghunath Ji Temple, Kali Temple, Sri Ram Trikha Ashram  , Ziyarat of Shahi Hamdan, all situated on the banks of the river Jhelum. This is the locality where the *European missionaries established the first school  for imparting modern education to Kashmiris. A vibrant locality that used to breathe centuries-old composite culture and peaceful co-existence. In 1983, David Lean selected this area for shooting sequences for his film ‘A Passage to India’.
Rajan’s  great grandfather, Pandit Shambhu Nath Khosa was a well-known saint and a spiritual personality who moved to Hampi caves in Karnataka around 1920s, and did penance renouncing Grihistha ( householder’s life ) until he passed away in 1939. He became famous in that area for healing people with the ashes from his ‘Hawan-Kunda’ or sacred fire . His devotees of local Vaish community donated two hills for his ‘Sadhana’ and discourses. Mahatma Shambhunatha Guhe is a place of pilgrimage today, and people climb the hill to pay respect to his life size black granite sculpture.

Shambhu Nath’s son  Som Nath Khosa, who was left in the care of his mother
in Srinagar, studied Art at Sir Amar Singh Technical Institute, Srinagar  where his teachers included F. H. Andrews and J. C. Mukerjee. Inspired by Mahatama Gandhi’s freedom movement, Som Nath Khosa  started doing realistic paintings depicting Gandhi  Ji on his mission. As a young man, in 1937, he took his would be bride to Hampi caves and got married in the presence of his father. After the partition of the country , he moved to Delhi in 1950 with a desire to paint monumental scenes form Gandhi’s life and exhibit them to masses. As his work became popular , his studio in Delhi was frequented by several dignitaries.  Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Shastri and  Babu Jagjivan Ram supported his mission, and his exhibitions travelled extensively until the end of his life in 1983. Som Nath Khosa’s  paintings are still on display in several Gandhian institutions in India and abroad.

Rajan Khosa’s  father, Kashmiri Khosa is a well-known artist based in Delhi
. Inspired by the family tradition,  he reflects Indian philosophy in his language of modern  art, which won him a ‘National Award’ in 1981 and President of India’s silver plaque in 1974. His paintings are on display in many national and international art galleries, and also in the significant collections of the National Gallery of Modern Art, Lalit Kala Akademi and Sahitya Kala Parishad. A documentary on his life and art was released by Doordarshan in 2003-2004.

Rajan’s sister,  Anjali Khosa Kaul is a sculptor and a painter whose works can be found in the National Gallery of Modern Art , New Delhi and with many private collectors world over. She is a recipient of AIFACS Award and Ministry of Culture fellowship. Ashok Kaul , husband of Anjali Khosa Kaul practices industrial photography and art photography.

Rajan Khosa knows and understands Kashmiri in spite of the fact that he was
born and brought up outside Kashmir. A search for roots brought him to Kashmir where he lived for two years ( between 1988-1990 )  with **Swami Lakshman Joo (renowned Shaiva Scholar) studying Kashmir’s treasured Shaiva-Darshana . During this time , he built strong association with Shaiva scholar ***Dr. Bettina Baumer . At this period of his stay in Kashmir ,   he saw armed militancy arriving in the beautiful valley.  Tragically ,  he also  witnessed his relatives being  forced to flee along with half a million Kashmiri Pandits who were exiled from their homeland .

About his family influence , Rajan Khosa informs this :-

‘Visual language gets embedded in you when you grow up with painters. My father would  show me a painting and then ask me, ‘Why isn’t the composition working?’  ‘What is negative space?’ ‘What is balance?’ ‘What do these colours do?’ As there was this dialogue going on all the time I was taught these things early in life. Painting was therefore always in my blood. It was the first thing I did as a kid. I went to a my father’s studio when I was sixteen or seventeen, learned still life, and was very good at it. It helped me later on when unconsciously I would translate these things into films, drawing frames, for example.’

About resurgent India , Rajan Khosa informs this  :-

‘India is changing as well, and is becoming more Western, but I would also say that mystical values persist. The final goal of life is to surrender to that presence and to constantly reaffirm its value in a material world. It is such an intangible thing and of course intangibility does not have much place in western culture. Only what is verifiable, quantifiable or tangible has a place and is given a value.’

About feeling the Cultural gap while living in the  western society  , Rajan  Khosa informs this :-

“ You can’t really penetrate a culture. You get a very different view of it when you are an outsider. You can admire it, you can love it, you may embrace it, but you will never get to know its nuances. The rituals of any one culture are tied to emotions and feelings. When I was given my Brahmanical thread there was a ceremony for it. I went around and touched the feet of the 200-odd people who were there. You wear this thread and an orange garment. The colour orange signifies the burning of the ego, the sunset … the Upanishadic poems are all about walking into the sunset. It is symbolic of 20,000 different things, which your mother or grandparents had told you about in your folklore. You can never really leave your culture and you can never communicate it.”
                                         

  
ABOUT GATTU
 Gattu is a film about a street kid’s ambition to become a kite-flying champion.Made on a tight budget, the movie was shot in and around the streets of Roorkee in the Himalayan foothills. The aerial scenes were taken from a Para glider . The lead character, Gattu, is played by newcomer Mohammad Samad, who was given the role after attending a local workshop held by the production.  In India, Gattu is now free to watch on YouTube channel. 
This is what Gautaman Bhaskaran wrote about Gattu  in the ‘Hindustan Times’ of February 12, 2012:-

“The movie is a fascinating portrayal of India's have-nots and the dreams of children living in want. However, unlike Danny Boyle in his Slumdog Millionaire, Khosa is subtle in his presentation, and chooses to train his camera on smile and optimism. There is no garbage and dirt in Gattu, and the school song that celebrates India is not conveyed as a pun or ridicule. In the end, Samad's Gattu, despite his uncle's unfairness that keeps the boy in the crevices of illiteracy, radiates a kind of joy that one often sees in some of India's gloomiest slums. Using humour, Khosa builds a script which is beautifully balanced, and without the usual clichéd pitfalls.”

This is what Preeti Arora wrote in ‘India Forums ’ on July 20, 2012:-
Khosa's skill as a director is evident in the manner the screenplay unfolds, without preachiness or stilted dialogues, just a few small town folk scraping an existence without giving much thought to the helpless kids who are an integral but irrelevant part of the landscape. The stray dogs, the garbage, the buzzing flies are the reality of Gattu's life, not props engineered by a scheming director who wishes to endear himself to a western audience. The film runs for 82 minutes and the pace doesn't flag even for a single minute. The other children in the film have small insubstantial roles; Gattu carries the film on his slender shoulders alone. Gattu is a must watch for all but most especially cynics who believe 'there is no hope for any of us'. It took Gattu just a little less than two hours to prove" 

 And some of the awards won by Gattu could be listed as under:-

* Special Mention - Best Film; Grand Prix of the Deutsches kinderhifswerk
Berlin International Film Festival 2012.

* Nomination for Best Children’s Film (APSA - Asia Pacific Screen Awards)
2012.

* Colors Screen Award for Best Child Artist (India) 2012.

* Audience Choice Award for Best Feature (International Film Festival of Los
Angeles) 2012.

* Honourable Mention of the Jury (International Film Festival of Los Angeles) 2012.

* Citation of Excellence Award (Tel Aviv International Children’s Film Festival - Israel) 2012.

* Bronze Castle Award (Castellinaria Film Festival - Switzerland) 2012.


* Pemio ASPI Award (Castellinaria Film Festival - Switzerland) 2012.

* Audience Award (Seoul International youth Film Festval - South Korea) 2012.

* Diploma of Honour (42nd Roshd Int.Film Festival, Tehran-Iran) 2013.

* Best Performance by a Child Actor (China International Children’s Film Festival) 2013.

* Best Feature Film (New York Indian Film Festival) 2012.

* Best Young Actor (New York Indian Film Festival) 2012.

Driven by the  market and business considerations, a general fall in the quality, themes and standard of our cinema may be true to some extent. The loud music and foot-tapping dance sequences may have also brought some repetitive boredom to serious viewers. But then men like Rajan Khosa are a
real hope. Driven by a passion, these filmmakers have changed the form, content and brought much needed human reality and simplicity in our cinema.

"Nahin hai na-umeed 'Iqbal' apni kisht-e-veeran se,
Zara nam ho to ye mitti bahut zarkhaiz nai Saqi"
( Iqbal )

(Iqbal does l not despair  the present  barrenness of  his  land ,
A little rain and this land  shall bear  grand harvest once again .)




(Avtar Mota)

3        Footnotes.

*
Founded by Rev J. H, Knowles during the  last quarter if 19th century , Fateh Kadal Mission School was the  first school opened in Kashmir valley to impart modern education  to kashmiris . Before this , Maktabs and Paath-Shalas run by Molvis and Pandits were imparting education in the  Kashmir valley. The Fateh Kadal school was followed by other ‘Mission Schools’ opened by European missionaries  at Rainawari, Nawa-Kadal, Habba-Kadal, Amira-kadal and a high school at Anantnaag in Kashmir .

**
Swami Lakshman Joo ( 1907-1991 ) was a world  renowned mystic, author  and scholar of Kashmir Shaiv Darshana. His Ashram is located  at Ishber locality on the banks of Dal lake in Srinagar , Kashmir . Swami Ji had many disciples  both within the country and abroad.

***
Dr  Bettina Sharada Baumer (born 1940 ) is a renowned  Indologist  and one of the foremost expounders of Kashmir  Shaivism . Born at Salzburg in Austria,  she was awarded the ‘Austrian Decoration for Science and Art ‘ by Government of Austria in 2012 and ‘Padma Shri ‘  by Government of India in 2015 .

        



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