Yippee! Here's our next guest blog and aren't we lucky that it's by Vaidehi Sancheti?
Vaidehi is extremely well read on Indian history & culture, is a writer of distinction and someone who thinks very differently from the ordinary. She shares her interpretation of the 'Kandarpa' theme with us; a theme that's by far the most popular among the Advaita Handicrafts Patachitra artists.
Here's what she says - I love Krishna. By me he is the best character appearing in Indian Mythology. Lord to some, friend to some, king to some and charioteer to Arjuna. The gamester, the prankster, the spiritual, the sensual, that’s Krishna. In chapter 10 verse 28 of the epic Bhagwad Geeta The Lord Shree Krishna has proclaimed himself to be cupid as well: “ प्रजनाश्चास्मी कन्दर्पः”. Meaning I am the procreator, begetting progeny, I am “Kandarpa” the cupid myself.
I am intrigued by his relationship with the feminine form. His many wives, his queens, his lovers and Raadha, all justify this proclamation. One of the most enchanting rituals in Krishna literature is the “Raas Leela”. Every full moon night Krishna and his Gopikas performed this cosmic dance, this celebration of “dvaita” (two) becoming “advaita” (not two anymore). A dance so enticing even Shiva paid a visit once and had to be dressed as a woman. The masculine form wasn’t allowed entry as the Lord himself was present for each one of his Gopikas. Unwilling to share them with anyone else.
When I first saw the Kandarp pattachitras, I was speechless, transported straight to Vrindavan, witnessing the “Raas Leela” on the moon lit night. There is something very sensuously spiritual about these paintings. In each painting the Gopikas are carrying their beloved Krishna on the back of an animal shaped vehicle constituting the bodies of the Gopikas themselves. Krishna and his Gopikas have definitely affected the Artist deeply. ‘She’ some originator of these paintings is so Krishna Conscious it’s almost like she is a Gopika herself. ‘She’ completely understands what the Gopikas feel and what they seek from Krishna.
So ‘she’ chooses a Horse. A Horse depicts Fertility or male power in most mythologies especially the Indian. Krishna atop a Horse constituted by the feminine form of the Gopikas themselves. The union of the masculine and feminine is depicted very aesthetically in the Kandarpa Horse.
The other animal form chosen is the Elephant which depicts Wisdom. The Gopikas like every mortal seek wisdom from their beloved who guides them spiritually, taking them to enlightenment. Once again a very beautiful depiction of the disciples carrying their guru on their back.
You don’t have a pompous peacock which would seem like an ornamental first choice. Or you don’t have a roaring feline. Neither do you have a serpent nor do you have a bull. The artist chose Continuity and Knowledge, the horse and the elephant over everything else. So insightful.
The journey of the first artist creating these paintings must have been so magical so meditative and so fulfilling. It’s like getting a share of the Lord’s love, like getting a sneak peek into this transcendental relationship of Krishna and the Gopikas. How privileged these artists.For the lesser mortals like me there is Advaita Handicrafts, bringing this mystical world of Krishna and the meditative experience of the artist into my living room. That’s my share of the magic. How about you?