The month-long special exhibition ‘Amruta kalasha’ brings to public viewing for the first time a rare collection of 19th and early 20th century paintings from Thanjavur, Mysore, Andhra, and Kerala. Acquired gradually with discernment over a period of five decades by architect and town planner Kuldip Singh, this extraordinary collection of 200 paintings celebrates his passion and deep engagement which started alongside his work trips to South India in 1973. The rich tradition and content of these paintings introduce an exciting bind of rituals, mythologies, iconographies, connecting the deities, devotees and the donors, within the architectural setting of temples and other sites.
Kuldip Singh further explains the nuances of the paintings from his collection, ‘Thanjavur painting encompass Hinduism’s three sacred entities in a single graphic frame viz. the sthala, the place where the deity manifests itself to the devotees, the temple precinct, i.e. the architectural complex of sacred shrines linked by parikaramas and the dhruva bhera, the immovable image, i.e. the deity enshrined in the garbha griha. The notion of sthala, place, is fundamental to the concept of Bharat, India, as a sacred geographic entity. The concept implies an imagined cultural landscape of rivers, mountains, forests, seashores and lakes where mythic persona are believed to have either manifested themselves or performed historic miracles. These locations known as Sthals are by popular usage now unified by a network of functional routes. The temple shikhara is an object of worship as it shelters the divine murti, while the murti itself embodies the attributes/potentialities of an all-pervasive, all-powerful god. Thus, inspired by the myths connected with the sthala, the temple and the deity enshrined within, the Thanjavur artist aspires to transmute their inner meanings into a composite whole.’