Skip to Content

Urvashi at Nagda

Oil on canvas
6' x 4'

“Attingal, my place of birth, was a small principality once ruled by the Rani [Queen] of Attingal. A cluster of temples and a small beautiful palace were the only remains of Attingal’s past glory. But after its annexation to Travancore, every year the Maharaja of Travancore offered puja at the main Devi temple and resided in the palace complex for a week. This was a celebration we never missed. Someone would lift me high up above the temple walls to have a glimpse of the Maharaja following the deity through the outer courtyard of the temple, to the accompaniment of soldiers dressed in strange outfits along with musicians and caparisoned elephants. Today, the memory of this ceremony appears like a colonial painting of the late 19th century…

Among the cluster of temples scattered in the palace complex, the Krishnaswamy temple with indigenous Kerala architecture has a close personal association with me….The…temple was on top of a hill. One had to climb a flight of broad stone steps which gave a panoramic view of the massive gateway similar to Japanese temple gateways. In front of the temple stood a huge flagstaff covered with copper sheets. The base of the flagstaff was beautifully sculpted with astadigapalas or eight guardians of cardinal points. The strong memory of these bronzes was rekindled many years later when I was moulding wax figures for a group of bronzes (sculptures) entitled Night for my Yayati series of works to the extent that I even used oil lamp pedestals as a part of my sculptures.

…my earliest awareness of our pictorial tradition is also connected with the temple. Whenever my mother took me around the garbagriha (inner sanctum) for the customary perambulation repeated three times before approaching the main door, I used to stare at it with immense curiosity. In the dimly lit courtyard, the walls looked like a rich tapestry of colour patches….Many years later when I went to study art at Santiniketan and saw copies of Ajanta and Bagh (murals) as well as original wall paintings of Nandalal Bose and Binode Behari Mukherjee…my childhood memories of the wall [paintings] of the Krishnaswamy temple were rekindled…” (Extract from ‘Sketchbook of Childhood’ written by the artist).