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Mohra (Ritual Plaque)
Lt. 22.5 ; Wd. 13.5 cm
Acc. no. 94.102
Mohras are ritual plaques and have a prominent role in promoting religious faith among rural devotees. The large and hefty idols from the temple are not easy to carry out. So, during major religious festivals, these plaques are taken out on small decorated rathas (chariots) with a procession of devotees venerating them.
Earlier these images were cast of an alloy of eight metals (ashtadhatu), although brass and copper were also commonly used. They are generally commissioned by the individual families to be given as votive offerings in local shrines to commemorate a death in the family.
Mohras generally depict various forms of Shiva and Devi (goddess). Here, the ritual plaque shows the amalgamated form of Shiva and his consort Parvati, called Ardhanarishvara.
Kondapalli, Andhra Pradesh, Late 19th century
Wood, carved, painted
Size: 16.0 x 13.7 x 6.0 cm
Acc. No. 58.25/20
Buraq literary means lightning; an other-worldly animal which was so called because it flew at a lightning speed. Islamic sources describe it as a tall, white, handsome-faced horse. It had wings and with one foot here, it placed another at a distance as far as the sight could go. Muslims believe that the Buraq carried Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) from Mecca to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and seven heavens; and back to Mecca during the Mi'raj or "Night Journey".
Near East and Persian art almost always portrays the Buraq with a human face, a portrayal that found its way into Indian and Persian Islamic art from the Fifteenth century. Yet no hadiths or early Islamic references allude to it having a humanoid face. This subject was often addressed by Deccani artists, who not only painted it on paper, but also executed the motif in other mediums such as wood, metal and textile etc.
This displayed Buraq has the head of an ornamented lady wearing a turban; the body of a horse; the legs and wings of a bird and have a camel headed tail. These kind of decorative wooden toys were made in Kondapalli, Andhra Pradesh. Kondapalli and Nirmal were the centres which were famous for producing toys and other wooden artefacts made of a light punki wood and painted with vibrant colours. These toys were created for decorative purposes as the tradition of using toys for decoration during festivals.
Provenance : Rajasthan
School : Rajput
Period : 18th Century
Height : 46.0 cm
Acc. No. : 64.439 (B)
A helmet made of fine steel. It consists of one central curved plate and two slightly curved plates joined with interlinked chain mail. The central plate is surmounted by a triangular arrow-head shape spike of brass. The nasal guard having terminals of brass is fitted on central plate. The camail of interlinked chain mail is attached to all the three plates and to the edges for the protection of neck and shoulders.
Metal, gem stones; gilded
Ht. 49; Wd. 28 cm
Acc. no. 91.119
The Vajrasattva headdress like all other headdresses, belonging to the Buddhist tradition indicates the wearer’s spiritual attainments and status.
The metallic headdress symbolises the Mount Meru (a mountain with five peaks which occupies a sacred position in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain cosmology) surmounted by a vajra (thunderbolt). The elaborate gilded decoration of the headdress depicts five Dhyani Buddhas in their respective directional realms along with Vajrasattva on the top. The intricate cloud-like foliate pattern with conch shells and a kirtimukha at the front is embellished with gemstones. The sides and the back are also decorated with gilded forms depicting auspicious symbols, such as lotus, viswavajra and jewels.
This headdress which is stylistically closer to the ones adorned by the Newar priests, suggests an affinity with the Newar community of Nepal.
Pāla period, 10th Century C.E.
Bronze, 20.7 x 11 x 9.5 cm.
Acc. No. 47.39
Maitreya in the Buddhist tradition is known as the future Buddha and radiates the primary energy and vitality. He is also regarded as a Bodhisattva, residing in Tushita heaven, awaiting his next birth and is also treated as an independent divinity, worshipped alike by the Hinayanists and the Mahayanists.
Bodhisattva Maitreya is seated in lalitāsana (posture of relaxation) on a double lotus pedestal having a beaded border at the top. The right leg rests on a smaller lotus springing from the pedestal. He holds nāgakeśara-flower in his left hand and the right hand displays the varadamudrā (gesture of granting a boon). Slight smile and a serene face. He is clad in a dhotī fastened to his waist by a katisūtra (narrow band) and adorned with various ornaments like heavy beaded necklace, bracelets and armlets. His long matted hair locks falls on the shoulders. A miniature stūpa is carved against the jatās (matted hair) bound by an ornamental fillet. The circular halo at the back has a beaded border with a chhatra (parasol) and has pointed ends, which represent rays of light.
Mid 20th century
Lt. 110 ; Wd. 25.5 cm
Acc. no. ; 59.216/4
This beautiful cotton waistband locally referred to as ' tongali' is woven on a handloom. The field of this textile is almost plain with small black and red floral butis occupying the space, towards the end. The selvedge is woven in red which also acts as a border. The ends are elaborately woven with a broad band of geometric designs in red over a yellow background. The edges of both the ends are finished with delicate fringes, called ' dohi-bota'.
This waistband, tongali, is tied at the waist only by the male members of the community. In olden days, it adorned the waists of the brave Assamese warriors. A more humble version such as this is worn during daily work, such as farming, dances, etc. In fact, the act of tying this waistband became synonymous with the act of getting ready for an event or work, making it a widely used proverb.
Late 5th century C.E, Gupta – Vakataka
Phophnar, Madhya Pradesh
Bronze, Size: 45.5x17.0x13.8 cm
Acc. No. L.658
National Museum, New Delhi
This is one of the finest bronze images from the famous hoard of seven bronze images discovered in 1964 from the village of Phophnar (near Burhanpur in Madhya Pradesh). This image of Buddha is standing pose on the calyx of a lotus flower (the lotus is now missing), rising out of a rectangular pedestal that is carved with a floral pattern. His right hand is in abhayamudra (protection pose) while his left hand holds the hem of his outer garment covering his left shoulder (ekansika sanghati). The image is softly modeled with the typical features of Gupta art: an oval face, half closed eyes inlaid with silver, black pupils, elongated ears, curly hair and long flowing drapery.
The image also bears a three line inscription on the pedestal translated by Venkataramayya (1964), "This is the meritorious gift of Bhadanta Buddhadasa the Sakya bhiksukacayva. Let the merit of (this) gift go to all sentient being."
3rd-4th century CE
Stucco, Size: 24.5 x 16 x 15 cm.
Acc. No. 49.20/25
National Museum, New Delhi
This Bodhisattva in mediation is an excellent example ofGandharan stucco. The region of Gandhara-Swat-Kapisa is between the Hindukush Mountain and the Indus River in northern India. This region is well known for stucco images, besides the use of schist for making sculptures. Stucco, is a lime based material, which was extensively used for creating works of art. Once modeled, stucco images were often painted with brilliant colours like red and black.
This Bodhisattva has sharp features, half closed eyes, arched eye brows, a long sharp nose and a thick lower lip with rounded chin. The hair of the Bodhisattva is artistically arranged with leaf shaped hair-locks spreading over his forehead and tied by a fillet. A bunch of hair is knotted on top in the form of an usnisaand is ornamented with the fish- scale motif.
The art elements of the Greco-Roman phase in India are well reflected in this Bodhisattva head where expressions have been portrayed in a naturalistic way.
Mauryan, 3rd century BCE
Ht. 22.5 cm.
Terracotta, modelled and applique technique
Acc. No. 83.127
The cult of the Mother Goddess was prevalent in India from time immemorial, representing the main female and principle of creativity: motherhood, fertility and prosperity. The goddess is usually depicted with outstretched arms and is worshipped in various forms.
The image is adorned with the usual ornament: earrings (kundalas), necklace and a elaborate girdle with vertical lines executed in applique technique except the body and face which are modelled. She is portrayed with full breasts, a deep navel and her narrow waist. Her headdress is decorated with series of floral discs in the Maurya-Sunga style. Portion beyond the anklets are missing. The Mauryan period witnessed the prolific production of the mother goddess at Mathra and Kausambi (Uttar Pradesh), Patliputra (Bihar) and many sites in the Ganga valley.
Dy. Curator (Archaeology)
Seated male in namaskar mudra
Harappa, 2700-2100 BCE
Size: 5.0 x 4.0 x 2.0 cm.
Terracotta, Acc. No. 3072/388
Yoga, a Sanskrit word signifying union of the individual soul with the supreme spirit and the disciplines for its attainment. The final aim of Yoga is liberation of the soul from the bondage of matter. The discipline of Yoga has been accepted by all schools of Indian philosophy, including the Buddhist and Jaina. A few seated male figurines in Yogasana (doing some yoga or physical exercise) from Harappa (now in Pakistan) confirmed that the Harappan people knew the Yoga.
M.S.Vats (Archaeologist) found this cream colour hand modelled male nude figurine through the excavation. The seated male is in yogic posture with legs outstretched and knees slightly raised. The head and folded hands are in devotional or yogic pose . Some parts of feet are missing. The head, mouth and nose of the male figurine is pinched and the two eyes are marked by round pellet. Fingers are not very cleared in hands. The figurine is thin and flat but the triangular forehead is pinched at two sides. The facial expression of this figure is not clear. This type of yogic pose in male figures is rarely found in early Indian art. The Harappan terracotta figurines lack the traditional embellishment of costume, ornaments and headdress but its facial features were modelled in the crude handmade Harappan style.
Unite Nations has recently recognized the importance of Yoga and declared 21st June as an "International Day of Yoga".
Pankha (Hand fan)
Silk, zari thread, silver
Northern India, late 20th century
Size: Lt. 37; Wd. 23 cm.
Acc. no.: 87.697
Pankha or hand fan, used for getting relief from humid temperature, is an essential part of day to day life in Indian culture. This necessity has inspired people to made variety of pankha’s made from palm leaf, fabric, ivory, bronze, silver or glass beads, which have been beautifully depicted throughout the Indian art history. Creatively and artistically these pankha were made in various size and shapes i.e. round, half circle, square, rectangular, semi circular etc.
The tradition of hand fan is believed to be originated in China in 2nd century B.C., when it was started in India is not very clear. However tradition of similar function in the form of chauri (flying whisk) was existed as early as Maruyan period (3rd century BCE) in India. These chauri were made of cotton threads, silver wires or hairs of animal Yak and still practiced in sacred traditions. The earliest shapeof pankha, one see in the Indian art, is the ‘leaf shape’, while ‘semi circular’ is noticed in numerous 18th-19th century miniature paintings. Skillfully making of pankha and various customs are also associated to it.
This semi circular pankha is made in two parts; first portion is pankha, made of silk fabric, and second is the silver handle. The pankha portion is heavily embroidered with zari threads, katori, sitara (sequels made of silver) on both the sides in two different colours; green and purple. Pankha illustrates attractive crescent and star motif in the center, surrounded by densely composed floral creeper border, foliage band and silver badla fringes are on the edges. Wooden, probably reed, handle has silver covering only at lower portion and bud shaped lowermost tip have three thread balls makes the entire arrangement and decoration very interesting. The loose covering on handle is for its easy operation is made of silver, which has diagonal stripes. Such hand fans can be seen in miniature paintings of eighteenth-nineteenth centuries of Rajasthan, Mughal or Deccani schools.
Ritualistic vessel depicting human faces
C.E. 400 - 500
Ht. - 19.5cm
Nazca culture, South coast Peru, South America
Acc. No. - 67.335
This ceramic vessel is an example of a form developed by the indigenous people inhabiting the Peruvian coast. Such rounded vessels are distinguished by two spouts with a handle bridging them. This kind of stylistic feature was first used by the Paracas culture (about 400 C.E.), and later adopted by the Nazcas.
This vessel illustrates the fondness of Pre-Columbian ceramicists from southern Peru for two-dimensional decorative surfaces which rely on line and colour to create their images. The vessels were made by the coil method and the Nazcas would then apply multi colored slip to achieve polychrome effects before the vessels were fired. Both the Paracas and the Nazca appear to have used this type of vessels for ritual purposes, as they are often found in graves.
The top section of this vessel shows mythical animal figures rendered in rhythmic pattern. The splayed creature has multiple limbs entwined. The lower section depicts a row of female faces which is a common motif in Nazca vessels. These were probably depiction of ritual masks.The number of colours used by Nazca ceramic artists is larger than that used by any other cultures in the Americas before European contact.
Krishna combing Radha's hair
Acc. no. 85.16
The ‘Gita Govinda’ poetry by Jaideva illustrates Krishna’s love for Radha. This poetry has inspired several artists to illustrate ‘Divine love of Krishna-Radha’. These love scenes are extensively carved on stone and wood as well as painted on paper and wood by different artists in various art styles.
Krishna combing Radha’s hair is one such scene, which has been frequently painted by Rajasthani or Pahari miniature artists or carved in various mediums in 18th-19th centuries. Gita Govinda refers that once Krishna came to know from Radha’s sakhi (friend) that Radha is annoyed with him for ignoring her and playing with other Gopis. Also, Radha has given up food, water and every kind of adornment and has gone to forest. Krishna searched her in the forest and found her near the pond. He started pleasing her and begins adorning her by first combing her hairs and so on......
This subject has been carved on this small wooden panel and is a beautiful example of intricate wood carving of Rajasthan. Krishna is sitting in pavilion under the groove and near the pond as tortoise and other water animals are also been seen here. Krishna is combing Radha’s hair, who is sitting on little lower seat. Both of them are adorned with usual Nathdawara style attire and lots of jewellery as one can see in the Pichhwai’s (hand painted cloth hanging) of this region. Upper portion of the panel is decorated with banana and big blossomed tree where parrot, squirrel and bird are depicted very artistically which make the scene very lively.
Little side edges on both sides and tiny nails indicate that it may be a part of bigger size panel or could be a side panel of a box, perhaps cosmetic box.
20th century CE
Skull bone, metal, semi-precious stones
Ht. 13.5 cms
Acc. No. 96.559
This is a waist drum constructed ingeniously utilizing two hemispherical skull bones. A thin leather forms the surface on both the ends, for the stringed beads to strike against and create sound. The central portion where both the skull bones are joined contains a metal strip with semi-precious stones such as coral and turquoise inlaid at places. On one end, a metal loop is provided for the long textile ribbons which is not only an additional decorative element but also for functional purpose of tying. These kinds of drums were generally used for ritual purpose and during pilgrimages.
Late 18th century
Steel, gold, velvet; Damascened
Dia. 17.5 cms
Acc. no. 59.71
This is a small shield made of steel with upturned beaded border. The outer surface is profusely ornamented with floral and foliate designs in gold damascening (koftgari technique). In the centre is a rayed sun, now defaced. Four dome-shaped metallic bosses with serrated border similarly damascened (koftgari technique) in gold, are affixed on the obverse. The reverse has a square cushion of yellow velvet, stuffed with cotton and tightened with four ring bolts. The koftgari work is worn off at a few places and most of the inner field is plain. Such shields were used by young princes during practice. This is an example of very fine workmanship.
Material: Silver, semi-precious stones; casted, inlaid
Size: Ht. 19.5; Wd. 18 cm
Acc.no: 94.115/1, 2
This is a ritual vessel with a detachable lid and two handles on either side, supporting the holy pot. The vessel is casted in silver and exhibits motifs, executed in intricate incision technique as well as high relief. The neck of the vessel contains foliate patterns in high relief and symbols amidst them. Just below the neck, the vessel also has a row with auspicious Buddhist symbols in high relief and alternating incised foliate patterns. The most striking detail of this ritual vessel is its inlay work, done with semi-precious stones like turquoise, lapis lazuli and coral, forming concentric bands. The body of the vessel (both back and front) has dragons in high relief. The lid of the vessel is also decorated with concentric bands of inlaid semi-precious stones and finally surmounted with an intricate knob. The inlaid handles ending in a sort of zoomorphic shape also adds character to the vessel.
This container is probably meant to store holy water, during the ritual ceremonies and prayers in chapels and monasteries.
Folio from Manuscript of Prajnaparamita Hrdaya Sutra
890 A.D., Tun-huang
Paper Size: 13.7 x 12.7cm
Buddhist Philosophy identifies four Lokapalas (i.e.Guardians of all the four cardinal directions) known as Dhratarastra in the East, Virupaksa in the west, Vaisravana in the north and Virudhaka in the south. They protect their respective kingdoms on the four sides of the Mount Sumeru, while Indra guards the summit of the Mount. The Buddha summons the four and enjoins on them to defence dharma in evil times. These Lokapalas have appeared in the Art forms also. They appear for the first time in the 2nd century B.C. railings of Bharhut. Their reliefs can also be seen on a gate of Sanchi from the end of the 1st century B.C. They have figured in the paintings of Tun-huang, China.
The illustrated folio shows beautiful drawing of Lokapala Virupaksha in one of the most important sutras known as Prajnaparamita Hrdaya Sutra. The text is written in Chinese characters . He is shown seated on a demon. His right hand is on his thigh while with left he is holding a naked sword upright. Long white beard and a tiara can be seen too. He is clad in full armor with boots. An attendant demon is shown standing behind. The manuscript contains not only beautiful illustrations but it is dated too. Another folio showing Lokapala Vaisravana from the manuscript may be seen on display in the Central Asian Antiquities Gallery on 1st floor. It clearly demonstrates the Art and Philosophy of India reverberating strongly in the neighboring countries and reaching as far as Japan in the far East.
Punch Marked Coin
A Punch Marked Coin on view is one of the earliest coins of India. This series of Coins were in circulation from the 6th century B.C. onwards in the ancient Indian republics, called janapadas and was the main coinage of India, which continued for about 400 years.
Symbols resembling flowers, as seen here were punched on silver strips, cut into various shapes and weights. Besides these, other coin-series that followed are on display in the coins gallery- "Cowries to Credit Cards" on the first floor.
18th century, Mysore
Material: Ivory, carved and painted
Size: Height: 16.7&16 cm.; Weight: (base) 4.7 cm
This artistically carved and beautifully painted dampati (couple) is an outstanding example of ivory carving tradition from Mysore of 18th century. The couple is bejeweled and dressed in traditional outfit. Standing on octagonal pedestals in a dignified pose, the couple is modeled from persons of nobiliy of that period and region.
The male is adorned with his typical pagadi, (turban), dhoti, (lower garment) jewellery, shoes and holds a flower in the right hand. His dhoti, painted in deep maroon, is further strengthened by a patka (sash), which depicts small golden floral buti (flower pattern). His jewellery includes several necklaces, armlets, wristlets and yajnopavita (sacred thread).
The female figure also holds a fruit/flower in the right hand. She is wearing a sari of maroon with golden border, which is held by a girdle She wears a blouse and many pieces of jewellery. Her jewellery include elaborate earrings, beautiful head ornament, the hair braid bedecked with many ornaments, several necklaces, armlets and wristlets.Ivory carvers of Mysore excelled in carving figures of Gods and Goddesses, royals, couples, and animal figures. As the period of 18-19th century witnessed the popularity of colouring of ivory, Mysore artists also followed the trend and created beautiful pieces, examples of which are preserved in many museums.
Rose water Sprinkler
Mid 19th century
Ferozabad, Uttar Pradesh
Material: Opaque white glass, painted
Size: Ht. 19.5; Wd. 5.8 cm.
Acc. No. 57.31/17
‘Gulabpash’ or ‘rose water sprinkler’, has been coined from two words; ‘gulab’ (rose) and ‘pash’ (container). The fragrance of the rose was popular with royals and nobles, and used in a variety of ways. The essence of rose flower was extensively used in cuisine, in cosmetics and in courtly affairs. The custom of sprinkling the rose water during social events, ritualistic ceremonies and festive occasions was the part of court etiquette in northern India.
The fragrance of rose water is preserved in different types of gulabpash, made of a variety of materials; glass, silver, gold or gold gilded according to taste and stature of the user. Imaginative Artisans created containers in different shapes, generally with a globular body and long elongated neck with perforated tip.
This opaque glass rose water sprinkler is in the shape of a bird. It has an oblong body, flat and rounded tail, narrow zigzag feathers and it stands on three legs. The body is hollow, with a small projected knob for filling the bottle and a tiny hole at the mouth for sprinkling the rose water. The slight depression on the front just under the beak is provided probably for better grip. The small flower butis (motif) contrasts with the white opaque ground which makes this piece very attractive. The object is a good example of nineteenth century Indian glassware.
Based on Indian Classical musical modes
Uniara, Rajasthan, Circa AD1770
Paper: 35 x 24 cm
Raga Hindola, one of the main six ragas of Indian classical music is associated with the swing festival of the month of Phalguna. Hindola, literally means the swing. It is also associated with the month of Sravana and the festival of Teej whichis celebrated throughout Northern India and particularly in Rajasthan with gaiety.
It is said that Hindola, the king of ragas, is extremely handsome and elegantly dressed in a gorgeous yellow costume. His ivory white complexion is shining like the rays of the full moon. The artist has painted raga Hindola seated against a big bolster on a golden swing and holding the veena and a flower. His turban is decorated with serpech and other decorative ornaments. His moustaches, whiskers and big pearl Kundalas are adding grace to his personality. He is also personified as god of love – Kamdeva and the month of Sravana, the rainy season is also considered as a month of love and union for lovers.
Gupta – Vakataka
Late 5th century A.D.
Phophnar, Madhya Pradesh
Brass, Size: 37 x 15 x 12 cm.
Acc. No. L.659
This brass image of the Buddha is one among the hoard of seven such polychrome images, in varying sizes, mounted on moulded rectangular pedestals all of which were discovered from a field in village Phophnar Kala, Burhanpur Taluk, East Nimar district, Madhya Pradesh.
Sensitively modelled, this hallow-cast, image of standing Buddha, displays an oval head, common in Gupta sculpture, besides other distinctive traits, such as a diaphanous robe, ekansika sanghati, covering one shoulder, rounded chin, averted lips, bow-shape eyebrows, down cast eyes, hair with snail shell curls knotted at the top of the head to form the usnisa, the cranial protuberance. His right hand displays the abhaya mudra, gesture of assurance and with the left he holds ends of the flowing sanghati, monastic robes. The eyes are inlaid with silver and the pupils painted black. The pedestal has an inscription, which reads:
"This is the meritorious gift of Kanha"This sublime brass sculpture is assigned to the Vakataka period on the basis of style (akin to the Buddha figures of the Ajanta caves) and paleographic considerations, ‘box-headed’ script on the pedestal. The Vakataka’s were not only contemporary of the Gupta’s but also had matrimonial relations with latter which is the express reason for the Gupta mannerisms noticeable in this Vakataka brass.
Terracotta Tablet with the Buddha's Representation
Pala period, 9th-10th century A.D.
Terracotta 21.0 cm x 6.8 cm x 1.8 cm
Acc. No. 49.162
A vast number of terracotta sealings and plaques were discovered in the ruins of the ancient Buddhist monasteries, temples and stupas at Nalanda in Bihar. Some of which, bear the legend Sri-Nalanda-mahavihariyarya-bhiksu-sanghasya meaning, 'of the community of venerable monks of the auspicious Great Monastery at Nalanda'. Although founded in earlier periods, these establishments grew into prominence during the Pala period (mid 8th century A.D. to the 12th century A.D). Such terracotta sealings as the present one were also found in the huge temple at Paharpur in Bangladesh. They could also have been kept by monks for their personal devotion or taken away by the pilgrims visiting the famed Buddhist monastery and university at Nalanda as mementoes.
Interestingly, the discovery of a number of such sealings with the image of the Buddha seated in padmasana, cross-legged and in bhumi-sparsa-mudra, earth-touching pose, under a niche in terms of architecture represents, the Mahabodhi Temple, in Bodh Gaya. The ovalish inscription seen at the lower portion of the sealing is the Buddhist creed (ye dharma hetu-prabhava hetum tesham Tathagato hy-avadat tesham cha yo nirodha evam vadi Maha-sramana)meaning'Tathagata has revealed the cause of those phenomena which spring from a cause and also [the means of] their cessation. So says the Great Monk'.
Sita in Pensive Mood
5th century A.D
Barehat, Madhya Pradesh
Terracotta 24 x 3 x 6.5 cm
Acc. No. L 675
Depiction of females associated with trees, are a common subject in early Indian art. The seated female figure in this fragmentary terracotta plaque, is draped in a dhoti below her waist and bare bodied upwards; with evocatively prominent breasts, simple jewellery, comprising of a two strand necklace, bangles and anklets. She rests her tilted head on the palm of her right hand.
This figure in the Gupta idiom, fashioned in high relief probably depicts a scene from the Ramayana. Representing the pregnant Sita who was sent on exile and took refuge in Valmiki’s hermitage. Rama took this extreme step as the people of the kingdom found it hard to believe that Sita was able to preserve her virtue in spite of being in Ravana’s custody and is seen here brooding over her unfortunate separation from her husband, Rama and the fate of the unborn children in her womb.
This composition conforms to the general style of Gupta period terracotta plaques/tiles used to enliven the narrative content of temple decoration found throughout Uttar Pradesh. A typical Gupta tree is also seen here.
Kushan, 2nd century A.D.
Mathura, Uttar Pradesh
Spotted red Sand stone. 45 x 18 x 6 cms
Acc. No. G. 32
The Kushanas, known variously as Scythians or Yueh-chih and who ruled from Mathura, were of Central Asian origin probably from the western borders of China. Their rule of about three hundred years witnessed the emergence and flowering of sculptural art synthesizing indigenous and external traditions.
Although, the heads of the two Kushana kings of Vima Kadaphises and Kanishka are now lost, they probably must have worn such conical caps.
The large eyes, a subtle smile, projecting eyebrows, rounded counters of the face as seen in this head found at Mathura (near Agra) are undoubtedly different from the contemporaneous Jain and Buddhist sculptures. The conical hat is not native bat associated with the Scythians. A Single Strand of beads that decorates the central median and borders of the hat reflects the style prevalent in the period.
Central India, 19th century A.D
Silk, gota, glass beads
Size: Dia. 16 cm.
Acc. no.: 89.85
Purple silk stitched pagri or headgear decorated with gota (silver thread) work has three main components; head covering like a European style stitched cap. Next is a little fabric hanging at the back, reminds the early version of turban's fabric hanging. Third is a turra, glass bead hanging, on front in the right hand side.
Inspired by the Europeans stitched hats, Indian Men also started wearing stitched headgear in late 18th-early 19th. Before that, wearing 'pag', 'pagdi', and 'turban' was their early style, which was considered the most essential part of men's attire. Custom of tying turban around the head by wrapping and folding was followed throughout the length and width of the country and it carries many regional names too.
Rich literary references and visual evidences show the uninterrupted tradition of wearing pag by men and sometimes women's too. Throughout its long history of five thousand years witnessed many changes occur in shape, in wearing style and material used for warping the pagri.
The popular ones in the medieval period were the; Akbar's 'atpati turban' (He prefers to wears carefree style of turban), Shah Jahan's introduction of 'turban band' above the turban, Aurangzeb was famous for making his own cap, last Mughal ruler Bahadurshah Zafar's 'chugani' or 'chaugoshia' cap.
These headgears were the part of the daily attire, besides their occasional and ceremonial use. In fact such headgear signifies the social, religious and economical status of a user in the society.
Portrait Head Jar
Place of origin: Michica, Peru
Date: 200-700 A.D.
Size: Ht. 16.5; Breadth : 16 cm
Acc. No. 67. 246
This head jar made of clay has natural brown clay for features with the details of the headdress ornament incised and painted in reddish brown and buff slips.
Vessels in the likeness of human heads, slightly less than half of the natural size, with a wide opening on the top of the head as in this piece, frequently have so vivid a sense of observed reality, that they appear to be portraits. Like other Mochica pots they are cast from moulds, with details added, painted and otherwise decorated and then baked. As grave offerings, portrait head pots were a favorite subject of the Mochica fully developed period, about 200 to 700 A.D.
South India, Late 18th century
Ivory, carved and painted
Size: 22x15x17.8 cm
Acc. no. 72.251/ (a)
The ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu, arranged in a small stepped shrine, is a magnificent example of ivory carving and painting style of south India's age old traditional workmanship. Intricately carved in round all avataras (incarnations) stands on double lotus oblong base. Shrine's sandal wood base covered with ivory sheet has perforated ivory screen backdrop divided in three parts by the European style pillars. Ivory carvers of Trivandrum, Kerala (South India) were the specialists of making such intricate images, while screen, painted in black, is the specialty of Mysore artist.
Lord Vishnu's Matysa (fish) avatara is placed on the top most steps. The very next step of the shrine depicts two avataras; Kurma (tortoise), Varah (boar). The third step illustrates the Narsimha (man- lion), Vaman (dwarf) and Parashurama avatara, while Rama, Balrama, Krishna and Kalki incarnations are on the foremost frontal step.
Four armed Matysa, Kurma, Varaha, Narsimha and Kalki avatars holds sankha (conch) chakra (wheel) in their two hands, while the other two hands are in abhaya and varada mudra except Kalki incarnations, which holds a sword and a shield. Other two incarnations are Vaman (with bow and arrow) Balrama (holds mace and in abhaya mudra) Krishna (with stick/ flute and sankha). All of them are adorn with lots of jewellery and dhoti except Vaman, who is without crown. These images have been done with perfect body proportion and great aesthetic qualities.