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The gift to create form, from the mist of imagination, is pure magic!


Friday, April 15, 2022

Isolation

 









20.5x28.5 inches; Pen drawing on handmade paper with watercolour wash (Click on image to enlarge)

 

Alone, but

Not like an ant

Wandering far

From the marked trail,

Way laid by the call of a Siren,

Unable to find its way back

To the scent of its people,

Going in circles for days,

Still hopeful

Unless a boot stamps

The life out of it.

Or like a bee

Buzzing around for hours

Inside a glass jar

In a candy shop,

Trapped by the lure of

Sweet promises,

Separated from its kin,

Finding death in the hands

Of a fly swatter.

 

But alone

Like lovers in a crowd,

Majnun in the desert,

Like the naive victim

In love with the tormentor.

Like seeking safety

Curling up in a closet,

Marooned on an

Uninhabited Island

Of one’s own inhibitions,

Or walled up within

A fortress in one’s head,

Avoiding the possibilities

Of infection,

Of failure, rejection and hurt.

Isolation

Of the unwanted;

Preventing what may happen

Deduced from what

We fear to become.

 

The plague trespasses

Over the land of

‘Happily-ever-after’

Leaving behind

A sole survivor. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Hajj To The Heart

 






13.5x20.5 inches; Watercolor and Pen drawing on handmade paper (Click on image to enlarge)

In private collection

Another painting I did for a dear friend and patron. Dr. Scott Kugle, has been reproduced on the book cover of his latest publication – Hajj To The Heart.

This piece is my vision of legendary voyages across the turbulent oceans in quest for physical and spiritual survival which transforms and awakens people to their greater purpose in life.

About the book -  

“Against the sweeping backdrop of South Asian history, this is a story of journeys taken by sixteenth-century reformist Muslim scholars and Sufi mystics from India to Arabia. At the center is the influential Sufi scholar Shaykh ʿAli Muttaqi and his little-known network of disciples.

The story expands across three generations of peripatetic Sufi masters in the Mutaqqi lineage as they travel for purposes of pilgrimage, scholarship, and sometimes simply for survival along Indian Ocean maritime routes linking global Muslim communities. Exploring the political intrigue, scholarly debates, and diverse social milieus that shaped the colorful personalities of his Sufi subjects, Kugle argues for the importance of Indian Sufi thought in the study of hadith and of ethics in Islam.” - quoted from the publisher's note regarding the book.

If you would like to purchase a copy of the book please follow this link:

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Dhatura / Datura

 





29.0 x 9.5 inches; Watercolour, pen drawing with waterproof ink on handmade paper (Click on image to enlarge)

Your face caught in the moonlight

Becomes a moon to the moon,

Two starry eyes glint,

Like pieces of flint

Striking up a fire.

 

The beauty of heat burns my night

My Moonflower trumpets croon.

Your hypnotic gaze

Drags me in the maze,

Fanning my desire.

 

Shadows fold us into earthy delight

Of bodies finding touch, we swoon

Drugged by the nectar,

In each-other’s spectre

Of sensory mire.

 

Psychedelic dreams burn bright

Stinging like thorns of a boon.

Urgency of our need

Scatters the seed

Dousing the pyre.

 

In parting you retreat from sight

No promises of “see you soon”,

Just a lingering heat

Of a shared heartbeat,

Fading strains of a siren’s lyre!

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Aadi Parashakti (3) - Bagalamukhi / Valgamukhi

 


 12x16 inches; Watercolor, Pen and ink on acid free textured paper (Click on image to enlarge)

 

The power of speech (Vak), the intent and effect of the spoken word, the ability to communicate and the evolution of language has been one of the pillars of civilization. Words are used to both express and conceal our thoughts, feelings and emotions, our needs and desires. Words are used to lead as well as mislead others. Words convey kindness, compassion, solidarity and empathy but can also hurt and cause immense pain and misery. Words can reveal the truth or conceal it in a cloud of untruths and half truths. Lies repeated over time can be made to appear as the truth through the spoken word. Words can enlighten through sharing of knowledge or it can drown us in ignorance through circulating misinformation and superstitions. Words can be reassuring and kind or threatening and violently abusive. Words can cause a revolution or oppress us through continued denigration. Words ultimately are motivated by our intent. It is our mind motivating the ‘tongue’, and that is where Bagalamukhi finds her reasons to manifest.   

To understand the manifestation of this dynamic feminine energy, as one of the Dasa Mahavidya (10 cosmic wisdom), we need to delve into the mythology of her origins. Other than her appearance during the time when an enraged Sati (First wife of Shiva) brought forward the Mahavidyas to encircle Shiva, Bagalamukhi has two other stories of manifestation.

·         - According to the Swatantra Tantra - A huge storm erupted over the universe in Satya Yuga. It threatened to destroy creation. Lord Vishnu became anxious and called on the supreme power of Aadi Parashakti (Eternal feminine) to protect the universe from destroying itself. Goddess Bagalamukhi emerged from the ‘Haridra Sarovara’ (A yellow lake. She is always associated with the colour yellow) and calmed down the storm.

·         - Another story relates that a demon named Madan performed a very severe ritualistic devotional practice (Sadhana) and received the boon of ‘vak siddhi’, unlimited power of using speech to control and manipulate the world around him. He received the power to turn everything to its opposite with his power of speech. He could make lies become truth and vice versa. He could equivocate with such skill that his opponent was left speechless with self doubt.  He could just express his wish aloud and make those wishes come true. It is not difficult to understand that such powers, if used with evil intentions to harm others, can surely cause widespread suffering! And it is not surprising that Madan abused his powers by using it with malicious intent. Enraged by this complete disrespect and misuse of the power by Madan, the gods invoked Bagalamukhi. Like a harness, she brought the demon under her control by taking hold of his tongue and curtailing his power of speech and in turn stopped him from causing more suffering.

What is apparent in these legends is the power of Bagalamukhi to bring chaos under control. Scholars believe that the word "Bagala" is derived from the Sanskrit word "Valga" which means – constraint, bridle or to rein in. Though there are other opinions about the origin of her name, this is the most popular among them.  She acts as a harness or a restraining power that absorbs the chaos and uses its energy to restore order. The storm is the incarnation of the chaos in our mind caused by opposing turbulent thoughts. She stills our mind with heightened concentration. She illuminates and guides us through contradictions to find peace and inner strength. She also teaches us that the spoken word has the power to do both good and harm. She constantly reminds us that words must be used wisely and our intentions and thoughts behind those words affect the cycle of cause and effect. If we use verbal communication as a tool to always please our ego, those words will only cause pain and suffering to others and in the end such words will lose their power to captivate an audience. In return our ego will suffer and lead us to use more desperate efforts to placate it, if we do not learn when to pull the reins.

Bagalamukhi renders our delusions and misconceptions inert. She stops the toxic cycle created by manufactured misinformation which spreads misery and violence. She paralyses the wagging tongue. She exposes the charade of lies masquerading as truth. She demolishes the notion of invincibility. She is the power that we require the most, in the world we live in now, where the combined greed of the rich and powerful, politicians, law makers, and media keeps injecting us with conceit and deception. No wonder she is not a mass favourite for the civilized society whose foundations are built on pretence, lies and manipulations of the patriarch; where domination is the only form of governance and that domination is achieved through curtailing personal liberty of others, obstructing knowledge, circulating propaganda and instilling fear of violent reprisal if anyone dares to question the imposed norms and dissent.

Over the ages, her worship has become limited to those who crave magical powers or want to keep fatal diseases at bay. Bagalamukhi is praised as the giver of supernatural powers (siddhis) or magical powers (riddhis). She is associated with the colour yellow and is known as ‘Pitambari’ (one who wears yellow). The colour yellow is linked to the sun, gold, ripe grains, fire and all that signifies auspiciousness, bountifulness and purity. Turmeric forms an integral part of her worship. Turmeric is also used as medication and disinfectant in many cultures.

In ‘Bagalamukhi-stotram’, there are hymns in praise of the Devi, which roughly translates into - By the effect of your ‘mantra’ good orators become speechless; the wealthy are reduced to beggars; devastating fires are extinguished. The rage of the angry is calmed; a vicious person becomes virtuous. The agile person becomes immobilized. The conceited become humble. The clever ones become fools. – This denotes that she has the power to turn everything to its opposite. On the face of it, this might mean that worshipping her gives the devotee powers to overcome problematic situations in life and helps to render their enemies useless (which seems to be the most popular motive for her worship). But if we think deeper we understand that she directs our attention to the impermanence of everything we hold dear to us in life, such as wealth, fame, power, success, youth, beauty, ability, pleasure and possession (scary to contemplate for those who are socially conditioned to be obsessed with such achievements to feel accepted) On the other hand adversities, pain, hardship, and everything that causes dissatisfaction will provide us with opportunities to find our true purpose and change ourselves for the better. All that actually matters is our intent. She also makes us aware that everything moves in a cycle and what has begun must end, good fortune will be followed by days of misery, light followed by darkness and virtue followed by vice. Such wisdom is lost on those who aspire to become invincible.

References:

Books -

- Frawley, David (1994). Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses: Spiritual Secrets of Ayurveda. Lotus Press. 

- Kinsley, David R. (1997). Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: The Ten Mahāvidyās. University of California Press.

- S Shankaranarayanan (2002) [1972]. The Ten Great Cosmic Powers. Samata Books.

Online Sources-

https://vedicgoddess.weebly.com/goddess-vidya-blog/devi-baglamukhi-by-yogi-ananda-saraswathi

https://vedicfeed.com/goddess-bagalamukhi/


Monday, July 5, 2021

Aadi Parashakti (2) - Dhuumavati

 


12x16 inches; Watercolor, Pen and ink on acid free textured paper (Click on image to enlarge)

 

The name ‘Dhuumavati’ denotes ‘one who is formed of smoke’.  She is the void that exists before creation of the universe and after its destruction. She is the haze and smoke of ignorance that envelops all creation and keeps us intoxicated and attached to the world of illusion, ‘Maya’, but she is also the guide who shows us the path out of that smoke if we seek her out and ask for guidance. She is the embodiment of everything that we fear as inauspicious and unwanted because of our ignorance and greed in this material world, and our unwillingness to attain complete independence from what we consider ‘favourable’ to our aspirations. She blatantly tells us that our aspirations are going to go up in smoke (she is associated with the smoke that rise from the burning pyres at the cremation grounds) and we should look beyond such petty aspirations. She consumes all and she discards that which is unnecessary.

She is one of the Dasa Mahavidya (10 cosmic wisdom) and the Shakta mythology has three stories of her manifestation.

1.       - Maha-Bhagavata Purana narrates that Sati, the first wife of Shiva, felt very angry and insulted by her father Daksha because he had not invited them to an auspicious fire sacrifice, arranged by him, where all the other divinities had been invited. Sati insisted that she should be allowed to go and confront her father for such an insult, but Shiva tried to stop her. In her rage Sati brought forth the Dasa Mahavidya and surrounded Shiva. Dhuumavati appeared at that time, along with the rest of the nine Mahavidyas.

2.      -  Shaktisamgama-Tantra narrates that after confronting her father Daksha at the Yagna, Sati gave up her will to live by burning herself in the fire sacrifice and Dhuumavati rose as the smoke from Sati's body. She is Sati, ultimately free of her worldly attachments and sense of honour or betrayal, and risen like smoke over Sati’s unsatisfied desires. Hence she is all consuming, and yet always unsatisfied.

3.      -  Pranatosini-Tantra narrates that once, Sati developed this insatiable hunger and kept asking Shiva to provide her with food. When Shiva declined, she devoured him whole to satisfy her extreme hunger. She was satiated and her body turned dark and smoke started emerging from her. Shiva pleaded her to disgorge him and set him free, she unwillingly obliged. Shiva then left her and cursed her to live as a widow. That is when Sati transformed into Dhuumavati.

What these narratives have in common is the dissatisfaction born out of unfulfilled desires and the self destructive nature of human ego, and most importantly the fierce transformation achieved after sacrifice of that ego.

A woman who asserts herself over her father and husband and goes as far as to physically consume her husband proving him non-essential for her survival, beyond becoming the means of satisfying her all consuming hunger (physical, emotional and spiritual), is surely not a good example of desirable woman to be glorified in a patriarchal society. A widow by choice (similar to any woman who remains single by choice), who is not under the control of any man, (father, husband or son) is completely independent and a huge challenge to patriarchal conditioning. Having consumed the Purusha (male energy) in the universe, and disgorging what is unnecessary she has become a self sufficient form of Shakti (female energy)! How can patriarchal society let such a goddess be glorified?

Over the ages her iconography has transformed into projection of all that is undesirable and inauspicious, to be feared and not embraced. Time and again she has been used as a warning for women who questioned the control of men or wanted to remain free of the bonds of family. She has been demonized, often portrayed as an old, ugly widow (A widow who is beautiful and alluring will be desired and be a threat to the moral codes and ‘family values’ which patriarchy holds so dear!) though her thousand-name hymn alludes to her unparalleled beauty and calls her "She whose form is Rati". Rati literally means "sexual intercourse" and is also the name of the Hindu goddess of love and sexuality. Dhuumavati is portrayed to be malnourished, always hungry and thirsty, restless and wicked, astute and crafty, always spiteful and instigating quarrels which cause separation and isolation. Her companion is a crow which directly links her to death, and she is most often associated with poverty, frustration, anger and misfortune. Amplifying such aspects of her manifestation only helped thicken the smoke around her and inspired repulsion rather than devotion.   

Women are not encouraged to worship her as she inspires detachment by showing the futility of existing in the smoke bubble of Maya, though she is also called tender-hearted and giver of boons. Dhuumavati is also described as a great teacher, one who reveals ultimate knowledge of the universe, which is beyond the illusory divisions, like auspicious and inauspicious, more the reason to discourage her worship by promoting fear of bad luck and misfortune befalling the devotee.

But those who can see beyond the smoke screen carefully held in place by manipulative powers, will see that the symbolism associated with Dhuumavati can be interpreted differently. For example her association with the crow does allude to death and its inevitability. But is it something to be feared? On the contrary, she tells you not to get too attached to your worldly existence as that leads to fear of death which is inevitable.  She might be associated with disappointments, misfortunes, frustrations, defeats or losses, but she also guides you through those adverse situations to bring about a deeper spiritual transformation, if you are open to her guidance. Through adversity she destroys ignorance and teaches you to identify and value what is truly important. Look at the winnowing basket that she carries. It is used to separate the grain from the chaff.  What does that signify? It again alludes to ending ignorance and understanding what really matters in the cloud of manufactured desires. And such enlightenment will surely inspire detachment and a need to discard the unnecessary baggage. She allows us to distance ourselves from toxic relationships without compromising our dignity and integrity. She teaches us to set ourselves free from social conditioning which restrains us from realizing our true potential and releases our consciousness from the physical constraints of the body.

She is the smoke of the soul rising from the body after life ends. She is the void that embraces you when your world is destroyed, and she teaches you not to be afraid to embrace her back. 

References:

Books -

- Kinsley, David R. (1988). "Tara, Chinnamasta and the Mahavidyas". Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition (1 ed.). University of California Press
 - Bernard, Elizabeth Anne (2000). Chinnamasta: The Aweful Buddhist and Hindu Tantric Goddess. Motilal Banarsidass.