Title: Shiva & Shakti
Artist: Gopal Kumawat
School: Kishangarh

This great masterpiece of late Gopal Kumawat, an artist who crystallised, in lines and colours, numerous ancient myths and abstractions and appropriated them to modern global mind, combines in it India’s oldest and the most sacred myth of Shiva and Shakti, the glorious miniature tradition of medieval art and the contemporary experimentalism of Western world. In Indian thought, Shiva, one of the Great Indian Trinity, represents the proto-male who fathered all beings, and Parvati, his consort, the proto-female, the mother of all born ones. He is the first of all Divines and the ever first to appear on cosmos. Energy, to manifest in the form of Parvati, is Shiva’s consort and entwines herself in him within and without. Shiva has been represented also as Jyotirlinga, the phallus, which is pure light and as such the manifestation of his all pervading magnificence. Parvati combines in her all forms of Shakti, womanhood and creativity. Kumawat has discovered his theme with this background of Indian tradition of thought in mind. Apparently Parvati represents in the painting a combination of Shakti and Bhairavi.

As for the beauty of the figures, Kumawat seems to follow the models of Kalidas, the great Sanskrit poet of the ancient India. In Kalidas’ Kumara-Sambhava, his Parvati, engaged in penance on a peak of the Himalaya for winning Shiva, is possessed of so thick and a bowl-like curving eyelashes that the dew-drops oozing from her hair do not find a passage across them and keep hanging on them for quite sometime, and when the desperate dew-drops finally find their way across them, they mercilessly hit her lips, tender as they are. But, the cruel ones are rightly punished and break into pieces when they strike against her hard and well elevated breasts. The ash-smeared Shiva of Kalidas is as radiant as a newly born flame of fire radiating across a heap of ashes.

Kumawat has perceived his round-faced Parvati and Shiva as did Kalidas some eighteen hundred year ago. In the ecstasy of dance and union, the eyes of both stay closed, but the largeness of their form and their inherent beauty is not imperceptible. The thickness of Parvati’s eyelashes, tenderness of her being and the beauty of her breasts and form bewitch Kumawat as they once bewitched Kalidas. The all conquering Shiva has in his figure the touch of feminine tenderness and Parvati, the most tender of ever-born females, represents the all pervasive energy in whom Shiva discovers the meaning of his being. She seems to pervade over and above both, Shiva and his Jyotirlinga seen rising from below. Parvati, Shiva’s Shakti in the manifest form of Bhairavi, penetrates deeper and ascends higher. In her form she manifests his trident as well and supports Shiva on its right. Both, Kalidas and Kumawat, have discovered in her uncovered breasts Parvati’s motherhood, the beauty of her being and her feminine identity.

Using highly powerful symbolism, Kumawat creates his own myth of Shiva legend. The robust male has a height shorter to his consort. Shiva, the Parama-purusha’ the spirit, may not manifest but only in Parvati, the Prakriti, the matter; obviously, one who contains the other within her would have a larger expanse. Shiva is seen harping on his consort’s arms, as one does on a lyre, for he gets all his songs and melodies only from her. He rests his head on her right shoulder for there alone he finds his stay. The Lingam rises from below and Shiva emerges from it, but his Shakti does the rest. She ascends the unfathomable heights of heaven and descends deeper into the earth. The lotuses scattered under her feet depict ocean, but they as much symbolise flame of fire. Shiva’s consort could not be represented by lotuses alone. She, who stood for both, piety and energy, could be represented only by a combination of both, the lotus and the fire.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specialises on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.