Untitled | Chhotu Lal | Watercolour on paper | 1996 | Swaraj Collection
Varaha and Varadaraja in a pier of Varadaraja Temple. Canjeeveram, Chingleput district (Tamil Nadu) | Architectural Survey of India | Photograph | c. 1918 | Swaraj Collection
Varahavataram | French unknown artist | Lithograph | Swaraj Collection
In the Hindu religion, Varaha is the third avatar of Vishnu, the preserver god in the Hindu Trimurti (trinity). He appeared in the form of a boar during the Satya Yuga. A variety of legends concerning the avatar centre upon the submergence of the Earth in water due to the action of the demon Hiranyaksha. Varaha dove deep into these waters to slay the demon, carrying the Earth from below the depths to safety.
Hinduism teaches that whenever humanity is threatened by extreme social disorder and wickedness, God will descend into the world as an avatar to restore righteousness, establish cosmic order, and redeem humanity from danger. The avatar doctrine presents a view of divinity that is compatible with evolutionary thinking since it suggests a gradual progression of avatars from amphibian through mammal to later human and godly forms. Most importantly, the concept of avatar presents the theological view of a deeply personal and loving God who cares about the fate of humanity rather than ignores it. Time and time again, the various avatars are willing to intervene on humanity’s behalf to protect its overall cosmic well-being (loka-samgraha).
Prince Aleksei Dmitrievich Saltykov (1806–1859) was a Russian artist and traveller in Persia and India. He was the grandson of Prince Nikolay Saltykov, born in St. Petersburg on 1 February 1806 to Prince Dmitri Nikolaevich Saltykov and Anna Nikolaevna Leontieva. The Soltykov name was one of the more esteemed in Russia.
Alexis’s early days are somewhat of a mystery. He grew up in St Petersburg and at the age of eighteen joined the diplomatic services with the Russian State Board (Collegium) for Foreign Affairs in Moscow. By the age of 23 he was with the Russian Foreign Service, first in Constantinople, then in Athens, later in London, Florence, Rome, and Teheran. In 1840, Alexis retired and moved to Paris where he planned his voyages to India. He ended up making two voyages there (1841–43 and 1844–46), and achieving the sobriquet ‘The Indian’ from the Russian and French aristocracy. In 1849 he published a selection of his letters in French accompanied by his drawings, which became very well known in Europe “Lettres sur L’Inde”. Paris,1848). In 1851 the book was translated into Russian and became an instant success: it truly enraptured the Russian reading public. The drawings were published separately in London in 1859 as “Drawings on the Spot”.
“In my paintings, I try to transform myself into the things that I paint, whether it is the radiant light or the darkest shadows. I surrender to the speed of the running deer or to the calmness, action or repose of the environment. I try to surrender to the object, whatever it may be, living, still or moving, and in this attempt, I feel the impulse of an eternal joy”
– Abani Sen
Abani Sen is regarded as one of the Old Masters of modern Indian painting. He was born in 1905 in Bengal, and taught and painted for 45 years until his dealth in 1972 in New Delhi. Throughout his long career he won many awards and recognition throughout India. He was awarded the Governor General’s Plaque in 1949.
His main contribution to Indian Art has been to bring about a change and to break through the Colonial Academic Painting by reviving the vital elements of native Indian tradition. He believed that it is in the folk tradition, the vast multitude of village population, that the main powerhouse of Indian art can be realized. Abani Sen taught Picasso, Cezanne, and Matisse to his students, but his roots are solidly grounded in the native soil.
Abani Sen is also famous for his studies and paintings of animals.
Abani Sen’s work can be found at the Museum of modern Art in New Delhi, and in many private collections, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi collected his work, and so did Lord and Lady Mountbatten. Some of his drawings of animals were made into glass objects by Steuben Glass in the USA.