First look: Himalayan Art Gallery at CSMVS re-opens after a year of renovation

  • Riddhi Doshi, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: May 05, 2016 19:56 IST
A six-foot-tall sculpture of Maitreya, the future Buddha

After a year of renovation, the Himalayan Art Gallery at the CSMVS is set to host visitors again. Expect restored Tibetan paintings and age-old sculptures.

on the two occasions the Dalai Lama visited the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), he bowed down before a 16th century bronze sculpture of Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo, says Sabyasachi Mukherjee, the museum director.

A Thanka (a Tibetan Buddhist painting which usually depicts a scene from the life of Buddha or his teachings) of Vaishravana, from Tibet

Gampo is known to have introduced Buddhism to Tibet around 6th Century AD and is worshipped as an incarnation of Chenresik or Avalokiteshvara, the great protector of Tibet. “Influenced by his Nepali and Chinese queens, the king adopted and introduced Buddha’s teachings in Tibet and so, he is an extremely important figure the region’s history,” says Vandana Prapanna, a curator at the museum. Moreover, the sculpture at CSMVS’s Himalayan Art Gallery is similar to the life-sized 8th Century clay figure of the king at Potala Palace, Lhasa, Tibet. The gallery has been under renovation for the past year, and is set to re-open to the public on May 8. It will exhibit 144 works, mainly from Nepal and Tibet. Many objects, like the king Gampo sculpture, have been restored at the museum’s conservation lab. Case in point, an 18th Century elaborately embroidered Thanka (a Tibetan Buddhist painting which usually depicts a scene from the life of Buddha or his teachings) of goddess Tara. “Some of its threads had come off and the colours were fading,” says Prapanna.

A king Gampo sculpture which was restored at the museum’s conservation lab

Among its new additions is a 17th Century painting of a demon deity, Yamantaka, and also a structure of a gompa — a Buddhist temple. Inside the gompa sits a six-foot-tall clay sculpture of Maitreya, the future Buddha. The artefact, created by Ladakhi sculptor Chhemet Rigzin and his team last year, displays paintings and traditional musical instruments that belong inside a gompa. According to Buddhist scriptures, the Maitreya Buddha will take birth on earth soon and will most likely be a woman. “The Buddhists believe she will solve the world’s problems,” says Prapanna. “There is a lot of hope attached to this deity.”

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Among the works featured, the tracings of Indian artist Li Gotami (born Rati Petit) also find a place. From 1947 to 1949, she extensively travelled around Tibet and created detailed tracings of the many monasteries. “They give an insight into a country that’s in a state of conflict. As access to modern-day Tibet continues to be difficult, these are valuable documents that record the history of Buddhism, and its followers, there,” says Prapanna.

A Dipankar Buddha from Nepal

5 things to look out for

 A 17th Century sculpture of a female deity from Nepal, Snish Vijay, the goddess of long life. The bronze idol borrows from the Mongolian style of sculpting.

 An 11th Century Shakyamuni Buddha’s sculpture from Tibet shows influences of the Kashmiri style of sculpting. “The eyes are created using the silver-inlay technique and the body is sculpted slender and sleek,” says Prapanna.

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 A 17th Century bone apron worn by the Lamas.

 18th Century folios of Ashtamatrikas (eight Buddhist goddesses), created in Nepal.

 A video on how the Lamas hand-make traditional music instruments which are used while offering prayers.

Now open

The Himalayan Art Gallery re-opens on May 8.

Where: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, MG Road, Fort

When: 10.30am to 6pm, every day.

Call: 2284 4484

Entry: Rs 70

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