Our Mona Lisa, the Bodhisattva Padmapani
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Our Mona Lisa, the Bodhisattva Padmapani

Writing this column spooks me sometimes as you know and it just happened again, the kind of coincidence that I’d love to think of as ‘meant’. Renuka Narayanan writes.

india Updated: May 11, 2013 23:12 IST

Writing this column spooks me sometimes as you know and it just happened again, the kind of coincidence that I’d love to think of as ‘meant’.

See, not surprisingly in Thailand, the Lord Buddha is very much on my mind. Especially, the Bodhisattva Padmapani mural at Ajanta (Cave 1, 5th century CE) gazing compassionately down on frail humanity, elegant hands holding a most elegant lotus, has been right in the middle of things for me.

Especially this month with Buddha Purnima coming up, because you think of Buddhist art in India and pop, he’s there.

The Bodhisattva Padmapani has it all: so beautiful, so ancient, so romantically painted in a cave in the jungles at the instance of a mysterious king by an unknown artist to inspire scholar-monks, so miraculously rediscovered on a tiger-hunt, so meaningful without being depressing.

He’s got what it takes to be iconic worldwide like the Mona Lisa or Andy Warhol’s foursquare image of MM. I mean, remember how people (okay, people in Delhi) used to put a huge, grandly-framed print of the Mona Lisa on their sitting room or consulting room wall as a piece of instantly recognisable great art, a world classic?

That was before the ‘ethnic wave’ hit us, connecting rural crafts to urban sitting rooms, totally changing the look of the modern Indian home and we also do the Fab India look, the minimalist Ikea look, the woody-ikaty-batiky SE Asian look with celadon, bamboo and giant floral sprays and always in vogue, the old-fashioned English look, all round teak tables, lace-trim and flowery chintz (my sneaky favourite, being a bit of a doily desperado).

Anyway, you know how you mentally throw a room together, I do that all the time and this is what I found: Boddhisattva Padmapani fits in with every look.

I don’t know how he does it, but he always looks right. You can ‘adjust’ him to any size and tonal match, photoshop him, frame just the padmapani bit or just his eyes.

I was going to say, “Please check this out since I’m getting mildly manic,” when the spookies kicked in: I got a sudden invite to the Faculty of Architecture, Silpakorn University to a fantastic talk on Early Buddhist Art by visiting art historian Dr Anupa Pande who beautifully explained the world-class artistic merits of the Bodhisattva Padmapani like I’ve never heard. It was like he manifested or something. Coincidence or what?

Renuka Narayanan writes on religion and culture

First Published: May 11, 2013 23:11 IST