The image is split into two unequal parts; a lower and upper. In the lower half of the image the figures are all holding weapons. The background of the image is red with the majority of the figures being yellow in color. A single blue figure is located in the lower left. This figure is seated on a wheeled, vehicle.
The looming figure of the gold-skinned hero in the foreground is the sage Bhavana, who was considered the founder of a caste of itinerant painters and storytellers. Here Bhavana is shown in gigantic scale mounted on an equally oversized tiger as he challenges a dark demon. The demon rides in a horse-drawn chariot, so small by comparison that it is easy to overlook, and other tiny warriors fill the spaces between the protagonists. In the upper register, separated from the battle by a narrow strip of floral patterns, is an idyllic scene a queen in her garden accompanied by attendants. The long-necked birds in the trees and the variety of patterns in the women’s costumes add charm to the scene.
This painting is a section of a long vertical scroll that would have been carried from village to village by itinerant storytellers. Such paintings often deal with caste-specific or region-specific narratives; in this case, it is the lineage of painters that is celebrated. The storyteller would unroll one large scene each evening and narrate the exploits of Bhavana. The large scale, simplified drawing, and bold colors make it especially appropriate for outdoor viewing from a distance.
The four-armed Vishnu is shown lying on the serpent Ananta (“the endless one”), resting on the surface of the cosmic ocean. As his female consort gently strokes his leg, Vishnu awakens from a long sleep. From his navel sprouts a lotus, bearing the four-headed creator god, Brahma, who will begin a new cycle of the universe.
The Markandeya Purana is one of the puranas, a series of texts compiled by about the fifth century C.E. that relate narratives about the Hindu gods and embody centuries of traditional wisdom. Part of the Markandeya Purana is said to be an account of the visions of the sage Markandeya, including this scene of the moment of creation of the world.
This painting is one of three in the Museum’s collection that were originally part of a single long vertical scroll that would have been carried from village to village by itinerant storytellers. The storyteller would unroll one large scene each evening and vocally re-enact the scene, interspersing a traditional recitation about the gods with current village gossip. The fact that the painting is purpose-made for oral recitation allows the artist to create a more complex composition, with many imbedded subplots. The large scale, simplified drawing, and bold colors make this painting especially appropriate for outdoor viewing from a distance.
The blue four-armed Vishnu is shown lying on a gigantic pipal leaf with his left leg crossed over his right leg; as his female consort gently strokes his leg, he awakens from a long sleep. Another woman fans him. From his navel sprouts a lotus, bearing the four-headed creator god, Brahma, and rishis or sages appear in the upper branches of the pipal tree. Vishnu has four arms carrying a discus and a conch in his back hands and the lower left arm is extended pointing towards the women at his feet while the lower right am is cross towards his stomach.
The iconography is further compounded by the image in the lower register of a tortoise at the bottom of the ocean of milk, bearing a mountain on his back. The tortoise is in fact Kurma, another manifestation of Vishnu, supporting the cosmic axis. Elephants have gathered to pay homage to him, while in a small inset at right, a worshipper pays homage to Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma. A large red figure faces the scene to the right accompanied by small blue figures to his sides as if behind him. Two sages, one horse-headed, are to the upper right.
This is Bhavana[rsi] who is the progenitor of the weaver cast that commissioned these long scrolls, about 28 feet long with various scenes. The Ahmedabad one has 26, while the example in the Mittal collection has 22. The Ahmedabad one begins with the trinity and then Ganesa, while the earlier one begins with Ganesa.
No big rulers associated with these commissions. The artists were apparently the same as the ones that did work for the bigger patrons and quite adept. Northern Andhra is the area, so Varangal is largest city, but the painters are from smaller towns nearby.
Jagdish Mittal has some, Salar Jung, and Seattle pieces are cut up as are the ones in this collection. Perhaps today ome of the fragments, and perhaps whole scrolls, have lost the connection with the Markendeya iconography and have modern caste connections to the tales.
The University of Michigan scroll fragments are closer to the Ahmedabad example with figures more stick like and not rounded like the earlier example. A date of the late 18th century then is possible. In fact the style seems virtually identical in every way.
The four-armed Durga sits on a stylized crouching lion with her right leg pendant and the left one across her body. Her front right hand extends down with palm outwards in a boon giving gesture while the back right hand holds a sword. Her left font hand holds a fruit or flower bud while her back left hand holds a shield. The whole is simply carved with rather subdued jewelry, but she does wear necklaces, bracelets, armlets and loose anklets as well as large circular earrings and a diadem across her forehead. Her hair is arranged behind the diadem. The stele is subtly pointed and its only decoration is a band along the outside, although a throne is suggested at her knees. A highly stylized lotus supports her right foot at the base.
Durga is a common name for the Goddess. She has a large following in Hinduism and often the title Durga is an umbrella name covering a wide assortment of goddesses. Here she is presented in a simple four-armed form and the weapons that she carries are shared by a number of different goddesses. The lion mount also is seen for goddesses that are inscribed with a variety of titles. A Hindu goddess, she also sometimes appears in Buddhist environments and this sculpture comes from an area and time when the iconographies of both Hinduism and Buddhism commingled.