From Mahabalipuram, India – Dispatch 3 of 3

 

In the midst of sand and spume there was only the sound of silence.

I was in ancient Mahabalipuram in South India on a sultry summer day in 1986.

A short walk away from the Shore Temple sprawled a tribute in stone dedicated to the heroes of the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata.

 

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Upon an embankment stood fashioned five “chariots” (never understood how these looked like chariots!)  carved in stone – monolithic structures each hewn into its own peculiar shape. From the mighty Dharmaraja Ratha which towers above the rest, to the oblong Sahadeva Ratha and the little hut-like Draupadi Ratha, each monument seemed to share a history of its own.

Only the thrum of the booming sea wafted in the cool breeze as I watched these stone sentinels that had seen thirteen centuries of winds and waves dashing against the ramparts of an ancient sea-port.

Commercial scratchboards weren’t available then – I therefore put my homemade scratchboard of hardboard, gesso and India ink to use, creating this work over a couple of days.

 

– Check out www.kvkrishnan.com to get more insights into my new book Rambles into Sacred Realms: Exploring Divinity through Pen and Paint, where I invite readers to experience such adventure, humor and imagery illustrating my travels.

 

 From Mahabalipuram, India, Dispatch 2 of 3

Here in the seaside town of Mahabalipuram in South India, master craftsmen of yore had chiseled splendor in stone. Each column, each image, each form came alive with rhythm of ancient architecture.

Facing the turquoise sea stood a 90 foot x 45 feet colossus, one of the biggest stone bas-reliefs in the world. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Arjuna’s Penance comprises two humongous boulders with a fissure in between. Around it are carved figures of gods and goddesses, beasts and birds even as, somewhere in the contained chaos of stone figures,  Arjuna, the hero of the Indian epic, Mahabharata, stands upright, praying for victory in war.

It was a balmy day in the summer of 1986. I stood under a sweltering sun, taking a few sketches and black-and-white photographs with my boxlike Rolleiflex upon a wobbly tripod perched on sand. I had fashioned a 12 x 16 hardboard coated with hardened gesso and a coat of India ink. This was my scratchboard before commercially-made products were freely available.

 

– Check out www.kvkrishnan.com to get more insights into my new book Rambles into Sacred Realms: Exploring Divinity through Pen and Paint, where I invite readers to experience such adventure, humor and imagery illustrating my travels.

 

From Mahabalipuram, India – Dispatch 1 of 3

 

I watched the waves lashing adamantly on the rocks, the hushing foam sweeping the sands. I stood by the Shore Temple, an ancient structure lost in time.

An hour’s palm-fringed drive along the road from Chennai in South India sprawls this once-flourishing sea-port – domain of the mythological vain king Bali, who was humbled by Vishnu, the Protector god of the Hindu pantheon.

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Mamallapuram, as it is popularly known, was once the kingdom of the Great Wrestler or Mamalla, King Narasimhavarman I (630 A.D -668 A.D) who had built the earliest of its monuments.

After a few sketches and photographs with my ancient black-and-white Rolleiflex, I proceeded to prepare my own scratchboard with gesso on hardboard with several coats of diluted black ink.

It was 1986 – one of my earliest pieces of such engraved art.

 

 

– Check out www.kvkrishnan.com to get more insights into my new book Rambles into Sacred Realms: Exploring Divinity through Pen and Paint, where I invite readers to experience such adventure, humor and imagery illustrating my travels.

 

From Ellora Caves, India

 

“Tell  me  something,” I asked our guide at the  end  of  the tour of the Ellora Caves. “How did three distinct faiths coexist here as one?”

He thought a while.

“The  Ellora Caves are carved in along a gigantic  crescent – just like the moon much past its fulness”  he  replied, poetically. “The moon reflects itself separately on several pots  filled water. But there is only one moon, just as there is oneness in the cosmos…”

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 From Bryce Canyon, Utah

US - UTAH - Hoodos at Bryce Canyon
Serendipitous stone sentinels stretched endlessly as far as the eye could see. The wind fluted through these strange rocks, with every swish microscopically carving yet another mark on the face of Time. The afternoon sun smiled down on these shapely crags, licking them into a pinkish glimmer.

I stood watching the millions of these limestone sculptures arrayed in the spectacular diorama ahead – these were the ‘hoodoos’ of Bryce Canyon – sentinels of a harsh stonescape.

It had been a three-hour drive from my little log cabin in a place called Hurricane in Utah through lush landscape.

I stood by the Bryce Amphitheater, probably one of the most enchanted spots in timeless Bryce Canyon; some would argue, probably one of the most intriguing spots on this planet. I eyed the endless stretch of strangely shaped hoodoos from the loft of Bryce Point, one of the highest overlooks along the rim of the amphitheater. To me this could have passed off as an ancient necropolis, or even an ancient city carved into the mountainscape – replete with shrines and palaces, minarets and turrets – for miles that I could gaze into.

Far into my drive back to my cabin I couldn’t just get those stony wonders off my mind – spectators had seen through millions of years of earth’s moods and watched strange life forms come and go.

Civilizations had sprung forth and had been snuffed out, the sun had set on them a countless times, smoldering their faces into an eerie glow.

 

– In my new book Rambles into Sacred Realms: Exploring Divinity through Pen and Paint, I invite readers to experience such adventure, humor and imagery illustrating my travels.