Treasures. High valued or simply invaluable? Purposed with a message or aimlessly marvelous? Unclouded beauties or mysterious with deeper meanings? Intriguing, to say the least.
This is what you are left with, when you enter The Som Niwas Gallery at The City Palace Museum, Udaipur. It houses memories that take you back not decades but a good 1400 years. And keep you awed and hungry for more. And the more you delve deeper, the more you want to fall down to the surface of a pretty reality. And maybe never come back. That’s the spell the treasures at the ‘Sculpture Gallery – Divine Gesture – The magnificence of Mewar spirituality’ housed in the Som Niwas Gallery cast on you.
A big treasury of 308 sculptures at this gallery take you through a time sequence of 1400 years of a rich history of stone sculptures and temple architecture of Mewar. The oldest sculpture here belongs to the 6th-7th century CE and the most recent is a 100 years old! These sculptures are actually architecture fragments of Hindu and Jain temples, brought from in and around Shree Eklingnath ji and Nagda Temple, situated around 20 km north of Udaipur.
The consultant curator of this gallery is Dr. Alka Pande, Art Consultant and Curator, India Habitat Center, New Delhi. The gallery is divided into five different themes, with each commanding its own significance:
You can be pretty much to yourself while walking through the gallery because all sculptures are clearly labelled with a title, medium, provenance, time period and few lines description, along with their specific accession numbers. Also clearly marked are the criteria that differentiates each sculpture and segregates it to belong to one of the above mentioned themes. This is what gives the gallery an edge over many museums where independent browsing has not been given much significance.
The sculptures and panels reveal important information about ancient Mewar, which is not available in written records. You can see popular iconographic forms of God and Goddesses, as well as a few rare kinds of sculptures such as the ‘Andhakasura and Gajasura-Vadha Sanyukta-Murti’, a combined figure of Shiva, in which Shiva is seen to be killing two demons jointly. Depictions of Agni and Yama are also amongst the rare few.
Shiva as Andhakasura and Gajasura-Vadha Sanyukta-Murti,(Shiva killing the demons Andhaka and Gaja) is sculpted in marble. Travelled from Nagda (Udaipur), this sculpture shows speaks of the time between 1100 and 1200 CE. It shows Shiva standing in a victorious position, and holding his trident up in the sky, driven into the body of the defeated demon. His eight arms symbolise his increased power. His rear, upper right hand is depicted in the damaruhasta mudra, in which he holds a small, double-sided drum shaped like an hourglass called damaru (drum), which denotes the two aspects of its creative force. He is also holding a skull on a stick called khatwanga (rod with a human skull on top). An elephant skin is visible behind his head, which refers to another aspect of Shiva as the slayer of the elephant demon.
Agni is made in marble and has been sourced from around Shri Eklingnath ji temple. It belongs to the time period between 1200 and 1300 CE. Its description reads as ‘Agni, the God of fire, is easily recognisable by his smiling face, his long beard and his moustache. Four-armed, he is holding a padma (lotus flower) with a long stalk, an akshamala (rosary), a kamandala (oblong water pot) and an asruva (sacrificial ladle).’
Yama (God of Death), made out of marble and sourced from around Shri Eklingji temple reveals a time zone of 1200-1300 CE. Yama is the God of death and the dikpala (guardian of the directions) of the south. Its main attributes are a pen and a palm leaf for writing the destiny of the deceased, as well as a bird that he is holding on his upper right hand.
There’s much more to this magnificent gallery. Come experience it to believe it. For any info on how to visit this gallery, write to email@example.com or call +91 99109 00630.