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All good things begin with a Shehnai
If there is one musical instrument that defines north Indian wedding music, it is the Shehnai. The unique notes of a Shehnai are considered to ring-in auspicious events such as a wedding, engagement or even occasions such as festivals and temples events!
For the uninitiated, the Shehnai is a double reed, woodwind musical instrument. It produces a unique note that we have come to automatically associate with sanctity and good beginnings. The Shehnai is an integral part of north Indian wedding music as it has a calming and soothing note that sets the perfect atmosphere for a solemn event like a wedding. Shehnai is considered to be “managal vadyas” (translates to auspicious musical instruments) along with Nadaswaram which is popular in south India.
Wondering how a Shehnai is made? Check out this video.
The predominant theory about the origin of Shehnai is that it is of Persian origin (In Persian, “Sah” means “King” and “Nai” means “Wind Instrument”) and that the instrument may have found it’s way to India from Persia by the Mughals.
There is yet another story about the origin of Shehnai. It is thought that the Shehnai evolved from Pungi, a musical instrument used for snake charming. Apparently, the Shah banned Pungi from his court because of the shrill sound it made. It is said that a barber modified the instrument to create the Shehnai – the instrument played at the Shah’s court made by a Nai (barber).
According to The Hindu, “The shehnai was originally a folk instrument — some say that it formed part of military ensembles — but musicians with royal patronage developed it in the context of Hindustani music (and an integral part of north Indian wedding music as well).”
Ustaad Bismillah Khan – The doyen of Shehnai
Ustaad Bismillah Khan is probably the only name that comes to your mind when you speak about Shehnai. He has singlehandedly elevated the art of playing the Shenai way beyond the confines of north Indian wedding music and established it as a Hindustani musical instrument in the same league as the Sitar.
Here are some interesting tidbits about the Ustaad from the book Indian Music Masters of Our Times by Pradeep Thakur.
Bismillah Khan was a living example of Hindu-Muslim unity in India. He was born as a Shia Muslim but was also a devotee of Goddess Saraswati and regularly performed at Hindu temples.
Although Bismillah Khan was an international rock star, he remained a man of simple tastes who often spoke of his “dal-chawal” and the cycle-rickshaw, his constant mode of transport.
The maestro advocated introducing music in schools. “If music were to be incorporated into the daily curriculum of little children, I can assure you we would be evolving better human beings. I am sure you cannot tell me once example where music has been the cause of clash between man and man.”
The Ustaad has received numerous awards and recognition for his stellar contribution to Hindustani music and the art of playing Shehnai. Here are a few notable feathers in his cap – He was invited by Pandit Nehru to play Shehnai on 15th August 1947 at the Red Fort; he was awarded the Padma Shri in 1961, Padma Bhushan in 1968, Padma Vibhushan in 1980; Bharat Ratna in 2001.
In December 2016, four silver shehnais and a silver-plated wooden shehnai belonging to Ustaad Bismillah Khan were stolen
from his son’s home. Guess who the culprits were? It was none other than the grandson of the Ustaad and a couple of other men! Luckily, two of the five Shehnais were covered intact by the Varanasi police and a kilogramme of silver extracted from the other three shehnais was also recovered.
Shehnai in popular culture
Shehnai has become an integral component of popular culture in India. Be it north Indian wedding music, classical Hindustani, Bollywood music, pop music and even art! Here are a few examples.
Check out the wonderful composition by AR Rehman in the Bollywood movie Rockstar. This is an exquisite mashup of Shehnai and Guitar!
Coke Studio @ MTV is a live studio-recorded performance by various artists. Check out this wonderful composition by Amit Trivedi that that incorporates Shehnai masterfully.
Even social media posts announcing online contests start off with a Shehnai! Here is one created for BIBA by Vaishali Bawa.
Need more proof that the Shehnai is synonymous with north Indian wedding music? Most wedding invitation card designs in north India will feature a Shehnai.
North Indian Wedding Music Playlist For Shehnai
We lined up a must-have list of Indian wedding songs list for your big fat North Indian wedding. These are not Bollywood wedding songs, just elegant, melodious Shehnai tunes from the master himself that you can use for Sagai, Sangeet, Baraat, Kanyadaan, and Vidai.
Just in case you have a lower bandwidth, here is the Ustaad’s playlist from SoundCloud just in case you have a lower bandwidth.
Subsequent to Ustaad Bismillah Khan’s death in 2006, other artists have continued to carry forward the glorious tradition of playing Shahnai. Ustad Ali Ahmed Hussain Khan is considered to be another maestro who plays the Shehnai at the same league as that of the Ustaad Bismillah Khan. Pandit Daya Shankar and Pandit Rajendra Prasanna are also considered to be great Shehnai artists.
As we have seen with the traditional Indian wedding bands, there has been a steady erosion in the interest people have in retaining traditional or old school cultural elements when it comes to wedding music. People are gravitating away from using Shehnai musicians and instead prefer to use DJs at their weddings!
All said and done, the Shehnai has established itself as the heart of North Indian wedding music. No matter what the fad is in this day and age, we believe the melodious tune of Shenai will resonate at every North Indian wedding for years to come.
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Posted in Art
Tagged with: Art, Music, Musician, North Indian Wedding Music, Shehnai
The King of Fruits – Really?
It’s summer in India and it means only one thing. Everybody is going gaga over a fruit! Yes, we are talking about the king of fruits or the original king of good times (sorry Kingfisher!).
The king of fruits has had a lasting impact on what we eat. A simple Google search will throw up millions of recipes that involve the mango. You should believe us when we say there aren’t any Indian dishes left untouched without somebody deciding to add mango to it. Strangely, we are pretty sure they all taste good. After a lot of head-scratching on how we can pay tribute to the kind of fruits aka mangoes without boring everyone with our list of 10 awesome mango recipes, we chose on one aspect of mango nobody ever talks about i.e. it’s artistic influence!
After a lot of head-scratching on how we can pay tribute to the king of fruits aka mangoes without boring everyone with our list of 10 awesome mango recipes, we chose on one aspect of mango nobody ever talks about i.e. it’s artistic influence!
The mango competes big time with the coconut and banana when it comes to the question of what is the most important fruit in India. You may think only the banana and the coconut find a prime spot in all religious events and hence mangoes comes a distant third. But think again.
Unlike banana and coconut, mangoes are seasonal. However, for the short few months, mangoes make their presence felt. They have an overbearing influence on Indian culture through drawing, art, jewelry, and designs. That’s not all. Our appetite for a mango flavored drink the year never wanes even when they are out of season!
Here are a some interesting titbits that proves that mangoes have ruled us from the Vedic times and even Gods compete with one another for the coveted mango!
Archeologists discovered that people from the Indus Valley Civilization wore mango shaped ear ornaments! That’s not all, Hindu scriptures from 2000 BC tell of how a mango caused a serious rift between Lord Ganesha and Lord Muruga and how this episode lead to the allegory of the fruit of wisdom in the words of Avvayar!Devika Bal
We concluded that the king of fruits deserves its place in an art gallery considering the impact it has had on our culture. Little did we realize that mango has captured the imagination of artists from around the world. Check this out for yourself.
Summer dreams are incomplete without the mangoes!
Indian summers and mangoes go hand in hand. Here is what Rachana Saurabh had to say about her visions of an Indian summer.
This painting is inspired by my dream. These days I am missing my childhood summer days badly. Summer vacation in India , Mango tree and lots of birds singing! Few weeks back when I called my Mom in India, I heard the sweet voice of a Cuckoo bird. And the same night I had this dream!
Summer Dreams by Rachana Saurabh
Fruit meets art
What happens when a mango meets a chicken? They fell in love and had a baby! Don’t believe us? Here is what Celine Nieuwland, an artist from the Netherlands, came up with! You be a judge of whether this is the love child of a mango and a chicken or a mango and a dehusked coconut (or should we call this mangonut?)!
Fruit Meets Art By Celina Nieuwland
Watercolor mango in all its glory
This is a simple, yet amazing watercolor painting of a mango by Claudia Melchor del Rio from Germany. The painting shows the different shades of orange and red that’s characteristic of a ripe mango, ready to be devoured!
Watercolor Mango By Claudia Melchor del Rio
Japanese dolls with a head of mangoes?
The Daruma doll (also known as the Dharma doll) is considered as a talisman of good luck in Japan. It is modeled after Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism. This Daruma doll from Mineya Daruma has pancakes and mangoes! No, this is not a typo.
Daruma Doll By Mineya Daruma
NSFW mangoes from Australia!
Just when you were scratching your head about the Daruma doll with mangoes, we came across this gem from Australia. Question – When you have a grocery market close to the Bondi beach, what happens to the produce? Answer – They start wearing bikinis and skimpy outfits! Check out this artwork from Steven Popovich. He created this for the Harris Farm Market.
Sexy Mangoes By Steven Popovich
Mango Man! Sorry, the Mango Girl!
The artist, Laxmidhar Rout, explains a rather strange event that led to his creation. A girl happens to go the “mango land”. There she eats so many mangoes, that she becomes a “mango girl”. She also listens to music with her mango headsets! We just guessed she is probably listening to “taste the mango….”.
Mango Girl By Laxmidhar Rout
The metamorphosis of a mango!
Rishika Gambhir of New Delhi has put together thirteen handcrafted illustrations that show the growth of a mango. She demonstrates a keen sense of observation and of course her talent! Check out this gallery.
Paisley and mangoes
Finally, mangoes are also closely linked to the paisley pattern that’s so popular with ladies in India when it comes to sarees. The paisley pattern has already made a leap away from clothing material to become a key part of wedding invitation cards and even cell phone cases! Here is an example of Paisley pattern used in greeting cards.
PenandFavor From Etsy
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Posted in Art, Lifestyle
Tagged with: Art, Lifestyle, Mangoes
Cow artwork from Pinterest
Cow artwork? You might wonder what the hell it is and why we need cow artwork?
In India, cows and bulls are treated with respect. This is because of several reasons:
Cows are considered to be a provider of life and sustenance for human beings. Cows give milk, their dung is used as a fuel for cooking, their urine is considered to be a disinfectant. Milk is also used to prepare ghee which is used in Hindu religious rituals.
Even now, bulls are used in India for ploughing the field and irrigation. Hence, they are considered as sacred as their lives are directly tied to the fortunes of a farmer.
According to the Hindu religion,
“To the Hindu, the cow symbolizes all other creatures. The cow is a symbol of the Earth, the nourisher, the ever-giving, undemanding provider. The cow represents life and the sustenance of life. The cow is so generous, taking nothing but water, grass and grain. It gives and gives its milk, as does the liberated soul give of his spiritual knowledge. The cow is vital to life, the virtual sustainer of life, for many humans. The cow is a symbol of grace and abundance. Veneration of the cow instils in Hindus the virtues of gentleness, receptivity and connectedness with nature.”
The cow is also a sustainable animal if it is not killed for its meat. People were encouraged to refrain from slaughtering cows as the adverse impact it had on resources such as water.
Because of these reasons, cow artwork is seen as a symbol of importance these docile creatures are in the lives of Indians.
We scoured Pinterest to get you the best cow artwork we could find!
1. Olivia Fraser
Olivia Fraser first came to India in 1989 and had her first show in Delhi in 1991. Following in the footsteps of her ancestor, James Baillie Fraser who painted India, its monuments and landscape in the early 1800s, Olivia set out to continue where her ancestor had left off, painting the architecture of India and its people. She also happens to be the wife of William Dalrymple. Here are some of her cow artwork.
2. StoryLTD collections
StoryLTD is an online e-commerce platform that sells select fine art, antiquities, jewelry and designer furniture from a curated list of Indian artists.We picked a couple of cow artwork from two different artists on StoryLTD.
Krishna with Cows from Suvigua Sharma is an exquisite artwork that’s done on antique stamp paper with 24 carat gold! They are expensive and brings together Indian and Europen styles.
Amit Ambalal was a businessman who gave up everything, including his ancestral home. for the sake of plunging into painting full time. It’s the color, design, and texture that gives his paintings the light and easy mood.
This Gond painting from Kaushal Prasad Tekam highlights the Gonds’ belief that everything in nature is inhabited by spirits and they need to be appeased with sacrifices. Gond paintings are created on the walls of their dwellings and besides being decorative, they are expressions of their religious beliefs and sentiments. The themes are closely linked with their daily lives and depict their local festivals and Gods, as well as objects and creatures present around them.
3. Mahadeo Karande
Mahadeo Karande’s artwork is about the majestic bulls and buffaloes. Here you will see them sparring. The Jallikattu controversy has its roots in the old tradition of bullfighting among rural communities in India. Karande’s paintings reflect these traditions.
4. Ramesh Gujar
There is very little information available about Ramesh Gujar and literally let his artwork speak for himself! His exquisite paintings and his unique style shine through in this portrayal of Krishna and his cow.
5. Nivas Kanhere
Nivas Kanhere is an artist based out of Pune. He studies at the renowned JJ School of Arts and has won several awards and competitions around India. In this artwork on canvas, he depicts a realistic scene that many of us have seen in villages, towns and cities across India.
6. Iruvan Karunakaran
Karunakaran’s paintings on street scenes from south India are realistic. In this painting, he depicts the “boom boom maadu” or a performing ox. This is a dying art form that involves trained oxen in colorful dresses performing to commands by its trainers.
Vivek Kumavat is a Mumbai based artist. He has created different variations of the majestic bull. Here is one of his paintings.
8 Digamber Gavali
Digamber Gavali art is unique and his works are rich in allegory and intriguing in the symbols they use. The buffalo is a delightful combination of modernity with colors.
9. Christopher Corr
Christopher Corr is an illustrator and artist from London. He creates illustrations for children’s books from around the world. His work reflects the deep local knowledge and a sense of playfulness. Here is his illustration
A big shout out to Lesley J Jackson of Scotland for curating the awesome cow artwork from India.
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Posted in India
Tagged with: Art, Artist, Cow, India, Pinterest
Paintings on Indian culture are no longer boring
Raise your hands if you were born before the early 1980s and believe paintings on Indian culture are boring!
For those that were born before the 80s, there was one major thing that we take for granted nowadays that was not available. It’s the Internet!
Our encounter with illustrations and paintings on Indian culture was restricted to the photos of Hindu Gods in various sizes and frames that adorn every Hindu household throughout India. The art section in the Hindu gave us a glimpse of the what is happening through the country when it comes to paintings on Indian culture.
Famous artists like MF Hussain or his works will probably be mentioned in some news story every now and then. Some of us marvelled at Raja Ravi Verma’s exquisite paintings on Indian culture. If you were into arts, you probably had a much better exposure through books and school.
For the rest of us, our exposure to paintings on Indian culture was pretty limited.
Things are very different today. The availability of Internet everywhere has thrown open a lot of possibilities for artists throughout India. We are seeing an artistic renaissance in India as artists use the Internet to showcase their talent and also create new interpretations of the Indian culture as they get exposed to art from the west.
Yet another trend we are seeing the growth of platforms like Behance that lets artists from around the world (including India) to showcase their talent and find gigs. We also have a many commercial or e-commerce platforms that provide an opportunity for artists to sell paintings on Indian culture with a modern twist. All of a sudden art is no longer boring or confined to the rich. It is accessible to you and me, thanks to the Internet!
We decided to scour Paintcollar, a popular e-commerce site that sells unique merchandise with designs by artists in India, for illustrations and paintings on Indian culture and what we found will blow you away!
The bomb has been planted!
This amazing illustration from Paneer Pixel Masala worships the “atom bomb”. No, not the nuclear variety. This is the quintessential ‘mind-blasting’, ‘ear-splitting’ cracker that kids and grown-up love to ‘explode’ during Diwali. Who said Indian culture has to be peaceful or refined?
This illustration from Shakti Hari epitomises the Bollywood culture and the star power of Superstar Rajnikanth. His pose depicts his famous one-liner in Tamil – “If I say anything once, it is as good as saying it 100 times.”
Mumbai in 2098
Kushal Tikle from Singapore has created these paintings that depict a post-apocalyptic Mumbai in 2098. It brings together gritty elements of current Indian culture – Ambassador car, an Indian Railway coach and the ubiquitous Bollywood poster in a futuristic world. I was hoping the Swach Bharat program will clean things up a bit in Mumbai!
BTW, did you notice elements of truck art in one of the above pictures?
Shiva the destroyer, also available for protecting your laptop!
Lord Shiva in his dancing pose (Nataraj) is well-known the world over. Even Hollywood movies depict this imagery and there is a huge statue of Lord Shiva at the Minneapolis Museum of Art! This artwork from a freelance painter, Anhrodeep Mukherjee, is available to adorn your laptop.
Sadhu smoking weed and the villager
This a painting of a sadhu smoking weed by Sanjay Sharma. We have nothing more to say. Just stare and inhale the smoke.
Here is a villager. Notice the background.
‘Ramman’ or is it Hanuman?
This is a cross between Hanuman and Superman! Do you see the ‘S’ in this picture? Cool art by Tejeshwar Prasad.
Love in the train
The Indian Railways is an integral part of the Indian culture. It’s also been instrumental in bringing the country together in several ways! Another masterpiece by Tejeshwar Prasad. Wink wink.
The talented Mr. Deepak Gupta has created amazing paintings. Here is Gautam Buddha for you.
Madhubani paintings are unique to regions of Bihar. They involve bright colors and patterns made using natural dyes. Check out the work of this talented artist from Chennai.
Mermaids find a place in eastern as well as western cultures. If you look the sequence of paintings above, you are left wondering if the woman gazing the sea become a mermaid?
Colorful Indian city
This is an incredibly colorful painting of an Indian city. The advantage of looking at a painting compared to actually experiencing an Indian city is the complete absence of the smells and sound that assault our senses in Indian cities. You can find other interesting abstract painting and patterns from this artist here.
As you can see paintings on Indian culture spans the past, present, and the future. The explosion of artistic talent all around us and the ability of e-commerce platforms to showcase these artists is liberating. Purists will argue that commercialization of art may not be a great idea, but boxing art into any definition is also not a great idea.
You will also love this blog post – 21 Amazing Bollywood Fan Art
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Posted in India
Tagged with: Art, Illustrations, India, Indian culture, Paintings