Saturday, October 31, 2020

An Unforgettable Procession

Procession  watercolor and ink by Meera Rao

There is always much excitement when there is any religious procession. But this particular Vaiyali utsavam at the Sri Rangam Temple on Feb 6th 2020 was the first time for us. My cousin had urged us to be at the temple premises by 6pm for the Thai Thaer /Goddess Car Festival. 

Beautifully decked Goddess rides on Kuthurai Vahanam - a golden horse. Both are carried around on long poles shouldered by many devotees. The Goddess was out that evening, before the big festival for her beloved the next day -to oversee that all preparations were in order. She had come to check that it would indeed be safe for Him to take part in the festival.  And She was not merely carried by the devotees --it was a challenging choreographed procession with all the fanfare. The whole premise was so romantic and beautiful.  Here is a link to a video of a similar procession at the temple (I had trouble uploading my video). I was thrilled that we had arrived early enough to stake out a good spot and were able to witness it at close range.  This was indeed an unforgettable procession. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Rooftop Sanctuary

Rooftop Sanctuary watercolor and ink by Meera Rao

There was someone else on the next rooftop - reading, enjoying the scenery, the peace and quiet of the morning as we were exploring the Sri Rangam temple complex.  This was definitely the place to be as the hubbub down below picked up. Looking around at the scene with almost a bird's eye view, I felt exhilarated and energized. It made me wonder if the lone reader had also found a respite from the throngs of devotees, shopkeepers, tourists  that were starting to congregate in the sprawling temple complex below. Did he do this everyday and if this different vantage point helped him gain a better understanding of any situation he encountered? Did he come up there to tap into higher awareness? I am pleased that this sketch brings back the wonderful memories of that morning to me

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Shadows Dancing In Morning Light

Gopura: Shadows dancing in morning light  pen and ink by Meera Rao

My cousin told us about a staircase to the roof of one of the buildings in the Sri Rangam temple complex tucked away in an obscure corner. Of course we had to check it out ! The view from the roof was stunning. On one side was one of the 7 Gopuras.  I loved how the morning light lit the Gopura and the long shadows of a couple of people in the courtyard. 

I kept erasing more than I was drawing when I started out.  In frustration I decided to abandon the pencil and go with the pen and commit to the lines. I was surprised and pleased how the sketch started flowing after that. I used a brush pen with black ink to work on the shadows - my plan was to paint with watercolors to complete the sketch. My hubby who is usually my best critique, at that point checking on the progress said ‘I think you should stop after this and not add color’  I am happy I did :) 

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Gopura : First Sighting of the Temple

Gopura ink and watercolor by Meera Rao 

Early morning walk to Sri Rangam temple before the shops lining the narrow road opened, before throngs of devotees filled the street is  a special memory.  The gorgeous tower with colorful intricate carvings is imposing. This is first of  21 Gopuras / towers in the 156 acres temple complex composed of 7 concentric walled prakaras/enclosuresThe temple sits on an natural island surrounded by River Cauvery and Colenoor.  There is so much to see and admire. The scene was a challenge to sketch and I can’t imagine the engineering skills that were necessary to construct such an architectural wonder about 9-10 centuries ago ! - Such  symmetry, intricacies and works of art. The Shrine itself though is mentioned in the ancient historical stories and mythologies we all grew up listening. Please go to the temple website to see and read and may be even plan a visit this wonderful place. 

Monday, October 5, 2020

Meditation on Beauty

Sri Rangam Temple courtyard -ink and watercolor 9x7”  by Meera Rao 

 Early morning at the temple waiting for our guide, I soaked in the sunlight, and the serene quiet before the hustle and bustle of devotees and tourists took over.  I was mesmerized by the awe inspiring elaborate carvings on the massive temple structures and the bright colorful painted embellishments.  

Not knowing where to start, I spent time admiring the details, and figuring out what I wanted to sketch- there was so much beauty all around!  The guide was late in arriving and I was able to sketch out a few pillars and one of the many many smaller temples within the Temple complex,  saving the watercolor wash for later.  

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Travel Sketches : A Gift to Myself !

Festival Cart all decked up, Pen and watercolor by Meera Rao 

I have sketches from my trip in January and February to India and London that I somehow forgot to post.  But then, unfortunately I also have ignored this blog in the past month and have to make up for it !! I am hoping to  relive the travels that we were able to enjoy just before Covid quarantine as I post these sketches ! 

When in India we visited Sri Rangam and Tiruchirapalli in the state of Tamil Nadu for a family event and I spent a couple of hours sketching at the temple premises. The temple which is many centuries old occupies an area of 155 acres (63 ha) with 81 shrines, 21 towers, 39 pavilions, and many water tanks integrated into the complex making it the world's largest functioning Hindu temple. We were lucky to get a great tour even in the limited time we had, courtesy of my cousin Vrinda and her husband Ramanan who have published a wonderful book of photography and temple history "Sri Rangam: Bhooloka Vaikuntam".   

This is the Festival cart all decked up ready for the major festival next day. The huge wooden structure is elaborately carved and decorated with colorful, embroidered cloth curtains and flags. I sketched it as we waited for the start of another festival ceremony the evening before. It is one of the few times I have sketched under the watchful eyes of a small crowd of  devotees who were also lined up and waiting. As I balanced the sketchbook  in one hand and drew standing up in the dim light of the setting sun, I could hear comments and some approval as the sketch evolved :)  I had just enough time to complete the pencil drawing and did the watercolor wash at home.  I included the father and daughter in the drawing for scale to highlight the massive structure ! 

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