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Many faces of Shakti explored

Shakti created the Trimurti — the three Hindu gods —Brahma, Vishnu, Maheshwar (Shiva). But when it came to choosing a husband, she chose Shiva. Since a mother could not marry her son, Shakti took the form of Sati, Daksha’s daughter, to marry Shiva. But Daksha disliked Shiva deeply and he organised a mahayajna, where he invited all the gods except Shiva. Expressing her desire to be present at the yajna, Sati tried convincing Shiva but in vain. That’s when Sati took the form of Dasha-Mahavidya to remind Shiva who she really was…

And thus began the story of Dasha-Mahavidyas — the theme of art installations by Arghya Dipta Kar on the 10 aspects of the divine mother, referred to as Kali or Shakti in the Tantric tradition.

The presentation titled “A Critical Analysis of the Shakta Traditions under the Light of Contemporary Gender and Culture Studies” saw the young artist showcase his watercolour and calligraphic paint works on the 10 Mahavidyas at Studio21 on Friday.

“I was always interested in religion, specially Tantric tradition, but didn’t know how to channelise that interest. It was during my masters (in English literature) that I started making sculptures and artwork to express my interpretations of various aspects of religion,” said the 29-year-old self-trained artist and theoretician.

Arghya completed his MPhil in comparative literature before moving on to do a PhD in the Tantras of Bengal at the Centre of Comparative Religions and Civilisations, Jamia Millia Islamia.

Questioning the very basis of the general beliefs on Hindu gods and goddesses, Arghya brought forward the non-Vedic Tantric traditions through his art.

From the depiction of Kali to the beautiful Tripurasundari and the widowed and evil Dhumavati, he narrated the story behind each Vidya, explaining the intricate details that he had accommodated into his works, which follow no particular school of art.

The works expressed the lack of gender difference in Tantric traditions and the predominance of women in the form of Shakti in it. The belief that there is no difference between man and woman and that Shiva-Shakti is one and the same was reflected in the installations.

Having completed two more series of paintings on Durga Saptashati and Shiva-Shakti Kamakala, Arghya said: “I locate something very revolutionary in these traditions, something that can break the boundaries of gender. It is a new way of integration, world view and philosophy.”