Vaidehi Bridging Distance, Localising Culture —  Vaidehi may have various names like Sita, Janaki, or Maithili,  but her true essence is unique and everlasting. Yes, I am talking about the daughter of Mithila, Sita who is a character from the great Indian mythology Ramayana.  Her relevance is revered so much so that it inspired some veterans and budding artists of Mithila and they painted her in different forms creating some extraordinary art pieces which were then exhibited in the month of May at Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts and also in August at National Crafts Museum and Hastkala Academy in New Delhi. The whole idea of this enchanting exhibition, “Vaidehi, behind the body,” was orchestrated by Dr. Savita Jha Khan, founder of the Centre for Studies of Tradition and System (CSTS), and her dynamic team members. Dr. Savita brought together not just artists from India but also the works of artists of Indian origin who settled overseas. Today we shall explore their journey and witness the different forms of Vaidehi they created.

If you look at the exquisite portrayal of Vaidehi as Prakriti by Neha Sharma, an Indian New Zealander artist currently residing in Germany, you will be awestruck not just by the craftsmanship but also by how she blends the idea of Sita who faced injustice and mistreatment in her life with the current times where the Prakriti or environment is ill-treated by humans. Her artwork is inspired by the strength and courage of Sita, how she was able to give and nurture despite the atrocities she faced. However she raises a strong point of Sita´s life which was grappled with patriarchy, and definitely for her Sita is no feminist, though being an incredibly powerful and composed woman who lived every situation in her life with grace and dignity. The artwork created by Neha Sharma reveals her inclination towards the intricacy of Mithila art, yet exploring a contemporary theme in a subtle color pallet. It is a magnificent juxtaposition of Indian mythology with the present day and the canvas very well illustrates her refined western approach to Indian Folk Art. To check out her work on Instagram, you can follow her @art.nsha

Your eyes will not get tired of looking at the glorious painting created by Neha Gopinath Pillai, an Indian artist from Kansas City in the USA. She has named her creation `SiRa` a Sanskrit word meaning head. The artist has very interestingly portrayed Sita with ten heads, where each head stands for an attribute like sacrifice, courage, purity, love, simplicity, power, nature, knowledge, prosperity, and dedication. She derives her inspiration from Sita´s agnipariksha (an ordeal of fire) and believes all these attributes of Vaidehi were tested when she walked on fire to testify her chastity. Her canvas has center staged an outstanding Vaidehi in red burning on fire, though one cannot ignore those gazing eyes and pointing fingers well arranged around the canvas. That is how she connects the life of Sita to the present day, where prejudices against women have been around forever and continue to stay in society’s mind and ethos. She believes in experimenting with the art form, but perfectly weaves the basic dexterity of the Mithila Art in minimal yet bold colors. You can check out her other works on Instagram @neha.gopinath.pillai

The serene portrayal of Vaidehi as a mother by an Indian American artist Rupam Varma will not just soothe your eyes but also touch your soul with its purity and divinity. The artist feels that nurturing is a part of every woman’s nature. Her ability to persevere in difficult circumstances and stay true to her role as a mother inspires her and this is very well portrayed on the canvas. Rupam believes that Vaidehi personifies purity of thought, a sense of power and confidence that draws from her feminine self, and a character rooted in the self-discipline that chooses to deal with life on her terms. As the artist originally hails from Mithila, the land of Janaki, she is inclined towards the valor and courage of Sita and she shows her in the strongest form of a woman as a mother who raised both her children on her own despite many hardships. Her journey from Mithila to the USA has motivated her to find new influences while sticking to the roots when it comes to the art form. Check out Rupam´s Instagram handle @rupam_varma and catch a glance at her amazing artworks.

`Save Soil, Save Sita` is not just a bold title but an astonishing depiction of Vaidehi by a very talented Indian artist Priyanka Chowdhuri from the UK. Through her vibrant canvas, she paints a very thought-provoking form of Sita as the sacredness of soil, the ‘Prithvi Tattva’, and the Earth itself. She interestingly came up with this stupendous idea by emerging deep into the essence of Sita. How Sita is not just a character but a presence, a part of the divine feminine.  She believes that Vaidehi is often misunderstood as a victim, instead, she was gloriously powerful, born from the soil, and sacredly chose to go back to the soil. In her representation of Vaidehi as sacred mother earth, Priyanka perfectly blends and balances this age-old art form with today´s harsh reality where about 52% of the soil on planet earth is dead. She strongly questions our Dharma towards our Dhara, Can we still save ourselves, our soil, our Sita, and our earth? This is the only planet for us, in the whole cosmos. Sita is urging us to fulfill our dharma. Can you hear her distress call? Her Vaidehi stands in hope that mankind needs to work harder towards saving the only planet that they have. You can have a look at Priyanka´s artistic journey on her Instagram handle @iampri._

“A strong mind can carry a weak body but a weak mind cannot carry a strong body”, a quote by Shri Shri Ravi Shankar was the inspiration behind Mallika Srivastava`s Vaidehi, an Indian artist based in South East London. Her meditating Sita is depicted radiantly on canvas, where the artist reflects on the physical and mental strength of Vaidehi. Mallika strongly believes that Meditation or Dhyana was an important virtue of Sita that kept her calm as well as strong in every situation she faced in life.  She perceives Sita as powerful yet elegant, strong and sharp yet so sensitive in every phase of her life, and she very well paints different scenes from Sita´s life and blends it impeccably into the canvas. Her ingenious imagination is truly reflected in portraying Sita´s mind with `Ram` inscribed all over and also some life-changing events like Ram Sita Swayambar (Sita´s marriage to Ram). She further depicts the various skills that Sita possessed like Literature, Ayurveda, etc., and charmingly visualizes it as a necklace Sita is wearing in the painting. One cannot but notice the two inspiring episodes of Ramayana painted on Sita´s arms where the artist tries to tell that Vaidehi was endowed with supreme strength and divine powers. Through her work, Mallika would like to inspire everyone to meditate and keep their minds strong and calm, just like her meditating Vaidehi. Follow Mallika on Instagram @coloursbymallika and watch her create some masterpieces.

Vaidehi is every woman, believes an Indian Canadian artist Shweta Shankar Khatri who painted her canvas in bold colors and incredible intricacies. She further emphasizes that she sees Vaidehi as a warrior, a healer, a politician, a co-worker, a teacher, or a child as she lives inside every woman. As Sita was the pillar of support for Rama, so are the women today and they stand tall with self-respect and shine through every test in their lives, elaborates Shweta. Her portrayal of Vaidehi is not just extraordinarily unique but also every element in the composition is relevant to our times. From Garud to Lakshmi, to Maarich, to Luv Kush, she very well amalgamates each and every vital episode of Sita´s life and explains its relevance to women today. Her composition stands out and illustrates her affinity toward rich Indian culture and heritage. You can check out all of Shweta´s amazing creations @mydigitalartistree on Instagram.

Who could have thought that Vaidehi can bring two cultures, two religions, or two countries together? Well, if you look at the astonishing depiction of Sita in a Buddhist monastery by Anushree Dutta, an Indian German artist from Munich, you will be mesmerized not just by the beauty but also by the incredible synchronization of the two religions (Hinduism and Buddhism) in her magnificent painting. She derived her inspiration from Sita´s significant time of life spent in Srilanka and placed her in a Buddhist monastery where Vaidehi stands tall and resilient, her virtue always growing. Anushree chose to show Sita as a tree or Prakriti, as according to her Sita was benevolent just like Prakriti and never expected anything in return. In her depiction of Sita, one cannot overlook the tears dropping from Sita´s eyes, which Anushree connects with a famous folklore in Srilanka, that every time Sita cried in Lanka, her tears were collected to form a pond which never dries till date. She further emphasizes that Vaidehi was so generous that even her tears are a source of life. It is also very fascinating to observe how the artist matches the footprints of Buddha with Vaidehi. She explains, Buddha taught us to have a perfect balance of mental and physical strength and Janaki is the best example of it, as Sita was not just physically strong but also her perseverance was the biggest weapon against all odds she faced in her life. Anushree has remarkably designed the Monastery pillars with Buddha´s teachings and matched his footprints with that of Sita´s on the top panel of the Monastery. Some of Vaidehi´s life events have been meticulously painted with the finest details to complete this brilliant composition, which you can find on Instagram along with many of her other creations @duttaanushree

Every story narrated or every Vaidehi painted is simply unique, yet what is common in the interpretation of Sita by all these seven artists is just so startling. They all perceive Vaidehi as courageous, powerful, divine, and a confident soul. Her relevance is still intact so much so that she inspires this generation with her perseverance, her resilience, and her benevolence. It is simply fascinating how one cannot contain or limit Sita´s presence as she spreads her wings beyond the borders.

-Anushree Dutta


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Notes: apart from title change, the article has remained the same.





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