Dan Brown is writing a new Robert Langdon book ‘Origins’. What if he heads to India this time?
Well I lived the life of Robert Langdon over the weekend, for a short while. The mission – to decipher the clues left behind by the artists of the bygone era. Of course the setting was neither Paris nor the paintings in question the masterful European renaissance art,there was no hidden treasure map and mercifully there were no murders either.
I was instead at the old quarters of the most popular market for wholesale purchase. It is a place packed with at least a million people on two wheelers and the extremely brave ones in their four, crisscrossing the narrow lanes, the horns blaring and the inevitable maddening chaos that’s all around. It is definitely not for the faint hearted.
Luckily I was there at the crack of dawn so it helped that the million people were reduced to a handful of us who had gathered at this century old building complex ( Guru Ram Rai Darbar), slap bang in the middle of the slumbering market maze.
Today it is a place of worship and a place to savour the feeling of being far from the maddening crowd.
It is also a magnet for many who come armed with cameras to click the magnificent sweeping lines of the structure,the open courtyard dotted with stately trees and the beautiful frescos adorning its walls.
We were there for all of the above.
It was actually a walk conducted by a Roberta Langdon (my DaVinci Code hangover…here, a petite lady professor, a part of the heritage walk group ‘Been There Doon That’) who passionately traced the stories of faith,love, power, renunciation across the beautiful murals on the ancient walls. She was eagerly followed by a bunch of Sophie Neveus hanging on to her every word(yours truly among them) as we tried to decipher the clues to the epic as well as ordinary lives.
The themes were random from the exile of Rama to Krishna dancing with his gopis to a scene from a contemporary panel called ‘Indra Sabha’ which apparently was a blockbuster play from 1853. Move over Shakespeare!
There were stories of angels losing their heart to mortals , kings renouncing their thrones, disappointed queen, wandering saints and proud noblemen. Human emotions have not changed much even though times have.
The frescoes in places were faded and peeling but mostly well preserved. They sparkled with such intensity;the detailing in the costumes hard to miss and the jewellery was to die for (priceless assuming those gems were real). I recognised the huge nose ring, typical of the the Garhwal and Kumaon region, which even today is a mandatory part of the traditional bridal attire.
Statement piece, right?
Jostling for space in the midst of ancient gods and holy men, it was disconcerting to see colonial soldiers complete with rifles, ladies in their hoop skirts carrying parasols and ordinary shopkeepers from the neighbourhood basking in the spotlight.
Long live the artists and their quirky works of art!
Well , we do know of one such painter ,Tulsi Ram , for he painted his ‘selfie’ among the frescos. He ensured that he will be remembered for a long time.
On the roof of one of the doorways, the eyes couldn’t help tracing the brilliant floral patterns entwined with birds .It happened to be one of the best spots to capture the stunning colours. Our guide gently pointed,”the flora and fauna are local species and they were all hand painted, using vegetable colours only.”
Walking out, I happened to spy a similar hand work, replicating the mural magic, on the back of a T-shirt. The gentleman sportingly posed for the photograph.
“My wife painted it”, he said proudly.
It is strange how we are surrounded by so much beauty and yet take it for granted . We pray, we touch to remind ourselves it’s real and then scratch our names , phone numbers and petitions for lost love or everlasting love,exams and even peace on Earth.
Folks ! We have to learn to keep our inner Banksy in check.
Meanwhile, here’s another quirky but practical feature to rescue the day – clear plastic coats for protection from the natural as well as human element. What will we think of next ?
One thing is for sure, between the prayers muttered under the breath and the stories shrouded in myths and legends that were shared, we all stood enthralled by the staggering work of art. Numerous photos were clicked, memories tossed around , promises made and as I blog, we seek in our own ways to preserve a part of our history and remember it for the next generation.