10 Indian Art Mysteries That Were Never Solved – Art-and-culture News, Firstpost

Each chapter of this book is more like a compelling story than a history lesson that will put people to sleep. Although the content itself is serious, the author brings his affable sense of humor to lighten the mood. It also includes art activities to engage young readers.

10 mysteries of Indian art that have never been solved

If you are interested in art, history and detective, Mamta Nainy’s new book 10 mysteries of Indian art that have never been solved (2022) is for you. She is a Delhi-based author who enjoys exploring museums, caves and monuments outside of writing. She has 30 children’s books to her credit, including a few on art – A brush with Indian art: from the cave to contemporary paintings (2018), Bioscope (2020) and Rainbow hands (2022).

You may have guessed from the title of his latest book that it is divided into 10 chapters. Each begins with a question that sets the tone for the rest of the chapter. Some of them are: What do the Bhimbetka riddles hide? Who was Bani Thani? Why was Kailasanatha Temple built from the top down? What did the Buddha look like? Are Pithora’s paintings really maps? Why are women artists lacking in Mughal art? Who painted the Ajanta Caves?

The author opens each chapter by indicating the time and place so that readers are mentally prepared to enter the world she wants to transport them to. What follows is more like a compelling story than a history lesson threatening to put people to sleep. Although the content itself is serious, she brings her affable sense of humor to lighten the mood. All chapters end with artistic activities, which can be carried out independently or with others. This is good news for parents and teachers who are always on the lookout for engaging activities.

In the chapter on prehistoric rock paintings found in Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh, Nainy sheds light on the “art supplies” that the painters had access to. She writes: “Prehistoric people had only a few minerals to use: iron-rich red rock (ochre), white chalk and black manganese. From these, they were able to create different powders, ranging from yellow to brown to black. These pigments were then mixed with liquids like water, animal fat, vegetable juices and egg white to form a paste. The art activity in this chapter encourages readers to create natural colors using leaves, clay, turmeric, lamp soot, indigo, and water.

Books written for young readers often skip citing sources. Fortunately, Nainy is diligent with his footnotes and attribution in the main text. Introducing readers to this practice early in life can act as a deterrent against plagiarism and also point out that everything known from the past is based on sources such as inscriptions, coins, official documents, first-hand accounts, oral histories, manuscripts, paintings. , archives, etc. As additional sources appear, this knowledge can be added to, updated or challenged. Learning to assess the credibility of sources can train readers to be vigilant against fake news.

In the chapter on the Kailasanatha temple at Ellora near Aurangabad, Nainy writes: “Some scholars claim that it is beyond human capacity to create a structure of this scale and engineering. Ancient alien theorists argue that the ancient architects and engineers had the help of a very advanced civilization – some go so far as to say extraterrestrial help – and that is how this temple was created. The author discusses many other theories that have been presented as plausible explanations and finally concludes: “As of now, this is all speculation as no real evidence has been found by archaeologists to support this claim. “

Nainy also cautions readers against taking historical information at face value. In her chapter on female artists under Mughal rule in India, she points out that a lack of documentation does not mean that women made few contributions. She writes, “History can never be the big picture – it’s always from the perspective of the person writing it…the people recording the story may have overlooked (or have a biased view of) ) certain groups or individuals because of their sex, their ethnic origin. or social status. Sahifa Banu, Ruqaiya Banu and Nadira Banu are the only three female artists from this period mentioned in Nainy’s book.

The author celebrates people who have put a lot of time and effort into unlocking secrets. In the chapter on miniature painter Manaku de Guler, she describes how art historian Dr. BN Goswamy “traveled through the hills of Kangra and became acquainted with the folklore, myths and language of the region”. The thirst to know more about Manaku brought him to Haridwar, Varanasi, Gaya and Kurukshetra. He wanted to consult the bahi khatas or pedigree records maintained by panda or priests to follow the pilgrims. Dr. Goswamy finally found an 18e century entry in Manaku’s own handwriting in one of these registers in Haridwar.

Nainy adopts a conversational tone and brings playful contemporary references to keep readers engaged in her book. In the chapter on what Buddha Shakyamuni looked like, she writes: “Prince Siddhartha renounced his royal life and traveled the land on foot to find the answer to the causes of human suffering. And after years of pursuing this quest, training his mind, learning to focus his energies (and not checking WhatsApp or Instagram every two seconds), Siddhartha Gautama has formulated an answer to this eternal question.

Duckbill Books produced a well-researched resource, but it’s quite surprising that the publisher didn’t include any photographs or illustrations in an art book. Is this absence related to the cost of printing, copyright issues or something else? It’s hard to say. The pictures would have greatly enriched the experience of reading this fabulous book.

Chintan Girish Modi is a Mumbai-based journalist and book reviewer.

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Christopher S. Washington