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Desert Tunes Resound in the Himalayas

On April 25-28, 2018, the International Roerich Memorial Trust (IRMT) provided its exhibition space for the group show by three Jaipur-based freelance artists: Shryansy Manu, Shivali Dhaka and Bhavna Saxena. Titled “A Music of Thar,” the show virtually brought the famous Rajasthani Thar desert with the fragments of its nature and culture to the Himalayan Roerich Estate.

The works of Bhavna Saxena depicted various monuments of Jaipur and other locations in Rajasthan, including the formidable Jaigarh Fort, which the Roerichs visited soon after their arrival in India in 1923. Of particular interest were her two black-and-white works showing the poor plight of certain monuments in that region – robbed of colour and life as it were – which immediately brought to mind Nicholas Roerich’s idea later expressed in his Pact (1935) that monuments and art works tend to decay due to neglect and indifference shown to them by society. 

A colourful selection of oils and acrylics by Shivali Dhaka, some of them infused with philosophical symbolism like her unusual interpretations of the Radha-Krishna and Buddha themes, introduced the visitors to the world of travelling Rajasthani musicians some of them seated on a lake shore and strumming away on the local variety of violin, their faces radiating serenity and bliss one is likely to experience while listening to the traditional Rajasthani tunes at sunset.

Mrs. Shryansy Manu, the only of the three artists present at the opening ceremony, displayed several works that captured the very soul of Rajasthan: the colourful portrait of a nomadic gypsy bride (incidentally, gypsies are believed to have originated from Rajasthan), the realistic sketch of a camel, “the ship of the Thar desert” on whom so much depends in this arid region, and a procession of rural women on a long march to fetch water.

The exhibition was inaugurated by Mr. Vitaly Vassilyev, the organizer of the international plein air and exhibition project “Art Expedition-2018. The Himalayas” taking place these days in the Roerich Estate, who appreciated the artists’ efforts and mentioned that the displayed images made him feel like “going to Rajasthan right away.”