The stories behind two paintings

Art, photos and text by Srijan Jha


The first.


22" x 22" | Acrylics•Poster Paint•Water Colour•Pen on acid-free Italian paper•

This is an illustration of a story I picked up from near Guwahati, Assam. The place is called Bishnupur.

The tale is a folkloric version of the the events unfolding after the popular tale about Goddess Kali's conquering of the demon Raktabija. Kali, a little carried away after tasting blood, it is said, turns the universe into a battle-field. To help her stop this, her consort Lord Shiva comes to Earth, lays down in her path to be stepped on by her. As Kali touches Shiva, she realises her excesses and snaps back to reality, tongue sticking out in a symbolic expression of realization and apology. 

In this obscure story, even after she returns to her peaceful Durga Avatar, the world shivers of fear surrounded by the sight of the Dystopia that's been created. Twenty eight of her most dedicated devotees then rush to her feet, for peace and light. Transformation then happens internally, and the goddess grows  twenty-eight hands, each holding a lotus flower for the tormented devotees. Durga then attains, it is said, her most peaceful avatar— Mayatara.

The many whimsical interpretations, alternative stories, and literature and paintings inform my art.  I'm not the greatest believer or worshipper, but considering the depth and sheer amount of literary and artistic gems we sit on, I'd like to, in my life's work, step back a century or more and draw inspiration from there. 

It took me over sixty days, working twelve hours a day, to paint Mayatara's story. Through her tale, I could dedicate myself to practicing and crafting meticulously detailed, fine patterns.

As I finished, the old saying 'God lives in details' couldn't ring truer to my ears. 



The second.


30 cm x 30 cm | Alta•Pen on acid-free Italian paper•

This is one of the first pieces I made since I left Calcutta recently, the city I most relate to. 

It comes from a space of exploring the idea of interactions: between two women of different strata of Bengal's society, a Tagore and a tribal. The piece also explores the life and loves of the influential painter Amrita Sher-Gil, often referred to as the Indian Frida Kahlo, who, while studying at the prestigious École de Beaux-Arts in Paris was rumoured to have had a relationship with her roommate Marie Louise Chassany. Exploring her sexuality with both men and women, Sher-Gil was also briefly associated with Edith Lang, a Hungarian pianist some years her senior.

(The Lookout Journal recommends referring, in this context, to Sher-Gil's painting 'Two Girls'.)


Srijan Jha is a miniature artist who loves reading Tagore. His WIP videos on Instagram are a must-watch. Find the account here