H N Suresh

Growing up in a religious family where every practice was observed, every tradition followed and every value instilled, not only made for a wholesome upbringing, but left a deep impression on me, unobtrusively shaping my personality traits. Ironically, it was these same practices that made me question them later, and delve deep into them.

As children, we would get all excited when our mother asked us to run to the nearby Shiva temple and light sesame lamps before the Navagrahas. For us, it was an outing, a short trip with siblings and friends to place those lamps and hop back home. The little lamps would be lit in front of the celestial deities, who stood in different directions, not facing each other. Their intriguing positions came back to haunt me when I started observing them subsequently.

Rituals such as the orderly stacking of our books for a puja every Saturday and chanting Samskritam hymns was a respite from homework, but unlike today, we understood those hymns better, as Samskritam was one of the mandatory languages we learnt in school.

My siblings and I were blessed to be provided a 360-degree exposure from academics to art. It is because of this that I realized art was my forte, and painting, my passion. The annual Ramanavami music festivals, where stalwarts of our time performed at the Sheshadripuarm High School near my house, was another great source of influence.

We soaked in every bit of culture that surrounded us, which unknowingly became a part of our learning. The Ken School of Art and my mentor, Dr. R. M. Hadapad, played a crucial role in honing my talent in drawing and painting. Having secured a job after completing my education, painting became a mere hobby. Some of my paintings were selected for exhibitions across the country, gaining recognition. My learning from life and nature convinced made me that we don’t create anything new; we only observe what is around us and put it on canvas. Based on my study and research, my earlier paintings have been broadly categorized into the spectrum of time and space; they have also been combined for an audio-visual treat.

Naksatras, Navagrahas and Astadikpalakas are in the realm of space while Raashis or seasons fall under the spectrum of time. The two churned together gives you the real dimension of music.

Svara raga chitra—the singing portraits

A fine blend of space and time that exists in music led to the Svara raga chitra works. Srî-Tattva-Nidhi throws light on the fact that every svara has a connection with cosmology and nature. In music, a composition’s rendition is measured by tala (time aspect) whereas the alaapana brings out the melodiousdimension.

My interest in music and cosmology was the catalyst for bringing out the various hues of the svara-s that make up Indian music.

Svara raga chitra, apictorial representation of svara-s and raga-s, points to the association of every svara with an animal, river, colour, bird, adidevata and so on, just as the seven chakras of the spirit body are associated with a particular svara.

This series is special because the pictorial aspect is buttressed by audio-visual inputs specially created by foremost musician and scholar Dr. T. S. Satyavathi, who stood with me as a backbone of the entire project. The involvement and support of InshaImmehani, faculty, Bhavan’s Kalabharathi, and her team, made this series a reality.

Seven specific paintings depicting one svara each have also been brought out in this series, plus a composite piece, Svara Chakra, which makes an interesting study of the elements that go into making of a svara.

Eight Carnatic raga-s and their Hindustani equivalents have been pictorially depicted in the form of a tree which represents Indian classical music.On either side of the tree are showcased the two music forms.

Integral to each painting is an audio rendition of the raga accompanied by a brief yet detailed explanation tracing its avarohana and aarohana, svara sthaanas, janya, rasa and the time the raga has to be sung. Music therapy has been incorporated too, considering the advanced research in the field the world over.

For the paintings to assume educative and utility value, a QR barcode has been provided for viewers to scan and learn more about the paintings, a fallout of which is a better understanding of the ragas and their various attributes.

A Carnatic-Hindustani jugalbandi is another highlight, making Svararaga chitra a feast for the senses. Credit for the music and commentary goes to Dr. Satyavathi, who has put in humungous time and effort to make the project a success.

The series is dedicated to Sri Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar, former Maharaja of the erstwhile kingdom of Mysore, a well known composer and musicianhimself. His centenary was observed in 2019.

I Envisage……with little background of Indian ethos, many youngsters today are unable to understand and appreciate our ancient literary and art works. India’s knowledge systems of antiquity have been lost in the mists of time, many scientific discoveries of the West having already found mention in them.

If the youth delve into these ancient texts and learn from resource persons the advanced civilization that India was, they will realize the high pedestal that we are on when it comes to knowledge. This art work is educational material that has drawn from ancient texts and tomes which formed the foundation as well as reference material for creating it.

Svara ragachitra will be worth the effort if artist(e)s will develop on the concept further, using the boundless information waiting to be tapped.

I profoundly thank each and everyone who have extended their help and support for this project.

H. N. Suresh
Director, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bengaluru.