For Your Consideration
In progress: a gorgeous, powerful, and historically significant painting of the goddess Mookambika, who is worshipped in the morning as Mahasaraswati, during the day as Mahalakshmi, and at night as Mahakali by her devotees. This is why you see three images of her in the artwork. This unique artwork is currently in progress (see photos), being made with love and devotion in a ritualized manner.
This icon should go to a home where it will be treated with respect for the spiritual power of such pieces. It is historically significant for being the first of its kind in the Kerala Mural tradition: a diptych showing both front and back views of the goddess. It is offered for sale to help raise funds for a mural of eleven goddesses to be installed at the ancient Makoombika temple in Kollur, Karnataka. A deposit paid by the new owner will fund the rest of the work. Once a deposit has been paid, Mithun estimates it will require another three months to complete.
We are offering a set of two original paintings and (eventually) high-quality prints; specifications and prices are below at the end of this document.
One of the most important friendships I made during the Pandemic was with my collaborator Mithun Madhav. A talented, hard-working, and highly-educated artist from Kerala, he’s also an intuitive sacred artist with a big heart. You should see the adorable video of him lip-synching and showing off some Bollywood dance moves with his sister – alongside his artwork – on Instagram!
During the month I spent at the temple earlier this year, we had many profound conversations about sacred art. One important topic that came up again and again is how to make the deities we portray more present and alive for devotees. We use many techniques, including auspicious start times, mineral pigments gathered from sacred sites, and chanting mantras while painting.
I mentioned how some potent Tibetan tangkas made for ritual use are also painted on the backside directly behind the main deity. Sometimes they have mantras written where the chakras would be on the backside of the main deity painting; sometimes bones and organs are drawn in as well. This attention to detail ensures that the icon is “filled” with life. The images and mantras hidden on the backside are thought to be “inside” the figure.
The same is true for high-quality statues meant for temples. They are finished “in the round” not only so they can be viewed from all angles by devotees when they are carried in processions but also to ensure the deity has a fully-formed body to inhabit. Every aspect of their anatomy is highly symbolic and represents aspects of their blessing-power, so any missing “parts” would detract from the deity’s ability to help devotees.
This discovery was a great inspiration to Mithun. He is deeply devoted to this goddess and engages in ritual and mantra recitation to create artwork that makes Her presence felt. He already uses pigments ground from minerals gathered near the temple and on the nearby holy mountain. This new double-sided technique promises to add more power (Shakti) to the work, giving it greater capacity to bless devotees. He had to try it, and this masterpiece is the result.
About the Masterpiece
This is a unique and historically significant painting, the first of its kind in the Kerala Mural tradition, so far as we know. It is a diptych, meaning it is painted in two separate parts. A stunning example of this lush regional style in which the goddess is portrayed both frontside and backside.
Mithun is an ardent devotee of this goddess and made the painting with great devotion. He has painted her image many times before, but this new piece was inspired by our conversation about Tibetan Tangka art and ancient ritual sculptures. In traditions where the artwork is “brought to life” with ritual empowerment, the deity is portrayed “in the round,” both frontside and backside.
She is sitting, which indicates that her blessings may arrive slowly but remain stable. She has a third eye, which indicates she is fully enlightened and sees Unity (the vertical 3rd eye) as well as the dualistic material world (the conventional two eyes). You can see the distinctive crescent moon ornament in her crown, linking her to Shiva (who wears the same attribute) and other Shaivite deities. The moon is associated with nourishment, mystery, mutability, and secret night-time practices. She’s a Tantric Goddess.
Below her throne is her vehicle-mount, a white Himalayan Snow Lion (her father is the mountain-god of the Himalayas). The lion is associated with power (of course), regality, and fierceness. But on a more personal level for the devotee, the lion is also associated with intense emotions, like anger and passion. When the devotee succeeds in invoking Her, she directs these strong emotions to destroy the ‘demons’ of lust and avarice.
About the Mural Project
The ancient temple of goddess Mookambika is one of India’s most important centers for Tantric Shakti worship. Founded by the legendary saint Adi Shankaracharya, the core structure was completed in 800 AD. It is located in the state of Karnataka, nestled in the lushly-forested Kodachadri hills on the southern bank of the Souparnika River.
The paintings will be installed in the area of the temple dedicated to Chandi Homam (fire ceremony). This is a sacred space where thousands of mantras praising the goddess are chanted daily. The paintings will be hung where devotees wait for the ceremonies to begin. They will also be seen by anyone walking through the main procession area of the temple or waiting in line for darshan.
Well-known Indian muralist and instructor Mithun Madhav is teaming up with me, an American author, artist, and instructor, to design iconic images of eleven awe-inspiring goddesses in the ancient Kerala mural style. We are both goddess devotees and devotional artists with decades of experience in sacred art and mural painting. Local professional painter Sadanandan will assist with executing the paintings and the many hours of traditional blending techniques. Our team will be guided by temple priests to ensure the icons are precise.
Mithun is from Kerala and I am from California, making this an international collaboration. We take on the project as sadhana (spiritual discipline), and thousands of rounds of mantras will be recited while we work. All artists will observe self-discipline by abstaining from meat, alcohol, drugs, and sexual activity while working on (and in proximity to) the paintings.
As working artists, we need your support. The temple will provide us with lodging and meals, but we will need tools, materials, paint, transportation, and funds to cover rent back at our respective homes while we work at the sacred site. We would like the paintings to have protective plexiglass shields because they will be in a high-traffic area. In addition, we hope to repair, clean and install lighting on the wall where the paintings will be installed. In addition, a portion of all donations will be dedicated to cleaning the bathing area (ghat) on the holy Souparnika river near the temple.
Even if you can only help spread the word and raise awareness of the project, we are deeply grateful. But if you can offer financial aid, we at One Earth Sacred Arts are developing gifts to show our gratitude, each tailored to your level of support. These may eventually include temple tours, posters, limited-edition signed prints, original drawings, and full-scale original paintings based on mural designs. The diptych is available for presale right now.
Specifications for the Diptych Painting and Prints
Acrylic paint on unstretched canvases. Two parts (diptych), both canvases are 34” wide x 35” tall (86 x 89 cm).
The original artwork is currently in progress. It is being done with the more time-consuming traditional method of using dots to create gradations of color and tone. Kerala mural art is done in several layers, beginning with a drawing in red, then the addition of colors in a specific sequence: yellow, then red, then green, and finally anything black, including the outlines.
In western art terms, this piece would be called a “diptych” or two-panel religious artwork. The paintings are on unstretched canvas, and can be shipped rolled in a tube safely and inexpensively. If desired, the client may pay an additional modest fee to have the artworks stretched and framed in India, then packaged and shipped flat.
Mithun estimates it will require another two months of work to complete the color blending, final linework, and shipping after a deposit has been paid. When the initial deposit has been paid, work to complete the art will begin. Photos will be sent for you (the patron) to approve. The artwork will be shipped immediately upon receipt of the final payment.
The new owner will be considered a major patron of the mural project and will receive many additional gifts and regular updates (if you wish) as the project progresses.
Price: $3000.00 USD (plus shipping)
Deposit: $1500.00 USD This money will be used to complete the artwork. Once it is complete, the artist will send photographs to you. After approval, the finished artwork will be shipped directly to your address, or your may pick it up in person in Ernakulam, Kerala.
Inquiries: Contact me at: ekabhumi at gmail dot com , or contact the artist directly at: midunmadav at gmail dot com
Prints will be on offer once the original diptych has been completed. Stay tuned for details.