Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra
A few days ago scroll or manuscript fragment came my way…
The naive art that supplemented the text got my attention. And I got drawn in…
The year inscribed corresponds to 1841 A.D.
Who is it about, where did it originate, what did it say?
As I look for clues about the story contained within, time passes like the flow of the river – with no noticeable divisions between one hour and the next. After all, in this journey into a history set a 150 years ago, the measure of hours and minutes seem too trivial to bother about. When my eyes can’t keep up with my mind at 2 am, I try to sleep. But am unable to. One after the other unanswered questions nag me. My eyes struggle to open again… there is no choice. In the struggle between mind and body – the mind wins … and I look for more answers on my screen.
Thank god for google! What would I have done if I had been living this moment 30 years ago!!!!!! My curiosity would have killed me …
Here is the piece that I lost sleep over:
And here are some of the answers.
So this old piece appears to be an astrological chart made in the year Vikram Samvat 1898 which is approximately 1841 A.D.
Even though I do not understand the language sanskrit, I can read some of the script …..but the words mean nothing to me.
Yet as I am a part of that culture (and that culture is a part of me) I can recognise many of the characteristics of this scroll and I conclude that this is a janam patri or birth almanac.
[A janampatri is a Birth Chart prepared as per Vedic Astrology, a particular system of prediction developed by ancient pundits, is said to be a graphical representation of planets at the time of one’s birth. Based on these birth details, a Janampatri, also known as a Kundali, can be prepared to throw light on all astrological prospects of a person’s life. One’s Ascendant (lagna), Zodiac Sign (Rasi), and movement or position of planets in a Janampatri influence his/her life from birth to death.
Generally speaking, a Janampatri represents the positions of seven planets and two shadowy planets. In the Janampatri, you would broadly observe a chart mentioning different Houses occupied by different planets. There are twelve Houses in one’s birth-chart according to Vedic Astrology. These Houses show places of the planets Sun (Su), Moon (Mo), Mars (Ma), Mercury (Me), Jupiter (Ju), Venus (Ve), Saturn (Sa), Rahu (Ra), Ketu (Ke). And, these specific places indicate the auspicious and inauspicious influences that these planets have on one’s life. ]
At the very top is the customary presence of Ganesh or Ganpati who is invoked to remove all obstacles.
Studying it further reveals more mathematical charts written on both sides of the 2 metre long scroll alongside vertically arranged numbered rows of sanskrit script. The numbering goes from 1 to 15 representing the two phases of the lunar calendar that is the foundation for all the the mind-boggling number of Hindu calendars.
The paintings represent various aspects of life – there is a musical instrument, a bow and arrow and others representing the various areas the newborn must be trained in.
I recognise a painting of a parables that offers a role model – the scene depicting Shravan and his exemplary filial piety and a scene depicting Krishna’s charm and romance.
Though it is believed that these character maps are employed in the janam patri as a way of foretelling, perhaps it was a way of providing guidance and direction ……
And then are other pictures that I personally cannot connect to my limited knowledge on the subject:
Will show it to some seniors who might connect the pictures to our cultural heritage stories.
Such charts were routinely made at the birth of a child and I believe somewhere lost in the shelves of old papers saved by my grandparents we might be able to find one that was made for me.
But mine was not nearly as elaborate as this one.
For this one was made in the era of “Raja Bhom” as stated in the introductory paragraph.
Who was Raja Bhom?
THIS is the question that took me down that night!
One hit after another on google led me to the the discovery of royalty and the dozens of princely states in India that I had never heard of!
And through the pages and sub-pages of this website I learned a lot yesterday!
In school, we learned history for 10 years but much of it was either too broad of too narrow. We were too preoccupied with learning about the independence struggle against the imperial rule which is just a small fraction of the life of India …and completely unrepresentative of the complete history.
And even within lessons about that 100 year period that we were mainly exposed to, instead of learning about the indigo-dye-cultivation led famine by foreign rulers, or the selfish strategic mistakes made by the native rulers of the princely states, and many other mega stories of the time, we learnt trivial details like dates and the names of viceroys!
But the real annals of history of these princely states speak of not just strategy games that might be as useful as Carl Von Clausewitz’s book “On War” they also record the drama of the times. Political marriages of princesses, feuds for the throne, polygamy, murder, entrapment, negotiations of land and child are some of the other subjects that are as gripping as the thrillers of Hollywood & Bollywood!
But I digress
And so I now turn to shreds of art to lead me into the paradise of the past – filled with countless stories that take my sleep away!!
The time has also come to understand the fundamentals of vedic astrology … who knows what physics I might learn in that subject!!