‘Many people do not believe in the existence of Manaku: they think he is a figment of someone’s imagination': Prof B N Goswamy

New Delhi, September 17:Pahari miniature artist Manakucelebrates the world of Gods by providing visual parallels to Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda and the BhagavataPurana, said art historian and scholar B N Goswamy at a lecture here on Friday.


Goswamy further explains that there is little by way of a biographical account of this 18th-century painter, the son of the famous artist PanditSeu of the princely state of Guler in the Lower Himalayas and the elder brother of the more establishedNainsukh. But Manaku is equally acknowledged as a Master in the Pahari style of painting with a body of astonishingly brilliant works.


“Manaku was a truly thinking painter and his works are characterised by remarkable details. His observation was extraordinary and the living beings portrayed in his paintings display a range of expressions,” said Goswamy, who specialises in Pahari art and has painstakingly reconstructed the genealogy of the family of PanditSeu.


Over the course of an engaging talk, titled, ‘Conversations with Gods' on the life and work of Manaku of Guler,’ in the presence of artistic greats like Krishen Khanna, Manu Parekh, Jatin Das, Paramjit Singh, as well as critics and fans at the India Habitat Centre, Goswamy observed how Manaku forged a distinctive style and grounded his art in the ideas of divinity.


“I am convinced that Manaku moved to the realm of the Gods at night, conversed with them and came back in the mornings,” said Goswamy, who is the author of several books, including Nainsukh of Guler: A Great Indian Painter from a Small Hill-State, Pahari Masters: Court Painters of Northern India, and Masters of Indian Painting 1100-1900.


Punctuating his talk with a slideshow of works by the illustrious painter from Guler, Goswamy noted that there’s scant record of Manaku’s life or the existence of any biography.


However, he conveyed his certainty of one thing: “Manaku’s work will survive. His work demands not only attention but the greatest respect”. “This man took leaps of thought in his work, that’s sometimes beyond belief,” he said.


The one-hour address was the latest in the annual V S Gaitonde Memorial lecture series, which aims to discuss various facets of Indian visual arts. It is conducted as a tribute to V S Gaitonde, one of India’s foremost non-objective artists and a member of the Progressive Artists’ Group of Bombay.


The well-received lecture series is organised by the Raza Foundation – set up by the late master modern artist SayedHaiderRaza in 2001 and helmed by eminent Hindi poet Ashok Vajpeyi, the Managing Trustee.


Acknowledging the admiration Raza had for the internationally-acclaimed Gaitonde, Vajpeyi said: “Memorial lectures are an attempt to create a body of critical thought by experts. And Prof.Goswamy, who has been discovering the lesser-known masters in Indian art whom we are yet to recognise as masters, has decided to talk about the great Pahari painter Manaku.”


Noting how there are speculations on even the date of birth of these invisible masters, Vajpeyi lauded Goswamy’s efforts to track down details of Indian Pahari painters.


The talk was the latest in a clutch of eight memorial lectures organised yearly by the Foundation at the India Habitat Centre. The invariably thought-provoking talks are dedicated to Kumar Gandharva, Habib Tanvir, Mani Kaul, KelucharanMohapatra, Agyeya, Daya Krishna, V.S Gaitonde and Charles Correa.


Over the years, the lectures have been delivered by a number of important thought leaders and notable personalities, including Mukund Lath, SadanandMenon, PratapBhanu Mehta, HirenGohain, SitanshuYashashchandra, Kumar Shahani, DilipPadgaonkar, Padma Subramanyam, among others.






In the words of the Raza Foundation’s Managing Trustee Ashok Vajpeyi: “Raza is not only a name of an iconic artist but also an inspiring source of dreaming and imagining the true place, the future location of arts in our times.  The Raza Foundation is a way of dreaming, changing and transforming: it is an institution which believes that in our dreams begin our responsibilities.”


The Raza Foundation through its various fora such as ‘Art Matters’, ‘Art Dialogues’ and many annual memorial lectures endeavors to make the critical and the public come together in creative interactivity. Its various journals in Hindi and English also aim at discovering a discerning audience, a vulnerable readership for both the latest in the arts as well as the more enduring.


There is perhaps no single institution other than Raza Foundation which covers so many diverse forms of creative expression in our times, namely visual arts, poetry, classical music, classical dance, cinema, architecture, photography, crafts and ideas. Apart from direct interactions through talks, seminars, panel discussions, festivals, publications etc., the Raza Foundation supports a lot of innovative or preservative initiatives taken by other individuals and institutions.



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