Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cuisine of Bihar : Healthy and Delicious

Cuisine of Bihar : Healthy and Delicious

The cuisine of Bihar, the cradle of Indian civilization, speaks for itself about the history, culture and the special efforts of the local people to have their food as gourmet’s choice. The food matches the geographical condition, rich agriculture, local vegetation and the royalty.

The local cuisines show how it evolved over centuries. Remarkable factor of the Bihar cuisine is that the state has imbibed the best and most suitable aspects of Mauryan and the Gupta style of cooking.

During the Islamic rule, the non-vegetarian dishes of particular taste also developed with the “Khansamas” (royal cooks) making them mouth-watering with the addition of exotic spices and ‘khushboo” (edible scents). Bihar has also been under the reign of Turko-Afghan era and the mighty Moguls and naturally the exotic Mughal cuisine affected the Bihar style of cooking and the test of the habitant of the state. The changes in culture that swept through Bihar over the centuries also influenced the cuisine from time to time.

Wheat and rice are the staple food of Bihar. Vegetables are grown in abundance and cooked in a variety. A regular Bihari meal consists of Dal (Pulse), Bhat (Rice), roti, tarkari (sabji) and achar (pickles). But as season changes so does Bihari thali. It is said that just as the seasons changes four time in a year, so does the contents of the Bihari meals.


However, Litti has made a special identity of Bihar. It is a distinctive cuisine of this state: a part of the ethos and culture of the local people.

During the last NRI – meeting in Patna, the Diaspora Bihari’s virtually became sentimentally motivated when their eyes caught round – shaped mass of baked flour and “Sattu” placed in the platters alongside the bowl having “Chokha”. Yes , we are talking of centuries old Bihari food that in supreme in taste: Litti -Chokha.

Today, Litti Chokha has been catapulted into the national scenario because any one can have a bite of it in the railway stations, incidentally, it has become a trend for almost all Bihari politicians to throw “Litti –Parties” in New Delhi. But Litti is a part of Bihar’s historical past.

But What is a Litti ? The ancient most food of Magadh region ( the central part of Bihar , Litti had also played its own role in the history as the rebel sepoys during the Mutiny of 1857, would carry it as their staple food. As litti can be baked without any utensils, the mutineers virtually survived on it. They would bake it on the metallic sieve deep inside the jungles and ravines. A Litti remains fit for eating for more than 48 hours.

Prepared with flour and “Sattu” mixed with “masalas”, Liiti is made of different shapes the popular-most among them being the ball-shaped ones. It is prepared by twisting the palm of the maker. It is, ideally, baked in charcoal, wooden fuel and cow-dung. Often, people fry the Litti to make it more tasty.

In the Cnetre of Liiti , Sattu is stuffed with a mixture of such spices like black pepper, Thymol ( ajwine) , Ginger , Garlic , Mustrad Oil , Lemon Juice and Salt are placed. Chokha is prepared by tomato, brinjal and potato. Litti is eaten with Chokha, a very tasty gruel-like thing.


Making a tryst with sweet dishes centuries ago, the Bihar people developed an assortment of items with the help of locally available materials. The love for sweet dishes by the sons of the soil can be gauged from the fact that different cities or regions of Bihar are associated with different types of items. For any tourist, carrying those sweet items is virtually a tradition. One of the reason for it that most of the sweet items are dry: unlike “Rasgolla”, they do not contain liquid sugar juice.

For example the name of Gaya may be quoted. Gaya has been the origin of several sweet delicacies popular in the whole of Bihar. Tilkut, Kesaria Peda, Anarsa are the most popular sweets that bear the trademark of Gaya.


Tilkut being the most popular of them is prepared using till or sesamum seeds and Jaggary or sugar.

It is a seasonal (winter) sweet and only the Karigars (workers) from Gaya are believed to impart the real taste of Tilkut, One can find Tilkut carrying the label “Ramana Gaya” even in the far-flung places like Kolkata and Delhi.

Ramana and Tekari road are the areas of the city where every other house is a Tilkut factory.

In preparing Tilkut, sesamum seeds are poured in thick sugar juice— after this material is mixed till they turn hard. After this, the material is hammered to attain the spherical shape.


Kesaria Peda, which is mostly known as ‘ Gaya Ji ka Peda’ is yet another delicious sweet prepared from Khoya (condensed milk) and Kesar (Saffron).

The Karigars (skill workers) who prepare them possess special skill, imitation of which is not possible.

As saffron is used in making this type of milk-made sweet item, it is known as Kesaria Peda.

The chowk area of the city specialize in Kesaria Peda product.


To be in Bihar in monsoon and not to bite an Anarsa just cannot be possible.

In the street corners in almost cities, a visitor to Bihar can hardly miss people standing for minutes to buy hot Anarsas as they come out of frying pan.

It is also based on Khoya but it is deep fried and processed with sugar.

Anarsa comes into shapes “thin disk” and spherical.

The sweet is finally embedded with till (sesamum ) toppings.


The township of Barh may be a tiny one but its name circulates all over India due to Lai Ka Laddu: a very special sweet item whose origin lies in antiquity.

The main component of this Lai is Ramdana. These ramdanas are processed and mixed with Khoya and sugar. It is given different shapes: disk shaped, spherical and traditional “laddu” sized sweet.

It is very delicious having nutritional values. Often the sick and convalescing people are given this particular item because it is very easy to digest.


Originating in the squat – little hamlet Silao near Rajgir the mouth – watering sweet dish truly fits its name Khaja (just eat it). Yes, you really should eat a piece to realize its name. It is said Buddha was also fond of Khaja. The antiquity of Khaja can be understood from the fact that the name of its birth place figures in Mahabharat – it was at Silao where King Jarasandh was killed by Bhim of Pancha Pandava in a wrestling. Who knows Khaja might have been a chief sweet dish when Bhim had visited Silao ?

Varying in sizes, Khaja basically is made of very thin layers of flour matured in sugar juice. On drying up, it becomes hard but it virtually melts in the mouth the moment one eats it.

These sweets are dry and can be packed easily, preserved and transported, unlike the Bengali sweets which are soaked in sugar syrups. There is a tradition among the residents to gift the visitors with these sweets when they depart, as a token of love.


At the stroke of midnight on November 14, 2000 Jharkhand came into being. This particular area, known earlier as South Bihar, was born by cutting part of Bihar. As the food habbit, culture, religion and historical back ground of Jharkhand people happens to be same as the Biharis (barring the tribal people), this state is hardly having its own school of cuisine.

The tribal people may be using their ancient-traditional cuisines, but the non-tribal use the food more or less same as Bihar.

For the tribal, Mahua flour, maize , millets, edible roots and tubers continue to remain their main cuisine. They take bread of mahua flour and drink ‘Hadia’ a indigenous liquor made locally almost in every family.

Both male and female of tribal are very good hunters: they make pigs, deer, goat , hens and wild cocks as their target . They roast them and eat with ‘hadia’.

But during their festive occasions they prepare sweetmeat, ‘Thakua’ of flour mixed with sugar giving a fine shape of their deities thereon. The such foods are distributed to the neighbours too.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The wonderful Thangka

Thangka are paintings of sacred, ritualistic and ceremonial subjects on Buddhism hung up in temples, monasteries and private chapels. Such painting are meant for meditation as they are the manifestation of the deity. The Buddhists have rituals galore.

The Tibetan painting can be examined at two distinct levels: its visual vividness and portrayal of Bhuddhism pictorially. These painting symbolizes the real points of Buddhism , its endless variety of socio-religious themes and attempts to express the mystical world which is very complicated.

Thangka are paintings or, occasionally embroidered pictures, usually called “banners”. They first came into use about the tenth century. Before that time painting was mostly confined to frescoes on the walls of the temples or monasteries or in caves. Most of the Thangka we see in the Occident probably date from the 17th century to the 19th century.

These Thangka are hung in the temples and at the family alters in homes. They are also carried by the Lamas in religious processions. This particular school of art expresses the mode of life of the Tibetans in an unique style with total honesty, sincerity and beauty. The Thangka painting portrays how artistic and sensitive the Tibetans are. In Tibetan language Thangka means something that can be rolled. These painting are done on cloths and rolled. The term Thangka is derived from two words: Than and ska. These two words mean realistic form and personification of the avtar (reincarnation).

At the initial phase only the painting related to life of Lord Buddha used to be given in the Thangka painting but gradually included portrayal of different other subjects related to Buddhism. Often they depict stories which the Lamas use to illustrate their sermons.

The Thangka are usually painted on canvas, sometimes on paper, but rarely on silk. The canvas is sized with one part glue to seven parts white chalk mixed with tepid water. Then it is stretched on a frame to dry. It is rubbed with a smooth stone, sprinkled lightly with water, and again left to dry. After studying under the guidance of a Lama artist, the student monk prepares the canvas and puts the outline on the canvas from a transfer of dotted lines. Then the colors are made ready. At first the colors were made from minerals and vegetables. The blue and green mineral colors are ground from mineral rocks found near Lhasa. The Yellow comes from the province of Khams. The reds are made of oxide, of mercury, and the vermilions is imported from India and China. Gold is brought from Nepal. The vegetable colors are: black, made from soot of pine wood; indigo, from the indigo plant from India; yellow, from a flower growing in the vicinity of Lhasa, the utpala flower;  lac, from the lac insect of India and Bhutan.

The minerals are ground, and then mixed in various proportions with water, glue, chalk, and lac or alum to give the different degrees of consistency and shading. The plants and vegetables are boiled before being prepared with the required amount of glue.

The brushes used are pine twigs hollowed at one end, into which goat or rabbit hairs are inserted to the required thickness. A compass made of two pieces of split bamboo is needed also in order to get the correct measurements of the figures on the canvas, according to the canonical rules. Usually the student does the work up to this point. The lama artist continues from there. He paints in the landscapes and figures. The important details, such as the faces of the deities and the inscriptions, are executed on auspicious days decided on by the astrologer Lamas. When the painting is finished, it is mounted with a silk or brocade border, and usually a thin silk dust-curtain is put over it. Around the painting there should be a narrow red border, then a narrow yellow boarder, and last the wide blue mounting, in proportion to the size of the canvas. When the original mountings wear out, they are sometimes replaced by other colors. Usually there is a flat stick to which the banner is attached at the top. At the bottom there is a roller, sometimes with ornamental ends, to weight the banner and keep it straight and firm. Red, yellow, and blue are the three primal colors used in mounting the banners.

When the banner is finished, it is consecrated by a high lama. Occasionally one finds on the back the print of the hand or of the foot of a Living Buddha. The subjects and composition are often very striking and vivid, and they produce spectacular effects when seen by the light of the flickering butter lamps in the dim interiors of the temples.

It is necessary to go to the symbolic perception of thangka painting to understand different aspect of the Tibetan Buddhist. The followers of Buddha adopted the system of painting as the best method to propagate the religious concept of Buddhism as the rolled thagka were much easier to carry then the idols. In fact they used these painted rolls as a substitute for idols to popularize the philosophy of life and practical teachings of Lord Buddha. The Thangka painting acted as substituted form of books on Buddhism also. Even the kings following Buddhism laid more emphasis on these paintings then books that led to the popularity of Buddhism all over Tibet. These painting played a prominent role in spreading Buddhism to different countries including Japan, China, Java, Sumatra, Burma  and Sri Lanka.

According to famous writer Tucci the thangka represents the symbolic as well as imaginary facts through colors. By the medium of thangka the Buddhism finds its depiction. Tucci, an Italian expert on Tibet says - “This particular painting is mirror of actual Tibetan life. It reflects the philosophy and religious precepts of Buddhism as a whole. “

The Dalai Lama however believes the thangka painting shows the inner eye and very high depth of knowledge of the Tibetan Lamas regarding philosophy, religion and practicality vis-a-vis the Buddhism. Certainly, this school of art, the Dalai lama says, gives joy to many, posses curiosity among several people and offers new inspiration to the people to wake up to new awakening.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Vaishali : Legacy of the past

Unable to resist the temptation of enjoying the cool breeze of the light sunny day of the land loved most by Lord Buddha, I sat beneath a mango tree. The ruins of India’s first republican form of government lay very near me. The bright rays of sun were filtering through the leaves of mango tree.

The young owner of the small roadside dhaba named after Amrapali, narrates to me about this mango orchard once belong to the famous court dancer of Vaishali in whose mango orchard Buddha had come to take meal along with his disciples.

Nothing remains to be seen now. However every thing appeared very live . So live that it seems there hardly is a gap of 2550 years between the present phase and past one. Suddenly I felt Amrapali herself is standing before me while halting for a moment in her busy time of preparing food for Lord Buddha. The pride of feeding the Lord clearly reflected through her eyes.

The capital of the Lichchavi republic, Vaishali was very dear to Buddha. He created a ‘Bhikchu Sangh’ ( order of hermits) on the basis of the ‘Vajjisangh’ or as per Lichchavi tradition . Several times he came to Vaishali and delivered sermons at ‘kutgarshala’ to the people. He spent two rainy seasons at Vaishali and form the association of female monks also . Several laws of ‘Vinay’ were formulated here, and several people were converted here to Buddhism. In the Buddhist literature Vaishali deserves special status in which court dancer Amrapali also occupies a central place.

The last time when Lord Buddha came to Vaishali he was eighty – it was here that he had announced of taking ‘Mahaparinirvana’ meaning end of his mundane life. That was the day of Purnima (full moon) in the month of Magha. The ‘Mahaparinirvana sutta’ deals about it at length. The court dancer had come to know that Buddha was staying in her Mango orchard- The present one.She went their immediately along with her concerts. Amarpali paid her tributes to Lord, listen the discourses. Moved by it, she urged Buddha with folded hands that the Lord should accept her invitation for food. The Lord mutely approved of it. Lichchavis of Vaishali, also aware of the Lord arrival, came to the mango grove in chariots where they met Amarpali too. She told them of Buddhas approval to be her guest next day. Though not believing her fully, yet Lichchavis urged her to take substantial money from them to allow them to cook food for the Lord. They got an emphatic ‘no’ from her. She was not ready to bargain the great opportunity for the entire Vaishali republic so proud she was. On seeing the Lord coming to Amrapali’s house the Lichchavis people urged him to accept their food also. But he said no as he had agreed to received the invitation of harlot Amrapali. Buddha relished the very testy food prepared by Amrapali. At the end of the meal she said she is donating the mango grove to ‘Bhikchu Sangh’. The Lord accepted.

This is the same very mango grove, but hardly any remains are here. The ancestral house of Amrapali lay some where near this ambara chowk of present day vaishali. A sign board of archaeological department of Bihar also stand here confirming this fact.

Truly writer – thinker Nirmal Verma aptly said “ I think very often how sad is the city that has no ruins of the ancient past Living there is as harrowing as meeting a man who has lost his memory –has no past.” Little realizing the importance of ancient ruins, people of Vaishali destroyed them one by one, ironically Indian democracy was born in this semi-rural patch of land. Vaishali is the birth place of Indian republicanism. Even Ashoka Stamba also majestically stands at Kolhua village near here . It is known as ‘ Lion Capitol ‘ – insignia of Government of India. It was erected around 269-232 BC.

Vaishali is no less important to the Jainism. What is most gratifying, even Tirthankar Mahavir was also born at Vasukund near Vaishali. He was a son of Ruler of Siddharth and Trishala, Mahavir spent nearly thirty years in Vaishali before leaving his royal palace in 532 BC. After 12 years he attained supreme enlightenment at Vanijya village. He spent his twelve rainy season. At the age of 72 , Mahavir attained his nirvana at Pawa which is located in UP . On that occasion, the republicans Mallaya and Vaishali lighted earthen lamps to market. All together eighteen republican countries of contemporary India had participated in it. The Jainism sprawled far and wide from here. The sun was about to set . Few local boys were collecting dried leaves of the tree. In the gush of air the leaves use to move away very fast making the boys run after them . As you look around you find yellow rays emerging from the earth – this happen to be the massive fields of bloomed flowers of mustard. The blowing of breezes was causing strange sensation in my ears – they were very soft, poetic and rhythmic. Matching to this scenario , lay the luxurious rays of sun as far as eyes go.

It is in this backdrop that a dome shaped catches your eyes: the Vishwa Shanti Stupa wearing an absolute milky white coating. This 131 feets (in height) was raise in the memory of Lord Buddha. It is 6 feet higher than the Shanti Stupa of Rajgir. Niponjan Myojhee organization of Japan is credited with erecting it .

The ancient Vaishali Republic functioned more or less in the fashion as prevailing within the Indian republic Day .The chief executive of the ancient republic comprised a Raja, a deputy Raja, army chief and minister of finance department. There used to be a committee of nine states that was responsible to look after the foreign affair . The building where the central legislature meetings/ session used to be convened , was known as Sansthagar – their parliament . It total membership strength was 7707. Members of parliament used to be called as Raja who would be coroneted by the people at a pond called , Abhishek Mangal Pushkarni. No person other than the Rajas could touch the water of that pond. It used to be guarded heavily, Besides an iron net used to cover the surface of the water so that no birds could touch its water . The legal system of the Lichhavi’s was extremely modern as there were several tires of upper and lower courts. So that an offender carried the chances of getting exonerated by any of them. The head of the State used to be Supreme authority of the entire legal systems.

Lord Buddha followed this pattern to form his Sangha or order of the monks. The Mahaparinirvana sutta – a major Buddhist literature says Vaishali played a very important role in the life of Lord Buddha who spent 488-487 BC phase here.

The decline of Vaishali republic started with the ever growing power of Ajatshatru the then emperor of Magadh who managed to destroyed the republic of Vaishali diplomatically through his minister Vassakaar . Vassakaar got success in making access to Lord Buddha , who was in haste to leave Vaishali for Kushinagar , where he breathed his last in Purnima 487 B.C. His mortal ashes were brought to Vaishali . The mortal remains were divided into eighty portions. The lichchavi’s also got one of the portion which they later entered into a stupa. This particular urn containing Buddha’s ash were discovered from the stupa from Harpurbasant village very near to vaishali in 1958.

Getting there: -

By Air – Nearest airport is Patna, connected to Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Ranchi and Lucknow.

By Rail – Nearest railhead is Hajipur.

By Road – Patna – 55 k.m. Muzaffarpur – 36 k.m. and Hajipur – 35 k.m.

Accommodation – It is best to spend night in Patna and make a day trip to Vaishali since there are no good hotel facilities.


The journey route of Prince Siddhartha, a subject matter of research since 1812 when the East India Company took very serious efforts to create a record of Bihar’s history with Buddha being its pivot, is claimed to have been discovered by a team of historians comprising Indian, Japanese and German scholars.

“Mahabhinishkramana”, the most important chapter of Jataka says after leaving his royal palace of Kapilavastu (now in Nepal), Siddhartha crossed the Anoma River to wander through the thick jungles, villages and different towns to reach Bodh Gaya where he attained the enlightenment beneath the Banyan Tree.

According to the ex-Director of K. P. Jaisawal Research Institute Dr. Jagdishwar Pandey, the Buddhist scriptures mentioned the names of those places trodden by Siddhartha to reach to Uruvilla or Bodhgaya, the historians could not draft the ancient itinerary followed by him as their names changed totally over the last 2550 years.

Dr. Phil Gustav Roth (German Indologist, Buddhist scholar and retired professor of Gottingen University), Prof. Zuiryu Nakamura (Japanese historian) and Dr. Pandey spent nearly 26 years to finally discover Siddhartha’s journey route with the exact names of cities, villages and jungles.

Their names existing in the 6th century B.C. when Siddhartha started his Odyssey changed in such a way that they do not at all match with the present ones. The Mughal era — 1526 to 1857— saw their total transformation with Arabic and Persian names replacing the ancient ones pronounced in the dialects like Maithili, Magahi, Angika, Bajjika and Bhojpuri.

Mahabhinishkramana, says Siddhartha left Kapilavastu on a full moon night of Asada month in a chariot driven by horse Kanthaka and guided by charioteer Chandak to reach Anoma River. On crossing that river, he ordered Chandak to return to Kapilavastu and he exchanged his robe for saffron ones of a hunter.

After shaving the hair with his sword, Siddhartha begin his jungle wandering to traverse through a large number of places to finally reach Bodhgaya. Nearly 25 places among them, including Vaishali, Kesaria, Bettiah, Lauria Areraj and Pataliputra, them are very important

The team of Dr. Pandey, Dr. Roth and Prof. Nakamura created the map of Siddhartha’s journey route in 1996 and named it as “Itinerary of The Buddha”. It is going to be published in Japan and Germany also very shortly. Both Dr. Roth and Prof. Nakamura have crossed 90.

Fa Hien and Hieun Tsang, the two famous Chinese travelers, also had traced the journey route from Kapilavastu to Bodh Gaya via flood ravaged northern and drought prone central parts of Bihar.

While Dr. Roth lived in Bihar for a very long stretch of time, Prof. Nakamura visited Nepal for 17 times to carry out researches on Buddha. This Japanese scholar also had lived in Bihar for a long time. These three historians made extensive archaeological excavations in Nepal and Bihar to discover the journey route of Siddhartha.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Jalan Museum: The time really stands frozen here

Nestling in the lap of the historical township of Patna City, the Jalan museum is virtually the pivot around which the past revolves. This private museum possesses some of the antique pieces and art objects that just cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Housed in a 459 – year – old Qila or fort , this art museum was founded in 1919 by Diwan Bahadur Radha Krishna Jalan. Though the Diwan Bahadur is no more, the museum that he created has been successful in catching the eye of the world .

In 1947 when an exhibition of Indian art took place in London , an expert team flew in to Patna City all the way from the capital of England to visit the Jalan museum. It selected 98 items for their display at that event.  It is really surprising that a one – man collection center now is considered as one of the richest museums of the world.

The museum is located in an ancient Qila or fort near the river Ganga . The fort, built in 1541 by the Afghan ruler Sher Shah Suri , has an interesting history  of its own .

As per “ Tehrik – e – Daudi “, Sher Shah spent a whopping Rs 5 lakh  to construct the Qila . The historical records say that the Afghan chieftain stayed at Patna City or Patna Saheb for some time. He liked the location and decided to build a strong fort. Though the fort has collapsed, its ruins still remain.

The East India Company purchased the fort from the Muslim Nawabs . The Diwan Bahadur, who purchased it from the  Britishers, was known the world over as connoisseur of art . During the silver jubilee celebration of King George V, he was invited to London as a guest. He collected rare things, old sculptures, archaeological items, paintings, ancient furniture and other historical things from different nooks and corners of the world. Once he produced a mummy during his sojourn to Egypt and brought it to the Qila House. However, he could not keep the mummy in the museum due to the objection of his wife. Hence, that piece   from the land of Pharaoh was removed.

The museum enthralls all. Here, the fossil of a 10 million – year – old tree  can be found standing as mute testimony of history . Brought from America this fossil still offers a fresh look.

The Jalan Museum has several halls . The first  hall , ineteralia , contains rare manuscripts  in Hindi , Sanskrit , Tibetan and Siamese , belonging to 16th and 17th century . While the porcelain – made dinner set of King George III meant for 28 persons , amazes a visitor , the 16th century Persian  files and “ tanpura “ of Rajasthani folk singer ‘ Dal “ and “ Badal “ would undoubtedly  charm him . The idol of Surya Deva ( SunGod ) from Orissa too  leaves the people spellbound . It belongs to the 16th century . The 11th century Chamunda idol also looks quite new.

The Qila House figures in several books authored by the Europeans . In “ Travels , On My Elephant , “ Mark Sand wrote , “ As we rode under an impressive portico flanked by romantic Italian stone statues and a pair of blue and white Chinese water jars standing in niches ,  a small , well groomed , prosperous  looking man , wearing a smart suit in top pocket of  which was row of gold Cartier pens , came running to meet us . Welcome to Qila House , he said excitedly . I have been expecting  you . I am Bal  Manohar Jalan , but my  friends  call me Bala “ .

Bal Manohar also  played a major role in putting   Jalan Museum  on the international tourist map . Due to the efforts of his son Aditya , this museum  now is going to be  put on the website . Onnce on website , the importance of the Qila House would go up further .

There are many interesting   events associated with the Qila House . One of them relates to the  silver dinner set of Raja Birbal .

In 1953 when the then Prime Minister , Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru visited Jalan Museum  , he was served food in Birbal dinner set . Panditji who came here along with the Bihar Governor , Mr R R Diwakar and Chief  Minsiter  Dr Sri Krishna Singh , refused to eat from that dinner set as  he thought it was rather feudalistic to eat from silver utensils.

He , however , was told that it belonged to King Birbal . Panditji , subsequently , eat from it  with great pleasure. The articles of worship  of Raja Birbal are also lying here .

The journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal mentions about he worship items of Raja Birbal kept in the Jalan Museum  . Made of solid silver , inlaid with gold and copper , the worship items of Birbal also find their place in the book . It says that those items are near 400  years old . The worship articles , all excellent specimen of Bidri – work , bears the name of their owners and the dates on which they were acquired .

One of the halls deal exclusively with the porcelain items of China and idols of Chinese style . They belong  from 7th to 10th century AD during which the Sung and Ming dynasties ruled  this land of “ Great Walls” . The blue – coloured “ War God “ and statue of Lord Buddha , both belonging to 16th century , are star attractions of this hall. In the third hall , there are very attractive and rare French vessels kept in an almirah belonging to the 17th century and made by “ Serve “ , a French company . The picture of woman was made first on the vessel and then it was polished , so that it may last for centuries and was brought from Paris in year 1945 . Many other valuables  which were brought from Paris are kept in this hall . Among these are the expensive golden furniture  of Louis 15th and Louis 16th .A wine-cool of Marie Antoinette ( Louis 16th’s Wife and last Empress of France ) and some articles of use of Napolean Bonaparte are also kept here .  Among them are his tea set and a small box .

A very attractive cut – glass watch is kept in the corner of the same hall. It is said that it was made by a Nawab of Lucknow for Wajid Ali Shah. And  the stand  of watch was made by Nawab of Murshidabad . A grand couch of Napoleon .  The Third ( nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte ) is kept here . The length of the couch is short . It is said that Napoleon The Third was short in height . The emblem of his  empire is inlaid in the center of  the couch , which is visible . The swords of King Humayun and Akbar are the most important articles of this hall. The name of both father and son are inlaid with Gold on the swords . The edge of Humayun’s sword is straight and sharp . There is beautiful. inlaid work on the grips of these swords .

The forth and last hall has jade  stones ( 260-200BC ) of Han period . These are rare and huge in quantity . These jade stones were brought from London  from an auction held there . Seventy percent of stones were purchased by London Museum and rest 30 percent were purchased by the founder of this Museum  . They are of different sizes and some are in these shape of icons.

The palanquin of ivory of Tipu Sultan is also a worthy collection of this Museum. An inlay of golden flower is made on this and the emblem of Tipu is also inlaid on the palanquin.

A beautiful cabinet of Henry The Eight of France is kept in a corner of this hall . In the center of this hall. In the center of this cabinet there is a beautiful picture of “ Diana “ . The picture of the king and the Queen can be seen on both sides of the lower  part of the cabinet . An idol of Lord Buddha is also a very prized article of the Museum. The time really stands frozen here

Thursday, April 11, 2013


The Sufism in its totality – songs and philosophy – now has gained popularity not only in India or the Indian sub-continent but all over the world.

The magnificence of the spirit of Sufism became crystal clear to me the moment I glanced at the grand mausoleum of Hazrat Makhdoom Shah Yahyah Maneri. Maner owes its name from this great sufi saint who brought a socio-cultural cum religious revolution centuries ago.

Located exactly 25 km away from Patna on the right hand side of the highway, the importance of this sufi centre (Maner Sharif) became evident to me when I found a group of foreigners taking snaps of the mausoleum that was described as the best piece of Mughal era in Bihar by the British scholar-historian Buchanan.

Intruding in their discussion, I asked a young man that to which country he belonged and what brought him here. I came to know that he is from far off USA and the call of his spiritualism made him cross seven seas to come to Maner which was once visited by Emperor Jehangir for the same purpose.

At the time of Jehangir’s rule, Maner was extremely famous for its courteous people, sufi saints and Khanqahs (Islamic schools imparting religious education). In those days the scholars, Sufis and Rais (feudal lords) visited Maner Sharif both for pilgrimage and take lesson from the great scholars.

Hazrat Makhdoom was a renowned Pir and his fame had spread even to far off places. After his demise, a “mazaar” was built over his grave and one of his family members was in charge of its upkeep. The tradition continues even today. The construction took two years and was completed in 1616 AD. Red and yellow stones were brought from Chunar for the purpose.

The influence of Mughal art is clearly visible in the “makbara” and the building architecture. It is worth mentioning here that at this time the Mughal architecture had began influencing the architecture of other areas. The makbara with massive entrance is the beautiful example.

During my daylong sojourn here, I found people coming with a variety of purposes. Some to offer “chadder” at the “dargah”, some for picnic, some to see the wonderful architecture and some to do historical researches.

Maner is also very famous for its Laddoo made of pure ghee. Importance of this sweatmeat became glaringly clear when I found people thronging at the Laddoo shops. Befitting the sweatness of the Laddoos, the experience of a visitor at Maner would also be very sweat.

Getting There: 25 km from Patna (one can hire a taxi to go to Maner and return the same evening well easily to Patna).

By Air: nearest airport is Jaiprakash Narayan International Airport, Patna

By Rail: nearest junction is Patna Junction

Where to stay: there are lot of hotels in Patna suiting every pocket and taste.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Down the ages the women of Madhubani have been painting colorful pictures on the walls of their homes. This art is a tradition that has been passed on from mother to daughter over centuries thus keeping the art alive – just like an eternal spring…………… 

The first thing that attracted my attention, after entering Jitwarpur, was that yellow building. A small group of girls was entering that building. A few years back when I first visited this place, I had heard the interesting story of the making of this building. A German lady, who was also an art connoisseur, Erica Smith, builds this building in the early days of the eighth decade. 

It was the year of 1968 – the entire land was in the grip of a terrible famine. Imbued with zeal to help the famished villagers, Erica Smith trotted through the Madhubani villages. Gloom all round, but she was suddenly struck by the bright figures on he mud wall of the hutments. Bewitching and dreamy, Erica was told that this was done by an unlettered Belle who, when cajoled by her, unhesitatingly reproduced it on a sheet of paper. Then Erica bought a lot of paintings and took them to Germany with her. She gave the artists their remuneration. After a few months, She came back again. The villagers found it strange, that Erica wanted to spend the money; she had gained from selling the paintings, on the progress of that village. She bought a piece of land and thus started the work of this building. She felt that this would help the art lovers, who came from various places to buy the paintings, as they wouldn’t have to move from one village to another and one home to another, to buy the paintings of their choice. It would also help the artists as they would find it easy then to sell their paintings. She later helped to form a committee which worked for the welfare of the artists. The money that was still left was used by her to get the ponds of the village cleaned. 

“Erica is no more but still the villagers remember her” says K.K. Putty. (Madhubani based Putty is a reporter of Hindi daily.) I had requested him to accompany me. 

These are rainy days. It was raining heavily last night. While leaving from Patna at dawn, the sky was clouded. But now the sky was clear and it was bright all around. Pieces of white clouds were floating in the transparent sky. Leaving our car there, Putty and I came out on the roads of Jitwarpur. Jitwarpur and Ranti are situated on the outskirts of Madhubani. These are two such villages where Madhubani Paintings are made. It is a part of their daily routine. Then I began thinking of Madhubani. 

The rhythm that the word “Madhubani” – generates, have an old anecdote attached to it. Centuries ago, the bees might have been making their hives in the jungles that lay near to the village- subsequently, the villagers regularly extracted “Madhu” or honey before the arrival of rainy season. Hence the place came to be known as “Madhubani”. Tilling the earth, in those days of hoary past, was not a very easy job, for to grow crops, the people had to depend totally on nature god. They needed grace of the god for good crops. Hence, “Madhu” or honey was the only thing that could provide sweetness in their lives. 

My knowledge of the history of Madhubani or Mithila is very limited. But the people of Madhubani amaze me a lot. For 3000 years, they continued to present the paintings (in their original form?) Without any change. Generally it is hold that way back in 2000 B.C., the Aryans could cast their influences on the Indians. Beginning their journey from the Central Asia, the Aryans came to the Kashmir valley through relatively plains routes. In the beginning, few Aryan – settlements took place in the pasture lands, located in Punjab region, because they could get enough for their domesticated animals. But one of the Branches of Aryans came to the Gangetic –Plains – With the help of the Ganges; they came up to the Mithila – region by crossing river Gandak. Thus, the kingdom of Mithila came in to being. According to the Arthavaveda, that Nomadic – race settled down in Mithila – region. 

Over the last 3000 years, the warlike Mongols and Persians Made several invasions on Mithila – region. The new marital – relationship took place and an inter- mingling of different race too occurred. 
Under these circumstances, it is difficult to say whether the people of Mithila could retains their original racial identity or they looked different from their neighbours. However, they kept intact their ancient tradition of art and painting. 

During the British period, W.G. Archer, while roaming the villages of Mithila, saw the murals and paintings. He was enamoured by them. He termed this particular school of art as Mithila painting. The history does not say, with full authenticity, when this particular art originated. However, the shape – figures of Mithila art tallies with those of the potteries, coins and seals found in Harappa (Indus Valley Civilization). . 

]The ancient literature of Mithila also speaks about this art. The great Maithili poet Vidyapati mentioned about it in his poems. Over the last few thousand years, the women painted colourful pictures on the walls of their palm leaf – grass thatched huts located under the cool – sheds of banana and mango orchards on lying at the banks of ponds. 

Mangnu Jha was the first person whom we met. He was acquainted to Putty. He had gone to Dilli Haat (in new delhi) a few days ago, to exhibit his art. All his paintings had been sold there, making him really very happy. In a nearly house, a man was making paintings. This man was Krishnakant Jha. He was busy with his wife, making paintings to present to his customers. I requested Mangnu Jha to show me the Kohbar Ghar (marriage chamber). He took me to a beautiful mud-house which was just behind this one. There was a small courtyard which was surrounded on three sides by small rooms. An elderly lady was sitting on verandah making paintings. The head of the family was feeding a cow. A newly wed young woman sitting just beside her mother was helping her with the paintings. That woman showed the Kohbar Ghar which was made on a cow dung pasted wall just in front me. It is the symbols in the Kohbar (the marriage chamber) that has fascinated many researchers. 

It is only this Kohbar, about which Yves Vequaud, a French researcher, has given a fascinating description in his book ‘The Art of Mithila’. “Mithila is matriarchal society, and there are regular gatherings of young men to which girls who want too marry come. Traditionally, girls start at a very early age to learn to draw and paint so that they may present their work to their future husbands: a particular type of picture, a Kohbar, is used to indicate a girl’s proposal of marriage to young man she is interested in. The kohbar’s basic design and composition is heavily charged with tantric symbolism, and in its centre a lingam, the phallus , penetrates the circular beauty of a yoni, the symbol of the female genitals, often drawn as a fully – opened lotus. This pictorial intercourse has its source in three, or perhaps even five, thousand years of ritual, and centuries of marriages have sophisticated its expression. Sexuality here manifests itself as the source of all creation, in a characteristically Indian approach to the transcendent. There is no question of male or female dominance, but life itself is venerated; so that the simplest and most intimate ceremony in which a man and a woman participate is both cause and effect of the kohbar which is unique in the history of the world’s art – a glorious crucifixion seen on the walls of every bedroom in Mithila.” 

On moving further on this road a famous Madhubani painter, Padmashree Sita Devi house, falls toward the right. She died only last year. When I had visited Madhubani the last time, I had an opportunity to meet her. It is very pertinent to mention here that Sita Devi was one among the few famous artists of Madhubani School whose creations occupies spaces in the art galleries dotting in France, USA, Germany , Japan. Italy and Denmark. She also represented India in these countries. The books on art, belonging to Japan, France and Italy, mentions about her works. The famous Indian writer Mulk Raj Anand even devoted a full chapter on her. 

Here, I met her grandson Lallan. He took us to his home at request. He welcomed us with some cold water of the well and some tea. There are many specialties of Madhubani. Hospitality and politeness in their language are some among them. These lessen the tiredness of the visitors and guests. 

It was now mid-day. Girls were returning home from the training centers (many centers are nowadays running in the villages where girls learn the art of painting). The dismissal bell had already rung in the schools. Children were making lots of noise while running back to their homes. 

While sauntering around the hamlets, strewn in Madhubani which is famous for its Madhubani painting, One finds a close link between the locale of the stories of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya and these villages having Squat – little huts, banana orchards, ponds having tranquil green waters and “makhana”. As a bonus, you can find little naked children running to and fro, in the mud and dust. Truly it appears that we have landed in the home of a “character” of the novels of Sharat Babu. 

The next moment I found myself standing in front of one of the most popular Madhubani painters, Mahasundari Devi’s house, in Ranti. I gave a knock at door; which after a few moments, was opened by her daughter–in-law, Vibha Das, who herself is an expert Madhubani painter and has, been awarded by the Bihar Government. 

Inside the house, in the verandah, Mahasundari Devi was busy with a huge painting. Vibha Das told me that Mahasundari Devi is not well these days. Her art is wonderful. Vibha Das tells us an interesting story: Yves Vequaud, a French art connoisseur and documentary film maker once took some of Mahasundari Devi’s painting to France with him. Piccaso was in France then. He saw her paintings whose originality and colour combinations impressed him greatly. He wrote some lines for her, too, “People find me a great artist but when I saw your art, I found you even a greater painter than me.” 

Mahasundari preserved them, but unfortunately, in a house – fire, it burnt down to “Maa ji (Mahasundari Devi) ko iska dukh ab tak hai” says Vibha. 
Many paintings were lying here and there in the house. Great art connoisseur Ananda Coomarswamy, comes to my mind at this sight. 

“How holding exhibitions of folk art objects is justified? When art critic like Ananda Coomarswamy poses such anxiety, it is perhaps fully correct .According to him we should make access to such artists directly. We should observes art works of these artists in its natural perspective by going to their villages and their premises; only then we can visualize their real expression, People of the various countries of the whole world, for the patronage of their folk art did not go to art galleries. Rather they themselves engraved pictures on the walls and floors of their houses and doing so through their creativity they remained developing their mental bliss and aesthetic sense. They preserved the continuity of the human feelings through colours and figures, and on the basis of the same they made their monotonous daily life into colorful and pleasurable. Madhubani folk painting is of the same patter and form.” 
You would be surprised to know that this art, after remaining in unknown for generations, came into the focus of the world due to a disaster. In 1968, a grueling drought hit the villages of Mithila. The people started perishing due to hunger. Till then, only a, handful of people knew about this art, However, the Ex-union Minister, Late Lalit Narayan Mishra was well acquainted with the characteristics features of Mithila Paintings. The well known connoisseur of art from Maharashtra Late Bhaskhar Kulkarni too was fond of this particular school of painting. So were Late Upendra Maharatti and Pupul Jaykar they knew about it. 

They came here with a plan in their mind: they distributed papers to the people of Jitwarpur and Ranti and asked them to paint on them. After collecting those pieces of art, they went to Delhi. There, the people showed massive interest in such paintings for their originality, colours combinations and thematic specialty. The Mithila painting immediately carved out a place for itself among the art lovers. 

After this, the papers began to be distributed and paintings began to travel in different directions. It is very rare that a disaster causes such type of miracles. From the wall of villages of Madhubani, the paintings, descended on the papers and cloths. Now, these paintings are getting displayed in art galleries, beautifying the wall of massive bungalows and adding glamour to the plush drawing rooms both in India and aboard. They are also finding their places in five star hotels, airports, railway stations and ports. The fashions mongers are using Madhubani painting as an independent fashion mode for women. The exhibitions of Madhubani painting have been staged in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai. In Germany, Japan, France, Poland, Denmark. Italy. Canada and USA, this particular form of painting have also been exhibited. 

In 1970, this century’s old school of art got the governmental recognition. The presidents Award was conferred, for the first time, upon Jagdamba Devi of Jitwarpur for promoting the Madhubani painting. She was followed by Sita Devi, Mahasundari Devi of Ranti and Ganga Devi. They got Padmashree also. Several painters traveled abroad also during the (overseas) exhibitions of their paintings. 

We are now in the same village where one can see riot of colours. I can’t believe this that I’m among those artists whose creations is spread all over the world. Serene rural environment. simple honest and innocent artists. Nobody will think of these lady artists that they would ever have crossed the doors of their houses. 

Putty and I went to the homes of many such artists. Somebody or the other in these houses was busy in painting. Earlier, only women used to paint but from when the commercialization has taken place, man have also started making paintings. 
“Will you buy my painting?” a small girl asked me thinking me an outsider. “Yes, surely! But have you made this painting?” I wanted to know. “Yes, I have. Let me bring it.” She ran away to her house after saying this. She came out after a few moments with a small painting in her hand. “Here it is. But I’ll give it to you in free… if you’ll have my photograph taken.” She looks at my camera with curious eyes. And then she gave a wonderful pose. 

The Sun was about to set. Girls were coming out of that building on the outskirts of the village, which was built by Erica Smith and where these girls went to learn painting. We also took our car and got set to return. I took leave from Putty in Madhubani and I left for Patna. 

I was thinking of the artists of Madhubani on the way back home. In the hamlets of Madhubani, people still prepare painting. But they lack the enthusiasm which they once evinced in the days of Lalit Narayan Mishra, Bhaskar Kulkarni and Upendra Maharathi. Once upon a time, these paintings happened to be the pivot round which their happiness revolved. But the remorseless tide of time and circumstances totally commercialized these painting and made them adopt this art as a source of livelihood. Currently, they are strikes by poverty since the pieces of their paintings are not getting sold. It is not so that the paintings do not sell- they do sell, but their numbers are not so large that the painters could spend a complete year with that income.