Saraswati Goddess of Arts and Knowledge

16 Mar

Saraswati, Goddess of Music and Learning © Erin Lau 2010

Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of the Creative Arts and Knowledge, plays the Vina, a South Indian instrument that predates the Sitar. The Vina symbolizes her perfection of all arts and sciences. She often is depicted seated on a lotus and accompanied by a swan or peacock.


Rooftop Scene, Varanasi

16 Mar

Rooftop Scene, Varanasi © Erin Lau 2010

Bijilli hai!” Every evening a family across the way from the academy attaches two wires to the power lines running down the alley way, and thats how they get their power (bijilli) for the night.

Sangeetkar (Musicians), Varanasi

16 Mar

Another performance by the Mishra family at the academy. Debu (Deobrat) often sings when he plays, especially folk songs. His family is known for their vocalists, yet his father was the first to play sitar, and he has infused a singing style in his sitar playing. Debu blends the two styles with great agility, one of few musicians to do both at the same time.

Deobrat Mishra, Varanasi

16 Mar

Deobrat Mishra is the director of the Academy of Indian Classical Music in Varanasi, the school I attended. He is a sitar virtuoso and often plays alongside his father, Pandit Shivnath Mishra, who is one of the top sitar players in India. This concert was given at the academy, and Deobratji was playing next to his father, along with Bitu, their nephew who is an amazing tabla player. I tried to draw both Guruji (Shivnath) and Deobratji but Guruji’s head was hidden behind his sitar, so it was not a good composition. In any case, the concert was entrancing, and we were able to witness the musical chemistry between the father and son duo.

Indian Woman

13 Mar

I based this sketch on a young woman I had seen in Varanasi, a mixture of two different women actually. Since I wasn’t able to do a proper portrait with her sitting still, I just went from memory. I had been trying to draw faces that were recognizably Indian for a while, and this woman seems to be the most convincing. In fact, when I showed my sketchbook to some Indian guys they separately said “ooh beautiful, who is she?” as if they wanted to be introduced to her. Sorry guys, she only exists on paper.

Tulsi Ghat, Varanasi

13 Mar

Tulsi Ghat is the nearest ghat (steps that lead down to the river) to the music academy where I was staying and studying. Tulsi is the name for the Holy Basil plant, which they sometimes have growing at a temple, in a special raised planter with a cage covering the tulsi plant. There was a pretty scrawny one growing at this temple. I enjoyed this ghat most for the cool shade provided by the large ficus tree.

Shaadi-Shuda India

12 Mar

Anatomy of an Indian Married Woman

Shaadi-shuda means “married” in Hindi, and this is a sketch I did to illustrate the various markers of married women, particularly in Varanasi (and Uttar Pradesh). It seemed as though the ultimate indicator was the sindoor, the vermillon mark painted onto the forehead where the hair is parted. The bindi dots, located more in the center of the forehead, were not necessarily worn to indicate marraige, but seemed more to be indicative of one’s devotion to Hinduism. In addition there were the nose pin,  toe rings and anklets, which were also meaningful in Rajasthan. However, because of various family customs, its hard to say for sure if any one of these signified marriage or not, but they seemed to be worn by almost all women. Finally the sari was worn daily by married women, while the salwar kameez suit was reserved for young unmarried girls.

Varanasi, India Feb 2010

12 Mar

I arrived in Varanasi (aka Benares or Kashi) in February, after one month of traveling in Rajasthan and Uttarkhand. Unfortunately I’m skipping ahead over my time in Uttarkhand because I failed to make any drawings while I was there. But I had stayed at an amazing school and ashram in the mountains surrounded by happy, tiny children, and briefly passed through Rishikesh and Haridwar on my way to Varanasi. I drew this particular sketch just after sunrise.

Karauli, Rajasthan

12 Mar

After Udaipur and Jaipur (which I sadly made no drawings of) we visited a very small village called Karauli. We stayed at the only hotel available , Bhanwar Vilas, the home of the Maharaja. We were at times the only guests there, and had many conversations with his welcoming family. Next door they had started a school, and we went to visit on our last day. The children were so delightful I almost cried, as they all simultaneously jumped up from the ground to welcome us with “Good morning madam!”

Udaipur, India January 2010

12 Mar

After Delhi, Rajasthan was the first destination of our trip to India. We first landed in Udaipur, a quiet and beautiful city. We stayed in the historic part of town which was situated around this lake, Lake Pichola. Low mountains surrounded us on all sides and made for perfect sunset meditation.

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