Malathi Srinivasan uses various art forms to depict Tiruppavai.

To translate poetry and passion, the abstraction and philosophy of Tiruppavai into three-dimensional perspective could be a challenging task. Malathi Srinivasan, a talented Thanjavur art painter essays it on a miniature scale in the form of “jhankis” or vignettes using various craft forms as medium, for instance, terracotta, tiles, Thanjavur art, kolam, etc. The panorama that she unfolds, begins with the “discovery” of baby Andal by Periazhwar Vishnuchittan in a ‘Tulasi’ madam.

On display is the visualisation of a passionate journey of bhakti and love contained in the 30 verses of the Tiruppavai which finally take her to Lord Krishna in Gokul. It ends with the merging of young Andal with Lord Ranganatha in the sanctum of the Srivilliputhur temple.

Each ‘jhanki’ has been painstakingly assembled with the dramatic personae acting out the verses of Tiruppavai in fields of paddy, sublimely green and interspersed with ponds full of blossoming lotus. Tiles decorated with kolam motifs indicate fort walls or those of humble huts and palaces and the terracotta figures though rustic, bring a touch of liveliness to the story.

Malathi has used the meaning, both literal and metaphorical, of the 30 verses of Triuppavai composed by Andal. “From each verse I have taken two references and have depicted it with painting in the Thanjavur style, clay figures and ‘deepams,’ cut outs, paper art artefacts and classic Thanjavur art. Years ago I chanced upon 18th century line paintings with the accompaniment of Tiruppavai verses with their meanings done by Shriram Bharti. This started me on my journey of creating Thanjavur art style paintings based on the meaning of Tiruppavai verses. The rest of the miniature craft installation followed.”

The first five verses and depictions of the tableau present Mahavishnu. The next series of vignettes captures the next 10 verses of Tiruppavai where Andal tries to wake up her friends from slumber, beseeches them to chant the name of the dark god, doing which she says will send down benediction, flowers will bloom, bees will play and the cows udders will be full of milk. The ‘jhankis’ depict this with lovely trees and lotus flowers blooming in ponds while the background has the appropriate Thanajvur style narrative painting and the meaning of the ‘pasurams’ spelt out in print.

The ‘jhankis’ dealing with the next four verses depict Andal and her ‘sakhis’ meeting Krishna in Gokulam by waking him up. Andal tells Krishna why they are here. The ‘jhankis” are all about Perumals ‘gunas,’ his avatars, etc while the final five verses sing about the purpose of Triuppavai, which is finding bliss at Krishna’s lotus feet or ‘charanagati’. The final vignette shows the symbolic door of the sanctum of Sri Ranganatha at Srivilliputhur where Andal merges with the Lord himself.

Says Malathi “I’ve taken the core of each ‘pasuram’ and tried to put abstraction into form wherever possible.”

The entire tableau is suffused with charm and tells the story of Andal’s Tiruppavai in a simple style. The exhibition which is on view at Vennirul Art Gallery, C.P. Art Centre, 1, Eldams Road, Alwarpet, ends on January 13.

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