Artistic battle

Tyeb Mehta’s painting, Mahishasura, depicts power and strength using simple lines and colours.

Published - November 16, 2017 05:00 pm IST

Artist Tyeb Mehta. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Artist Tyeb Mehta. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

The festival season in September starts with Durga Puja in the East and Navratri in other parts of India. One unique painting that captures the story of Durga Puja is called Mahishasura by the artist Tyeb Mehta. This painting is famous in the art world because it was the first Indian artwork that was sold for more than a million dollars in the international market.


The painting tells a story from a Hindu text written in the fifth century. The buffalo-demon Mahishasura troubled and terrified the Gods for one hundred years. Indra and other Gods prayed for help to Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, who put their energy together and created the strong and fierce Goddess Durga. Each God presented a special weapon to Ma Durga. Finally, the Goddess destroyed the demon.

In Tyeb Mehta’s painting, Mahishasura is in battle with Durga. The two are fighting so closely, they almost look twisted into one creature.

Tyed Mehta’s painting style is called minimalistic (pronounced mini-ma-list-ic). This means that his paintings have very simple lines and shapes. The painting does not look like a photograph but if you look carefully, you can see the shapes of the Goddess and the Asura fighting each other. The shapes run in a diagonal line on the canvas. Many of Tyeb Mehta’s paintings are done in diagonal. In the painting, there are only a few lines and colours used. Yet, the figures have a lot of strength and energy.

About Tyeb Mehta

Tyeb Mehta was born in Gujarat in 1925 and grew up in Mumbai. He belonged to the Progressive Artists Group with artists like MF Husain, and FN Souza. A gentle person and careful painter, he would destroy his own painting if he didn’t like it. He made a film called “Koodal”, which won the Filmfare Critics Award in 1970. He won national and international awards and the Padma Bhushan in 2007. Tyeb Mehta died in 2009.

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