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Bringing out the kala

Illustrious: Bose's paintings were revered by many. Photo: Wikimedia Commons  

After India gained independence in 1947, the Constitution of India was drafted to guide the working of the new Government of India. Did you know that the original Constitution of India has each page beautifully decorated by the artist Nandalal Bose and his students? The artists used gold leaf and colours made from stones to illuminate the text beautifully. Nandalal Bose also drew the emblems for the highest awards given by the Government of India such as Bharat Ratna and Padmashri. He was himself, awarded the Padma Vibhushan for his amazing contributions to modern Indian art in 1954.

Nandalal Bose was born in December 1882, in Bihar. From a very young age, he was interested in the work of potters and other craftsmen who created and decorated idols of Gods and Goddesses. When he was 16 years old, he moved to the city of Kolkata to complete high school and study commerce in college. However, he failed his college exams. Around this time, he came across the paintings of Abananindranath Tagore, who was the founder of the Bengal School of Art. He wanted to study art under Abanindranath.

Growth as an artist

When Abanindranath looked at Nandalal’s artwork, he was impressed and glad to enrol him as a student in the Government College of Art. He got opportunities to travel to different parts of India and study the wonderful art of ancient India. All of them gave him ideas to improve his own work. The places that had the most effect on him were the cave art of Ajanta, the Buddhist stupa in Gaya and the temples of Mahabalipuram in the South.

Nandalal painted scenes from Indian history and Hindu mythology. He learned and used the technique of Japanese wash, though his paintings were completely Indian in subject. The great poet and artist, Rabindranath Tagore, who was Abanindranath’s uncle, noticed Nandalal’s paintings. He asked Nandalal to draw pictures for some of his poetry. Nandalal illustrated many of Tagore’s stories and poems, and designed sets and costumes for his plays.

Rabindranath invited Nandalal Bose to visit Shantiniketan, the university that he founded on the outskirts of Kolkata. He went on to become the first principal of Shantiniketan’s fine arts college called Kalabhavan. As a teacher, he was gentle and cared greatly for his students. It was at Shantiniketan that Nandalal first met Mahatma Gandhi. When Gandhiji marched to protest the Salt tax in the historic Dandi march, Nandalal created a famous black and white picture, called a linocut, of the leader marching with his stick.

Bose and a group of his students made decorations for Congress meetings before independence at Haripura. The posters for the Haripura sessions became very famous. They were enjoyed by everyone who saw them because they showed ordinary people going about their daily tasks like fishing, farming, carpentry, milking cows and other activities of Indian village life.

Nandalal Bose passed away in April 1966. You can visit the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, where more than 6,000 of his works are a part of its collection.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2022 6:13:24 AM |

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