Ganesh Chaturthi is possibly the most endearing of the many celebrations that define our family’s tradition. A mystical, magical ten days that bring such joy to our home. Also, one of the rare moments when we open the doors of the palace to the residents of Baroda and the entire city flocks for darshan with rows waiting outside at the time of aarti. Except this year is totally quiet and sadly, for the first time no visitors have been brought in.
Our Ganpati has been the same for the last 80 years, same expression, costume, colour and adornments. And also created by the same family of murtikars for generations. It’s made of mud, symbolising our connect with the earth. The present generation of the family is educated at the JJ School of art and is proudly keeping the tradition alive. It’s a celebration that continues unflinchingly. The lord is brought in with much fanfare, in a procession. He sits inside a silver palanquin that has been in the family for years. A string of musicians playing the shehnai accompany the entourage. My husband leads the procession. Ganpatiji is received on the doors of the durbar hall by drums and bugles played by the Holar musicians in unison with the shehnai. An elaborate ceremony ensues for his sthapna. He is placed on a stage under a mandap and in front of a carved silver door, a row of elephants, mounted with mahouts and sculpted in silver standing by his side.
A lot of the palace art objects are brought out and decorated all over the hall. The most precious being the 51 lacquer finished toys from the Sawantwadi collection that are over a hundred years old and were originally bought by Maharaja Sayaji Rao. The family of Sawantwadi is related to us, two of their daughter in laws being Gaekwads. And we are proud of this prized collection of toys. Only a few of them remain in museums like V&A. Even the artisans who made these toys have perished.
Each day a thaali is decorated for his bhog, puran poli and Varan bhaat amongst the many other delicacies that are prepared for him. Modaks being the most important in the menu. Our modaks are steamed, soft and yummy. Ever since I came into the family nothing has changed. Touch wood. I might have added some decorated corners, done the flowers that surround Ganpati with a personal touch. I never miss a single aarti and love every moment when He is home. Even his send off is so beautiful. A procession with my husband leading it travels to the Sur Saagar pond in the heart of the city where he is placed on a boat that has a collapsible bottom. He is gently, lovingly and elegantly released into the water and as he melts into its waters, the wait begins for his next arrival. In the same form, same style and same adulation.
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AUTOMOTIVE ART WITH BAISA VIDITA SINGH OF BARWANI
Hailing from a family of some of the country’s leading vintage car connoisseurs, Baisa Vidita Singh of Barwani is a talented automotive artist with a signature collection of her own. Over the years, her spectacular paintings, which she terms as automotive art, have been exhibited alongside prestigious car rallies such as the Cartier Concours d’Elegance in Hyderabad and the Pebble Beach Concours in California. She is also a patron member at the Royal Fables exposition by Anshu Khanna. Baisa Vidita Singh’s distinct style includes painting reflections of cars, car parts as seen on the chrome and painted surfaces of automobiles, as well as their mirrors. The shift of perspective as offered by her unique eye makes her work all the more endearing, as it makes it difficult for the viewer to walk by a painting without giving it another look.
Rajputana Collective is honoured to have conducted a Q&A session with the highly talented artist and to have gained some of her insights into her art inspiration as well as the finer nuances of her imaginative work. Excerpts:
Q. Hailing from one of the most passionate vintage car curators of the country, please discuss how your father’s passion conditioned your childhood and understanding of vintage cars?
A. I have grown up with vintage and classic cars all around me, not only was I surrounded by real cars, model cars and loads of books on cars, even the dinner table conversations were about cars. My grandfather‘s, uncle’s and father’s passion for cars and their aesthetic sense has truly conditioned me as the artist I am today. My father’s passion for automotive restoration as well as his hard work has taught me that there are no shortcuts to success and quality. For our family automobiles, we owned are like part of our family and are living entities. So when I paint, firstly I enjoy my subject and understand it as a living entity that has emotions attached which I try and bring across in my artwork.
Q. What made you take up the profession of vintage automobile art? What are some of the specialisations in your art form/style that set it apart from the rest?
A. I believe that it’s my father’s passion for vintage automobiles that rubbed on to me that made me take up being a professional automotive artist. He saw the potential in me and encouraged me. My aesthetic sense and the effort to bring the soul of each of these beautiful cars on my canvas and the understanding of the special relation of these cars with their owners in the past is the specialisation that sets my style apart.
Q. Briefly discuss your most notable art project/collaboration to date?
A. My most notable works were a series of oil paintings that were titled Roll’s Royce encounters. These paintings portrayed what an exotic luxurious car like a Rolls Royce would face on its travels in its hay-days.
Q. How do you plan on impacting the world of vintage automobile culture with your artwork? Is there any streamlined vision that you have in mind?
A. My artworks are making an impact in the world of vintage automobiles as I have been trying my best to portray them as works of art and it has been recognised internationally. My vision to keep innovating new styles and melding the aesthetics of my culture to that of the automotive world will hopefully help in preserving the vintage car culture.
Q. Which is one international model that you look up to when it comes to the promotion of vintage car heritage?
A. Mercedes is doing a wonderful job
Q. What are some of the challenges that the Indian elite currently faces in the enhancement of vintage car curation as a hobby/passion?
A. There are no proper laws governing vintage cars and this is going to curb the hobby.
Q. Lastly, what is your vision vis-a-vis the future of vintage car automobiles art in India? How do you plan on partaking in this?
A. I hope that my art can encourage the young generation to preserve our heritage of vintage cars. By promoting and exhibiting my art internationally I hope to bring the attention of the car community around the world to appreciate the wonderful and exotic car collections in India.
Your most prized automobile: Ford Thunderbird, my father’s gift
Your dream vehicle: Dusenberg
India’s finest vintage car restorer as per your views: My father Maharana Manvendra Singh
Your dream restoration project: Presently, it’s restoring my late uncle’s Cadillac
Your favourite vintage car makers: Cadillacs and Bentleys. Can’t choose between them
HANDCRAFTED AND HERITAGE DRIVEN: THIS LABEL FROM THE HOUSE OF PATIALA RECREATES GRANDEUR OF REGAL PUNJAB
The label Saurab-Rajeshwari is aptly modelled by the scions of the royal family of Patiala.
Two childhood friends, one common mission: Of keeping Patiala’s hand-craft legacy alive. Designer Saurabh Aggarwal and much-celebrated trap shooter Rajeshwari Kumari recently got together to present the look of the Patiala bride. Traditionally dressed in the finest hand-embroidered ensemble that is finished with the customary draping of a bagh or phulkari odhna. They launched their namesake couture label, Saurab-Rajeshwari, crafting a true blue legacy driven brand based out of Punjab with global imprints online.
Sehar Inder Kaur.
Whilst Saurab, born and brought up in the pristine city of Patiala started his journey with bridal couture in 2012, acclaimed shooting champion Rajeshwari Kumari finds the need to keep her family’s legacy alive. Together they present to legacy lovers a very refreshing collection of bridal wear.
Saurab has worked with craftsmen and artisans all over the country to highlight indigenous tilla and zardozi work. He is currently focused on reviving the traditional art of phulkari, native to Punjab. Rajeshwari meanwhile is inspired by the elegant women of her family who for years have not just expressed their feminine side through the craft of Bagh and phulkari but also nurtured women from their surrounding villages who practice this craft as a means of livelihood. The daughter of Raja Randhir Singh, Acting President, Olympic Council of India, Rajeshwari wears both the hats of fashion revivalist and sportswoman with equal élan.
“Born in the culturally rich city of Patiala I felt our regal legacy, our history of craft patronage needed to be kept alive and hence I joined hands with Saurab who has a trained eye in fashion,” shares Rajeshwari. Adds Saurab, ”Couture and design is in my blood And Punjab’s rich craft heritage my pride. Nothing is more elegant than a Punjabi bride draped in her phulkari odhna. This is the tradition that I want to keep alive.”
Launching with a very ethereal collection of bridals crafted by hand in the most luscious of pastels and worn with the phulkari dupatta, the label now focuses on a stunning Bagh collection. Modelled to perfection by Captain Amarinder Singh’s two beautiful granddaughters, Sehar Inder Kaur and Inayat Inder Kaur, besides other young daughters of erstwhile noble families of Punjab and Himachal. As the sportswoman turned designer Rajeshwari, who is the best muse to her creations, feels, “No one can do better justice to this look than my cousins who have grown up wearing these traditional clothes.”
Phulkari is threadwork that uses linear stitches to create intricate flower-like patterns. The finished work is known as bagh (or garden) and worn by women in Punjab during marriages and festivals. Women embroidered on khaddar (coarse cotton) on the wrong side of the fabric using silken threads called pat da dhaga. In Bagh (meaning garden) style, the entire surface is embroidered. By using the darning stitch (horizontal, vertical and diagonal), numerous designs are made.
A revered canvas of expression for years for women of Punjab, phulkari and Bagh when coupled with the couture labels impeccably finished bridal ensemble gain a new, rich meaning. It is like the finest of both worlds: luxury couture and handcraft heritage coming together.
SIX AVID VINTAGE CAR COLLECTORS LAUNCH INDIA’S FIRST AUCTION HOUSE HISTORIC AUCTIONS
“The love for cars is closely linked to always keeping the child in you alive. I recall playing inside my father’s Isotta that would be parked outside our fort in Kotwara,” says Raja Muzaffar Ali of Kotwara. Walking us through his automobile art exhibition, he well defines the junoon with which six avid vintage car collectors have got together to launch India’s first auction house that will be dedicated to the world of wheels Historic Auctions Private Ltd., India’s first specialist automobile and automotive fine arts auction house, founded by renowned collectors, connoisseurs and automotive historians of international repute came alive this week with a silent auction of collectable cars and Muzaffar Ali’s art at Camera Museo. The quaintness of the museum adds to the occasion.
Rana Manvender Singh Barwani, Madan Mohan, Muzaffar Ali Kotwara, Avijit Singh Badnore, Amal Tanna, Sidhraj Singh, Diljeet Titus.
Rana Manvendra Singh Barwani, Emmanuel Lenain with his wife Géraldine Lenain.
Aman Nath, Diljeet Titus.
Diljeet Titus, Muzaffar Ali.
MK Ranjitsinh Jhala, HH Maharaja Gaj Singh Ji, Maharajkumari Kalpana Kumari.
Yuvraj Lakshya Raj Mewar and VP Singh Badnore.
Vintage cars and the Maharaja era are closely linked together. It were the Indian maharajas who imported for themselves the rarest of cars, fitting them with the finest of accessories and upholstery. Many a jenana cars that were often Rolls Royce had their windows covered with a curtain in soft velvet and embellished with gold. Meanwhile, the car for the Maharaja often had an LV picnic trunk tucked away for shikaars or a tiny cigar case to indulge the maharaja in his travels.
With HH Maharaja Gaj Singhji of Jodhpur inaugurating the show, the exhibition was a coming together of 15 paintings that had the signature stamp of Muzaffar’s near ethereal abstractions juxtaposed with the beauty of classic cars like the Minerva, Isotta Fraschini, the Stutz that he painted from the annals of his memory. On view were also 18 select, collectable cars with pre-sale estimates varying from 2.5 lakh to 1.8 crore including a 1959 Cadillac Sedan de Ville, a Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser and a Fiat 500. With a 1981 model Mercedes Benz 200 getting auctioned in aid of the CKS Foundation. An army Mahindra & Mahindra CJ-3B army utility vehicle (jeep) project will also be auctioned, with a part of the proceeds going towards Army Veterans welfare groups.
Helmed by HH Maharaja Manvendra Singh Barwani, author, historian, recipient of the prestigious Pebble Beach Lorin Tryon Trophy in 2018 and legendary restorer who is globally acclaimed for his work in this world, the auction house has Diljeet Titus (Founder Titus Museum) as its advisor. “The collector car hobby is growing in India. First timer enthusiasts don’t have trustworthy and transparent access to sales and after-sales services, guidance and mentors. The Vintage and Classic Car hobby needs to move into an organized sector. With Historic Auctions, we hope to take the first steps towards that,” shares Titus. Forums like Pebble Beach, Cartier De Concourse etc Manvendra feels are important but “it’s equally important for Indian collectors to have a forum that celebrates the world of automobiles.”
The opening night saw veterans collectors like former Governor Punjab, V. P. Singh Badnore, Yuvraaj Lakshyaraaj Singh Mewer, Gul Panag, Ragini Sanghi, Madan Mohan, K. T. S. Tulsi grace the occasion along with Amitabh Kant, Ambassador of France to India Emmanuel Lenain, Maharaj Kumari Kalpana and Maharaj Kumar Ranjeet Sinh Wankaner, RK Chandni Kumari, and Shivani Rana Nepal amongst others.
SIDDHARTH DASPAN TURNS HIS FAMILY HOME INTO A HAVEN FOR CULTURAL CONNOISSEURS
The aim of the Soapbox initiative is to offer our patrons a chance to discover and appreciate extraordinary music, timeless traditions, and eclectic cuisine against the quaint backdrop of a century-old family home recently restored into a vibrant heritage hotel.
Every once in a while there are nights that make you fall in love with a city. At Daspan House Jodhpur, such nights seem to come one after the other courtesy of the Soapbox Initiative — a series of artistic collaborations discerningly curated by its young and ever-so-gracious owner Thakur Siddharth Singh of Daspan along with his childhood friend Varun Jalan.
Siddharth Daspan and Varun Jalan with the performing artists.
“Soapbox was conceived with a vision to celebrate diverse ethnicities, cultures and performing arts under the unifying umbrella of great hospitality,” says Siddharth, an alumnus of the prestigious Mayo College Ajmer and Istituto Marangoni Milan. “The aim of this initiative is to offer our patrons a chance to discover and appreciate extraordinary music, timeless traditions, and eclectic cuisine against the quaint backdrop of a century-old family home recently restored into a vibrant heritage hotel.”
Masked behind a discreet façade in a quiet residential area, Daspan House, with its symbolic long-standing palm tree, is like the proverbial oasis of peace and tranquillity. Whether it’s the intricately carved sandstone structure shimmering breathtakingly under the desert sun, the soothing sound of the marble fountain gently reverberating in the courtyard or the exquisite taste of culture-soaked cuisine accompanied by choicest home-grown liquor, Daspan House is a destination that satiates all five senses to perfection.
Besides its elegant design sensibility and personalised detail to attention, what gives further impetus to this marvellous destination is its ever-growing culture quotient with the Soapbox Initiative. From hosting an artist residency program to inviting a celebrated guest to take over the bar for an evening to partnering with diverse performing artists, Siddharth believes in brewing something new every few days.
“With an aim to push the boundaries of what typically constitutes the music genre in our city, we recently planned a unique event to appeal both to the ears and feet of our patrons,” smiles Siddharth. Jazzing up the music scene of Jodhpur, Daspan House hosted an experimental celebration of new age jazz with the brilliant Vashita Ramesh aka Huyana. Thrilled with the response of the attendees, he says, “The jazz night was a shot in the dark, but an increased curiosity about this genre since our event endorses my belief that it perfectly reflected the spirit of cultural exchange.”
Nothing spells cultural camaraderie better than food. The idea to promote regional cuisine in a non-restaurant like ambience led to Soapbox Tastemakers where one long community table is set up on a chosen evening, and one home chef is invited to cook up their specialities which the guests can relish in family-style sharing portions in the cosily lit gardens of Daspan House. The first home cook in this series was Kunwarani Lakshmi Kumari from the house of Hariadana whose love for cooking and feeding was confined to her social circle all these years. For the first time, people from her city and travellers from beyond got the opportunity to savour her specialities like slow-cooked mutton bootha, buttermilk fried chicken, baingan bharta ka raita and rasgulla ki kheer among other delicacies. “The idea is to enable our guests to savour the taste and soak in the legacy of the cuisine,” says Varun, Head of Guest Experience at Daspan House. “We have created this event in a way where the tastemakers not only cook but also play host to a party of guests and regale them with stories of their family’s culinary traditions.”
While each event under the Soapbox Initiative has earned rave reviews, the occasion I attended was an evening filled with Sufi ragas, poetry and nostalgia about a month ago, featuring a talented repertoire of artists from Marwar. Sufi Rang by Govind Singh Bhati and Co. was one of those rare events where the performers enjoyed performing as much as the audience enjoyed listening to them. Seeing the artists lose themselves in their performances and sing purely as people who love their art was such a rewarding experience.
Sufism is never defined by boundaries. The way the music of the mystics transcends across forms, Siddharth’s Soapbox Initiative brings together an unusual assortment of patrons from all walks of life. While attending this event, I made friends with a museum curator from Mehrangarh, a political strategist from New Delhi, a history professor from Ajmer, and a lawyer from Ahmedabad all of who reiterated the Soapbox Initiative’s syncretic faith.
“Every art whether culinary or performing must grow organically in the mind and soul of the audience,” feels Siddharth.
The beauty of this collaborative culture series lies in the fact that it does not assault your senses. It paves way for you to surrender. No wonder, it has rightly earned a proud place in the city’s ever brimming social calendar.
THE CAUSE OF GIVING WITH DHANANJAI SINGH KHIMSAR
Amidst the famed season of opulent weddings, festivities, and gifting, I decided to dedicate this week’s column to a special cause of giving that hits home. Possibly because, amidst all the hustle and bustle that surrounds me, I intuitively imagine a rural household far away from here. One which prepares to give away its daughter in a similar betrothal ceremony, but is devoid of the means that we are privileged with. One which struggles to provide for the basic requisites of a wedding ceremony, while in the meantime our likes are more preoccupied with smaller frivolities, like which outfit to better match with the evening’s pair of shoes.
The Annadata Charitable Trust was founded by Dhananjai Singh, who hails from a royal family of Khimsar
I don’t intend on sounding preachy when I would rather be celebrating the union of my cherished girlfriends with their better halves. Instead, my sense of revelry is multiplied through this act of introducing a philanthropic venture that my older sibling, Dhananjai Singh recently launched. After graduating from a Swiss Hotel School, Dhananjai returned to his ancestral home in Khimsar, where he felt an urge to help the local community. Despite numerous charitable organisations that concentrate on specific issues, he believed in a broader and more versatile scope of service. Moreover, considering the ever-increasing and multi-faceted problems encountered by people in rural India, this approach, according to him, would prove to be more feasible.
Thus, he conceived the Annadata Charitable Trust, a Khimsar-based foundation that has been impacting millions of lives through twelve projects and counting. Amongst these, Project Beera is the one project that finds immediate relevance to my opening paragraph. Titled as “Beera”, which ideally translates into a brother that can be relied upon, this project is exclusively dedicated to providing for financially disadvantaged families upon a marriage occasion. In the situation whereupon the typical financial providers of a family are deceased, the Annadata Charitable Trust steps in to contribute a minimal sum amount that helps substantiate the wedding ceremony.
This initiative is premised upon the idea that western parts of Rajasthan bear a socio-economic disadvantage in comparison to the rest of the state due to its starker landscape and harsher weather conditions. As a result of their accompanying economical limitations, a significant strength of its population struggles to make its daily ends meet. Added to that is the financial pressure wielded by sociocultural norms on the family members of prospective brides, and the brides themselves. After all, undertaking the costs of a wedding is a major live expense, thereby factoring itself into the prevalent reluctance suffered by the society towards the girl child. Added to that is the rampant prevalence of the bride’s family bearing most of the expenses, as compared to a more equal participation from the groom’s side. Such families are steeped in patriarchy, and more often than not, their male members continue to be the sole breadwinners. Such families are faced with desolation upon the death of a contributing member, or a misfortune that compromises their means to earn a livelihood, such as an amputating or handicapping accident.
In considering every person of the society as his own, founder Dhananjai Singh joins hands to reduce the gripping financial pressures of such households in rural belts of western Rajasthan. Within the past few months, his trust has helped partially sponsor over 19 weddings in the region and hopes to impact the lives of many more in the time to come.
Annadata Charitable Trust’s other projects help round its social impact goals with far-reaching objectives. Amidst the dreadful Covid-19 waves, the acute shortage of oxygen concentrators had cost many pandemic victims their lives. In this light, project Jeevandan has helped provide over fourteen oxygen concentrators to Rajasthan’s rural hospitals. Similarly, project Nivala addressed the needs of daily wage labourers, whose livelihoods and basic means to food had been placed under serious threat amidst the consecutive lockdowns. Over 14,000 food and ration packets had been distributed to help alleviate mass hunger and deprivation.
In the sphere of women and child development too, the Annadata Charitable Trust joins hands to provide for free menstrual healthcare. Project Garima in particular has helped generate the distribution of over 5000 sanitary towels and aims to spread better awareness around their safe usage. Furthermore, project Bhavishya gears itself to sponsor school kits for underprivileged children who lack basic schooling resources. It has also provided tricycles to help mobilise the specially-abled, and in the incidence of a fire hazard, provides one-time monetary support to a household of such misfortunes. Other drives include sapling plantation drives for environmental awareness, as well as the provision of water-containing canisters for households in more barren localities.
Inspired, determined and resolute, the trust’s founding figure, Dhananjai Singh intends to multiply this existing impact in the near future. “We at the Annadata Charitable Trust focus on instilling hope in the people of rural Rajasthan for a better tomorrow. We direct our goals towards active participation in various social and political programs to develop our region. When it comes to delivering effective and accountable services, we identify a genuine solution by serving at a more micro level. We intend to solve the problems in Rajasthan’s day-to-day lives who fall below the poverty line by facilitating holistic growth and aiming at their common welfare”, he concludes.
ROHIT CHAWLA’S CLASSIC ARTWORKS AND MINIATURE ART
Rohit Chawla is all set to present a self-curated exhibition of handpicked photographs from some of his classic series at DesignEdit.
Art is his playground for visual expression, reality his source of showing a cerebral hope in the prevailing madness, power and powerful people mere creative souls that stare through his lens. Rohit Chawla, media world’s most iconic face, a leading Indian contemporary photographer is all set to present a self-curated exhibition of handpicked photographs from some of his classic series at DesignEdit, curated by him at Spin Studios, Dhanmill Complex, New Delhi. Someone who could within a gap of a month churn two covers for India Today, one with PM Modi and the other with Rahul Gandhi, with a Jeff Bezos caught in an Indian tuk-tuk in the middle. Rohit admits to being most enamoured by the world of yore. The regal, royal era of art and architecture that he uses as illusionary bastions for his expression.
Showing up in Delhi after a gap of two years (“I spent the entire pandemic safely in our home in Assagao Goa.”) the artist throws special light on his Taj series that captured the monument of love through the most striking of frames that were often set in sepia or starkly black and white tones. Royal India and the arts that lived within that era too are the subjects of his creative expression. He is known for his creative genius in re-creating classic artworks of Raja Ravi Verma and miniature art into photographs. He creates an illusion of the original painting while bringing his own unique touch. Recreating that mystical world of music, minarets, durbars and dancers, he recaptures the sheer aura of the Mughal era. Of palanquins that carried the Emporer to his Diwan-I Khas. Dance apsaras who decorated the durbar and nightingales who regaled all with their classical music Ravi Varma’s art through his lens. The men and women in the miniature series have immersed themselves in the ‘physique du role’, understanding the physical and mental sense of the roles they are playing. All of them appear to have, with great elan, slipped into the ‘King for a day’ feeling, surrounded by accessories and accouterments that are intrinsic to the nobility they portray and enjoying the lavish costumes designed by Tarun Tahiliani.
He, interestingly made modern-day muses: women like silversmith Kalyani Chawla, industrialist Ayesha Thapar, film producer Saloni Puri and Sal Tahiliani pose aka Mohini, the Raja of Travancore: Ravi Verma’s eternal muse. “Rohit Chawla creates an illusion of the original painting while bringing his own unique touch. In this combination of pixels, paper, cloth, paint and diverse decorative elements. He creates the magic that turns an old work of art into an established fact, a contemporary modern-day image, “ shares Rupika Chawla.
Presenting a creative medley of his works in a neo real setting of the Spin Store, Rohit Chawla presents photographs from some of his selected series. The beauty of the show is how the paintings are set inside real-world design settings that emulate a home.
Rohit Chawla spent close to two decades in advertising at JWT before moving out to start his own design and film production company. His solo exhibitions include Wanderlust, Tribute to Raja Ravi Verma, ‘Klimt – The Sequel,’ ‘Freeda! – The Homage,’ ‘World of Wearable Art,’ ‘Goa Style’ and ‘The Inspired frame.’ He lives and works between Delhi and Goa.
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