Who doesn’t love a good mystery? And especially ones that span eons. It doesn’t really matter that they have not been solved, because it is in the pondering of solutions, the examination of clues that one experiences the true essence of the thrill. In Ten Indian Art Mysteries That Have Never Been Solved (Duckbill, Penguin ) author Mamta Nainy deftly delves into perplexing puzzles of Indian art history, where the readers are duly invited to become detectives in their own right!
The cave paintings of Bhimbekta hide some prehistoric secrets. Can one decipher the meaning of the wonderful cave art? We can glean the images and make inferences. But what the artist truly wanted to show or meant to depict is lost in time. And then there is the story of how the image of Buddha came to be. Did you know that the now popular image of Buddha actually has genesis in the age of the Kushan empire under the reign of Kanishka? That was 600 years after Buddha attained nirvana!
The magnanimity of the Kalisantha temple is a wonder to behold. A monolith temple so gigantic in proportion that it’s indeed a mystery as to how artisans may have carved the intricate passages, structures and sculptures within! There are theories about there being extraterrestrial help or maybe help from a more advanced civilisation to build this. Could this be true? Or can mere human effort over centuries describe this wonder?
I don’t think I’ll ever look at a pithora painting again and not wonder if it is actually a coded map! And I’m still curious to know whether the real origins of a famed colour- the Indian Yellow could be traced to cow urine? Or how a certain Dr. Goswamy set search for a master painter, lost in history. Well, this should give the reader an indication of the diverse selection of mysteries that they will enjoy in the book. You are sure to feel like a sleuth!
The tone of the book is engaging and conversational. There is humour infused within and each paragraph is packed with an argument or point, which is supported or questioned in the next. And so it goes on until the author has taken a critical look at all the evidence surrounding the particular art mystery concerned ( it’s a great read for knowing how to write critically and yet be engaging!!)!
There is also an intriguing section, Be An Arty-Pants where the reader is encouraged to explore a hands on activity related to the theme discussed in the chapter.
A mystery that was solved for me for sure was why we sadly know so little about Indian art and much more about western art. It is because there is a rarity of books like Nainy’s that present Indian art to readers in a simple and accessible manner! This is a wonderful way to introduce Indian art to readers and invoke wonder at the beauty that lies within our art heritage! Here are some more books on Indian art for children. For starters, Ten Indian Art Mysteries That Have Never Been Solved will surely open your mind to the wonders of Indian art.