Sunday, August 4, 2013

Tales from Indian Classics

It has been a terribly long time since I blogged about something substantial. This time of the year is going pretty cramped with work and deadlines, so much that putting blog posts have gone down on the planner pages. But I guess one can only keep up with the untiring wheel as long as the cog lasts.

I went home in June and visited Ara for a few hours. The memories it brought back could be measured in inches of dust settled on the furniture. It weighed me down and then to embrace it further I opened the doors of almirahs where souvenirs of days bygone were preserved. I knew which memory I was scratching the surface of. My father used to do most of the book purchasing from Patna Book Fair and would then carry the lot to Ara. In one of the trips, he must have got this picture book called 'Tales from Indian Classics'. The book had short stories from Mahabharata, Ramayana, Vedas and Upnishads. One of the stories was on an Bhasmasura, an Asura who met his plight by putting his right hand on his head while dancing with Mohini (an Apsara). To mention it as a common experience for most of us, there are some illustrations from picture books read at a younger age that always gets pinned into the visual memory of our brain. It would usually be an artwork that had an unusual imagery, a moment to creep us out, scare us or even make us laugh because it had something beyond the ordinary to it. I took the book out and quickly flipped open the page which had the illustration of Bhasmasura. I wished to see if it could still amuse me, and it did. I wonder if it was just the nostalgia at work or some unknown logic driving my senses.


To freshen up the inspiration index, I have scanned a few more pages from the book. The illustrations are done by Pulak Biswas and Sukumar Chatterjee. When seeing work of elder illustrators, the faith gets restored on how the very lack of options is often liberating to the skill and enjoyable to the senses.

Opening Page

Inside Page


The House of Lac

Bhima and Hanuman

Cousins and Enemies



Kacha and Devayani

Sundan and Upasundan


  1. We all grew up with Pulak Biswas's illustrations. I wish I still had his books with me and hope to stumble upon some of them at Blossom's one day.
    Have you seen the illustrations of Alice and Martin Provensen? The best way I can describe them here is that they are in the same language as Mr. Biswas's illustrations.

    1. I just checked their work, they are amazing. And you are right, very similar visual nuances as Pulak Biswas's artworks.