Gau – Mata: The Maternal Cow

Bachiya Pujana
The Betrayal

This evocative image of stillness and calm, in the midst of dionysic revelry, contrasts and contexts the refulgent innocence of a virginal girl-child holding a young calf, surrounded by a horde of revellers. The figures in the background seem to be celebrating some pagan rite of passage, each in their own way, from ecstatic communion to calm devotion.

The painting is situated in time and place in a village near Mathura where, every year on Gobardhan day, a young girl from the area draped in the garments of yellow pitambra and accompanied by a newborn calf, is worshipped by a frenzied crowd of local devotees – many of them only half clothed, garlanded with marigold flowers, their foreheads crowned with plumes of peacock feathers. As they dance with wild abandon on the dusty riverbank, Sidharth’s painting shows us the girl-child and her companion the calf, the objects of this fanatic faith, standing alone, silent and observant.

Sidharth’s mastery over colour and tone is evident in the serene and radiant aura of the young girl and the calf. Around them the hues and textures of sand, dust and marigold create an arresting picture of frenetic motion. This ancient ritual is still conducted annually during the period of the Gobardhan Puja after Diwali, in and around the Braj region. The revelers crawl under the frightened calf to receive blessings and benedictions. Ironically, while the virginal girl and newborn calf symbolize potentiality, innocence and fertility, the very elements that sanctify them also make them social victims in a greed-obsessed contemporary society that routinely practises female foeticide and infanticide.

Sidharth’s enormous talent for maintaining a strong narrative element in his work, without compromising its iconic unity, is very much in display in this deeply disturbing canvas.

Ms. Namita Gokhale