Monday, September 26, 2016

Arlene Corwin writes

The Constant Meditator

The constant meditator uses time.
The constant meditator uses whatsoever
Is before his eyes and under
All his sensors.

Meditator uses place:
The sink where plates
Forks, glasses clean are means,
Which means he sends his mind
Elsewhere, aware and there, but not.

He sends a prayer if that’s his bent.
If not, he simply
Throws his mind into his brain,
Focuses and wanders in there,
Synapse-sounding while he scans
The synapse ground,
Inner eye collaborating with the outer.

Toilet is a great place.
So’s the bathtub as is bed.
Sitting on the floor’s for some,
But chairs are much more comfortable.

The meditator is accustomed,
Is his habit,
Its rewards so handsome that
They should be named:
Dispassion; a neutrality in liking,
(Which is love with two more letters.)
What in heaven could be better!
Inside/out a knowing more.
That is to be a meditator
Every waking hour.

Kohbar -- Sita Devi


  1. Mithila (or Madhubani, “Forest of Honey”) painting is a folk art created by the women of the Brahman, Dusadh and Kayastha communities of Mithila, a cultural region between the Ganges and the Terai rivers of Nepal, and between the Koshi and Narayani tributaries. Using natural dyes and pigments, it is done on walls coated with mud and cow dung with the fingers, twigs, brushes, nib-pens, and matchsticks. It originated when raja Janaka of Janakpur commissioned local artists to paint murals on his palace walls to celebrate the marriage of his daughter Sita to Rama. As the artform developed, the paintings were done only by the women of the house, village, or caste, and only on the occasion of marriages. The newlyweds would spend three nights in the decorated kohbar ghar (nuptial chamber) without cohabiting, and would then consummate their marriage on the fourth night. The pictures depicted assemblages of lotus plants, bamboo groves, fish, birds, and snakes in union, representing fertility and the proliferation of life, though the sun, moon, sacred plants such as the tulsi, deities, social events such as weddings, and scenes from the royal court were also common. Generally no space was left empty, and gaps were filled by paintings of flowers, animals, birds, or geometric designs. They were unknown outside the region until the massive India-Nepal earthquake of 1934 brought homes tumbling down and a British colonial officer, William G. Archer, discovered them on an inspection tour. During the 1930s he took black and white photos of some of them and wrote about the paintings in a 1949 article in “Marg,” an Indo-Nepal art journal.

  2. Sita Devi, one of the most prominent Mithila artists and among the first to use paper and canvas, lived in Jitwarpur, about 1 ½ miles north of Madhubani. She belonged to the Mahapatra Brahman caste; in most of India, the Brahmans are the highest caste because they are entitled to perform sacred ceremonies, but in Mithila the Mahapatras are among the lowest of Brahmans because they perform ceremonies associated with the dead. Though she came from a prosperous family, she married into a desperately poor family, and her surviving sons were raised by her brother. During the 1966-1968 drought, Pupul Jayakar, the director of the All Indo-Nepal Handicrafts Board, sent Bhaskar Kulkarni of Mumbai to encourage the women there to replicate their mural paintings on paper as a source of income. His long black hair, bushy beard, and pajama-kurta costume clearly identified him as an outsider, and townspeople felt that family honor was reflected by the degree of seclusion in which it kept its women. Furthermore, high-caste Brahman families felt it was demeaning even to speak of living off the earnings of their wives and sisters; they told Kulkarni to contact lower-status Brahmans instead. Sita Devi and others eagerly responded to him and provided him with rolls of 30x22 inch paintings on heavy handmade paper he provided. In 1969 Swami Mehndiratta, the owner of the Chanakya Art Gallery in Delhi, traveled with Kulkarni to Jitwarpur, taking with him a roll of paper canvas that could be stretched like artist's canvas for display without framing; he cut the roll into 5x5 and 5xl0 inch sections, which he gave to Sita Devi to illustrate however she wished. She outlined the figures, and her two oldest sons filled in the spaces between them with vivid colors. In Delhi, she gave daily demonstrations of her art at Mehndiratta’s gallery, and she was invited to paint for the prime minister Indira Gandhi; seating herself on the floor, she used a matchstick to paint the goddess Durga and presented it to Gandhi, saying she wished to give one powerful Durga to another. Gira Sarabhai, daughter of one of India’s richest families, invited her to paint murals in her new home in Ahmadabad. In 1970 she spent eight months painting on straw boards to be installed on the walls of a posh coffee shop in New Delhi's Akbar Hotel. In 1975 the president of India, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad, presented her with a Master Craftsman award (the highest given to folk artists). In 1976 she worked in East Berlin (painting blond wrestlers), Washingtomn, DC, (painting Arlington National Cemetery), and New York (painting the World Trade Center). In 1977 she started using a paint brush and oil paints for the first time, on wood panels for the Varanasi train station. That same year, German anthropologist/film-maker/social activist Erika Moser helped promote the establishment of the Master Craftsmen Association of Mithila to promote the art and invited Sita Devi to sit on its board. She died in 2005 at the age of 95.


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