"Veni, Vidi, Vici". The Latin expression translates to "I came, I saw, I conquered", pointing to a swift victory in a war. Who, do you think, must have uttered these words? Generals? Kings? Or, Emperors? That was pretty close.
Well, historical accounts attribute this expression to the Roman emperor Julius Caesar. May be the emperor proclaimed swift victories over his enemies in the Roman Parliament several times during his lifetime. Maybe he did not. Who cares? Yours truly does not, at least. He has no doubt in his mind that war does no good to humanity, however sacred the cause/s may be. Yours truly is all for peace and consigning all those hawks to history books, without glorifying their exploits to the hilt.
So, let's leave the bloodied battlefields of history to blood and territory-thirsty nations, their ambitious kings and emperors, generals, poor soldiers marching all too often on empty stomachs, war-weary horses and helpless multitudes, probably coping with atrocious taxes levied to foot for the cost of war and shortages of all kinds of goods and services. Their knight in shining armour is far far away, while enemies are pretty close. What do we talk about then? Let's talk a bit about the problems of our day and age. A bit about the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world? About the lack of ethics in politics, corruption, misrule, global warming, climate change, deepening water and energy crises? About the blue planet that is atrophying, at an alarming rate?
How about these topics? No appetite for these things? Don't want to keep your eyes off the screen, whether it's big, small or medium? The more we interact with the screen, the farther we drift from the real world, don’t we? All this pervasive/invasive technology is getting quite addictive and taking a huge toll on our lives by turning us into some sort of slaves, isn’t it? How about stepping into the real world from the virtual by leaving all this junk behind for a little while? How about soothing our senses? How about taking care of our mental, physical and spiritual health? Without mincing words, how about, say, going for a hike? How about sitting on your rooftop and soaking in the sun, the wind and the ether? How about meditating, watching your breath or counting the stars in broad daylight? Or how about visiting an art exhibition? Well, yours truly did the latter twice in the last 15 days. So, let him talk a bit about the exhibition, based on his interaction with the artist and his works. The solo exhibition at the Babar Mahal-based Siddhartha Art Gallery, titled the Mithila Cosmos: The Cycles of Time, features the works of Mithila artist SC Suman. It is part of Suman’s Mithila Cosmos series that began in the year 2007.
A series of paintings on display tell stories of different yugs or the ages. They tell how the world is atrophying alarmingly, especially at present -- the Kaliyug -- compared to the ancient times. During Satyayug, the paintings suggest, everything was in order. Back then, humans used to live in perfect harmony with Mother Nature like all other living things. There was no war and no natural disaster as humans followed the laws of nature. Back then, all animals used to live in perfect amity, per the paintings. These days, you cannot even think of lions and deer living side by side, or can you? But back then, things were quite different. After all, it was the reign of righteousness! This blissful period is believed to have lasted pretty long -- 17,64,000 years! Things started taking ugly turns during the Tretayug. During this period, driven by the desire to make her son Bharat the king of Ayodhya, Kaikeyi forced King Dashrath to exile the heir apparent to the throne of Ayodhya, Lord Ram, for 14 long years. The injustices against women only increased during this period, with Sita, the wife of Lord Ram, forced to undergo a fire-test of piety. This yug is said to have lasted exactly half of Satyayug years -- 8,32,000 years! During Dwaparyug, injustices against women are said to have only increased with the likes of principled and wise men like Bhishmapitamaha, Mahatma Vidur and the Pandavas -- the husbands of Draupadi -- acting as mute spectators even when Duryodhan and Dushasan were ill-treating Draupadi. During Dwaparyug, the war between the Kauravs and the Pandavs would exterminate the Yaduvamshis as part of Lord Krishna's plot! Why would Krishna want to dig a grave for his own people? The Yaduvanshis had veered off so much from the path of righteousness that they had to be punished! The idea behind the war, where both the parties competed with each other in terms of foul play and rule violations, was to re-establish the rule of righteousness!
Can you guess how much Dwaparyug lasted? Exactly half of Tretayug years -- 4,16,000 years, that is! As for the Kaliyug, we are living in it and we know pretty much about it, right? Just a handful of Suman's explain in vivid detail what Kaliyug is all about.
In Suman's Kaliyug paintings, as in real life, big fish eat small fish (literally). People no longer hunt animals for food, they raise animals and slaughter them to sell them in the market and rake in profit. They take animals’ lives for having a good time. Homo sapiens perish inside their own homes due to pandemics like COVID-19. The craving for power is the central theme of these paintings. In one of his works, people are felling trees, sawing off timber and making chairs, symbolic of the seat of power. The struggle for power gets all the more vicious during Kaliyug.
It's all not doom and gloom in Suman's paintings, though. The male and female energies unite to give continuity to the beautiful cycle of life and death on Earth. When humanity multiplies by leaps and bounds, divinity takes over in the form of Goddess Kali and brings things back to normal. In another painting, all 10 incarnations of divinity -- Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Nrisimha, Vamana, Ram, Parashuram, Krishna, Buddha, Kalki -- adorn the background under the watchful eyes of the Swayambhunath. Suman seems to suggest through another work featuring Lord Hanuman that bits of divine, human and animal attributes are what humanity 2.0 will need to overcome the uphill challenges that the Kaliyag poses to the world.
When the world is atrophying and another Satyayug is, most probably, not even on the horizon, yours truly suggests all and sundry to take time off from your respective busy schedules and screen time and heal a bit -- mentally, physically and spiritually -- by visiting exhibitions like these, provided you are not busy conquering the world like Julius Caesar!