An art exhibition in Delhi portrays Sita in a myriad of aspects as woman and goddess, protector of Earth and an image of tenderness as well as tenacity
BY ANSHU KARN
To honour the impressively courageous Mithila’s daughter, Sita, daughter of King Janak, and the heroine of Valmiki’s Ramayana, a seven-day international exhibition, “Vaidehi: Sita beyond the body”, was held at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) campus in New Delhi. It was organised by Dr Savita Jha Khan, founder of the Centre for the Studies of Tradition and Systems (CSTS), and her team. More than
100 artists from across the globe participated in the exhibition, portraying Vaidehi’s numerous forms.
The exhibition was held from May 10, 2022, marking Sita Navami, and culminated on Buddha Poornima on May 16, 2022. Traditional Maithil rituals kicked off the event. Ms Jennifer Moragoda and Mr Milinda Moragoda from Sri Lanka were the guests of honour. Mr Moragoda spoke
about two powerful Indian women—Sita, and Emperor Ashoka’s daughter, Sanghamitra, who are revered in Sri Lanka.
According to Maninder Nath Thakur, professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), the theme of Vaidehi represents the central point of the dialogue between King Janak and sage Ashtavakra, who believed that only love and compassion could save civilisation. He emphasised that we all should decrypt Sita using a reasonable and logical approach.
The exhibition was intended to code and decode Sita’s inner consciousness through various paintings. Along with traditional themes like Sita Janam, Phool Lodhi, Sita Swayamvar, and so on, there were numerous paintings depicting contemporary themes like transgender, Gandhian women, freedom fighters, and conservation, among others.
Vaidehi’s form as ‘Protector of Mother Earth’ sends a strong message to conserve our environment and act proactively to mitigate the threat of alarming climate change. “Earth has enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed,” said Mahatma Gandhi, and Vaidehi’s various
forms convey this powerful message. Sita exemplified selfless love, which she inherited from her father. She is portrayed in the Ramayana as having devotion, self-sacrifice, fortitude, and sanctity.
“Vaidehi” had a stellar jury. Mrs Bharti Dayal (National Award winning Mithila artist), Ms Jennifer Moragoda (Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India), Mrs Julia G. Pratt (historian and anthropologist), Mrs Sujata Prasad (author, art columnist, heritage conservationist), and Mrs Meghna
Vyas Arora (curator for NGMA) were among them. Six artists were awarded for their work and 75 paintings are going to be featured at the Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.
The top award winner, Tripti Pandey, explained her Vaidehi-themed “Kaal Chakra” thus: on the left, parrots are shown merrily singing about Sita and Ram at their wedding. On the right, Sita regrets her unmindful caging of parrots and wishes she had released them for then she wouldn’t have been cursed to be abandoned by Ram while pregnant.
Vaidehi was also represented as an imitation of Buddha. Tripti explained: “The painting is a fusion work of Hinduism and Buddhism and inspired by the Seetha Amman Temple of Sri Lanka. In the painting, Ma Sita is conceptualised as a power of purity and peace which is the
need of the time. I see a beautiful connection between Ma Sita and Lord Buddha as both are the embodiment of purity, peace, and compassion.”
Pallavi Patil had done two paintings, of which one was unveiled during the inaugural. Sanskrit verses were part of the painting, exuding a sense of the sacred.
Veteran painter Santosh Kumar Das conducted advanced-level workshops on Mithila paintings and their various forms such as the Tantrik style. There was also a panel discussion: “How to Remember Sita”, in which the significance of Vaidehi in the 21st century was discussed. There was “Sita Vanvaas”, a performance by Team Mailorang, and a fashion show by the Doorva team. Shanti Devi, a well-known Mithila artist, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Vaidehi served as a showcase for art lovers. Students from various schools also had an absorbing time at the exhibition. Mithila Art is GI (Geographical Indication)- tagged and recognised worldwide.
“Mithila Ke Dhiya Siya Jagat Janani Bheli”—poet Pradeep’s beautiful Maithili song aptly explains that Vaidehi does not belong to Mithila alone, she is ubiquitous. King Janak’s ability to transcend body consciousness earned him the nickname, Videha. Being the daughter of Videhraj Janak, Sita is known as Vaidehi. She appears to us in varying forms, including daughter, sister, mother, fighter, weaver, and many more. She is an amalgamation of tenderness as well as tenacity. Vaidehi is evident in every girl; the need is to acknowledge her relevance in today’s fast-paced world.