‘The Body in Indian Art’, on exhibit at the National Museum in New Delhi, is a pan-India project showcasing over 300 artworks from 44 institutions. The show is an exhaustive study of the body’s myriad representations in Indian art, roughly covering a period of 4,000 years across regions, religion and culture.
The exhibition has been put up in eight adjoining galleries, each with a specific theme such as death, birth, divinity or rapture.
Chances are you may get lost during the tour as the show is cyclical in its set-up, representing the circle of life the body stands for.
Curator Naman Ahuja has devoted a section to works belonging to traditions, such as that of Islamic art, which are opposed to depicting the body. Rare copper sheets inlaid with silver calligraphy, probably belonging to Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, depict the 99 names of Allah.
A giant egg of stainless steel (Subodh Gupta, 2010), defies the idea of corporeality. A steel tree-of-life, a Mughal-era tomb and modern reproductions of clay pots used in Vedic rituals also have the same theme.