Ardhanarishvara Thakur and Thakurani

Unidentified artist

Not on view

These four robustly painted watercolors of Hindu deities are the product of hereditary artists of the scroll painters caste (patua) in lower Bengal, who gravitated in the course of the 19th century to the neighborhood of the Kali temple at Kalighat, near the Hooghly River, in Calcutta (mod. Kolkata). The Kalighat temple is one of the four most sacred temples in India dedicated to Kali. The temple, rebuilt in its present form in 1809, became a major pilgrimage center in the 19th century. Each pilgrim looked to purchase a "sacred souvenir" that allowed them to carry home something of the sanctity of having taken darshan (sight/vision) with the supreme goddess. Many of the descendants of these artists continue to practice their art in the same neighborhood today, serving the devotional needs of pilgrims who visit the temple. In the 19th century these pilgrim paintings sold for a fraction of a rupee (half-anna or anna), making them universally affordable.

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