25 April 2013

Living ART in Sarnath India


I write here about Living ART-nothing could be more emblematic of that phrase than the project friend and artist Kaveri Singh has just completed in Sarnath, India. Her words- and the powerful work she shares with us speaks  for what is in my heart when I see such beauty in the faces on the Sacred Murals-and the artists who created them. Kaveri and TJ Singh led the artists & the project at the Sarnath International Nyngma Institute headed by Tsering Gellek & dedicated to the preservation of ancient Buddhist languages like Tibetan, Pali and Sanskrit.

 "There was a need for the artwork to convey a depth of tranquility and stillness, and for the features of the composition to relate to Sarnath, the holiest of places. It was here that the Buddha gave his first teaching after attaining enlightenment, thus setting the wheel of Dharma in motion in all worlds." Kaveri Singh 

"In my mind, the first order of business was to acquaint myself with the Buddha and ask his permission to commence on this historic task that had been entrusted to us. What better way than to first paint his image? So, the first thing that I did was to render the Buddha. For this, we all agreed to be guided by the iconic image of the Buddha of Sarnath,. From that point the pieces fell into place one by one." Kaveri Singh

 One of the five panels depicting the life of the Buddha. 
The Buddha with his first five disciples.
 above, detail and below the panel 10' x 9'

"TJ photographed the monks nearby and these were based on those photos. 
The specific way the monks sit is an indication that they are listening to the dharma." Kaveri Singh

"Both TJ and I were honored and privileged to have the opportunity to meet with Venerable Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche at Dharma College in Berkley and discuss the project. Brief and concise, his words brought clarity to our perspective and opened a world of creativity. It became clear that above all, the work was to be intrinsically Indian in nature. This meant that TJ and I had to re-evaluate and broaden our years of immersion in classical western tradition by embracing our own Indian roots. It was all about the sublimation of the ego, to allow a surrendering to the sacred space, or, as Rinpoche expressed it, a surrendering to the compassionate nature of the gentlest of teachers, the Buddha." Kaveri Singh

The moment that depicts the Buddha leaving the physical world.

 Detail of the bed based on a brocade from the Forbidden City, painted using traditional thangka painters from Bhutan.

The Birth of the Buddha, The Dream and First Steps.
panel is 15' x 8' (details below)


Palace Life
Prince Siddartha with his queen- Princess Yasodharā & attendant, Chandaka.

with Mara's demons and the Temptation of Mara's daughters.

The Altar
 Altar wall  is 45' x 23' with lotus ponds & the Bodhi tree, in detail below


Buddha sits in the Altar's center-

A day of celebration with traditional artists, students and professors from Banares Hindu University.

 the work-the artists

a panoramic in process shot of the Meditation Hall.

  Installation of the statue, the sculptors are from the state of Orissa.

"The amazing back story to this bird - this bird actually flew into the hall and tried to sit on the bamboo branch on which it's now painted. 
I managed to take a close up photo of the bird and Kaveri painted it in. The first bird in the hall!!"  TJ Singh

 The scale of the Altar wall is set off by the artists at work

"Artists from all over participated ,traditional artists from Bhutan, Nepal, Sikkim, Tibet and Kerala. MFA and BFA students from Banares Hindu University and ShantiNiketan decorative artists from Italy and the United States.

Architectural Elements,Panels & Columns that surround the work, in detail

"Once in a lifetime there may come an opportunity when we, as artists, become merely an expression of the collective human spirit, when the awareness of community allows us to create art that expresses our need to connect to our own Buddha nature. This is the most rare and precious of gifts. For this blessing, and for the matchless opportunity to share it at this holy place, We are forever grateful." Kaveri Singh

all images are from the artist, Kaveri Singh, and used with her permission



  1. Thank you Gaye this is indeed appreciated by all of us .I have always loved your blog and I value the support

    1. the project is beyond words-I know it has transformed everyone that sees it and meditates there. It is impressive.pgt

  2. Incredibly beautiful and moving. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. of course I had to share-it is little to do in terms of the immensity of the undertaking Kaveri and her artist assistants took on. the results are extraordinary I think.

  3. I'm so happy to see this post here... and for all to see this beautiful work. I'm overwhelmed with the meaning of it all while looking at these photographs of this delicate and deeply moving work!

  4. such a great project. Nice work Kaveri, I am so pleased to see this finished!!

    1. Lynn, I know you appreciate the enormity of such a work. It is impressive and inspiring! pgt

  5. oh what a wonderful series. I was in Sarnath in early March 2013 on my way to the Mela
    greetings from Germany


    1. Gina- perhaps you will pass thru again and stop to see this masterpiece. I've no doubt we will be hearing about it again. pgt



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