Exhibition on 350th anniversary of Shivaji's coronation: 115 paintings depict his life, legacy

Union Culture Secretary Govind Mohan inaugurated the exhibition being hosted at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) on Thursday. These larger-than-life and often mesmerising canvases have been drawn from the collection of Deepak Gore, who also attended the event.
Last Updated : 07 June 2024, 08:01 IST
Last Updated : 07 June 2024, 08:01 IST

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New Delhi: An exhibition displaying a set of 115 oil paintings made by a Marathi father-son duo for nearly 16 years, depicting the life and legacy of Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji was opened here marking the 350th anniversary of his grand coronation.

Union Culture Secretary Govind Mohan inaugurated the exhibition being hosted at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) on Thursday. These larger-than-life and often mesmerising canvases have been drawn from the collection of Deepak Gore, who also attended the event.

Mohan, in his address, extolled the Maratha ruler traced the genesis of the exhibition and added that Gore has 'agreed to gift' this collection to the Ministry of Culture, and there is a plan to give it a permanent space in Delhi.

The culture secretary recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had attended a programme marking 'Navy Day' on December 4 last year at Sindhudurg in Maharashtra, where he also had an opportunity to see some of these paintings which are part of Gore's collection.

A few days later on the day of the opening ceremony of the inaugural India Art, Architecture and Design Biennale (IAADB), Modi spoke of it in glowing terms and asked what could be done about this 'extraordinary collection'.

"And, it is the result of these six months of our interaction with him (Gore), that we are seeing this project being fructified in Delhi. And, the implicit direction of the honourable prime minister is that we should also create some space for this exhibition in the national capital. We are going a bit beyond that," Mohan said.

"With Gore's consent, we have now decided that we will take over this collection. He has very kindly agreed to gift it to the Ministry of Culture, and the IGNCA will basically be the agency from our side that will accept this collection. And, subsequently, as we decide on the location of so many beautiful things that we own, we also try to create a permanent exhibit for this extraordinary collection. So, this brings to an end, a very successful initiative and outreach from this ministry," he said.

Mohan said besides housing it in a prominent location, ideas can be explored to make it a travelling exhibition as well.

"As you all know in a few days from now, we will also be having a swearing-in of another remarkable government that this country has seen headed by our honourable Prime Minister Modi and it is only fit and appropriate that we are holding this event in the backdrop of that swearing-in," Mohan added.

He said the ministry is bringing those aspects of history to light which have somehow been, 'either willingly or unwillingly erased from public consciousness and public memory'.

Modi is all set to take charge as the prime minister for the third consecutive term with the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) by winning 293 seats in the Lok Sabha polls.

Mohan also said the Navy and the Ministry of Culture are together creating a 'stitched ship' using the ancient technique which will do its 'maiden journey within the next 6-8 months in some part of the world', with which India traditionally has a long-standing maritime context.

On the exhibition, the Culture Ministry said steeped in years of experience of managing artist Jehangir Vazifdar's gallery, Gore's passion was ignited during a 1996 visit to the museums of London and Paris. Witnessing the grandeur of European oil paintings, he envisioned creating a collection with a powerful, locally rooted narrative.

The project began in 2000 and partnering with the renowned father-son artist duo, Shrikant Chougule and Gautam Chougule, Gore set about on this ambitious journey. A pivotal moment arrived when their paths crossed with legendary historian Balwant Moreshwar Purandare, affectionately known as Babasaheb Purandare, the ministry said.

Babasaheb, an authority on the legacy of Shivaji, became their guiding light, meticulously ensuring historical accuracy in every detail, from the warriors' attire to the majestic recreations of palaces and forts.

This undertaking spanned years, culminating in a collection of 115 masterpieces unveiled first in 2016. Each canvas is a testament to Gore's vision, the artistic grandeur of the Chougule duo, and Babasaheb Purandare's invaluable historical expertise.

Gautam Chougule said he and his father -- who had studied at the famous Sir JJ School of Arts in Mumbai, laboured on the paintings for years trying to recreate an era gone by.

"Since we were dealing with a historic figure, we had to go deeper into details while depicting costumes, jewellery, events, etc. Most of the paintings were done by my father. And, we were inspired by the legendary artist Raja Ravi Varma in making our artworks," he told PTI.

The exhibition which will run till June 21 opens with a pivotal scene: a young Shivaji, barely fourteen, receives the saffron flag from his father Shahaji. This symbolic act signifies the birth of a dream, an independent Maratha kingdom, Swarajya, the ministry said.

The narrative then pans through a series of major military and naval events. Out of which, the strategic genius of selecting the Fort of Raigad as his bastion, a constant backdrop that echoed his triumphs, is of striking significance.

Sachchidanand Joshi, Member Secretary, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA); Sanjeev Kishor Gautam, Director General of NGMA; Sanjeev Sanyal, member of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, and some senior officials of the Indian Navy were also present on the occasion.

Published 07 June 2024, 08:01 IST

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