Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A day at the Fort Museum

When someone is crazy enough to  take a day off from work to visit the Museum, you can make out the nature of the person and his interests. Well, after it had been in the news that there were new sections at the Fort Museum- one on epigraphy and one on Hair-do styles in sculptures, you will understand that it is only natural that such a person feels badly tempted to visit the museum. 

In a first of its kind the Epigraphy dept of the ASI, lodged at the Clive hall, just in front of the St Mary's church inside fort St George, celebrating its 25 years, is showing an exhibition of estampages that mark historic milestones in the growth of the field of epigraphy. its a rare occassion where you are presented a panaromic view of the field and understand its developments. All credits to Dr Karuppaiah for putting this show together in the little space available at their disposal. 

The show had been very pertinently been named after Eugen Hultzsch (1857- 1927) who was the first head of the Epigraphy division of ASI in 1886 and is reknown for his major contribution in Ashokan inscriptions and pioneering works in collecting south indian inscriptions. It was a good way of reminding the public of a Pioneer who had been sidelined and safely forgotten.

The estampages have been arranged in a Chronological order. We start of by paying our formal respects to the Harappan script that is yet to yield itself to deciphering. Brahmi inscriptions of Ashokan edicts, particularly the one at Rummindei, that declares Lumbini as the Birth place of Buddha, are followed by Brahmi inscriptions of tamil found on Hero stones, coins and rings discovered mostly in the Madurai region are presented. This period is then followed by thosef ound in Jain caves and resting places, the most recent find in this category is the accidental discovery of a site in Tiruparankunran hill on the normaly hidden side of a small channel.
from : http://creative.sulekha.com/brahmi-the-mother-of-indian-language-scripts_618198_blog

The super heroic declaration of Mandagapattu inscription is featured prominently, followed soon by vattezhuthu inscriptions of the Big temple. There are inscriptions from Mukkodal, saluvan kuppam, pudukkotai that throw interesting light on the life and times of the period they represent.

The dept has done well to prominently display a tree depicting the evolution of the modern day scripts from the early Brahmi. A visitor is certain to leave the exhibition equipped to understand and appreciate the content and context of an inscription, if he ever happens to come across one. 

While leaving the Clive hall one should not miss visiting the ASI library housed in the ground floor, stocked with some rare and beautiful books on art and archaeology. 

Heading to the Fort museum, one is invited by the flaoating banners declaring the exhibition of Kesa- vinyas in the temporary hall on the first floor. Whoever thought of this idea for an exhibition is to be duly appreciated for kindling the interest in lay public to take a closer look at their sculptures.
'Beauty of the braid sculpture from Boovarga swamy temple in Sri Mushnam, from Madhu Jagdhish's FB page
Here again we start with the hair bun of the Dancing girl and the trimmed hair of the priest, both from Harappan civilisation. The Bun has been portrayed in different shapes and different dimensions across many sculptures. However it is the beautifully braided and adorned long hair from a sculture in Srimushnam stands out both for its timeless elegance and in its resemblance to what we see even today in bridal hair make ups.