Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Magic Realism of Punjab

The stunning mural creations of Orijit Sen and his 13 collaborators at the Virasat-e-Khalsa multimedia museum in Anandpur Sahib, Punjab. This electric work done over 3 years takes the visitor through sights and insights of Punjabi life today, with sudden whiffs of the legends and stories that Punjabiyat is so soaked in. So one can see the alcohol shop right next to the chemist's as anyone who has experienced the alcoholism in Punjab will tell you and then there's a Heer Ranjha dreamscape. 
 What is truly unique is that it is done in a style which revives the best of miniature painting traditions that undivided Punjab was once known for. What takes it one ravishing step further is when the play of light and specially sung folk tunes of Punjab give the visitor a live commentary of the parallel lives and times of the Punjab. Past and present rub shoulders like buddies who know each other affectionately. Yes, the gurus and the pirs are never far from the open hearted spaces of a people who live very much in the now. Punjab has always been a historical conveyor belt caught between love and war, so fast flowing canals are etched in a way that have to intersect with power lines. 

 5000 people have been coming to see this free entry - museum daily since it opened in November 2011. Designed by Boston-based architect Moshe Safdie, twin buildings tower over the landscape — one topped by five crescents. The other by five petals. Together, representing the 10 Sikh Gurus. Orijit's work is part of a larger narrative that takes the viewer through every significant bullet point in Sikh history or virasat-e-khalsa. Photos by SHAILAN PARKER and text by Tisha Srivastav.

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