India Design Motifs, Part 13

BY: SUN STAFF - 31.7 2017

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu 
Chore Bagan Art Studio, Calcutta, c. 1895

A study of the historical, spiritual and cultural elements of Vedic design.

In our last segment we presented one-half of a Chore Bagan Art Studio chromolithograph plate, featuring Sri Sri Gaura Nitai. Today we will discuss the second half – a beautiful image of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This double-panel image was included in Chore Bagan's cloth folio, in which this particular print is No. 6. The left panel is entitled "Chaitanya" (in English), with additional titles in Bengali.

This image of Sri Chaitanya is done in exactly the same style as the image of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaura in the right section. The Lord is framed by pillars on either side, standing beneath an ornate archway. In the upper corners are small figures of Krsna, on the left, and Radharani, on the right. In the "Nitai Chaitanya" print, these corner figures were Balarama and Krsna.

The posture of Lord Caitanya in this print is somewhat similar to earlier Kalighat images. For example, a number of paintings from the Kalighat shrine in Calcutta depict the sada-bhuja, or six-armed form of Lord Caitanya, in which He is bearing the attributes of Lord Rama (with two green arms, holding a bow); Sri Krsna (with blue arms, playing the flute); and Chaitanya (with yellow arms, carrying lota and stick/danda).

Sada-bhuja Chaitanya Mahaprabhu 
Kalighat Painting, Calcutta, c. 1900

There are many interesting elements in style and design to consider when comparing the image of Lord Chaitanya to that of Gaura-Nitai. Overall, Mahaprabhu's setting is more opulent in motif. He is framed by four sets of double-pillars, rather than just two, and the arched lintel is more detailed. Radha and Krsna are more compartmentalized above Chaitanya, whereas in the Gaura-Nitai frame, Krsna and Balarama share a common green leafy space, the white spots suggesting it is a kadamba tree.

The red blossoms found in a row above Gaura-Nitai are also repeated in the Chaitanya section, where they are interspersed with pink flowers. Lord Chaitanya's lotus pedestal is sitting atop an additional base. A bright blue background frames both images. The checkered temple-style floor on the right is less ornate than the floor beneath Mahaprabhu's feet, with a predominating saffron color that perhaps suggests His sannyasa status.

With respect to clothing, jewelry and paraphernalia, we see that in both frames Lord Chaitanya is wearing a red dhoti. In the left panel, His green and gold-bordered shawl is more opulent, His garland longer, and there are red gems or flowers on His lotus feet.

Perhaps most striking, however, is the addition of Lord Chaitanya's opulent mukut (headpiece), which sports the peacock feather of Krsna. In fact, if we consider the description above, of traditional Kalighat paintings of sada-bhuja Caitanya, we find the three corresponding colors – green (for Rama), blue (for Krsna), and yellow/gold (for Chaitanya) are all predominant in this single image of the Lord.

Finally, we note the glow of divinity around the head of Lord Chaitanya in the left panel, which is not shown on the right for Gauranga or Nitai. This further sets the two panels apart, suggesting that Lord Chaitanya alone is predominant.

Aside from Deity photographs, we have seen few if any 19th century or older images in which Lord Chaitanya is standing in this pose, with both hands at His side, palms out. The exception are images of the sada-bhuja form, in which two of Lord's Chaitanya's golden arms are down, holding paraphernalia.