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A sadhu sits on a tiger skin in meditation. Anglo-Indian (or 'Company School') at Lucknow, circa 1840. Watercolour with gold on Western manufactured paper. 24.7 x 20.2cm
Paintings such as this were made as souvenirs for foreigners to show on returning home the curiosities of India. This example shows a sadhu (Hindu ascetic) who sits meditating on a tiger skin - one of the few possessions allowed him due to being considered having certain properties aiding meditation as well as signifying powers of accomplishment. In the picture are other allowed possessions: he holds a japamala (rosary) helping to retain his asana (posture) is a branch from a tree which he tucks under his arm as support, beside him are his water pot and begging bowl. Prior to meditation he will have performed yajna involving a fire into which ritually poured ghee and other offerings are made while mantras are chanted. He wears only a loincloth while his body is smeared with ashes indicating his devotion to Shiva.
The inscription has not been translated but has been identified as being in Kaithi, widely practiced at the time in the regions including Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
(Thanks to Tarun Pant for his kindness in offering this information.)
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Images and text © Peter Blohm