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Art History

India – Dances of the Soul
Text Olga Slobodkina-von Bromssen
Pictures Koushal Chaudhry


When I met the Indian artist Koushal Choudhry at his art exhibition at the Imperial Tailoring Company showroom, I was surprised by the similarities in our understanding of life.

“What I want to express is the human soul,” says Choudhry. “The energy and depth required to see God is my basic theme in art and in my view of spirituality. My paintings are not two-dimensional. You can see the depth. You concentrate your eye and it becomes a form of meditation.”

The display starts with two paintings called ‘Rebirth-I’ and ‘Rebirth –II.’ In ‘Rebirth-I’, energetic movement rises up and comes down to the bright white spot, which is new life. The blue color is a symbol of the universe or cosmic power, the white is the color of purity or the symbol of the Soul. In ‘Rebirth-II’, the soul achieves enlightenment in whirlwind movement, but consciously chooses to come down to partake of a new birth in the world to help, support and guide people on their path of humanity. The golden color represents divine souls.

“Since my childhood people have been talking to me about karma and other spiritual matters, but I did not feel they really understood what it was. In my paintings I want to express the depth of these notions.”

As Choudhry walks with me to look at his paintings, we come to one called ‘Why the Rebirth?’ The artist gives a simple answer. People come back to earth because of their attachments and emotional feelings, their unfulfilled desires or because they haven’t learned their life-lesson. Others come back because they have become teachers. The painting, ‘Why the Rebirth?’ is about the sign of infinity where the left part represents the earth while the right part is freedom, or a liberation of the soul. It is a single whole, but earthly attachments pull the soul back to earth while an enlightened soul can choose for itself.

Koushal Choudhry started painting at 11 years old. His mother was a painter, so all the painting materials were near at hand. He was the best artist at his school, and his ambition was to serve the nation. From that early age he felt he had something inside him from God. Since his father was in the military, Choudhry wanted to join the army as an engineer. He admired Leonardo da Vinci (who was also a military man and an engineer) and wanted to be like him. So his first degree was in civil engineering and architecture and in 1991 he graduated from Bangalore University with honors. Then his younger brother was in a serious accident and remained in a coma for four years. Choudhry re-taught his brother about the world by painting for him every day.

AUM Ganesha

“I used to be very nervous and even angry,” says Choudhry. Those difficult times changed his character and strengthened his talent. His desire to become an artist ripened. He took one year of sculpture at the Indian Institute of Craft and Design in Jaipur, after which he started creating things out of papier-mache. He established a workshop of artists and developed a business selling the works of art all over the world. The income from this business eventually enabled him to paint full time, which he has been doing since 1999.

Choudhry’s spiritual art has taken the form of spherical whirling movements. The medium is acrylic paint on canvas. But what lies behind it is spiritual philosophy. The work ‘His Master’s Fight’, where one can see two brightly-colored roosters whirling in a circle bound to each other as if in a centrifuge, symbolizes politics, which involves not only the politicians themselves, but what it affects – a whole way of life.

At the exhibition there are paintings called ‘Ghoomer-III’ and ‘Ghoomer-IV’. Ghoomer is the name of a dance. These works are all about whirling, which is a dance form of meditation. “These dancers have energy. When they’re whirling they become almost invisible, like Gods. But one can feel their presence,” says Choudhry. Another painting along these lines is ‘Fire of the Stomach’. It shows a dervish dancing in the whirl of his own energy. Some paintings are purely representational, such as ‘Morning: Ganga Temple’. The work shows a hermit living in the Himalayas. The hermit Bharat was a human being, grandson of the hermit Rishi. His name was Kanva. That is where Maha Bharata, or the origin of India, began.

The highlight of the exhibition is ‘Shiva Nataraja’. The dancing Shiva symbolizes the eternal dance of the Universe – tandava. This form of Shiva is called Nataraja or Master of Dance (natadance, raj –master). In his graceful and beautiful movement he maintains the Universe with his never-ending dance. In his upper right hand, Shiva holds a two-sided drum or damaru. In his left hand, the fire Agni, symbol of purification and renewal of the world. His second right hand is bent at the elbow and its gesturing hand symbolizes approval. The second left hand signifies power and force and points to the conquered demon of ignorance. These gestures (mudras) are also called abhaya and dandhasta (fearlessness and hope) and indicate the possibility of leaving the circle of constant rebirth.



Since 1991 Choudhry has had eleven solo shows and participated in a dozen group exhibitions. He is the winner of many prestigious Indian awards such as Best Artist of the Month, Mumbai 2007 and Rajasthan Sate Merit Award, Jaipur, 2003. The artist’s latest solo show was exhibited with great success at the Russian Parliament in October of 2007.

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