If you hold this
Up to the sky,
It will shine a billion
Painted from the tears
Of the Most High
…Look inside this hypnotic gem
And a kaleidoscope of
Sights and colours
Will tease and seduce
Your eyes and mind.
— Suzy Kassem, poet-philosopher, describing India in ‘A Jewellery Store Named India’
THE prime venue for the G20 summit was the spectacular Bharat Mandapam, shining as a jewel in Delhi’s crown at Pragati Maidan. The architectural wonder is an amalgam of timeless elegance with modern amenities. Every nook and cranny exudes a touch of artistic finesse rooted in traditional art forms.
Bharat Mandapam draws inspiration from Lord Basaveshwara’s concept of Anubhav Mandapam, which has its roots in Hindu mythology and was designed as a platform for public ceremonies. Likewise, this venue was conceptualised for hosting national and international guests in order to impart a flavour of the potpourri of textures, tastes and traditions called India.
The building is shaped in the form of a shankh, or conch shell, regarded as a sacred emblem of Lord Vishnu. As an extension of this ethereal symbology, the myriad walls and facades of the Convention Centre are an apt narrative of the numerous facets of our country’s artistic legacy. Included among these is a replica of the iconic Konark Sun Temple’s wheel, which was a striking backdrop for welcoming all guests. One side of the Konark Chakra featured the G20 logo, while the other had the Sanskrit slogan ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ — ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’, the theme of India’s G20 presidency.
The sun energy or ‘surya shakti’ represents India’s commitment to harnessing solar energy and its recent lunar and solar space expeditions. Just standing in front of this empowering emblem is energising. It makes one marvel at the level of perfection achieved by the craftsmen of the Eastern Ganga dynasty in the 13th century.
The five building blocks of the universe, also known as the ‘Pancha Mahabhuta’, find pride of place in this structure. The five elements, namely aakash (sky), vayu (air), agni (fire), jal (water) and prithvi (earth), are displayed along with a curated section of paintings and tribal art.
Another highlight of the Bharat Mandapam is a 28-foot Nataraja statue, put up in front of the venue. It is an embodiment of India’s Chola bronzes, exemplary in their beauty and craftsmanship. Weighing a stupendous 19 tonnes, the idol is made of ashtadhatu or eight metals: gold, silver, lead, copper, tin, mercury, iron and zinc. The credit of creating this sculpture goes to renowned sculptor Devasenapathy Sthapathy’s sons who have adhered to the model of Chidambaram, Konerirajapuram and other Natarajas of the Chola period in crafting this statue.
The sculptors have deployed the ‘lost-wax’ casting method, wherein a wax model is crafted and encased in clay. Such is the attention to detail that the clay or alluvial soil, which is available along a stretch of Cauvery river that runs through Swamimalai in Tamil Nadu, has been used for the statue. According to Srikanda Sthapathy, one of the sculptors, “The G20 Nataraja will last centuries. The sculptors in our family are known for the purity of materials that they use. In fact, the main reason why we always get the pattern right is because the soft soil is procured from the riverbed situated a kilometre from Swamimalai town. Even going 2 kms further down will not achieve the same result.”
Witnessing this luminous work rendered me speechless. To add to the magic of the moment, I remembered how the Nataraja roop of Lord Shiva is an embodiment of a trio of roles as creator, preserver, and destroyer of the universe and the circular arch conveys the never-ending cycle of time. No other visual representation could have better captured the philosophy of India.
Following the success of the G20 summit, PM Narendra Modi also inaugurated the first phase of the sprawling Yashobhoomi Convention and Expo Centre in Dwarka, Delhi-NCR. What makes Yashobhoomi a delight for art lovers is the Grand Ballroom that boasts of a unique lotus petal-design ceiling. As an abode of Saraswati, the goddess of beauty and knowledge, the lotus is worshipped as a motif of prosperity, abundance and divinity. It is used as an important metaphor in the Bhagavadgita, which teaches that we as humans should emulate the philosophy of the lotus that stays pristine and pure even in muddy water.
Built over an expanse of over 73,000 square metres, the magnificent Yashobhoomi also houses an auditorium, convention rooms and meeting rooms with a total capacity of hosting 11,000 attendees. It is believed to be the world’s largest Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) facility.
Both the structures are a testimony to India’s vibrant and awe-inspiring artistic and technological prowess. From the lens of an art lover, these edifices go beyond their brick and mortar structures and create a lasting impact. Visiting these venues is a perfect way to spend some time and marvel at not just contemporary India, but also the country’s cultural warp and weft over the centuries.
— The entry fee for Bharat Mandapam is Rs 100 for adults and free for students. At Yashobhoomi, there is no entry fee as of now
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