TWO FACETS OF INDIA
Cosmopolitan Singapore is widely perceived as business-oriented, somewhat dull and uneventful. Such an attitude does very little justice to the city-state where art, music and film festivals are plentiful and various exhibitions offer opportunities to deepen one’s knowledge of different cultures. The erfect example of such aesthetical treats is the dual exhibition presented by the Peranakan Museum and Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore: Ramayana Revisited: A Tale of Love and Adventure and Jewelled Arts of ndia in the Age of the Mughals.
A Living Epic of Ancient India
The Ramayana is a renowned ancient Indian epic narrating the story of Rama, Prince of Ayodhya, and his quest to save his wife, Sita, captured by Ravana the demon. Unlike Homer’s Iliad, with which it is often compared, the Ramayana is a living epic regularly re-enacted even in India’s most distant villages. It has transcended its geographical boundaries to become a part of cultures throughout Asia, especially Southeast Asia.
Rama is one of the four sons of King Dasharatha of the ancient kingdom of Ayodhya, who were born to his three queens. Queen Kaikeyi banishes Rama to exile through deceit, as she wants the throne for her own son, Bharata. Rama, accompanied by Sita and his other half-brother, Lakshmana, go to live in a forest, which is inhabited by ogres. There, an ogress seeks to lure the two men but has her nose cut off by Lakshmana. Humiliated, she rushes to her brother, Ravana, the King of Lanka (present-day Sri Lanka), for revenge. Ravana then abducts Sita and proposes to marry her but she refuses. Assisted by the monkey army, Rama and Lakshmana storm Ravana’s palace and kill him.
As the legend grew beyond epic proportions, Rama was identified as one of the human incarnations of the Hindu god, Vishnu, and Sita was seen as an incarnation of the Goddess Lakshmi.
A turban ornament (c.1650–1700)
set with emeralds and diamonds
Modern mask representing Hanuman, son of the Wind God and a simian mother, Anjana.
Hanuman is the general of the Monkey King Sugriva and devoted friend of Rama (Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 1999–2000)
Siege of Lanka (Kangra, North India, late 18th to early 20th century).
The painting presents a simultaneous narrative of many scenes from the Ramayana, which was typical of Kangra art
A shadow puppet of Ravana, who is traditionally depicted as a mighty warrior with 10 heads and 20 arms (Andhra Pradesh, South India)
Photos: Courtesy of Peranakan Museum
Exhibition: Ramayana Revisited: A Tale of Love and Adventure
Dates: Now showing, until 27 June
Venue : Asian Civilisations Museum, 1 Empress Place www.acm.org.sg
Admission charges : S$8 (adults) / S$4 (concession). Family package: S$20 for up to 5 pax.
Free admission for children aged 6 and below and seniors aged 60
The Great Splendour
of the Mughals
More than 150 years after its demise, the legendary Mughal Empire, one of the wealthiest and most powerful dynasties the world has ever known, still captivates our imagination today with tales of splendour and luxury.
Featuring gemstones and other precious objects from the al-Sabah Collection in Kuwait, the Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals exhibition has travelled since 2001 to prestigious venues such as the British Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Louvre Museum in Paris. It makes its Asian debut at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore.
The Mughals were descendants of the Central Asian conqueror Timur (known in the West as Tamerlane) and the Mongol ruler, Genghis Khan. The Mughal Empire, which at its peak spanned modern-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, was established by Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, who invaded India in 1526. The Mughals ruled for over three centuries before the empire’s unceremonious end at the hands of the British in 1858.
The Mughals’ appreciation for beauty is evident through objects which would have been used by the emperor and the court. Nearly every exhibit is encrusted with rubies, diamonds and emeralds and set in gold using the kundan technique – a typically Indian method of setting gemstones without the use of bezels and prongs.
Mughal jewellery was often meticulously decorated even on areas that were not visible when worn. On the front,
this pendant (c. 1620–1650) features a uck and lotus pond with ripples, while the back is decorated with a floral motif in champlev enamel
This royal spinel (balas ruby) is inscribed with the names of six of the most important Mughal emperors:
Ulugh Beg, Shah Abbas, Jahangir, Shah Jahan, Alamgir (Aurangzeb) and Ahmad Shah
A dagger and scabbard (c. 1619) covered in otal of 2,393 stones – rubies, diamonds, emeralds, ivory, layered agate and glass. It would have been worn as a symbol of its owner’s power and wealth. The hilt and pommel are reminiscent of a ree of life, while the knuckle bow takes the form of a horse head issuing from the mouth of a akara, an aquatic creature from Hindu mythology
This splendid emerald (c.1570–1590), weighing 233.5 carats (5 x 5.7 x 1 cm) and carved in relief with a palm tree motif,
remains missing from the al-Sabah collection due to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990
This finger ring (c.1600–1625) with a three-dimensional bird that can rotate and bob
(possibly providing hours of entertainment for its owner) is set with rubies, emeralds, diamonds and a single sapphire
Photos © The al-Sabah collection, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait
Exhibition: Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals
Dates: Now showing, until 22 August
Venue : Peranakan Museum, 39 Armenian Street www.peranakanmuseum.sg
Admission charges : S$6 (adults), S$3 (concession). Family package: S$20 for up to 5 pax.