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Gokal Dembi

Siva Sutras and Lal Vakhs painted

By Special Correspondent

Saivism, as a philosophical credo, has remained integral to the social and spiritual life of Kashmiris for over a millennium and a half. Kashmir Saivism is also called 'Trika Sastra' as it is based on three postulates-Siva, Sakti and Nara. The texts of Saivism called Agama, as per local folklore, have been revealed by Siva. The basic Agama of the Trika Sastra is Siva Sutras. According to Prof. MH Zaffar who teaches philosophy at Kashmir University 'The Siva-Sutra read like aesthetically structured riddles which radiate divine beauty and charm and are capable of many interpretations depending upon the spiritual evolution of the interpreter'. Each Siva sutra is loaded with a spiritual-philosophical formulation. Saivism has left a rich legacy. Poetry of Lal Ded, Nunda Reshi and some sufiana poets is indicative of this. Saintess Lal Ded, the pioneer of Kashmir language was a renaissance figure who through her spirituality and poetry brought the Saivite message closer to the common Kashmiri.


Gokal Dembi, a master painter from Rainawari (Srinagar) has rendered yeomen service to Kashmir's culture by painting Siva Sutras and Vakhs of Lal Ded. The rise of militarised Islamic fundamentalism forced Dembi and his community out from their homeland. As an anguished Kashmiri he gave vent to the agonies of losing homeland in his artistic expressions. In his quest to build cultural anchors to counter religious fundamentalism, now sweeping the Valley, Gokal Dembi conceived a project 'Rishi Tradition of Kashmir' in early 2005. He took a refreshed study of the poetry of Lal Ded and Nund Rishi in general and the aspects of visual imagery in Kashmiri mysticism in particular. At Prof. Zaffar's instance Dembi in his project--painting of Rishi Tradition started with visual representation of Siva Sutras and Vakhs of Lal Ded as these happen to be one of the basic texts of Kashmiri Rishi Tradition. Govt. of India awarded him a Senior Fellowship to facilitate his work in this direction.

Gokal Dembi after working on the project for two years held an exhibition of his painted work at Kala Kendra Jammu from November 30 to December 7, 2007. The paintings include visual representation of 32 Saiva Sutras and 13 Vakhs of Lal Ded. Paintings have been done on acrylic. It is first time that Siva Sutras and Vakhs of Lal Ded have been painted. Before this we had visual depiction of some tantras by another Kashmiri painter late GR Santosh.


Commenting on Dembi's work artist Rajender Tiku observes:

"With his experience as a painter and understanding as a seeker, Gokal Dembi transcends the barrier of mere interpretation. Instead he comes forth with strikingly impactful works with immaculate detail and a vivid meaning imparted to each and every division in a particular space, the picture, a shape entrenched in that division, a colour applied and finally the overall effect created. No matter based upon a particular sloka, each painting evolves into an independent entity with a visual impact of its own".


He adds:

"Though it must be difficult to visualize the import of Siva Sutras, and perhaps that is why Gokal Dembi begins with use of human form as a convenient, perceptible and meaningful element with a tried and accepted connotation as a visual. Since Siva Sutras also are essentially meant to understand and apply the possibilities of spiritual upliftment and thereby the extreme liberation, the figurative elements become even more pertinent and effective. It is all a phenomenon with an intrinsic character to support realisation beyond visible and tangible".

Source: Kashmir Sentinel 



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