Aadiyogi Shiv – a journey in cosmic indigo

Sangeeta Gupta

Some dreams seen by others become your own.

How they manifest in the subconscious of others and you get to execute them!

How utterly beautiful is that!

On 19th July 2019, I got a message from Kavita Nayar, an artist from Delhi.

"Good morning, want to tell you that last night I dreamt of you. We were in a camp together. You created 10 paintings in 3 days 2x2 ft., very interesting works. And then you had employed 2 people to paint a thick cloth in yellow, almost 100 metres long. I wonder what does this dream signify... You must be on your way to create a Guinness world record…"

After receiving this message, I called her to talk about it. She said on a serious note that I have aspirations and maybe I will do it one day. I just laughed and thought I could have but after my accident, it seemed so unrealistic.

Somehow, her dream lingered in my thoughts and amused me to no end; how strange, I figure in other people's dreams!

This was not the first case. Some months passed by but I often remembered about it. Though never thought of executing such a long painting.

I was in Jaipur to receive a lifetime achievement award for my contribution to the field of fine art on 26th December 2019, in an art festival organised by Art Fiesta. During the festival I met Ashok Aatreya, a writer and an old acquaintance. I had time on hand and we had some meaningful conversation about the indigo natural colour and dye. He and his fellow artist friends had a display of their art works in indigo there in the festival. Just on an impulse, I said I would also like to paint on fabric with indigo. On the last day of my trip Ashok took me to a work centre in village Ratelia, Sanganer to make me have a hands-on experience with the indigo. Before going there, we went to his guru Gayatri Sharma, a dhrupad* singer to listen to her renditions and have breakfast with her. She mesmerised me with her rendition and explanations about the nuances of dhrupad. I was drowned in dhrupad when I started to paint on the fabric with dabu**. I was excited to experiment and could really paint well. I called my first such painting Dhrupad Neel. Then and there, I decided to create a mass appeal for revival of natural indigo by making a 100-metre-long painting using the natural colour and dye on hand-spun fabric.

That day was the beginning of a new-found passion, which kept growing inside me. I thought of it all the time and waited for the right time to start, a more favourable weather to paint for long hours. I discussed this project with my son and he advised me to think of a theme and make detailed sketches of the whole painting in advance. I have immense trust in his wisdom and readily agreed to do so.

I booked my train tickets for 25th February and ordered fabric, hand-spun khaddar of 125 metres.

On the day of Mahashivratri, 21st February 2020 I fasted and prayed to Lord Shiv and conceptualised my new painting about Aadiyogi Shiv, the Ardhnarishwar and started sketching in a note book. The beginning of creation, the Shakti and Shiv together in eternal bliss, and it flowed like a never-ending stream out of nowhere. Shiv, the whole of universe, was my subject. My approach was abstract, conceptual, minimalist. I wanted it to be symbolic, yet simple.

I boarded the early morning train to Jaipur. After reaching there, from the station went straight to the village Ratelia and started to set up my work station; and, by early noon, I started painting on the hand-spun khaddar with dabu.

It is a cumbersome process and also very time consuming. Once you paint, you have to sprinkle saw dust on top of it to save it from smudging.

I worked continuously with a lunch-break of fifteen minutes, till I could in the night. It was my daily routine. I did not let any one of my friends know that I was in Sanganer, so near Jaipur. After a few days, I realised that I would not be able to finish it by 29th February. So, I cancelled my return ticket.

Once I finished a piece, it had to sun dry and only then I could dye it. The whole process took a few days.

I also did some pieces without using dabu and painted them with natural indigo colour. That seemed much easier and more fun to me. I had to cut my long painting into numerous pieces, because it was not possible to dye the whole in one go.

About the dying process, I took guidance from Mr. Brij Valabh Udaywal, the owner of Shilpi Sansthan who is a President of India awardee for his dying and printing skills. This is his family legacy and he is the third generation of block printers. He provided me raw material dabu, natural dye and colour indigo (neel)***. His workers were there to help and support me in preparation of dabu, dying and all sundry menial work.

Ashok Aatreya witnessed the beginning of this mission and also visited the venue several times.

I was very secretive about the whole process, as it was much about my own endurance. I had met with an accident in March 2019and smashed my right wrist and had undergone a surgery with an implant. I had to undergo more than 150 sessions of physiotherapy to get the normal strength in my wrist to relieve the constant nagging pain. I could paint and do all what is required of my right-hand wrist but doing a 100-metre painting at a stretch was my ultimate test. I was not competing with anyone. As always, I was challenging my own self to explore my physical and mental boundaries. The whole universe was on my side.

I intended to paint 100 metres but went on to finish 185 metres. That just happened by accident. I kept on asking the two workers whether the whole lot of fabric kept there was what I had purchased and every time they said yes with such conviction that I could not doubt about the exact measurements. Finally, when we measured it, it turned out to be 185 metres. Thereafter I checked the world records and was very amused to realise that I had created a new record by making the longest painting by an individual.

I returned home to sleep over my small victory. Shiv was there by my side as always.

I have always been a spiritually-inclined person but with maturity, my interest in the eternal cosmic entity Shiv became deeper. He is omnipresent, both inside and outside of us. We are all connected and originate from one source and it is Shiv. My inclination is not merely a new indulgence. It goes deeper than that, I may say it started with the beginning of my life, my early childhood. My grandfather had a great influence on my spiritual upbringing. Kashmir reiterated my faith in the universal principle of Shivohum. The whole universe is Shiv, there is no beginning, no end. He is all and he is in each of us.

I am an abstract artist and Shiv is pure abstraction. My painting is not religious, I believe in Oneness of the whole (EKAM).

One of the 64 manifestations of Shiv, the man, woman form with Parvati constituting the left half of Shiv, he draws the feminine into his own self. He is half man, half woman. A symbol of the Samkhya philosophy which talks of Purusha (the male energy) and Prakriti (the female energy); together they make the cosmic energy.

As Ardhanareeswara, Shiv destroys the old. Thereafter, a process of recreation begins all over again. Mother Shakti once propitiated Lord Shiv that she be part of him in body and mind. He granted her this wish and absorbed her in half of himself, thus was created the half-man half-woman aspect of Lord Shiv, symbolising the oneness of all beings.

This fusion of Shiv and Shakti representing the male and female halves transcends the distinction between limitations of male and female. She is substrate and he is substance. Shiv is static; Shakti is dynamic and creative. Shiv is being and Shakti is becoming. He is one; she is many; he is infinite and she renders the infinite into finite; he is formless and she renders the formless into myriad forms; but both are one.

All that power in creation, maintenance, and dissolution rests with Shakti. However, the great mother does not exist without Shiv.

Ardhanareeshvara is a combination of three words “Ardha,” “Nari,” and “Ishwara” means “half,” “woman,” and “lord,” respectively, which when combined means the lord whose half is a woman. It is believed that the God is Lord Shiv and the woman part is his consort Goddess Parvati or Shakti. The Ardhanareeshvara represents a constructive and generative power. Ardhanareeshvara symbolizes that male and female principles cannot be separated. It conveys the unity of opposites in the universe. The male half stands for Purusha and female half is Prakriti. Ardhanareeshvara harmonizes the two conflicting ways of life: The spiritual way of the ascetic as represented by Shiv, and the materialistic way of the householder symbolised by Parvati. It conveys that Shiv and Shakti are one and the same. A human being is not a pure unisexual organism. Each human organism bears the potentiality of both male and female sex. Neurohormonal mechanisms have been found to be greatly influencing the sexual behaviour. The modern world has come to understand the concept of “Ardhanareeshwara” as it aspires to resolve the paradox of opposites into a unity, not by negation, but through positive experiences of life. The matching of opposites produces the true rhythm of life.

The perception of the universe and its understanding lies within the brain. Both Philosophy and Science aim to render intelligible to us our world of experience. Both encompass man and universe and both try to find out the origin, evaluation, and nature of the universe in order to have glimpses of the principles, involved in it. The difference between these two disciplines, therefore, is in their different approaches viz. the former-perception, while the latter reveals it by experimentations. Ancient Hindu concepts regarding brain science are now attracting the scientific community to explore some of their mystical findings and make use of them in further understanding of brain behaviour. So, the Vedas, Upanishads, and Puranas are being reviewed all over the world.

Subject and medium merge when the artist is at peace with herself. If you are experiencing love, compassion and bliss, medium doesn't bother you. If you are connected with the universe everything unfolds before you. I just had to train my hands a bit to use dabu as a medium on fabric.

when artists work, they are in solitude, they are preoccupied with their creativity. I am drawn to Mahamrityunjaya Mantra and Nirvana Shatkum composed by Aadi Shankaracharya. I have also painted the text with brush in natural colour indigo in my studio. I completed 185 metres in nine days in Sanganer and returned to Delhi on 4th March 2020 because Corona had started spreading in close by areas of Jaipur. The rest of the 15-metre painting, I completed in my studio in Delhi.

I have been conceptualising this painting since end of December 2019. After purchase of the khaddar cloth, natural indigo colour and dye, I started the actual painting on 25th February 2020; worked for nine days in Ratelia village, Sanganer at Shilpi Sansthan. I had made all the related sketches before I started execution of this project. I first painted with dabu, a muddy paste with brush and then put saw dust on it and then sun-dried the painting. After that it was soaked in drums of indigo dye and then washed and dried again.

The second method applied for painting is that I dyed the khaddar cloth first in light shades of indigo, dried it and then painted on the cloth again with dark shades of indigo colour. After 4th March I painted on the dyed cloth with dark indigo. I have used two different methods to paint on the fabric.

We have to return to the basics, if we want to survive in peace. Handmade fabric is environment friendly and natural colour and dye are handmade too, they are chemical free. It is to promote sustainable living and promote natural indigo so I have created this painting that is abstract, conceptual, minimalist painting on natural sustainable khaddar fabric with organic indigo colour and dye.

This is a movement for revival of natural indigo.

To encourage revival of indigo cultivation, a cash crop as a mass movement to make it a commercially viable venture for farmers, dyers and craft men. To encourage print makers to apply contemporary art, merge it with traditional craft of block printing with natural dabu and organic indigo. To make it highly sought-after export product.



Dhrupad is a genre in Hindustani classical music from the Indian subcontinent. It is the oldest known style of major vocal style of Hindustani classical music.


The Process of making Dabu (mud resist) is to prepare the clay first, by finely sieving it. Calcium hydroxide (Chuna in Hindi), naturally pounded wheat chaff (Beedan in Hindi, clay-lime-gum-insect eaten wheat mixture), and gum (Gound in Hindi) are the main ingredients to make the mud resist.

***Indigo (Neel)
Indigofera tinctoria, also called true indigo, is a species of plant from the bean family that was one of the original sources of indigo colour and


About my works

Aadiyogi Shiv: a journey in cosmic indigo

Title of the paintings

"Aadiyogi shiv : a journey in cosmic indigo"

Technique and style:

Abstract, conceptual, minimalist painting on natural sustainable, hand woven khadi fabric with organic indigo colour and dye extracted from indigo plant

I am an abstract artist and the biggest challenge for me was to start with form and culminate it into formlessness.

Shiv is both form and form less. Roop se Aroop tak ,it's my journey with Shiv.

I have tried to remind people of my country India to take pride in our heritage. Khadi and Neel are our very own since ages. Our block printing technique is our own age-old way of chhapakala which is now becoming extinct. Machine has made everything so mechanical and impersonal. I just wanted to give some, abstract idioms to our chhapakala. This may be refreshing and contemporary.


Gender equality: Ardhnarinateshwar

My inspiration has been the ardhnarinateshwar, lord Shiv who has both forms of energy ,male and female.

These works are born out of infinite, formless energy of Aadiyogi Shiv, ardhnarinateshwar, the ultimate feminist.

There is no beginning, no end, all encompassing, omnipresent Shiv is present in all of us.



Details Of Paintings for the exhibition


Aadiyogi Shiv A Journey in Cosmic Indigo 5, 2020

51 x 53 cms (1.6 x 1.6 feet)


hand spun khadi


Hand painted with mud resist then dyed in natural indigo extracted from indigo plant



Aadiyogi Shiv A Journey in Cosmic Indigo 81, 2020

198 x 93 cms (6.5 x 3.05 feet)


hand spun khadi


Hand painted with mud resist then dyed in natural indigo extracted from indigo plant

1 comment :

  1. Robert Maddox-HarleMay 15, 2024 at 11:45 PM

    This wonderful, great artworks :-)


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