Retired Chief Justice of India inaugurates Portrait of Ramdas Paranjpe by Mumbiram

Newspaper Article about inauguration of Paranjpe’s Portrait by Artist Mumbiram in the Library of the District Court Pune at the hands of retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, 1992

Ramdas Paranjpe was the president of the Pune Bar Association in 1963. When he passed away in 1989 it was proposed that a portrait of Ramdas Paranjpe be hung on the premises of the District Court of Pune. Artist Mumbiram enthusiastically accepted the challenge to make a portrait of his father whom he dearly loved and respected. The retired chief justice of India, Shri Y. V. Chandrachud and his sisters were school friends of Ramdas Paranjpe and his sisters. Chandrachud had happily agreed to inaugurate Ramdas Paranjpe’s portrait in the District Court library. In this photograph Chandrachud is seen inaugurating the portrait while the mayor of Pune and the chief justice of the Bombay High Court watch on.
Also seen in the picture are a former Union Minister, the District magistrate, a high court judge and the President of the Pune Bar Association. Not seen in the picture is Artist Mumbiram who made the portrait of Ramdas Paranjpe.

Newspaper reference: Daily Sakal, June 28, 1992

Photo of Ramdas Paranjpe and Wrangler Paranjpe, at an event of felicitation at Pune Municipal Corporation, 1963

Photo of Ramdas Paranjpe and Wrangler Paranjpe, at an event of felicitation at Pune Municipal Corporation, 1963

This photo was made during a special ceremony arranged by the Pune Municipal Corporation in 1963 to honour Wrangler R.P. Paranjpe. Ramdas Paranjpe happened to be the deputy mayor of Pune. Wrangler Paranjpe, Sir Raghunath Paranjpe, was a cousin of Ramdas’ father.
Ramdas’ father was a lawyer in Wardha, in Central India. Ramdas was only eighteen month old when his father passed away. Soon after that his mother moved to Pune with her three daughters and a son. There she was able to educate all four of them to the highest level possible in Pune. Wrangler Paranjpe was then the principle of the Fergusson College. He was affectionate to Ramdas, the son of his late cousin.
There was another connection also. Ramdas’ maternal uncle Ramchandra Bhaskar Bhagvat was Raghunath’s lifelong best friend since their days together at Rajaramshastri Bhagvat’s Maratha High School in Mumbai. Rajaramshastri was cousin as well as foster father of Ramdas’ mother Vatsala (Parvati). When Sir Raghunath was made the first Indian High Commissioner of Australia in 1942, the young lawyer Ramdas had invited Sir Raghunath for dinner at his residence near Mandai vegetable market, which later became artist Mumbiram’s legendary atelier. In 1963 Ramdas Paranjpe had founded a non-political people’s organisation, called “Nagari Sanghatana” and contested the municipal corporation’s elections. The Nagari Sanghatana had won the majority and Ramdas Paranjpe had become the deputy mayor. In this photograph the older and the younger Paranjpe are seen very happy to sit for this photograph together.

Portrait of Ramdas Paranjpe by Mumbiram in the Library of the District Court Pune

Advocate Ramdas Paranjpe, Oil Painting by Mumbiram, Pune, 1990

Advocate Ramdas Paranjpe was the president of the Pune Bar Association, the organisation of Pune’s lawyers in 1963. After he passed away in 1989 it was proposed that a portrait of Ramdas Paranjpe should be hung on the premises of the District Court of Pune. Artist Mumbiram happily accepted the challenge of making this portrait of his father whom he dearly loved and respected. Even though many photographs existed Mumbiram wanted to show his father as he remembered him. In this portrait that resulted we see Paranjpe holding a volume of law book that has two inscriptions across its ribs: “Satyameva Jayate” (truth always triumphs) in Devanagari script and “Veritas Vos Liberabit” (truth will set you free) in Latin. In Mumbiram’s estimate his father was a handsome dark man. He had a broad forehead with prominent temple bones which Mumbiram himself inherited. He had a strong square chin with a dimple in the middle. He had a rather short nose that was angular and finely sculpted. He had kind eyes and a winning smile. He was well liked by his friends. In this portrait he is seen in a white shirt and a lampblack jacket such as is worn by lawyers. His necktie has red polka dots on a dark green background. Mumbiram was proud of his father’s sartorial preferences. He had delicate hands as you see here holding the book. The ring finger is adorned with a purple ruby ring, which was the only ornament he ever wore. Mumbiram has lovingly captured all these details and left the background entirely empty. The composition is interesting, the head is tilted and the top of the head appears cropped. It is deliberate. The total effect is an alive portrait rather than a frontal mug shot. Mumbiram had chosen an 80 year old wood worker named Gokhle to fashion a simple elegant frame. Gokhle had placed the framed painting on a chair in his road side garage work shop. It so happened that a family friend, the well known revolutionary freedom fighter Shirubhau Limaye, was passing by. As he casually glanced through the open door of the shop he had the shocking flash that Ramdas Paranjpe was sitting on a chair in the shop in person. Shirubhau himself narrated this experience to Mumbiram. Mumbiram knew his portrait was a success. Soon thereafter the painting was installed in the District Court Library at the hands of the retired chief justice of India, Shri Y. V. Chandrachud, in a special ceremony.

Photo of Cover of the scholarly book Aatmavidyaa by Hari Ganesh Godbole, Artist S.H.Godbole’s father

 

Photo of Cover of the scholarly book Aatmavidyaa by Hari Ganesh Godbole, Artist S.H.Godbole’s father

Shankar Hari Godbole was born around 1885 in Wai in Maharashtra. Wai was an important religious centre on the bank of the Krishna river. Godbole’s ancestors were in traditional priestly occupations, well-versed in the Vedas. Godbole’s father was Hari Ganesh Godbole. His scholarly works ‘Aatmavidyaa’ and ‘Jivitavidya’ are bought and read even hundred years after  they first appeared. Hari Ganesh Godbole educated himself in the British colonial education system and became the headmaster of government high schools in Pune, Nasik, etc.

Photo of Artist Godbole’s close friend Chitrakalacharya N.E.Puram

Photo of Artist Godbole’s close friend Chitrakalacharya N.E.Puram

Narayan Eranna Puram (N.E. Puram) and Shankar Hari Godbole (S.H.Godbole) became friends as students in Mumbai’s J.J. School of Art. Both of them dropped out to carve out their own independent artistic careers. Godbole became an art teacher in Pune’s St. Vincent’s High School in the army cantonment area. His art became a favourite with English officers and he was made a secretary of the Bombay Art Society under the patronage of the governor of the Bombay Presidency.

Puram found patronage from the Maharaja of Baroda and the Raja of Aundh. He was commissioned to make illustrations for Bhandarkar Institute’s voluminous and authoritative editions of the Mahabharata. He was invited to be the art director for one of the annual sessions of the Indian National Congress. ( Faizpur Congress ) The title “Chitrakalacharya” was bestowed upon him by one of the Shankaracharyas. Puram and Godbole had founded “Institute of Modern Art” in Pune in the 1930s. This later evolved into Puram’s “Bharatiya Kala Prasarini Sabha”, the parent body of Pune’s first art and architecture college: “Abhinav Kala Vidyalaya”. For many years Godbole’s son-in-law, advocate Ramdas Paranjpe (Artist Mumbiram’s father), was member of the executive committee of the Sabha. Along with Sayajirao Silam, Advocate Ramdas Paranjpe contributed to the fund-raising activities of the institute. Puram was married to Vijayabai Puram, who was always very active in supporting all of her husbands artistic endeavours. She survived Puram by nearly twenty years and dearly held on to Puram’s surviving paintings and memories. After his return from America, Artist Mumbiram established an affectionate rapport with Vijayabai who bestowed upon the young artist her loving blessings.

Artist S.H.Godbole photographed by his grandson Artist Mumbiram

 

Artist S.H.Godbole  photographed by his grandson Artist Mumbiram

This is perhaps one of very few surviving photos of Artist S.H.Godbole in his old age. It was made by his grandson Artist Mumbiram in 1967 when Godbole was nearly 82 years of age. Godboleji used to ride his bicycle nearly four kilometres daily from his farm house on Bombay road to his daughter Anjani‘s family residence near the Mandai vegetable market place in Pune. This photo was made in the balcony of that Mandai residence.

This photo was made just a few months before Artist Mumbiram went to America for his graduate studies in Berkeley. The artist and his grandson would never meet again thereafter. Mumbiram had just acquired his own first camera. It was the cheapest (30 Rupees) Agfa box camera that made black and white photos in the 120 format.

Godbole, having used professional quality rolleiflex cameras, had only contempt for Mumbiram’s new acquisition. Nevertheless, Godbole readily “posed” for a photo for his favourite grandson. Under his left arm he was carrying his trade mark solar hat, such as was used by civil or army officers in the colonial English era. It is not visible in this cut-out image.

Artist S.H.Godbole in Advocate Ramdas Paranjpe’s offices. Photo by Mumbiram 1967

Artist S.H.Godbole in Advocate Ramdas Paranjpe’s offices. Photo by Mumbiram 1967

 This is perhaps one of very few surviving photos of Artist S.H.Godbole in his old age. It was made by his grandson Artist Mumbiram in 1967 when Godbole was nearly 82 years of age. Godboleji used to ride his bicycle nearly four kilometres daily from his farm house on Bombay road to his daughter Anjani‘s family residence near the Mandai vegetable market place in Pune. Here he is sitting in the office room of his lawyer son-in-law Ramdas Paranjpe.

This photo was made just a few months before Artist Mumbiram went to America for his graduate studies in Berkeley. The artist and his grandson would never meet again thereafter. Mumbiram had just acquired his own first camera. It was the cheapest (30 Rupees) Agfa box camera that made black and white photos in the 120 format.

Godbole, having used professional quality rolleiflex cameras, had only contempt for Mumbiram’s new acquisition. Nevertheless, Godbole readily “posed” for a photo for his favourite grandson. In the foreground we see his trade mark solar hat, such as was used by civil or army officers in the colonial English era.

“Ravana’s encounter with Sita in Panchavati”, by S.H.Godbole, watercolor, Pune, 1932

“Ravana’s encounter with Sita in Panchavati”, by S.H.Godbole, watercolor, Pune, 1932

Ravana had kidnapped Sita during this first encounter in Panchavati. Rama and Sita had spent the happiest years of their life in exile in the idyllic forests in Panchavati. In Ravana’s estimate the beautiful and devoted Sita who had followed her exiled husband into the forest embodied the highest ideals of womanhood. Ravana considered Sita to be more precious than the hordes of beautiful women that had flocked to the glamour and opulence of Lanka. He considered her to be more precious even than his chief queen, the devoted Mandodari. In short Ravana was determined to possess Sita at any cost. He also had heard from his sister Shoorpanakha how attached Rama was to Sita. He was aware that taking Sita away from Rama would drive Rama to insurmountable grief and make him vulnerable to defeat in combat. However, Sita was protected by Rama, who was invincible with his Kodanda bow and the numerous Astra weapons he had acquired from the sages of Dandakaranya. There was also Rama’s brother Laxmana to assist him. Therefore Sita could be abducted only when Rama and Laxmana were removed from the scene, even briefly. Therefore Ravana hatched a plan with the help of his ally Maricha to achieve these goals. Ravana was a learned as well as clever man. He understood the vulnerabilities of a woman in Sita’s situation. On Ravana’s instructions Maricha appeared in Panchavati in the guise of a dazzling, golden deer. Sita was tempted by the thought of acquiring the beautiful skin of that deer, so she could make a blouse of that skin. She persuaded Rama to go after that golden deer to hunt and fetch his skin. Sita and Laxman were left behind in the ashram. Just then they heard Rama calling out Laxmana for help. In truth it was the deceitful Maricha calling out in Rama’s voice. Laxmana would not believe that Rama would need help going after a mere deer. Laxmana refused to budge. Thereupon Sita accused Laxmana that he did not want to rush to where Rama was shouting for help only because he secretly wished Rama to perish, so he, Laxmana, could have her alone in that wilderness. This was too much for Laxmana to take. Laxmana was devoted to both Rama and Sita more than to his own life. Laxmana created a protective ring around the ashram, the ‘Laxmana Rekha’ (line), by the dint of his devotion and rushed to where Rama would be. With both Rama and Laxmana away Ravana approached Sita in the disguise of a hermit. What transpired between Sita and Ravana is nearly inconceivable. Sita had just spoken the harshest words imaginable to Laxmana to make him rush to Rama’s help. Sita did not shout out to the approaching hermit about the grave danger in which her beloved Rama was. She did not implore the mendicant hermit to rush to where Rama was. She forgot about Laxmana’s sincere request and warning to stay inside the Laxmana Rekha. Different versions of the Ramayana seem to give different accounts of how Sita left the safety of the ashram and was lured to cross the Laxmana Rekha. Certainly all the events of that fateful afternoon indicate that Sita was acting unlike her usual character. She had prevailed upon Rama to go after the elusive deer against his intuition that the deer was an elusive creation. She had grievously hurt Rama’s devoted brother by accusing him of having devious motivations upon her.

According to traditional accounts Sita felt obliged to treat the unknown, strange mendicant at the gate of the ashram (in whose disguise demon Ravana had appeared) with utmost respect and hospitality. Traditional visual depictions considerably vary in their treatment of this scene. Some show Ravana as a furious sanyasi that is demanding respect from the householder Sita. In other depictions Ravana is scarcely able to hide his real demonic self. Neither of these two extreme depictions explain what spell Ravana cast on Sita that she was “lured” to approach Ravana, totally forgetting the grave danger Rama was in.

Artist Godbole’s interpretation appears to offer a different explanation. It appears to point out that the clever Ravana had great understanding of a woman in Sita’s situation. Sita had spent 13 years of the exile in the total protection of Rama and Laxmana. Here was the rare occasion when Sita was on her own without Rama or Laxmana around. The clever Ravana is seen approaching Sita neither as a sanyasi to be respected nor as a fearful demon who can scarcely disguise his real self. Ravana is seen here as a youthful, courteous, even likeable wanderer of the forest. Sita is surrounded by deer. She is carrying a fawn in her arm. Sita appears to be pondering upon this cavalier creature in curious attire. Here Ravana seems to be in acute understanding of the mental state of an overprotected young woman approached by an exotic stranger with unfamiliar intentions. This depiction seems to suggest that Ravana “lured” Sita to cross the Laxmana Rekha rather than “blackmail” her to cross it. Clearly this interpretation comes out of a deep understanding of the cleverness of Ravana as well as the out-of-character all-too-human sentiments exhibited by Sita on that fateful afternoon that disrupted the idyllic life that Rama and Sita were living in Panchavati and set the stage for the ultimate confrontation of all-out war between Rama and Ravana that led to the annihilation of Ravana along with his invincible Lanka. Godbole’s depiction of Ravana’s encounter with Sita is entirely different than traditional understanding of that meeting. It appeared to be plausible and convincing only to the rare individuals who had meditated upon those events in intimate detail.

It may be observed that Artist Godbole had profound and unorthodox ambitions about the prowess of an inspired artist in bringing out profound nuances in our collective consciousness.

With the emergence of Rasa Renaissance we can now realize that Artist Godbole was far ahead of his time.

“Young Men with Ganesha on Ocean Beach”, by S.H.Godbole, watercolor, Pune, circa 1930

“Young Men with Ganesha on Ocean Beach”, by S.H.Godbole, watercolor, Pune, circa 1930

This is an idealised version of a Ganapati Visarjan procession. This is one of several renditions on this theme Godbole made in the 1930s. It is unlike any such procession that has taken place in Pune or Mumbai at any time in the last 100 years. This is Godbole’s own vision that he obviously cherished very much. It shows no crowds hovering around. It shows only a small group of youth playing on musical instruments and dancing ecstatically. The line is very simple, spontaneous, almost like a caricature. But the mood is one of total involvement. All you see is bare bodies and flying dhoties. There is no pretense at showing anatomical accuracy or virtuosity of technique. Yet the artist is successful in communicating his vision of an intimate emotional experience. It is reminiscent of early Bengal School of Art such as seen in Kshitindranath Majumdar, Jamini Roy and even some early Rabindranath Tagore paintings. What is noteworthy is that this artist sees that the artist’s contribution is in presenting his aesthetic visions rather than only depicting realities we see around us. It takes certain courage of conviction to harbor such an ambition which is seen in Godbole’s art in plenty. Another unorthodox feature about this painting that is noticed is the obviously androgynous quality that the bodies and souls of these Ganesha devotees exude. Godbole’s grandson Artist Mumbiram has mentioned that the image of Ganpati that the men are taking to the sea is a remarkably accurate rendering of a wood carved idol that Godbole had in his collection.

“Antique Japanese Vase in Artist Godbole’s legendary farmhouse in Pune”, by S.H.Godbole, watercolor, Pune, 1950

“Antique Japanese Vase in Artist Godbole’s legendary farmhouse in Pune”, by S.H.Godbole, watercolor, Pune, 1950

This very vibrant “still life” was produced by Godbole around 1950 which was the peak of his creative genius. He was well settled in his farm house which he had created after his retirement from his teaching job. He had no connection with the Bombay Art Society which he once steered under the close patronage of the governor of Bombay Presidency. In the name of modernity Indian artists were coming under increasing influence of “western” art movements of the first half of 20th century. Godbole was now a free man with no pressing need to align with any movement or any society. He was 65 and had the experience of a life time with his favourite medium: water colour.
Godbole was passionate about collecting art objects wherever he found them. The Japanese Vase seen in this painting was one of these. Artist Mumbiram has described what a magical experience it was to visit Godbole Park. It had exotic trees, birds and animals. But the house itself was studded with Godbole’s own art. This painting used to hang above the dining table in Godbole’s kitchen. The painting is a unique masterpiece of a still life in impressionistic style. The vase itself is superbly rendered. The assorted fruit in the foreground are rendered in delightfully imaginative brush work. The flowers in the vase are deliberately ambiguous and effortlessly merged into the dream-like background which looks like a Japanese fan on the left and a silk cloth on the right. Altogether it shows an entirely sovereign state of the mind of an inspired artist, who has honed his technique through his own experience alone. During the deluge of dam-breaks that inundated much of Pune city in 1961, this masterpiece along with all others of Godbole’s works lay under thick layers of mud. His grandson, Artist Mumbiram, then a young teenager, along with his mother Anjani worked tirelessly to salvage most of them. Later on when Mumbiram created his own legendary atelier near Pune’s Mandai vegetable market this painting adorned a place of pride in the midst of Mumbiram’s own art. This still life is an example of the versatility of the themes that Godbole handled. One cannot help but notice that even this still life has become uniquely interesting because of the figures of two Japanese women engaged in a mystical discourse painted on the vase. One notices that even Godbole’s landscapes are invariably populated by human figures. That makes Godbole’s art quintessentially Personalist Rasa Art.

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