From ashes to womb to dust
Once upon a time, a long while ago, there was a womb.
A golden womb. The Hiranyagarbha.
From the Hiranyagrabha emerged the sun and the moon,
the planets and the stars, and a conscious universe was born.
The golden womb: from it emerged the five elements,
air , water, fire, earth and ether.
A universe that was neither male nor female. But as it took form, it led to the birth of Maya, or illusion.
- Excerpts from “I AM” by Seema Kohli, 2012
Krishna Krishna Raas, 36 in x 60 in, Mixed media on canvas with 24 ct gold and silver leaf, 2014
In the ancient India scriptures of Yajur Veda, Hiranyagarbha or the Golden Womb is the primordial and eternal cosmic womb that nourishes, generates, and revives the cosmic order. Hiranyagarbha is that receptacle in which all the becoming takes place. As a space within a space, it encompasses the suns, moons, stars, and all universes, and also the five elements—earth, water, fire, air, and ether. The Hiranyabarbha pervades all creation as it transcends time and space by expanding and advancing infinitely in the cosmos.
I became interested in the concept of Hiranyagarbha about two decades ago; after visiting Haridwar and Rishikesh, where I saw cavities on the sand banks of the river Ganga, which were formed over the years as the river changed its course. They reminded me of a womb, and the quietude and solace that I found while sitting inside one of these cavities was extremely powerful. After my mother passed away, I began to think more about the source of life and its course, and thus began my quest in knowing the concept of Hiranyagarbha.
Through my works I seek to understand the organic and continuously evolving processes of all beings and matter. For over twenty-six years, I have been interested in showing the state of flux of the body and mind using various mediums and materials. For the first time, I have put to use circular canvases to depict the golden womb.
My family hails from Greater Punjab, currently located in Pakistan and after the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, they had to migrate to Delhi, India. The tales that my family narrated about their displacement and their journey, in search of a new home and life is a deeply embedded memory in my mindscape that stokes my imagination of space and existence. To understand my own personal voyage, I often reflect upon the travel undertaken by my family and the adverse conditions they had faced as they crossed national, religious, and sectarian borders. Thus, my creative practice in many ways can be viewed as an exploration of the static and dynamic and internal and external forces that influence our lives.
Kasturi, 24x24in diameter, mix media on canvas with 24kt gold and silver, 2015
10x12x4 inches, mix media on canvas with 24kt gold and silver leaf, fiberglass, plywood, 2015
Juneja Art Gallery Presents
It is only when we understand Maya’s “khel” that we can aspire for the union of our inner force with that of the outer, which we call Universal Truth or Para Brahman.
Whenever I look around at the plants in the pots in my balcony, the trees in the gardens or forests and the birds in the sky, the table I work on, the paints in the jars with which I paint, the sink in which I wash the dishes, the clothes that I wear, even the food that I eat, the apple that I bite, my pet dog – Fido, my relatives, the mosquitoes that I squash as a reflex action when it descends on me, each one has its own journey defined by its own “kriya” or actions; thus marking its own cycle of rejuvenation.
For, I firmly believe that there is no such thing as death, only a cycle of creation and destruction, birth and rebirth. The “TriGuna” came about as my invocation of these basic energies that are responsible for creation and destruction and creation yet again.
Am I a Myth or reality?
Today’s reality is tomorrow’s myth…
Tomorrow’s myth is yesterday’s reality…
I weave a web of illusion,
I entice, create desires…
Terrible, a destroyer, a slayer?
Of all that entangles into my web.
Licking the root of their desires,
Bestowing freedom to all who dare to play with me
I am Maya
The fire within is without
I am the creator and the destroyer
Play with me
I believe that to explain the manifestation from one to many, of forms, names and a calendar of time within which each was created can be attributed to an evocation of these energies. It is my personal belief that from the mythological form of Ardhanareshwar, when Parvati disengaged from Shiva, Shakti gained form and started manifesting as many…or this world.
From Shakti arose the Saptmatrikas, the Astlakshmis, the Navdurgas, and the Dasmahavidyas. In time, the manifestations resulted in the creation of the Chausath Yogini and the Ekyasi Yogini, forms that continue to evolve to satisfy our needs or to bring balance to the world. This is, of course, my personal belief, not something you will find in a book or rendered in a philosophy, but it appeals to me just as much as the many versions of Shakti that exist. I share in those versions and am fascinated by their interpretations and manifestations too.
For we think back through our mothers if we are women
– Virginia Woolf
These manifestations inspire me to attempt to analyze the world I see around me, especially as a woman who must make sense, daily, of injustices in the world. To comprehend why we continue to look away
when prejudice occurs, when sensitivities are overlooked, or when negative forces are invoked. I want to, therefore, to look inwards to evoke the energy that is manifest in each one of us, to apply the healing salve of motherhood to a world that needs it. For that energy resides in each one of us, women and men, and it is that we must manifest.
I look within the womb to discover, that which is outside. I want to awaken my senses to experience the goddess’s gift of what nature bestows on us – not just of life but of the sun that shines and the rain that rejuvenates, of the heat and cold and all things that bring to life that which is around us.
I believe in that energy and it is that I present in this installations and video performance.
– Seema Kohli
(The explanation is purely the interpretation of the artist and may not comply with the various scriptural interpretations by lk
Collateral Exhibition With India Art Fair 2015
29th January – 1st February, 2015
Venue – Art Heritage I, Basement, Triveni Kala Sangam,
205, Tansen Marg, New Delhi
RSVP- Tel-+91-11-23719470, 981869193 firstname.lastname@example.org/www.artheritagegallery.com
I believe that there first existed a womb through which everything came
to be created, which I call the golden womb or the ‘Hiranyagarbha’. This golden
womb, this one energy or ‘shakti’ later disintegrated into three. These three
new shaktis came to be known by the names Durga, Laxmi and Saraswati.
These names that have been
Chaust yogini( Detail)
Chaust yogini( Detail)
conferred upon these shaktis might be mythical in
nature but the purpose of the existence of these shaktis is not mythical.
I believe that every idea or concept has to be contained in a time, space
and by a name; so I have tried to use the same names that have traditionally
been used for these shaktis. Now these three shaktis further disintegrated into 7,
then 15, 21, 42, 64, 81 and so on; thus these energies constantly kept increasing.
These then moved into different spaces and led to the creation of different
things and being. And I feel these energies are still further disintegrating and
developing into many forms, of which we are not yet aware.
Thus we can never be sure how many forms of this ever expanding
energy, and by energies I am referring to the Yoginis, actually exist in a given
time and space.
Here, I am presenting, along with Art Heritage Gallery, a showcase of
“Chausath Yogini”; 64 etchings on zinc plate, which are all separately framed in
glass, occupying a wall space of 156” x 104”. The size of each work without
frame is 8” x 10”.
Copyright © *|2014-15|* *|seemakohli|*, All rights reserved.
Chaust yogini( Detail)