KALABURAGI: Anubhava Mantapa, set up by Basaveshwara in the 12th century in Basavakalyan (Bidar district), was the abode of great mysticism, spiritual awakening and religious discourse. Helmed by Basavanna, along with the omniscient Sharanas, the mantapa emerged as a fountainhead of religious renaissance, which Jagadevappa Shankarappa Khanderao – one of the greatest artists from Kalyana Karnataka – has brought to life on canvas.
With piety and resolve, Khanderao’s ‘life-like’ painting is a reflection of those wise selfless minds who came together to uplift religious thought and emancipate society over 800 years ago. Khanderao says that the desire to paint a version of the ‘first religious parliament in the world’ came to him when he once chanced upon a statue of Basaveshwara riding a horse in New Delhi.
In order to understand the elements that would eventually culminate into his masterpiece, Khanderao researched Basava Sahitya, Vachana Sahitya and Kalyani Chalukyan art for about six months, besides visiting the Chalukyan monuments to study their structure, design and motifs. He eventually completed the landscape painting of Anubhava Mantapa in two months’ time.
“I made an effort to bring all the Sharanas known to participate in the Anubhava Mantapa, with the great Sharana Allamaprabhu chairing the meeting. Basaveshwara, Chennabasavanna, Sidharama, Kinnari Bommaiah, Madivala Machaiah, Nuli Chandaiah, Ambigara Choudaiah, Neelambike and Gangambike (Basaveshwara’s wives), Akka Mahadevi, Muktayakka and Aydakki Maramma are usually identified as ‘Anubhavigala Koota’, who would assemble in the Anubhava Mantapa.
They were all included in my painting, whose design is influenced by the Chalukyan period,” Khanderao says. Khanderao has painted over 10,000 pieces of art through an illustrious lifetime of 80 years. Born on November 1, 1940, he grew up in a large family inclined to business and engineering. However, young Jagadevappa was interested in art since childhood, which was noticed by his teacher at Asifgunj Kannada
While still in Class 6, Khanderao passed the lower drawing examination in Hyderabad, and in Class 8, he passed the intermediate grade examination in Sholapur. He appeared for the elementary painting and drawing examination in Bombay, which was a turning point in his life. Khanderao was deeply impressed by the discipline and creative ability of Maharashtra’s artists. The learnings in Bombay left a deep impression on him, and he was specially inspired by the works of N S Bendre.
After completing a Diploma at the Sir JJ School of Art, Khanderao wished to pursue the Drawing Teacher Training Course, but had to return to Kalaburagi on his father’s insistence. Nevertheless, his contribution to art flourished back home, initially at the institute he established, and later at the Department of Drawing and Painting at the Sharanabasaveswara Arts College.
Today, as an artist, Khanderao is extremely versatile, having explored both technique and creativity in his works, including landscapes, portraits, abstracts, drawings, still-life and paintings that focus on mythology, folk culture and compositions, in both oil and water-colour. He participated in the SAARC art camp in 1985, where his technique in abstraction was appreciated, while his manner of achieving transparency of colours in oil continues to be recognised.
He was also Chairperson of Karnataka Lalitkala Academy. On art and education, Khanderao feels dependence on technology without mastering basic skills is detrimental. “It is imperative to learn and devote time for only fundamentals during foundation years. This would help form a strong base and develop visual strength in any form of creative work,” he says. Meanwhile, the painting of Anubhava Mantapa, which was completed in January this year, is likely to grace the wall of Lok Sabha, since the Speaker has consented. “My painting getting a place on the wall of Parliament would be a great moment in my life,” he says.