City-based Subirthana Maharaja’s art is celebrating the stories of women from the Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, who have not been written about much.
“I grew up listening to Ramayana and Mahabharata from my mother, who narrated the epics as our bedtime stories. My childhood was also filled with visits to several temples across Tamil Nadu, and noticing the art and architecture in them. From a very young age, I also began painting, and over time was drawn towards representing mythological figures in my works,” recalls 25-year-old Subirthana.
The artist says that even though female characters have played important roles in mythological texts, they don’t remain in the memory of many as the male characters do. “As a woman, I feel that even though many women have been at the centre of stories from mythology, they have been largely overshadowed by male characters. Even though they would have played significant roles, they didn’t receive enough attention for it. I wanted to tell the stories of these lesser known female characters, like the Panchakanyas (five virgins — Ahalya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara and Mandodari),” she elaborates.
Subirthana has presented the artworks narrating the stories of these female mythological characters through 11 art shows in the city at various art galleries. “Each of the works requires a lot of reading of mythological texts as I try to portray not just their appearances, but also attempt to narrate their stories. It takes me about 5-6 months to read about each of the characters and learn about them in depth. Since we as a society still rely a lot on mythology, I was keen to depict these strong women,” asserts Subirthana, who will be presenting her latest paintings from the series through an art exhibition by this year-end.
Pursuing a PhD in political science, art is a passion for the young painter. “I am planning to bring out a book with stories of these female characters. Even though I have an alternative professional career besides art, I have noticed that people in India aren’t very perceptive to art and are not ready to spend their money on artworks. I’m holding art workshops and plan to host more so people can learn to appreciate art,” she adds.