The immaculately painted panel shows Mary surrounded the apostles. Local Goan artists created it for Portuguese patrons in the 16th century.
Mary’s features and robes, as those of the apostles, are distinctly oriental.
The commingling of a western motif in an eastern garb reminds your columnist (on pilgrimage to Panaji recently) of a painting he had seen years ago in a yoga manuscript in London.
It had been taken from the Rani Laxibai’s library by a British soldier during the sack of Jhansi in 1857.
The text came from Charatrama’s 17th century Hindi classic, Jogadipika, and it had been illustrated with paintings of asanas and mudras done in bold colours and style of the Punjab Hills School.
The frontispiece had Siva and Parvati with Ganeshji and Nandi, surrounded by the nine Natha-Siddhas in the Himalayas.
The vivid memory of this miniature, seen on a rainy afternoon in the India Office Library, flashed into your columnist’s mind as he stood before the stucco-and-gilt panel of Mary as ‘the Apostle of Apostles’ in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa.
Mary, as the anonymous Goan artist had envisioned, looked exactly like the image of ‘Parvati Natha’ that the unknown Pahari painter had invoked for Jhansi ki Rani.
Both were solitary Moms. A crowd of great gurus surrounded both divas. Yet, they shone as supreme leaders by their very feminine compassion.
Did they represent what Ralph Waldo Emerson called, “a simple, quiet, undescribed, undescribable presence dwelling peacefully in us”?
The husbandand-wife team of therapists, Richard and Bonney Schaub, described it as the “potential in vulnerability” as they stood before Michelangelo’s Pieta in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
The marble depicts a very younglooking Mary holding the dead Jesus in her arms.
Her face is inscrutably calm. Is she resigned to his divinely ordained fate or is she so overwrought that she has disconnected?
The artist’s intention was not to depict either of these emotions, the Schaubs argue.
“It was to show surrender. Not the surrender of quitting, of resigning from life, but the surrender to what is — to the way things happen, despite the way you want them to be,” they write in The End of Fear.
That’s the strength of surrender, of courage to understand things exactly as they are and not as they ought to be. It unites utter surrender of selflessness with utter serenity.
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