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Dr C.Sivaramamurti

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I have pleasure in reproducing an article on Padma Vibhushan Dr.C.Sivaramamurti,famous Historian and ex Director of National Museum


By V Gangadharan & K S Narayanan
09 Aug 2010 02:56:08 AM IST

CHENNAI: He inspired a whole generation of archaeologists, scholars and
connoisseurs of art. Trawl the web and you will find links to dozens of Dr C
Sivaramamurtis works. But it will be a struggle if you also want to put a face
to them.

Photo opportunities he had many, as he was the director of the prestigious
National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi. However, instead of sticking his
neck out at every photo op, he believed in letting his work do the talking.

Being an authority on Indian iconography, especially that of Nataraja, Dr
Sivaramamurti was a much sought-after guest lecturer, both at home and abroad.
His colleagues recall that he would often go into raptures while delivering
lectures on the Lord of Dance.

I heard his lecture on Nataraja as a student of Fine Arts in Baroda. He could
see the pantheon of Siva in its various dimensions. We were all floored,
reminisces Dr Rajeev Lochan, the current director of the National Museum.

However, Dr Sivaramamurti had little patience for social dos. Kanchi sage Sri
Chandrasekharendra Saraswati found this trait of his personality curious. So he
conferred on him the title of Vichitrachitta. In Sivaramamurtis own words, the
term refers to a person who is always curious to know, to learn, to explore, to
experiment and to excelâmce. It was an honorific title, which was once
associated with Pallava king Mahendra Varman I.

Sivaramamurti was the first man to break the myth that Indian art forms were
saddled with the burden of conventions like Shilpa Shastras, says T.
Satyamurthi, former superintending archaeologist, Chennai circle of ASI.

For a long time, there had been a view, especially among the westerners, that
such conventions blocked creativity in India. He disproved this and demonstrated
through his work that Indian artists had the liberty to go beyond the

His work on south Indian paintings offered a fresh insight on Chola paintings,
reveals N Hari Narayana, former director of the Chennai Museum. Dr.R.
Nagaswamy, former director of State archaeology department, who had the
opportunity to work with Sivaramamurti as a member of the Art Purchases
Committee of the National Museum, echoes the high esteem he was held in.

Sivaramamurti was the only person who could immediately identify any art form
â€" be it painting or sculpture and decipher its age, region and say what theme
it represented. And as Oscar Wilde rightly summed up: No great artist ever sees
things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist, likewise,
Sivaramamurti drew heavily from ancient Indian literature. With ease, he used
to say how a particular art form âs theme relates to a particular motif
expressed in an ancient text (or inscription) like classics of Kalidasa,

Nagaswamy points out. His unparalleled scholarship and enthusiasm were best
described by former boss Grace Morley, who wrote in his obituary in Bhavanâs
Journal, He represented a unique combination of extensive and profound knowledge
of the Vedic and Sanskrit literature, of iconography, of the arts of India from
ancient to modern times, not rivaled by any other Indian or foreign scholar.
Last edited:
Sri Sabesan Sir,

I heard about Sri Sivaramamurthi but I have not read his research findings. I have seen his paintings and shall try to collect the same.

All the best
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