Excerpts from the artist's introductory note in the catalogue he himself wrote and designed for a 1972 show, 'Truth is Beauty And Beauty is God'Khakhar at his self-mocking, dramatic best
I am a young Brahmakshatriya. Recently I saw our ancestors’ tree and it shows that in the 37th generation we stayed at Nagarthatha (Sindh, Hyderabad). We shifted from Nagarthatha and settled in Bombay. I was born at Gulalwadi and brought up in Khetwadi.
Before I start writing about my primary education and secondary education I would write a few lines about my past births. I had visited a Chhayashastri in Patan. He told me that:
I was Kapol Baniya by caste and was serving as a manager at a feudal lord’s palace. he was Brahmakhatriya by caste. I used to go to his place for managerial work. I was asked by my lord to teach his girls. I started teaching the girls and fell in love with one of them. While we were making love to each other we were caught. I went home and told my wife the whole story. She was jealous and annoyed at me. She said if you are so timid why did you fall in love. My father, when he came to know my adventure was not very pleased with me. Ultimately when I went to my lord’s palace he slew me at his doorstep.
As I had done bad deeds and was unfaithful I was born as a butterfly in my next birth. One day a saint was about to perform Puja—he had lighted a lamp in front of god. I jumped in the lamp and died. Indirectly my death was in worship of god so I was born as Bhupen Khakhar, a Brahmakshatriya, at 7am on 10th March 1934.
It was an easy thing for me to get admission in Wilson College facing the blue Arabian sea. Till I passed my first year Arts Exam, I was wearing half pants, and half sleeved shirts. It was only when I joined inter Arts in 1952 that Manila shirts became fashionable. I had three Manila shirts, light cream, sky blue, and ash grey colours, with four white pants. At the annual function in Cowasjee Jehangir Hall I had put on sky blue Manila shirt, white pants and brown Gaberdine coat (borrowed from my brother). When preparations for the functions were made I had given my name for a solo song accompanied by tabla and harmonium. I had made preparations to sing Mukesh’s song ‘Dil Jalta Hai to Jalne De’ but two days before the function I cancelled my solo performance.
How I became an Artist?
The short answer would be through god’s grace, sheer work and tragedy. Palmists say that people having long and thin fingers are born artists. If you happen to see my palm you will immediately say that this is an artist’s palm.
As far as my memory goes I distinctly remember that I used to draw birds and animals in rangoli at Diwali. My sister Manekben (refer to family chart) would say to my mother that this boy is going to be an artist. Now looking back I feel her intuitions were correct. My energies were not limited to accounts works only, but I also indulged in the spheres of canvas and colour. It was in 1958 that my Piscean character became more prominent. I met Pradumna Tana who showed me the great wealth of Art. In 1960 I met Ghulam Sheikh (who was destined to become my friend, philosopher and guide) who advised me to join Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda. In 1962 I joined Faculty of Fine Arts to do my MA. It was here that the rose bud bloomed into a flower.
As all the young and old artists in India proudly state the exhibitions in which they have participated and paintings in collection, I may humbly state that I had, in the past, participated many times in national exhibitions and also applied for foreign scholarships. Would you believe that not once I have been awarded a national award and not one month’s scholarship to Afghanistan? Why?
The reason my friend is very clear. In life truth and honesty are suppressed. I represent Truth. My slogan is: Truth is Beauty and Beauty is God. I want to reach beauty by truth alone. It is a difficult road. many temptations may be offered to me by devils. I will not succumb. It is said in Sanskrit “Satyam Shivam Sundaram".
Excerpted with permission from Chemould Prescott Road, which preserves the catalogue.
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