India being a fusion of various cultures’ has no dearth of religious themed subject matters for our contemporary artists. However, favorite inspirational figures amongst Indian artists mainly include Krishna, Ganesha, Durga and lately Buddha. Starting from the ancient murals and the celebrated miniature paintings, art in effect has been inspired spiritually in our country. Renowned artist’s like Raja Ravi Verma and Sobha Singh ushered this trendfurther to the contemporary generation. Tyeb Mehta’s- Mahishasura, F. N. Souza’s- Last Supper, Chintamoni Kar’s- Buddha and Sujata and M.F. Hussain’s controversial- Hindu God and Goddesses series are some of the most notable religious artworks.
In retrospect, this spiritual essence in Indian art will continue to be popular even in times ahead. However, most curiously, one of the most popular deity across all religions- Sai Baba of Shirdi, as a subject remains virtually unexplored in visual art. Generally contemporary artist’s known to create mostly spiritual paintings rationalize this by explaining- Krishna or Buddha as an idea are easier to stylize, owing to their inanimate symbolic icons and inspirational mystical tales. With that logic, Sai Baba as a subject is equally enthralling. To have a stylized representation of Him is not a challenging task for an artist. For instance, Krishna is mostly associated with peacock feather or the color blue, Lord Buddha typically by means of elongated earlobes, hand gestures (Mudra) or monastic robe which is strangely transparent. Similarly Sai Baba has His own set of distinct iconic elements- knee length kafni (robe), alms bowl, cloth tied around His head and many more. If we talk about inspiration for the compositions, there’s no dearth of that either since characteristically He embodies the attributes of mostly all spiritual figures, like Krishna He taught fate was determined by karma, propagated the eight-fold path of Buddha, He had Christ-like deep compassion and like Guru Nanak He welded His Hindu and Muslim followers.
In summary, Sai Baba is a unique and fresh subject which is yet to be explored by artists and expressed in their own individual style, be it abstract, semi- realistic or impressionistic. There are many art enthusiasts who would love to see artworks that portray His charismatic Avatar and canvases that reflect His mystical philosophy.