BHANU DUDHAT: Born in 1949 at Ankolwadi, a small Village in Gir forest. No one knew that a child born in a poor Kanbi Leuva family would turn to be an intellectual artist in future. Today this artist has written his and his family’s name with golden-alphabets in the map of india and world. His ambitions are still high.
To measure his development, one must know his journey through the life. Only than one can get inspiration and guidance for one’s personal development.
1958 to 1965:
Lost his father in the childhood, little Bhanu had to do primary schooling in Anadbava’s Ashram at Jamnagar. At school level Bhanu showed the spark. ln 1965 when he was in 5th standard, he made portraits of national leaders and saints on the walls of newly constructed Sharda Mandir School. These portraits were there till recent past. Bhanu also made various pictures on the walls of nearby temples, when he had to be at home during school vacations. Most of them are still there on walls of Ramji’s temple and Hunumanji’s Temple of Selana village. lf his fate would have lead him towards foreign countries, his achievements in childhood would have taken him out of the country and he would have achieved more success. But whatever he has done even without going abroad, has came out as fruits to the society and nation. This is the reason that this artist is now on top. It is seen that children coming from the high society which gives them full facility, can win various prizes and awards in art competition in foreign in childhood. But later on most of them almost fail in this field in. This man survived and hence, l am writing this about his life.
1965 to 1970:
At high school level in Junagadh Bhanu had to study by living with yogis in their ashrams because his mother was widow and feeding her four children by doing labor work. Where the meal was a problem, education was naturally a far away matter. ln this situation possibility of creating art was zero. Even though this child kept his art alive by his instinct in the Sub Mountains of Girnar. He was also maintaining daily working of Ashram while doing his own work. He also made pictures for many temples. When Bhanu Dudhat was in 8th standard he won the first prize at a local painting competition in Junagadh. The award was handed over to him by Ratubhai Adani, minister for gram panchayat at that time.
Ones a young painter studying in Fine arts faculty at M. S. University, Baroda saw Bhanu when he was making paintings in Ramdev Pir Temple at Chittal after passing old S.S.C. That painter got impressed by Bhanu’s work and advised him to go Baroda for further education. At that time the biggest problem for Bhanu was the expense for going to Baroda. He didn’t even have enough money for fare to Baroda, so education in Baroda was only a dream like thing. But his faith in God was as same as his ardour. He was only making pictures with devotion. Bhanu carried his work, putting faith on the whose pictures were made by him.
Suddenly one day Mahant of that temple Sri. Triloknathji asked him, Bhanu do you want to go Baroda to study about drawing?
Bhanu replied, ‘But expense is a higher one'.
Bapu told, ‘Don’t worry about that. My fellow gentleman Sri Dilsukhbhai will help you Thus Bhanu went to Baroda. At night he was working at Dilsukhbhai’s factory as watchman and in the day he was going to college for education of art.
1971 to 1976: Some memories of college life.
The biggest difficulty was the language. Bhanu was very poor at English the problem started at ‘how to fill the admission form’. He got an application form office and came out. There he saw an aged gentleman wearing kurta and pajama was standing near the doorsteps. Bhanu found him like a headmaster of a school so he asked, ‘Sir, will you please fill this form for me? The gentleman looked back, a young man with bright eyes was asking him that question. He took the application form from that young man and told him ‘come with me’.
They entered the office, the gentleman scolded the clerk and told him, ‘listen, help this boy in filling this form. After that he went away.
Clerk asked Bhanu, ‘why did you go to Din?
Bhanu couIdn’t understands what the meaning of Din was. But the gentleman met that day was Sri. K. G. Subramanyam whom Bhanu believes as his master. What a wonder of nature! That gentleman didn’t even know that rustic boy of that time would become leading artist and make his family an artist family.
There was a man whose hand in Bhanu’s life is very big. That man was Late Sri. Shivkumar Shukla who was in Music college of Baroda and creator of lndia’s famous ‘Khyall gayaki’ (A style of indian Cilassical music). When after collage days Prasnna and Bhanu arranged so many painting exhibitions together.
Memories of college-life and Inspiration:
When Bhanu was in 4th year of college, he made pictures on subject “Money Crises” by taking inspiration from Dalie. First of all he carried out pencil drawing. But it was to be made in three dimensions- It is very difficult to convert 2D into 3D. Bhanu was hesitating in showing his drawing to Mani sir. But sir understood anxiety of Bhanu so he called Bhanu to his studio and asked him to draw a sketch of a model of 10 paise made by clay. Bhanu made some sketches and in the end gave it a smaller form. Bhanu wanted to make that drawing on canvas, but how to buy canvas? He spent 3 to 4 days in anxiety.
‘Bhanu, is “Money Crises" completed? The theme is very good’ Prasanna suggested that Bhanu should make this picture on canvas. She also knew that the artist soul was willing to work on canvas, but would never tell her. So she brought him a canvas by herself. Bhanu is having that canvas even today. He hasn’t sold it in the memory of that event. He keeps that picture in front of his eyes.
In this picture the artist shows country’s economic situation - poverty and exploitation of poor woman and her victim, her child and vanity of rich people- arid environment in the darkness of night. In this first Oil on Canvas of Bhanu because of inspiration from Dalie, guidance of master, a soul of artist can be seen alive.
Bhanu still has this filling to the family of Shivkumer Shukla. During this period Bhanu, by his heart, became student of K. G. On Bhanu’s part, K.G. was his ‘Guru’ Oni K. G.’s part, Bhanu did not know whether K.G., would consider Bhanu as his disciple.
1972 . Shri K. G. Subramanyam advised Bhanu that he should think on relieving his mother from heard and laborious work she was doing at her village. He also advised that Bhanu should bring his mother to stay with him rest fully. Bhanu followed the advice of his Guru and to begin with, joined famous Garden Silk Mill, Surat, as Textile Designer.
The artist inside this textile designer was alive. his dreams were always in his mind. He had to give a lot to the art world and to the society. But at the same time Bhanu had to accept his financial needs as a fact. He had responsibility of settling his elder brother. He called his mother and brother to stay with him at Surat and tried to settle his brother in diamond business, which was in full swing in Surat at that time. However, the fate did not support Bhanu in this aim and thing could not be managed properly.
Bhanu’s creative work totally stopped. On the other hand he could not adjust his family as the way he wanted to. Bhanu was bit disappointed Suddenly. ones an advertisement in "Times of India" came across his eyes. "Kala Kendra, College of Fine Arts at Vallabh Vidyanagar needs a lecturer".
What else to do! Bhanu immediately applied and got the job. He left the mill, left Surat did not think anything else and rushed to Vidyanagar. He felt himself calm and happy, because his soul got the right food. He got the environment as he always wished to have.
1977 to 1999 Bhanu’s dream became true in Vidyanagar. ‘Vidyanagar’ means a campus dedicated to knowledge and education, an education-town designed by far-sited engineer and Nobel educationist late Sri Bhaikaka. It has the blessing of iron man of India Srl Sardar Patel, This ever - young town is also evergreen. Nature has blessed Vidyanagar with all her beauty. Thousands of young students come here to grow their dreams in this soil. There is no dirt. The child born in this town has no need to go anywhere for his lifetime study in any branch.
The basic workers like Bhaikaka, Bhikhabhai H.M. and many others have made this town a unique of its kind. Their names became immortal as the Vidyanagar grew. Can’t compare the time spent in Surat with the time Bhanu had at Vidyanagar.
1981: Bhanu’s name came to light. He was just a young man of 25.years when he arranged first one man show of his paintings at Jahangir Art Gallery. Thirty-two Oil Paintings were displayed in this exhibition. However, Bhanu still did not get acceptance of art-loving people. He also expected this poor response, as it was his first exhibition. But he made his mind to work to earn the name and reword.
He has full devotion to Lord Shiva. He believes Lord Shiva as the source of motivation. He kept on working with faith and trust. Ones the director of Mex Mooler House called Bhanu to exhibit his painting in Mex Mooler’s private gallery. This business house is known for supporting new comers and growing artist of various fields.
Exhibition at Mex Mooler proved a break-through for Bhanu. He received overwhelming response at Mex Mooler. Then Bhanu did not stop- He arranged exhibition of his paintings at mega cities like Delhi, Bombay, Bhopal, Madras, Ahmedabad etc. Bhanu’s painting reached to Government, business houses and art loving people’s personal collections.
After all man needs a companion to cross heard legends of life. Man considers himself ‘successful’ when he arranges his life and the family the way he wishes. Bhanu married to Prabha, young girl from a small village of Junagadh district. Prabha came to Vidyanagar in 1978 after her marriage with Bhanu. The mother was already staying with Bhanu.
Now, a real family-life began. Bhanu was a struggling artist, he had many problems including economic aspect. C.V.M. provided a one room-kitchen quarter. Beside that mother in law and daughter in law were living together. Obviously, some quarreling had to occur. Bhanu had to settle the disputes of both the ladies when he returns home after passing all his time with art in college. Poor Bhanu, to whom he can do a fevour? One was the mother and another was the wife.
Bhanu thought that if he can find something to keep both the women busy, the problems will reduce to normal level. He suggested Prabha to learn painting. Reluctantly Prabha agreed to join the course for drawing teacher. She didn’t know the painting. Bhanu taught her painting within six months. In the mean while Prabha became mother. Two little girls were playing in the foreyards and one more was due to come to the word. Bhanu’s mother was taking care of little kids and Prabha was doing her college. However the quarreling was still a problem.
In this situation Bhanu arranged an exhibition of his painting at Bombay. Bhanu took his mother to Bombay. The mother was happy that she was the first lady of her small village who was going to Bombay. The exhibition was arranged in Jahangir Art Gallery. The mother used to sit with Bhanu. She was watching all the activities of Bhanu. Journalists and other people were coming to meet Bhanu. Mother was happily observing.
On very second day after returning home Bhanu brought paper and ink and given to his mother. The ink didn’t suit to the old lady. She herself lit up an oil lamp, collected the dark carbon; ash on backside of a mettle bowl and added gum to it. Brush also did not suit this lady. She started painting with matchstick. First of all she painted Bhatigal Bharat (Traditional Dress painting of Saurashtra region). The painting of Lord Ganesh, painting of blouse pieces Ulesh, Zulnu, Todalya, Chakla, Chandarva etc. were main of her designs. Bhanu saw a new way to the mother now the mother, son and daughter in law all the three were painting. All of them were discussing designs. Bhanu was trying to put his mother on a wider and long path. He saw a specialty in his mother’s painting. She was mainly drawing pictures of God like Radha-Krishna etc. ln indian tradition the man is identified by the symbol like his weapon or other article. Bhanu suggested to his mother that if she paints a bow and arrow in hands of the male character of her painting he would be Ram. If flute is painted it would become Krishna, if Damaru is painted it will become Shiva. The mother was happy to draw different God’s by changing weapon or belongings.
Ma started discussing with Prabha also. Now the quarreling ended, the tart had entered into the life of family. The house became home. The mother who was calling Prabha as Vahu (means wife of my son) started calling her Prabhi. Meanwhile in the month of December 1978 Bhanu’s Guru K.G. Subramanyam visited Vallabh Vidyanagar as Chief Guest of some function in Kala Kendra. Bhanu was overwhelming with joy, because his dedication to KG. was like Ekalavya since his college time. Bhanu was from village. He had poor command over English and K.G. didn’t know Gujarati well. Bhanu always kept himself away during his college days. But by heart, Bhanu was respecting KG. and he had accepted KG. As his master. Bhanu was impressed by KG.’s paintings. Particularly the blue colour and social subjects that KG. selected for his paintings attracted Bhanu to a great level.
After the function was over Bhanu invited Mani Sir (K.G. Subramanyam was called as Mani Sir by his student in Baroda Fine Arts College.) to his house. Mani Sir knew about Bhanu’s mother but he never met her. Also Bhanu’s mother didn’t know about K.G. Bhanu introduced both of them. K.G. said to Bhanu, "Now you have done a right and real thing, every artist should do this."
With smiling face and holding cigarette in hand that renowned artist told Bhanu, "l do not want to see your work. Show me Mama’s work. Bhanu was happy and presented all the paintings done by mother. K.G. observed all the paintings with eagerness and selected drawings of Gopi Ras, Ganesh, Shiv-Parvati, Shravan kumar etc. The Ganesh was the main picture in total eighteen picture selected by K.G. Bhanu was more than happy, All Drawings made by his mother, using natural carbon ash and matchstick, were selected by his own guru for display at Baroda Fine Arts College where he was a student in past.
K.G. exhibited all the drawings in Baroda College and invited mother to be present there. All the pictures were sold out. The price was Rs.1OO each. Bhanu’s dream came true. She was willing since his childhood to make a hard working labor woman, his mother, mother of the world. He made it and the mother’s name SANTOKBA was announced among the world of art.
Since 1978 Ba, Bhanu and Prabha worked jointly, they earned fame as Art family, particularly Ba’s age her natural way of painting, her style of speaking, her openness and her love for basic indian tradition were impressing the people.
Air india has good collection of Ba’s paintings. ln 1984 a memorable event occurred. Ba’s and family’s paintings were displayed under Triveni Kalasangam’s Baner at Delhi. It was November. Suddenly on opening of the gallery M.F. Husain entered. He saw the drawings and asked Bhanu, who made these Gamthi (village style) drawings?"
"My Mother’ replied Bhanu and fingered to his mother who was resting in open garden of the gallery. Mr. Husain went out brought mother into the gallery and told her "You are great. You are Goddess of art." Husain liked painting Hanuman made by Ba. He talked with her for a long time and went back.
After Mr. Husain left mother asked Bhanu, “Who was he? ".
Bhanu told all about Mr. M.F. Husain to his mother. The mother replied in her simple natural style. "ls it so? lt’s o.k" and went back to the garden.
In 1985 this family thought to make a big scroll painting. Ba didn’t agree saying that she can’t do the work under pressure of time and schedules. Bhanu wanted to create a style in Santokba’s name. He tried to convince Ba. Lastly she agreed saying that Bhanu and Praibha should work with her.
The scroll painting was on. it was based on religious stories. Numbers of subjects were there and every story had enough characters and events for painting of any length one wishes. The handmade paper was selected is basic material of roll. 25 Feet long roll was made and events of Ramayan were painted on it. Ba first time used ink as she became familiar to it during folk artist seminar organized by Government of lndia under leadership of Jyoti Bhatt and Gulam Mohammed Shek. Over and above ink, Ba used natural paints made herself as per her method. This scroll painting was completed in 1986.
ln 1987 one Mr. Ulibyer a retired director of a museum in Germany came to Baroda. Mr. Shek informed Ulibyer about Ba so he came to Vidyanagar. lt was a fine Sunday morning. People at Bhanu’s house were just out of bed. "Good morning Mr. Dudat, I am Ulibyer " the strange visitor entered the house.
Bhanu had a surprise of having a European as guest at his house. He talked to him in English whatever he could speak. He took Mr. Ulibyer to his college, and around Vidyanagar. Mr. Ulibyer has seen number drawings he stayed with the family for a day and taken photograph of Bhanu’s family and children. Mr Ulibyer was impressed with the family's work and he invited this family to Germany. He purchased the Scroll painting of Ramayana and advised Bhanu ‘your should now stop working on small subjects and draw as much as you can on the subject of your enceinte stories, Shastras and Puranas. Make one long drawing on such subject, and I will come again to see it. Even l will invite you to Germany and Australia.’ In 1987 Ullibyer has organized an exhibition in both the above country and invited the family. The family can hardly forget the memories of this trip.
While I am writing these notes, Bhanu becomes emotional in the memories of all such events. I am here from USA only for one and a half-month. But such homely relations are developed between this family and me, I feel as if I know them since years together.
ln August 1987, Ba, Prabha and Bhanu exhibited their drawings in Jahangir Art Gallery . The Ramayana was the main subject of an eighteen-meter long painting. Mr. Mehar Pestanjee wrote about this exhibition in ‘lndian Express’. That detailed write-up by Mr. Pestanjee made this family famous among art-loving people. Air lndia, Directorate of advertisement and visual publicity, Bank of America, Bombay Dying, Wipro and many others has purchased their drawings. The Ramayana scroll was also sold out there.
Film director Mr. Shridhar Kshirsagar was making at TV serial named as ‘STRI’ based on self developed women’s life. He read this write—up of Pestanjee. He covered Santokba’s story and presented in 5th episode of STRI. This drew attention of management of State bank of Saurashtra. A nationalized bank from Saurashtra region, to which Santokba belongs. Sri. H. D. Mehta honored this family on the behalf of the bank. On this ocation Bhanu suggested that the bank should finance Bhanu’s project of painting complete Mahabhiarata on scroll.