On our visit to Bhopal in 2012, we spent many hours in Bharat Bhavan. This is a lovely complex where you can look at contemporary art, watch plays, listen to poetry readings, view traditional art (a beautiful example above), talk to artists, or sit in the cafeteria and drink coffee or eat snacks. We did all of this. We thought Bhopal is the finest place to have a center of this kind; it is almost the cradle of Indian art, with Sanchi and the Bhimbetka caves just a short drive away.
The permanent collection of Bharat Bhavan is a museum called Roopantar (meaning transformation). One wing contains a very thoughtful selection of contemporary art. We spent a slow morning walking through this gallery. Then after a lunch in the cafeteria, we walked through the other wing: the stunning collection of Indian tribal art. The Family and I walked through it in a trance, dazzled by artistic traditions we had barely seen before. The scale of some of the work was astounding; the blue elephant whose photo you see here was taller than a man.
Traditional art differs from contemporary art in a crucial way. Modern art is produced for commerce, the artist lets go of the artifact to the buyer for a price. But traditional art becomes a part of the life of the artist, often in a ritual sense. Although that connection is not retained in the collection of Bharat Bhavan, the variety of artistic styles indicate the variety of lifestyles they spring from.
Bhopal also has the Museum of Man where you can get a glimpse of this connection between the artist and the work. Going back and forth between these museums added a new layer to our appreciation of this body of art.