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Deviprasad Roychowdhury: The Maverick Sculptor of the Twentieth century

5 January, 2021 11:42:13
Deviprasad Roychowdhury: The Maverick Sculptor of the Twentieth century

The iconic Mahatma Gandhi Gyarah Murti (a collection of 11 statues together) in New Delhi showing the milestone Dandi March that shook the foundation of British India have caught the attention of many down the ages. But what many of us are not aware of is that this iconic statue that also found place in the flip side of Indian currency was built by Deviprasad Roychowdhury. The man who had several statues to his credit, including outstanding memorials like the famous Martyr’s Memorial in Patna Secretariat, the Triumph of Labour Statue at Marina Beach, Chennai and Gandhi statues at Chennai and Kolkata. With such a stupendous body of work, the Dandi March statue was in the best hands and outcome of which was the Gyarah Murti.

Deviprasad Roychowdhury

Deviprasad Roychowdhury (1899-1975) learnt sculpture from Hiranmoy Roy and trained in art under Abanindranath Tagore, the nephew of the poet Rabindranath Tagore. He was a faculty at the prestigious Indian Society of Oriental Art (1907) for more than two decades.

Born in Tejhat, Rangpur district of Bangladesh, Deviprasad Roychowdhury (1899-1975) learnt sculpture from Hiranmoy Roy and trained in art under Abanindranath Tagore, the nephew of the poet Rabindranath Tagore. He was a faculty at the prestigious Indian Society of Oriental Art (1907) for more than two decades. Deviprasad came to Chennai in 1929 as the first Principal of Madras School of Art. He was instrumental in establishing Madras School as a top art institute of India and was teacher to some of the top-notch talents including Nirode Mazumdar, Prodosh Das Gupta, and Paritosh Sen. Incidentally, he was the first Indian artist to sculpt in bronze. His approach was quite maverick and unorthodox. Once while painting, he had spilled coffee on it. Students watching him expected that the canvas would be discarded. Instead, Deviprasad ordered for more cups of coffee and poured all over the canvas and made it one of even tone. As a celebrated artist, he was the first Chairman of the Lalit Kala Academy and received Padma Bhushan.

Martyrs' Memorial, Patna

The landmark Gyarah Murti statue gives a sense of motion, purpose, inherent determination and urgency– characteristic of the Dandi March. Of the eleven figures depicted, one is of Mahatma Gandhi with two ladies modelled on Matangini Hazra and Sarojini Naidu.

Triumph of Labour by Roychowdhury at Marina Beach, Chennai

One look at his sculptures show his inspiration was French sculptor Auguste Rodin. The landmark Gyarah Murti statue gives a sense of motion, purpose, inherent determination and urgency– characteristic of the Dandi March. Of the eleven figures depicted, one is of Mahat-ma Gandhi with two ladies modelled on Matangini Hazra and Sarojini Naidu. One of the male figures was identified to be modelled on Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, freedom fighter and thinker. The fourth figure is Abbas Tyabji who was second in command of the Dandi march. Deviprasad expired before the sculpture could be completed and his wife and students completed the statue.

Thus, the great historic march has been frozen in bronze for the future generation of Indians by Deviprasad Roy Chowdhury. How many of us even knew of his contribution, every time we stared at our currency notes?

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  • Deviprasad Roychowdhury

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