Upon entering the Academy’s Banyan Tree Courtyard, one is immediately drawn to the Jhamandas Watumull Gallery of Indian Art. Every visit to the gallery starts with the Seated Ganesha, a 9th-century sandstone sculpture from Rajasthan. Visitors can often join school children seated around this sculpture, to listen to a docent tell delightful and often humorous stories surrounding the Indian God of Wealth.
In recognition of South Asia’s role as the birthplace of many of the world’s great religious traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, the Watumull Gallery is arranged as a mandala (a spiritual diagram of the universe), centered around a Lingam adorned with four faces of Shiva, the Hindu deity of destruction and renewal. The gallery is rich in sculpture, from early Buddhist works from the Gandhara region, one of the first areas in which the historical Buddha Siddartha Gautama was depicted in human form, to the monumental bronze Parvati, a sensuous depiction of Shiva’s consort made during the Chola dynasty in the 13th century, and one of the Academy’s most beloved works of art.
The Academy also has a fine collection of intimate Indian miniature paintings, many of which were donated by the Christensen Fund in 2001. A rotating selection of these paintings are displayed with textiles and spectacular examples of gold jewelry decorated with precious gemstones, donated by Mr. and Mrs. Gulab Watumull. Visitors to the museum can also see historical examples of architectural elements from India and Nepal, including impressive wooden guardians that once adorned the exterior surfaces of Hindu temples, in the Watumull Gallery and the nearby courtyard.