Vintage Hindu Deity Prints

In the summer of 2000, I stumbled into a dusty Indian gift shop on the lower East Side in NYC. The shop was overflowing with dresses, trinkets and knick-knacks. It was owned by a sweet Indian man who made me chai in a little tin cup that he held over a sterno-filled burner which looked like it could explode any second!  The tea was industrial strength, brewed for what seemed like the better part of a week, to which he added the requisite 6 tablespoons of sugar. If you ever had a cup of chai there, sleep that night was pretty much out! This became part of our ritual on this, and subsequent visits.

While foraging around his shop that first day, I came across a stack of Hindu deity prints in a ramshackle pile by the back wall. They seemed modern (like everything else in the shop) – bright colored Gods and Goddesses that had a kitschy, Bollywood vibe to them. After going through about 20 or so, I put them down, not really interested. It was then that I noticed the corner of one of the prints near the bottom poking out. The colors looked different; more subdued but radiating intensity. I pulled that print out and felt my breath catch as I saw an incredibly beautiful image of Krishna staring back at me. Whoa, this was art with soul! I asked the owner about the print and he said “Oh yes, you are liking the old ones. Not so many these days.”

Over the last 11 years I’ve been collecting these old prints when I can find them; finding some in dusty shops, some brought back from friends traveling to India, and more recently from a wonderful couple who are modern art dealers (for their day job) but have a passion for the antique deity prints and go far and wide within India to collect them.

Deity prints have been used for over a century in India as an integral part of devotional life. In India, the prints aren’t pictures of the Gods – the ARE the gods! And, as with anything, when you imbue it with devotion, it becomes sacred. And there is indeed something undeniably sacred about these prints to me, especially the ones from the early days (pre 1930s) — the “golden age” of oleographic printing . In the 1930s, when offset printing and a change in aesthetics (color, style, etc) took root in India, the prints took on a different flavor. There were still incredible prints being produced at that time (and later) but the early prints have a special quality that is all their own.

Art tends to move circularly and things that were once dismissed as common can become all the rage, staying like that for some undetermined amount of time before receding out of the public view. In the past several years, perhaps coinciding with the wild-fire popularity of yoga on the world stage, there has been great resurgence of interest in the deity prints, both within India itself as it rediscovers its own art, and throughout the Western world. As a result, these classic prints are becoming scarce and, as a natural by-product, expensive. Part of it has to do with the fragile nature of the medium and the fact that India has a climate that is not conducive to paper remaining in good condition for a century or more. Factoring all of these things together, when one finds a vintage deity print from the “golden age”, it should be cause for celebration!

I only have so much wall space, and I do have a love for sharing what I’m interested in, so… for the last couple of years, from time to time, I’ve been selling a small selection of these beautiful, antique prints — lucky survivors which have escaped the ravages of time and have remained preserved in lovely condition. I mostly sell to yoga friends and to friends of yoga friends — to people who have an appreciation for these things. It is very low-key — a fun hobby shared, much more than a business.

I usually have a dozen or so beautiful prints on hand. If interested, drop me an note and I can send photos/prices, etc.

सत्यम् सुन्दरम  – truth is beauty


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. the organic artist
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 08:59:35

    Just beautiful! My sannyasin name is Krishna, given to me by Osho. I love this beautiful print, it is so alive. Namaste Joshua.


  2. Simon_ram
    Mar 16, 2011 @ 14:35:48

    Lovely Krishna print, did they have any Devi Durga items? I would be very interested in those


    • mahaprana
      Mar 16, 2011 @ 22:39:40


      I have one Durga print. It is a beautiful image. Vintage (c. 1910 – 1920) and in wonderful condition. It is beautifully framed. Most of the prints that I have are unframed, but this one is just so nice and classic that I had it framed.


  3. Nirvani Bliss
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 21:27:26

    What a treasure!


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