Icons recast: Meet the artist breathing life into the Indus Valley


An illustrator in Mumbai is turning 5,000-year-old sculptures into digital art. Could this lead to a whole animation series starring characters from Harappa and Mohenjo-daro?Among the digital recreations by illustrator Nikhil Shinde is the famous dancing girl from Harappa. She even gets her feet back, and on her ankles are elaborate ghungroos. (Courtesy: Vaanarsena Studios)Ancient statues from the Indus Valley Civilisation have been reanimated in a new series of art works by a young illustrator from Mumbai, being showcased by the animation studio Vaanarsena.

In the digital recreations by Nikhil Shinde, 28, a 5,000-year-old fertility goddess, a royal priest, a mother goddess and Harappa’s famous dancing girl come alive. The dancing girl even gets her feet back, and on her ankles are elaborate ghungroos.

“The idea was not to change or modernise any of these characters but to offer accurate, artistic depictions,” says Shinde, an illustrator with an ad agency by day.

His reference point was the book 5,000 Years of Indian Art by Sushma Bahl, which catalogues Indian art through the millennia. He puts jewellery where the jewellery was, poses and expressions remain true to form, ornaments as close to the original pieces as possible.“I tried to transport myself to that period, and put myself in the place of the artist,” says Shinde. “I wanted to see what they must have been seeing and draw it in my style.”

But where the antique sculptures are timeworn shapes in terracotta, steatite or bronze, Shinde’s pieces bear the glint and polished finish of 21st-century digital art. And where the sculptures were broken and damaged, Shinde takes the liberty of offering his own finishing touches.

Vaanarsena Studios has posted the series on Instagram (@vaanarsenastudios), with images of Shinde’s reference sculptures from the book, and a brief note on each.