Mumbai airport: A tribute to Indian art and tradition

The new Mumbai Airport – Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA), International Terminal (terminal 2, as it is called), was recently opened (2014). The terminal is currently being expanded to include domestic flights on one side and the international flights on the other. This should provide seamless connectivity for transit passengers in the recent future.

The new terminal is trule impressive and colorful. Until now, most of the Indian airports were way below par in terms of aesthetics, functionality, etc as compared to other top international airports around the world. However, with the launch of this new airport Mumbai has made a HUGE statement. I have been to all the top airports in the World, but never felt this impressed by any airport until now. Once I entered the Mumbai Airport, I was just WOW. From the moment I stepped in I could see the attention to detail, the impressiveness, the colorfulness, the rich history of India reflected in the airport construction and presentation.

The airport now feels like a museum and I think one can easily spend a day just roaming around, taking in the sights. I am glad that an economic powerhouse like Mumbai has made such a statement with its new airport. Many times, I see the airline/airport industry of today is going for cost cutting and bare functionality. In this age of under-achievement, it is nice to see some change and an upcoming/growing new player just as Mumbai airport breaking the norms and raising the bar for everyone.

Check-in and terminal

At Mumbai airport, most of the top airlines, such as Jet and BA offer curb-side service for its premium passengers. What it means is that once you get out of the car there assistance available with your luggage and checkin. As I was flying business with BA, there was a BA agent available who checked my name in the Club World list and offered assistance with my luggage. Someone accompanied me to a checkin area. For premium passenger there is a personalised checkin areas. Where you can sit, while someone checks you in and takes your checked luggage away. It is a fantastic service. As I was traveling with my wife and 2 kids, we could just relax while the checkin process took place. The agents were very friendly, in fact one of them was playing with our 2 daughters and offered them a chocolate (of course, after our approval).



Art collection – Museum Jaya He

The airport has amazing art collection, reflecting the rich history of India – both traditional as well as contemporary. The airport calls it the Jaya He, museum. With a tag line – Discover the soul of a timeless nation!

You can visit the website of this museum to see what is on offer. Even the website is nicely done.

I was left spellbound to see such a wonderful collection. The museum honors, most of the things from Bollywood to historic Indian kings, and presents the history, life and sports of ancient and modern India.















Air side – terminal

The air-side of the terminal has nice restaurants to grab a bite before your flight. I had an invitation for the new business lounge. Loved the food offerings there. I will leave one photo teaser here and cover the lounge in another review (Mumbai Airport GVK Lounge at T2 review could be found here)


The air-side seems spacious with nice seats for passengers and nice ambiance to make their stay enjoyable.






This airport has just blowed me away. It is truly special. Hopefully, once the domestic connections are brought up in the expanded terminal 2 many international tourists can make Mumbai as their transit airport of choice.

The Magic of Bengal Scroll Paintings

July 5, 2013, I was at Emami Art Gallery in Kolkata to see a precursor of ‘India Seamless’ an art installation meant to be a part of Jaya He, GVK New Museum to represent West Bengal. I could see art and artists all around. Since my childhood I always felt mesmerized seeing anything to do with West Bengal be it sweets, icon of Mother Goddesses face with her beautiful elongated eyes and of course its rich art and culture.

The gallery was full of eye popping installations like pandal décor made with thousands of small bulbs, an installation depicting the making of idol of mother Goddess, etched and painted wood panels told the story about West Bengal looking for a meaningful identity in current time from its intellectually glorious past.

Detail of Scroll Painting at Jaya He, GVK New Museum, T2, Mumbai


But nothing beats the magnificent and most prominent art form ‘Patua’.
‘Patua’ is an art form for telling stories through scroll paintings, typical of West Bengal. The method is to build a story which has relevance, that is converted into a song in local language, in this case Bengali, then a group of artists sing the song and make the painting scene by scene. The story is narrated to viewers by scene by scene by unfolding the scroll and signing the song. The messages of stories are unlimited – Hindu mythological stories, anecdotes, geo-political issues, world war, city life, environment, girl child education, terrorism list may go on and on.

This art is practiced in small village called Noya, all the artists have common surname ‘chitrakar’ which means an artist. The artists are painters, composers and singers rolled into one and it is practiced by men and women. Children pick up this art by watching their elders and may be given small areas in the main work.

I was very moved to see the story on Tsunami (later I was told that artists were sitting together when they saw the news on devastation done by Tsunami, they penned down the story at that very moment ). The story tells how Tsunami has taken our children, mother, father, food, shelter, animals, harvest almost everything, it questions where is it that we have gone wrong and then pray to the devil Tsunami to calm down,which they perceive as calming down in a form of river goddess Ganga. In the prayer they promise not to play with the nature.

Detail of Scroll Painting at Jaya He, GVK New Museum, T2, Mumbai
Detail of Scroll Painting at Jaya He, GVK New Museum, T2, Mumbai


Artist Gurupadda narrated the entire story by signing the song, the scenes of the painting with the song were so emotional and had a great impact that it left me with the tears in my eyes, I was totally mesmerized by the way of these simple artists tell a story, it still remains fresh in my mind even after two years… these artists, do not need technology, media, to communicate …their method is far superior to our means as they narrate from their hearts!.

At the terminal with my colleagues




Ambitious Art on Display at Mumbai’s New Airport Terminal


MUMBAI — Airports are normally places people want to rush in and out of, but the developers of the new Terminal 2 at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai hope to change that. Among the many benefits for flyers coming through Terminal 2 is the opportunity to take in a vast amount of traditional and contemporary Indian art via an ambitious public arts program.

Over 7,000 art objects, including antiquities procured from 27 states within India, will eventually be on display, as will 100 commissioned contemporary art works. (Currently 2,000 objects are on view at the terminal, which begins international operations on Feb. 12.)

Under the aegis of the award-winning curator Rajeev Sethi, the art program, called “Jaya He” (meaning “Glory to Thee”), is comprised of two distinct sections: “Layered Narratives,” which encompasses the arrivals area and “Thresholds of India,” an art wall spread across the terminal’s four levels, spanning a total of 3.2 kilometers (two miles).

The art wall is split into six themes: “India Elemental,” “India Seamless,” “India Greets,” “India’s Silent Sentinels,” “India Moves” and “India Global.”

“As you enter, you realize what the hype is all about – a breathtaking contemporary feat of engineering and design, rooted in the Indian aesthetic,” said Alex Kuruvilla, managing director of Conde Nast India. “As three kilometers of the art wall is revealed, past, present and future collide in a riot of visual extravagance – truly capturing the India experience.”

At the inauguration on Friday, Sanjay Reddy, managing director of the joint venture that runs Mumbai’s international airport, said, “We brought the beauty of Indian traditional art into this terminal because frankly, today, how many of you or your children go to museums? How many have seen the rest of our country in its true measure?”

Mr. Reddy, who is also vice chairman of GVK Power & Infrastructure, which led the consortium that developed the terminal, noted that while the Louvre Museum in Paris receives 9 million visitors a year, the Jaya He museum at Terminal 2 will get 40 million visitors a year, referring to the passenger capacity of the new terminal.

“Just think of the impact it will have,” he said. “Frankly, it is not done for foreign nationals — it is done for Indians who I feel have learned to forget what the true beauty of India is.”

Mr. Sethi underscored that point during a tour of the terminal last week. “The concept of art in public space is a very serious issue because art cannot shrivel up and shrink into investment portfolios or disappear into godowns or galleries,” he said “It has to be in the public domain.”

Displayed on the “Thresholds of India” art wall are varied elements, from totems from Nagaland — some of which had to be saved from maggots according to Mr. Sethi — to a section made with 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of cow dung, made by more than 100 women from the various slums in the region surrounding the airport.


Also on the wall is a work made mostly of discarded beer bottle caps and a large quilt, also made by women in the slums on the periphery of the airport.

“Layered Narratives” focuses on Mumbai and life in urban India. Many works use interactive technologies. Among the site-specific installations are those commissioned by noted artists like Gulammohammed Sheikh, Vivan Sundaram, G.R. Iranna, Manu Parekh, Baiju Parthan, Jagannath Panda, Riyas Komu and Mithu Sen.

Mr. Sheikh, who lives in Baroda and came to Mumbai for the terminal’s inauguration, created a 72-foot mural, “Journey Across Time,” which uses six maps that rotate slowly as passengers step on a moving sidewalk. He said his longstanding interest in public art was one of the reasons he participated in the Terminal 2 art project.

Mr. Komu’s interactive sculpture, “Buddhist Pitch,” is as much a tribute to the cricketer Sachin Tendulkar as it is to Buddhism, featuring Buddhist prayer wheels and cricket balls.

Mithu Sen, who created “In Transit2,” large-scale mixed-media drawings using watercolor and ink as well as fabric collages, explained via email that she was intrigued by the idea of traveling and forging memories.

“Life is all about traveling,” she said. “Travel also reminds me of migration. Once we have left a place behind, it is leaving it forever. We cannot get the place back ever like before and so an empty feeling appears.”

The artist Rani Rekha, who created an interactive audio and video mixed-media work “Palaka” for the “India’s Silent Sentinels” theme of the art wall, said she focused on the thoughts and emotions people feel when traveling.

Evoking the celestial warriors found in traditional temple architecture, ashtadikpalakas, who guard the eight directions, the artist said, in an accompanying note: “When traveling, I often experience a brief sense of fear, especially when landing. I found many others, also, feel the same. I wanted my work to speak to people at this subconscious level, to provide a sense of reassurance and safety.”

In addition to signage, iPads will accompany the artworks so that viewers can see more detailed information by tapping on an app, which is in the process of being created. The plan is to make the app available for downloading on smartphones so that people can learn more about the works and artists and facilitate purchases of the art by interested collectors.

“Unless it reaches the doorstep of the artist, the art project would be just a project and not a program,” Mr. Sethi said.

Long a fierce advocate for public art, Mr. Sethi’s early mentors included furniture and product designers Ray and Charles Eames, as well as the Indian handicrafts revivalist Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay and the culture activist Pupul Jayakar. He has curated numerous shows including at the Smithsonian in Washington and the Cooper-Hewitt design museum in New York.

Persuaded to join the Jaya He project by Mr. Reddy, Mr. Sethi spent four years putting together the collection . “What clinched the deal for me was Sanjay came to me and said he wanted it to be a totally different kind of terminal,” Mr. Sethi said. “He didn’t want it to be Shanghai or Dubai, and then he added, ‘I don’t mind if people don’t mind missing their planes.’ ”

There has been some criticism that the art on display is a mish mash, with indigenous arts and crafts rubbing shoulders with cutting-edge contemporary art, but Mr. Sethi dismissed the distinction between lowbrow and highbrow art.

“We need to break down this hierarchy of what’s art and what’s craft,” Mr. Sethi said. “The whole idea is that fine art is working with craftspeople and craftspeople are expressing the fine artists in them. Out of those 7,000 items, if you ask me how much was fine art and how much was art, I would say all of it.”

Gayatri Rangachari Shah is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.