My name is Nandapriya! I've always loved art since childhood... my earliest memories are of sitting on the cool marble floor during Bhagavatam class in Mayapur, excited to use my new set of Staedtler pencils. And after class, running up to HH Jayapataka Swami, who is now my initiated spiritual master, and happily showing him what I had drawn. Of course, he encouraged me even though my art didn't look like much!
A Summer Art Appreciation course in Europe (Rome, Assisi, Florence, and Paris) under Professor Matthew Newell deepened my attachment to a life in pursuit of art, self exploration, realizing that I could give back to society through the medium of fine art.
I went on to be accepted into University of Florida's Fine Arts Program, with a concentration in Painting, where I studied under Professors Julia Morrisroe, Ron Janowich, Bob Mueller, and others. I graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts (Cum Laude) in Painting, after a very successful solo senior show at the Dorris Gallery in Gainesville Florida.
I went on to the many art classes from to fuel my interest. My teachers include HG Puskara Prabhu ACBSP, who painted for the BBT, and many others. I soon realized that this was more than a hobby.
In Santa Fe, I had a great professor, Daniel Stepp, who taught me for Drawing I, Life Drawing, Painting I, and onto Painting II, Life Painting, and ultimately I changed my major from Graphic Design to Art Studio! I now look back at that and realize it was a major decision that shifted the course of my life.
Following the journey of life, after graduation, I accepted a job to teach for Elementary, Middle, and High school at the Bhaktivedanta Academy in Alachua, FL. I also taught Vaishnava Music, and worked for about 6 years in the classroom. I got my IB certification for Visual Arts through Bhaktivedanta Academy.
I fondly remember graduation ceremonies each year with dear students from Bhaktivedanta Academy, after spending so much time growing together in the classroom. As they blossom into beautiful young adults, I also grow and learn from them! I was fortunate enough to work in the same school (under different management) as the Gurukula that I attended in the 90s! Working as colleagues with some of my own teachers was quite a unique experience... learning so much from such experienced and stalwart teachers as they guided me in my own teaching journey. Above pictured is the lovely team at the North American Educator's Conference which I was honored to attend. So many wonderful ideas, encouragement, and support came from this gathering over the several days that we met!
Between 2009 and 2019 I was able to start my own music academy and offer private music lessons, working with around 100 students over the years, watching them grow and become the wonderful people they are today.
During that time I was able to also hone in my skills in visual art and contribute back to the society by making various creative/artistic offerings for the New Raman Reti Temple and community. Pictured here, I am painting a backdrop for Sri Sri Radha Shyamasundar. I also painted for Sri Sri Gaura Nitai and Sri Sri Krishna Balarama, the total being 3 paintings approximately 5ft x 7ft each! I worked under the guidance of several artists for this, as it was my first offering of such a large scale. I'm especially grateful to Mother Gandharvika and Puskara Prabhu for their help and guidance, as well as to many of my students and friends who came and helped me with such a big undertaking!
Moving to India in 2019 was another huge life shift. We shifted places, countries, (continents!) a lot as a child, and I've learnt that though change is hard, it is the Lord's way to guide us into situations that are ultimately better than we can ever imagine for us! Often we need to be put into sometimes difficult (or just different!) situations in order to learn new life lessons and to grow as a person. So I left America after spending most of my life there. I followed my heart and the inner voice of the Supersoul within, to settle in the holy land of Sridham Mayapur, with my husband, and soon after, our first child was on the way...
What a thoroughly transformative experience it is! Through the whole part of entering into sacred motherhood, we have purificatory rituals to cleanse our body, mind, and soul; to prepare our consciousness for the arrival of a special soul; to consume only healthy and nutritious nourishment, both on the physical level, but also by making our consciousness 'healthy' so to speak. What I mean is, we try to listen as much as possible to sacred vibrations like chanting, kirtan, and katha from pure devotees. We become hyper conscious of the type of 'input' we are exposed to! Because, it is what is nourishing and growing our little seed inside us! And finally, birth... the ultimate test of surrender. And postpartum, felt like Part Two of the ultimate test of surrender! And as we slowly adjust ourselves to a new phase of life...
We want the best for our little darlings! We strive for the best, often even at the expense of our own sacrifices. We try to preserve that sweet and special innocence and purity. Throughout pregnancy, we consumed healthy nutritious food and and 'nutritious spiritual vibrations' through our ears, to feed our growing child within. And now that the said child is outside, we feed this child organic, pure food. We teach our babies to love Krishna, to offer cute little obeisances, and ring a bell for the Lord. We teach them to look at the different pictures and slowly learn of the Lord's pastimes and glories...
And of course, babies love books! So we go to the store, and see what's available. Of course, there's lots of coloring books, activity books, puzzles, and storybooks for older children who can read. But for our babies... we've got this generic set of board books that is very underwhelming, considering all we've done for our child!
Coming from a culture rich with colors, festivities, philosophy full of visual metaphors and more… how do we take all that and then buy our children the only generic set of board books available on the market now… so they learn their numbers, colors, alphabet, and so on with cats, dogs, ice cream cones, and cars? There's some kind of disconnect. The odd juxtaposition of rich culture and modern globalization with common imagery is jarring and almost unappetizing.
So I put in some thought, and stepped forward.
© 2022 Nandapriya DEVI SIKDAR. All Rights Reserved.
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