The Indian Artist: Ahalya’s Curse

Hi everybody! I hope that your fall break has been going well! I am here with a new installment of my blog column. Today, I will be telling the story of the curse of Ahalya, an ancient tale that I depicted in a recent piece done in acrylic paint and colored pencil on paper. I hope you all enjoy it!

Ahalya was Brahma’s most prized creation and was known to be the most beautiful woman that he ever brought into existence. She was sent off to live with Sage Gautama who fell in love with Ahalya almost immediately and ended up marrying her.

In an unsurprising turn of events, Indra, the God of Thunder, became infatuated with Ahalya and her beauty and was gutted when he found out that she was set to marry Gautama. He entered the village disguised as Gautama and seduced Ahalya, tricked her into having intercourse with him. The real Sage Gautama returned to find the fake Gautama and his bride-to-be making love and became outraged (understandably). He cursed Indra to be covered with a thousand eyeballs. He also cursed Ahalya to be turned into stone, only to be released from her rock-hard form when the sacred feet of Lord Ram touched her.

Hundreds of years later, Lord Ram is passing by a hermitage with his brother and wife when the dust from his feet touches the stone that is Ahalya. At that moment the curse is broken and Ahalya returns to her stunning human form. Gautama takes Ahalya back as his wife and all ends happily ever after.

The drawing pictured here is detailing the beautiful scene where Ahalya is returned to her human form when encountering Lord Ram. The foreground was done entirely with colored pencil while the background and environment is done in acrylic paint and watercolor. I was commissioned to do this piece and thought it would be a great way to detail another exciting story and aspect of my culture. As always, if anything that I discussed in this post stands out, or if any questions arise please feel free to comment and share your thoughts!

Looking forward to next Monday!


~ Riya



Personal website:

The Indian Artist: Welcome Back!

Hi everyone! I hope that you are all doing well and have had a good start to the semester! I’m sure that I can speak for the majority of us in saying that I am very excited to finally be on campus and have some semblance of a social life once again!

For those of you that are new and do not know me yet, my name is Riya Aggarwal. I am a sophomore in LSA Honors studying Molecular Biology with a double minor in Art & Design and Sociology of Health & Medicine on the pre-medical track! Art has been one of my greatest passions for my entire life, and in this blog, I share my love of art through discussion of different aspects of my Hindu culture.

I invite you all to take a look through my past blog posts on arts, ink. to get to know me and my voice a little better. In my blog, I will be discussing many aspects of Indian culture and customs as well as my own experiences growing up in a strict traditional household. I love to recount ancient Indian mythology, explain the meaning behind my culturally rooted artwork, and share aspects of my heritage that I have grown to love and cherish. Apart from that, I love spreading the word on some of my favorite artists and the people that have influenced my artwork as well both technique-wise and conceptually.

The goal of my column is to open up conversations about different cultures and religions. Each Monday, I will feature an art piece that demonstrates my experiences growing up in a strict Indian family, simple technical pieces, or whatever seems to tickle my fancy that week! These posts will not be limited to conventional forms of artwork such as drawing and painting. Being a henna artist, I love to showcase henna designs as well and hope to begin making video lessons on how some of the designs can be replicated.

I am truly excited to start my second year of writing this column and to share my love for art with all of you! If there is ever anything specific that I mention in a post or any questions regarding the topics that I discuss, please feel free to leave a comment!

Looking forward to next Monday!


~ Riya



Personal website:

The Indian Artist: The Last Hoorah (For Now)

Hello everybody! I hope that you are all doing well and that final exams are treating you all well. This past year of blogging has been an amazing experience, something that I plan to continue during my time at the University of Michigan and even beyond. Who mighta know!

I truly believe that blogging and writing about my art has helped me to reflect on my culture and feelings towards my upbringing. Not only was it a beautiful experience for me, but it also was a wonderful way for me to spread Indian culture. The biggest goal of mine coming to Arts, Ink. was to find a way through my art to spread an amazing culture and set of traditions to readers and students at U of M. Growing up in a predominantly Caucasian society, I didn’t have much exposure to different cultures, traditions, or diversity in general. So, coming to U of M, I wanted to do my part to spread awareness about different cultures and diverse groups.

Art has been one of my truest passions from a very young age. My mother likes to joke saying that I came out of the womb holding a paintbrush in one hand and a surgeon’s scalpel in another. I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in helping others while never letting go of my art. So, during this past year of staying at home and stuck in my room, I sought to find a way to hold on to my art in some way while opening up conversations about diversity, equity, inclusivity, and unique cultures.

I wanted to thank you all for giving me the ability and platform to speak about my beautiful culture and demonstrate it through my art. This past year has been very difficult for me, but being able to openly write about my art has been so cathartic. I hope that you have gained something from my writing and articles each week! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my words. I look forward to coming back next semester with new ideas, outlooks, and thoughts. For the last time this semester, if anything that I discussed in this post stands out or if any questions arise please comment and share your thoughts!!

Good luck with finals! Looking forward to next semester!


~ Riya


Please feel free to support me on my Instagram:

The Indian Artist: Staying True To My Roots

Happy Sunday everybody! I hope that you are all doing well! Today will be one of my last few posts for this year. I thought that I would share a deeper side of me in this one. I hope that you all enjoy it!

One thing that I have learned by growing up in a strict traditional household practicing a different culture is that people who are not like you want to hold you back, make you more like them. Both of my parents were born and raised in India, coming to the United States for their education and building a great life for my brother and me. I grew up practicing Hinduism, taking part in incredible traditional Indian festivals, and when compared to my friends, I was generally sheltered and not allowed to partake in as much. Initially, it used to bother me when I felt that I was being held back by my culture and religion, feeling as if I was not allowed to do everything I wanted, not allowed to be like the other kids around me. This caused me to resent my culture and religion and run away from it for many years…

However, what I have come to understand as I have grown and matured is that my culture and the core values that my parents have imparted me with are what have made me who I truly am. Growing up in a primarily Caucasian society, I would be constantly berated and belittled for being different. I became used to hearing,

“What are you eating?”

“What are you wearing?”

“Why aren’t you allowed to do this?”

Now, I understand that I was not held back by my family nor my culture, or religion. Rather, I was held back by the belief that I had to be like everybody else around me. I was held back by the belief that being different was wrong. I was held back thinking that my culture, something that I am now so proud of, was holding me back from doing the same things my friends were doing. I have come to learn time and time again how important it is to pull against anybody or anything that holds you back, even when that person is yourself. My own thoughts, perpetuated by the actions and words of others around me, held me back from embracing a beautiful culture that has made me who I am today. I have learned how important it is to stay true to yourself and your roots.

In this piece, done in colored pencil and gold leafing, I demonstrate being held back literally. I show a depiction of myself reaching out to the viewer, dressed in a traditional sari, attempting to pull against the two hands on either side of me trying to hold me back. By wearing the sari I am embracing my culture, adding a layer of traditional Indian heritage with the gold leafing and garb. The hands represent the various forces that are holding me back from embracing myself. This piece was so cathartic to create both in its message as well as through the technique of foreshortening.

I have been meaning to write this post for some time but was wary of sharing and did not completely know how to put my thoughts into words. I hope that everything I talked about made some type of sense and that you all enjoyed reading some of my realizations and epiphanies. Thank you all so much for taking the time out of your day to read my words. As always, if anything that I discussed in this post stood out or if any questions arise please feel free to comment and share your thoughts! Looking forward to next Sunday.


~ Riya


Please feel free to support me on Instagram

The Indian Artist: The Festival of Colors

Happy Sunday everybody! I hope that you are all doing well. I realized right after I posted last week that I sorely missed an opportunity. Being that last Sunday was Holi and I remembered a little too late, I decided that this week I would talk about the beautiful and wonderous holiday that is the Festival of Colors. Enjoy!

Holi is the ancient Hindu festival, also known as the “Festival of Love” or the “Festival of Colors”. This beautiful and fun festival celebrates the eternal and divine love of Radha and Krishna, whom I have talked about extensively in a few of my past posts. It also signifies the triumph of good over evil and signifies ridding oneself of past errors, ending conflicts by meeting others, and forgetting and forgiving. People pay or forgive debts, as well as deal anew with those in their lives. Holi also marks the start of spring, an occasion for people to enjoy the changing seasons and make new friends. 

On the eve of the festival, large pyres are lit in many parts of India to signify the burning away of evil spirits. People often throw wood, dried leaves, and twigs into bonfires. On the day of Holi, streets and towns turn incredible hues of red, green, pink, blue, and yellow as people throw colored powder into the air and splash them on others in a fun game that is traditional for Holi. These colors generally carry meaning. For instance, red symbolizes love and fertility while green stands for new beginnings. People will dress in white to make the experience of exploding colors more enjoyable and noticeable, wearing the bright hues as medallions or badges of honor after the festival is over. People also splash water on each other during the celebration. Water guns are used to squirt water while balloons filled with colored water are also flung from rooftops. As common with any Indian festival, food plays a significant role as families gather together for festive meals and distribute sweets among neighbors and friends.

NEW JERSEY, USA – JUNE 15: People take part in the Holi Festival celebrations in Hoboken, in New Jersey, United States on June 15, 2019. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

This incredibly colorful festival is my absolute favorite. “Playing” Holi with friends and family is essentially like a giant game of tag that involves bombarding each other with fistfuls of colored powder. It is a lot of fun and overall a beautiful experience. As an artist, the aftermath of Holi celebrations is a sight to behold and a work of art in itself. I plan on doing an art piece in the future inspired by the wonderful Festival of Colors, which I hope to be able to share with you all soon! I know that this was a bit of a different post, but I thought, even from the name of the holiday, it was incredibly fitting for an art blog. I hope that you all enjoyed this week’s post and perhaps learned something new about Indian culture!




As always, if anything that I discussed in this post stands out, or if any questions arise please feel free to comment and share your thoughts!

Looking forward to next Sunday!


~ Riya


Please feel free to support me on my Instagram:


The Indian Artist: Capturing the Essence of India

Acrylic painting by Biswaal

Hello everybody! I hope that you are all doing well! I wanted to share one of my favorite artists that I came across during quarantine last year. During a year of terrible hardship and pain, as it was for so many around the world, coming across this artist opened my eyes to a new way of expression and truly mesmerizing and beautiful artwork. Enjoy!

Bijay Biswaal is a self-taught Indian artist of national and international repute who has made his mark by encapsulating the beauty that is Indian scenery, culture, people, and religion. What I love most about Biswaal as an artist is that he does not limit himself to mediums. Though he does excel in acrylic paintings and ink sketches, he ventures beyond, using watercolor, oil pastel, collage, cartoon, and caricature. I fell in love with the way that he captures his subjects when I first came across him on Instagram. The way in which he can manipulate acrylic paint to behave like watercolor while maintaining opacity and shine is incredible to witness. He has a way of bringing out so much dimension, movement, and dynamics in his work.

Ink sketch by Biswaal

I have myself tried replicating some of his work, particularly his ink drawings of Ganesha the Elephant God, Goddess Lakshmi, and Radha Krishna. I find that using the work of other artists as study pieces, learning how they use lines to create beautiful art, is very rewarding and educational. Just from understanding his linework, I can say that I have a better understanding of how to capture movement in figures and portraits, attributes that I plan to implement in my own way when I create.

Bijay Biswaal has grown a following that spans the world. He is the Indian brand ambassador for Windsor and Newton and has collections in many places internationally including Mumbai, Chicago, Australia, Istanbul, Turkey, London, and China. This incredible artist has provided me with so much joy, and during a time when it was very difficult to grow artistically and find inspiration, Biswaal was able to provide that for me. He has really worked towards redefining realism and creating such a unique method of rendering.

I implore all of you to seek out this incredible artist. I have attached all of Bijay Biswaal’s links below including his Instagram and website.


As I say every week, if anything that I discussed in this post stands out, or if any questions arise please feel free to comment and share your thoughts!

Looking forward to next Sunday!


~ Riya


Please feel free to support me on my instagram: