Artist Navin Soni’s Paintings Span Bhuj Pastorals, Religious Traditions

Navin Soni’s painting of Nav Ras Incarnation which embodies all that life is about.

By Jawahar Malhotra

PLANO, TX: For the past 15 days, Navin Soni has drawn on his imagination to create 10 unique paintings that will be exhibited in the hallways of the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Plano on August 6 to commemorate the life of Bhramanand Swami who lived 200 years ago. These will also be later reproduced in a special edition book. It is a memorable experience for him as he has been a part of the Swaminarayan gurukul for over two decades.

Born into a family of artists in Bhuj, Gujarat, Soni became interested in graphic art while in 6th grade where he would help with placing hand finishing touches on the old-time grand scale movie banners. “We did it in exchange for free tickets to see the movie”, he recalled.

That interest soon developed into a love for drawing and painting that he fine tuned over the years. His household is a family of artists – his wife, son and daughter and their spouses all excel in some form of painting and sculpture.

Bhuj is a city of 600,000 near the Gulf of Kutch, across from the industrial city of Jamnagar and 100 km from the Pakistani border. Here Soni and his family have opened their doors to a select 2 or 3, young 13 year-old kids from impoverished families to apprentice them in the skills of an artist. Soni’s family has now taught 70 such students who are now all well established in their own art.

Houstonian Bhavisha Thakkar, a native of Bhuj, also recalled the wonderful painting depicting the epic figure Shakuntala that Soni made for her kanyadaan ceremony.

Since his work at the temple is completed, Soni will now visit New Jersey for a week and return in time for the celebration in Plano before heading back to India. His paintings speak of his devotion to the Swaminarayan way of life as well as appreciation of his pastoral roots in Bhuj.