|In her autobiographical paintings, Anju Dodiya makes complex personal allegories and myths, oftentimes pitting intense psychological struggle against aesthetic beauty. She created The Churning after she viewed the famous bas-relief The Churning of the Ocean at Angkor Wat, the Cambodian Hindu temple built for King Suryavarman II in the early twelfth century.
Dodiya is usually the protagonist in her work, but here the central figure is male, positioned in a yogic crescent pose inside a sacred circle. The golden column through his heart-center is an allusion to the Hindu myth of the gods churning the ocean to produce amrita, the elixir of immortality. Greedy and careless, the gods accidentally created poison, which fortunately Shiva was able to swallow and trap in his throat. The man in Dodiya’s painting stands in for the mythic ocean, as he is also capable of both immortality and toxicity. The column, his connection to this spiritual choice, will continue to thwart his efforts until he is committed to his spiritual path. This portrayal sheds light on the arduous journey to enlightenment.