Invented by Aloys Senefleder in Prague, 1796, lithorgraphy became an incredably useful tool and artform. Origionally litography had several processes and various methods, some utilized wood, while later advancements involved metal and wax. By mid Nineteenth century in Europe, and most notably in France, Chromolithography, color lithography, was widely appropriated.
Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906), a South Indian portrait artist and landscape painter, brought the tecnique to India. He began producing his "European-style" prints in India, using oil paints, and sending them to Germany for printing.1 However, Varma soon realized the benifits of having a press closer to home.2 In 1891 he founded the Ravi-Vijaya Press in Bombay, one of the first to produce color prints. Although the Calcutta Studio in Calcutta might have produced chromolithographs a few years before the Ravi-Vijaya Press, it is not as widely accredited as an historic and aesthetic influence, like Raja Ravi Varma.3
His artistry was elegant, and comparitvely more simple than contamporary Darshan images. Darshan means holy viewing; it is the viewing of a diety or supernatural manifestation - such as avatars of gods and goddess (Sati, Saints, or powerful political/spirtitual leaders) - and its recognition of the viewer. O.P Joshi defines Darshan as "auspicious sight" of an icon of a diety; "seeing the image of [a] diety through [an] icon, print or picture."4
"Through a print on the altar of the home a person can take darshan in order to get blessings from the diety for protection, prosperity and power"5
Although, the goddess is worshiped through other images, such as statues, shrines, and temples, and by making puja, not all Hindus believe that theses glossy, highly colorful images are actually manifestations of the goddess, and in themsleves worthy of worship. Yet, regardless of this debate - it is undeniable that she has manifest all over India and abroad in popular imagery.
Posters and calender art with the many forms of Ma Devi, set in a magical and illustritve world, circulate the streets of India near tobacco stands, retail stores, groceries, taxis, and mingling in the same crowd as movie star parephenalia. Whether this speaks to her power, sakti, or obsessional desire..., can and is often debated by (Western) scholars. But it is clear that her influence has moved far beyond the realm of "folklore" as some scholars seem to suggest, and thanks to the pionering Varma, has become a common sight.8
Since their beginings in 1891, "god posters," as David H. Brown describes them - to which I owe the collection and representation of many of these prints -
goddess posters have touched almost every facet of everyday life from shops near temples and shrines to cinema houses, tobacco shops, grocery stores and almost every Indian home 7