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Kangra Paintings

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 3:10 AM


Bihar' has described female beauty in many of his verses. But none excels the dohei given below, which the Kangra artist has illustrated in this painting. In the music of its words, compactness and vivid imagery, it stands out as a pearl of unique beauty in the necklace of seven hundred presented by him to posterity.

Tataki dhoi dhovati, chatakill mukha joti; Lasati rasoi kain bagara, jagara magara duti hoti! Clad in a newly-washed garment, the Nayika is cooking; The kitchen is shining with the radiance of her lovely face.

Surrounded by utensils, a pile of brinjals stored against the wall, the lovely one is cooking. Her jet black tresses reach her waist. Her face is serene and beautiful. Her simple white dress enhances her beauty. In this painting the Hindu ideal of female beauty is portrayed in a lyrical manner. One is reminded of the following lines by Wordsworth.

"She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon my sight."

In the background, Krishna, the cow-herd, is shown sitting under a tree, with cows resting in the foreground. The female messenger is describing to him the beauty of Rildha as she is cooking in the kitchen.


The cowherd boys and girls are playing the game of hide-and-seek, on the outskirts of the village. Radha has hidden herself in a clump of bushes. Krishna discovers her, and makes use of the opportunity for love-making.

Dori chora mihichani, khelu na kheli aghdta Durata hiyain laptal kai, chhuvata hiyain laptata.

Playing the game of hide-and-seek, the two are not satisfied with its pleasures. When one seeks the other, they cling to each other in a warm embrace.


The sakhis are watching the restless RAdha from a porch in the courtyard. Radha stares at Krishna from the entrance door of her house. She is fascinated by the sight of Krishna through the trellis. Next she is shown gazing at him from the second floor. In the background, are green hillocks, dotted with mangoes and box-like houses reminiscent of Alampur. The painting illustrates the following verses of Bihari.

Jhataki chadhati utarati ata, nainku na thakati deha Bhai rahati nata kau batA, ataki nagara neha. Nai lagani kula ki sakucha, bikalabhai akulai; Duhun ora ainchi phirati phiraki laun dinu jai. Ita tam n uta uta tam n itain, chhinu na kahun thaharAti; Jaka na parati chakari bhai, phiri avati phiri jati.

Sakhi to another sakhi:

Entangled in love, the Niiyilca is behaving like an acrobat, Running up and down from the attic of her house, she does not feel tired. On one side is the pull of her newly born love, On the other is the honour of the family. Stretched between the two she feels severely afflicted, And spends her day rotating like a pulley. She moves from one place to another, and does not tarry even:for a moment. She has no peace of mind and like a revolving yo-yo she is constantly in a whirl.


The cool and rainy month of Seivan follows the hot month of June arid is a favourite of lovers in India. It is the month when the ocean of passion in woman is at high tide. The sky is covered with:dark clouds, against which skeins of white cranes appear like a garland on the-jneck of dark Krishna. The lover is ready to go out on a journey, and the lady is sorely afflicted. With the devotion and loving entreaty of a gentle Hindu wife she implores him to stay with her and not leave her alone in the delightful month of Schan. When he does not agree, she thus expresses her resentment.

Barna bhama K√£mini, kahi bolau pranesa; Pyari kahata khisyata nahin, pavasa chalata videsa. 
"Don't call me your beloved ; call me instead a shrew. Going away to a far-off land in the month of rains, You should feel ashamed at calling me sweet-heart.


 LOVE LONGINGS How the lovely N1yika conveyed her love longings to the Nayaka in the crowded home, where she is watched by her servants and female companions, is illustrated in this painting.

Chitai lalachauhain chakhanu, dun i ghtinghata pata mAnha; Chhala saun chhali chhubdi kai, chhinaku chhabili chhanha.

The Nayaka thus narrates the incident to sakizi:

'Having first looked at me with greedy eyes, Hidden behind the hem of her veil, And then craftily touching her shadow for a moment with mine, The graceful maiden now walks away.'

Love is often expressed by sings and symbols. A woman, overpowered with love expresses her desire by casting side-long glances, scratching the ears, or touching her ornaments. The indications of love in a well-bred woman, according to the Ndlyagdstra, are: 'She looks continuously with blooming eyes, conceals her smile, speaks slowly with a down-cast face, gives reply with a smile, and has throbbing lips.' The touching of shadows is a symbol of union, and conveys the desire of the Nayika to the lover.


The lady who goes out on a dark night to meet her lover, Krishna, is called Krishnabhisarika. To conceal herself she wears a blue garment. Her companion urges her on, saying, "The cowherds have left the platforms in front of their houses, and the streets are empty. The night is dark. This is an opportune time for you, dear Abhisarika, to go out to meet your lover." The painting illustrates the following couplet, in which Bihari describes the beauty of the lady.

Nisi andhiari nilapatu, pahiri chali piya-geha;
Kahau durdi kyon durai, dipa sikha si deha.

Though clad in blue, the dark night cannot hide her as she goes to meet her lover. The flame-like brilliance of her body illumines the night itself.

The empty houses, and the dark sky, powdered by stars, suggest the solitude of the night. In the background, the trees stand like phantoms. The finely chiselled face of the Nayika, framed in a blue wrap, the sensuous curves of her body, and the grace of her delicate fingers represent the Kangra female type at its best. The lustre of the Nayika's body shines forth in bright contrast with her blue sari. In Panjabi folk-songs also, the beauty of a woman is often compared to a flame.


 QUEST FOR THE LOVER IN MOONLIGHTThe lady who goes out to meet her lover in a moonlit night is called the sukabhisarika. She dresses in white to conceal her presence. This painting is an illustration of the following doha of Bihari in which he describes the beauty of the lady, who goes out on a bright moonlit night to meet her lover, followed by her maid.

Juvati jonha main mili gal, nainka na hoti lakhai
Saurdhe kain dorain lagi, all chali sang

'The young maiden was so much like moonlight that walking under the shining moon she became invisible.

Her companion was only able to follow her guided by the fragrance of her limbs.'
One is reminded of the description of Radha, as S'uktifbhisarika, by Guru Govind Singh in Dasam Granth. `Radha went out in the moonlight, in the light of the white soft moon, wearing a white robe, to meet her Lord. She thus concealed herself in white, and roamed as the light itself in search of Him.' Surely Radha is the human soul in search of the Infinite, the Cosmic Reality.

Writer – M.S Randhawa


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