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Heroes and Heroines (Nayika-Bheda)

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 6:35 AM

Padmini Nayika
The Hindi poets of the 16th and 17th centuries were keen observers of human nature. Their classification of women according to age, experience, physical and mental traits, situation, moods and sentiments provided themes for the Kangra painters. The most important of these was Keshav Das, a Brahmin from Orchha in Bundelkhand. He was the court poet of Indrajit Shah of Orchha and he wrote his famous love poem Rasikapriya in A.D. 1591. A number of Nayika paintings from Kangra are inscribed with texts from the Rasikapriya.

The Rasikapriya is written in vivid style. The language is musical and the expression frank and forthright. The sentiment of love is at the same time expressive of a passionate, sincere religion. "The soul's devotion to the deity is pictured by Radha's self-abandonment to her beloved Krishna and all the hot blood of Oriental passion is encouraged to pour forth one mighty flood of praise and prayer to the Infinite Creator, who waits with loving, out-stretched arms to receive the worshipper into His bosom, and to convey him safely to eternal rest across the seemingly shoreless Ocean of Existence."

These Hindi love poems are noted for their bright and compact style. Neat little pictures are painted in a few words particularly in the dohas or couplets. These lend themselves particularly to painting and in fact the Kangra miniatures are really poems dressed in line and colour.

According to Keshav Das, women are classified into four types: the Lotus (Padmini), the Variegated (Chitrini), the Conch-like (Sankhini) and Elephant-like (Hastini).

Padmini is a beautiful nayika, emitting the fragrance of the lotus from her body, modest, affectionate and generous, slim, free from anger, and with no great fondness for love-sports. Bashful, intelligent, cheerful, clean and soft-skinned, she loves clean and beautiful clothes. She has a golden complexion.

"Shedding flowers from her smile, she is sensitive to tender emotions and knows well the art of love. She is to be preferred to all Pannagis, Nagis, Asuris and Suris. All the affection which the people of Vraja bestow on her is in fact too meagre. Thousands of fond desires hover round her like bees. Such indeed is Radha, that unique divine champaka bud fashioned by the Creator."

This lovely painting is from Nurpur front the collection of the Wazir family, and illustrates the beauty of a "lotus" woman.

The nayikas are further classified as one's own (svakiya), another's (parakiya) and anybody's (samanya).

The svakiya heroines are classified into eight broad types (hence the name astanayika, eight heroines). It may be mentioned that the terms "lover" and "husband" are almost synonymous in it India, for unlike in the West, free love among the sexes is, to all intents and purposes, unknown. The eight Nayikas are as follows:


Utka, or Utkanthita Vasakasayya, or Vasakasajja



Prositapatika or Prosita-Preyasi



Svadhinapatika is the heroine to whose virtues her Lord is devoted and to whom he is bound in love and is perpetually a companion.

The heroine is represented in Kangra painting as Radha seated on a chauki, while Krishna washes or presses her feet and legs. He is also shown applying lac dye to her feet. She looks with pride and self-confidence at the completely subdued and docile Krishna.

In literature, the heroine is described thus by the sakhi: "O Radha, Krishna is the life-giver of Vraja and a darling of Brahma; and the goddesses, demon-women, Surya and Lakshmi, are never tired of singing his praise. And you, only a mean little shepherdess, have your feet cleaned by him and he, the Lord of the Universe, is constantly clinging to you like your shadow. He takes care of your pettiest affairs and resides in you as the image dwells in the mirror, no matter if the angels sound trumpets in his praise. He runs after the chariot of your desires like the water of the Ganges of yore which followed in a winding trail the chariot of Bhagiratha. Your words are like the Scriptures to him. It is, therefore, absurd to try to dissuade him from doing all this even for the sake of saving him from calumny."

Utka is the anxious heroine whose lover has failed to keep his appointment at the promised hour.

She is represented as standing on a bed of leaves covered with jasmine flowers under a tree beside a stream. She has adorned the trunk of the tree with garlands of jasmine. A pair of love-birds are perched on the tree. The heavy dark clouds are lit up by a flash of lightning. The heroine who is like the dryad of some enchanted forest eagerly awaits the arrival of her lover. At times deer are shown near the trysting place, sniffing at the wind or drinking water from a lotus lake.

The utka soliloquizes thus: "Is he detained at home on business or by company, or is it an auspicious day of fasting? Is it a quarrel, or the dawning of divine wisdom which keeps him away from me? Is he in pain, or is it some treachery that keeps him from meeting me, or the impeding waters, or the terrifying darkness of the night? Or is he testing my fidelity? O my poor heart! You will never know the cause of this delay."

Beloved's Vigil
The vasakasayya being desirous of union with her Lord waits for me on the doorstep. Her body, white like the sandal tree, glows like a lamp, and her garments, blue as the clove-vine creepers, flutter round her fair soft limbs. She is startled at the slightest sound of birds or animals. She speaks softly and relates her heart's desires to her confidant as she casts the spell of her enchantment.

The heroine is represented in Kangra painting as a woman standing at her bedroom door, happy and anxious for her lover's expected arrival. Brisk preparations for his reception are being made in the household; a woman sweeps the courtyard, another empties stale water from a flask, and the bedroom is tidied up. The lover sits in a ferry-boat on the other side of the river, close to a pair of sarus cranes.

Abhisandhita is the heroine who disregards her lover's devotion, but is full of remorse in his absence, for she feels the pangs of separation all the more. In the paintings on the subject, the lovers are shown as having quarrelled. Krishna clad in yellow with a peacock's feather in his turban is about to leave. There is intense sorrow and gloom on Radha's face. Krishna has tried to assuage her anger, but she will not relent and repulses him in anger. But as Krishna turns his back and is about to depart, she regrets her harsh words.

"How foolish of me", she thinks, "not to have responded when he spoke to me repeatedly! I was adamant and would not yield when he fell at my feet, but now my limbs seem to melt like butter.  Woe to me! I am helpless and beyond all cure! When my dearest Lord tried to propitiate me, I would not listen, unfortunately I didn't relent; and my soul is filled with the bitterest mortification and re-pentance." Radha's fingers are gracefully drawn and her black tresses are visible beneath the transparent dupatta. The curves of her delicate body and her mood of mixed resentment and sorrow are well portrayed.

Khandita is the heroine whose lover fails to keep his appointment at night, but comes the next morning after spending the night with another girl. The heroine upbraids her lover.

"What the ears have never heard, eyes have actually seen. Such are the praises sung in your honour all over the place! Unmindful of your family honour, you have been feasting yourself like a crow on discarded crumbs; and your vile appetite grows rapacious. Unable to discriminate between good and evil, you fall upon the feet of those who denounce you. Tell me, O Ghanasyama, after seducing whose honour have you come here this morning to my house to hide like an owl your ominous face?”

In the pictures of the khandita nayika, an angry and offended heroine is shown upbraiding the lover who has entered her courtyard, abashed and with a guilty face.

Prositapatika is the heroine whose husband is away for some time on business.

In a painting from Guler, the heroine on hearing the rumble of the clouds goes up to the balcony. She wears a spotted dupatta, and looks eagerly at the flying sarus cranes, while a peacock, symbol of the absent lover, raises his head in exultation. It is about to rain, and the lady prays to the passing clouds for the safe return of her lover. The painting could well be an illustration of the following verse:

When she hears the thundering of the autumn clouds, the moon-face bids her sakhis not to go upon the roof,

And seeing that the ground was full of drops of rain, the friendly nayikas gave her unto the (pleasant) crying of the peacocks and the chatakas,

The fawn-eyed lady wears a spotted veil that's bright of hue, and sirisa flowers are deftly woven in her tresses,

With waning pride she stands and looks, and prays to the lightning and the leaden clouds, 'Give me news of my dear Dark One.'

Vipralabdha is the disappointed heroine who has waited in vain for her lover throughout the night. She is shown standing under a tree on the edge of a bed of leaves, tearing off her ornaments in disgust and flinging them on the ground. The empty space in the background symbolises her loneliness, frustration and deep distress. Her feelings are described thus:

Flowers are like arrows, fragrance becomes ill-odour, and pleasant bowers like fiery furnaces,

Gardens are like the wild woods, Ah Kesava! the moon-rays burn her body as though with fever,

Love like a tiger holds her heart, no watch of the night brings any gladness,

Songs have the sound of abuse, pan has the taste of poison and every jewel burns her like a firebrand.

The Lonely Lady
Abhisarika is the heroine who goes out to meet her lover. She is classified under various heads by different poets, and is a favourite theme with Kangra artists. The krsnabhisarika and suklabhisarika are the heroines who fare forth to meet their lovers during dark and bright nights, respectively.

In a charming picture of krsnabhisarika, the lady wearing a blue veil goes out to seek her lover. It is a dark night with black clouds and there are intermittent flashes of lightning. The forest is infested with snakes and haunted by churails. Undeterred by the terrors of the jungle, the storm, the snakes, the goblins and the darkness, the heroine, filled with passion for her lover, goes to seek him.

According to Kamasutra, desire in the heart of woman waxes and wanes with the moon. When the moon is full, the woman’s desires are particularly ardent. In paintings of suklabhisarika, she is shown going forth in search of her lover. The full moon in the sky fills the atmosphere with its silvery beams, and its pale cool light is painted with remarkable skill. The Drapery of the woman and her delicate feature are suffused with the mellow light.

Guru Gobind Singh, in his Dasama Grantha, describe Radha, the suklabhisarika, thus: “Radhika went out in the light of the white soft moon, wearing a white robe to meet her Lord. It was white everywhere and hidden in it, she appeared like the Light itself in search of Him.

Writer Name: M.S. Randhawa

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