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About on The Divine World

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 3:37 AM
Illustration from a Ramayana Series: Rama Visits Bharadvaja’s Hermitage

13.  Illustration from a Ramayana Series: Rama Visits Bharadvaja’s Hermitage

An inscription on the back in Hindi states that after destroying Ravana, Rama stopped at the hermitage of Bharadvaja, where, with his entire army, he accepted the sage's hospitality (see Appendix).

The picture shows Rama and his entourage being received by the sage and his assistant. Behind Rama stand his wife, Sita, and his brother Lakshmana. They stand as if on a pedestal on elevated ground painted in bright red. Behind them and at a lower level are two animal-headed figures. The one with the simian head is Hanuman, and the one with the bear's head Angada. Beyond stands the chariot that brought them to the hermitage, which is represented by a small pavilion behind the two sages. In the foreground is a rectangular strip of water representing a river. A waterbird and a cow stand in the water and watch the welcoming ceremony.

It is remarkable how a simple meeting has been visually narrated with lively drama through a spartan, unpretentious composition that uses few so-called pictorial devices. The postures and gestures are ritualistically stylized, and spatial perspective was eliminated altogether to convey a sense of timelessness.

14.  Rama s Court

Rama s Court
An inscription in Hindi in the Devanagari script on the back (see Appendix) gives a precise description of the picture. It informs us that after killing Ravana, Rama has returned home to rule. He is attended by his brothers, Bharata, Satrughna, and Lakshmana, and accompanied by Hanuman, Angada, and Sugriva. The numeral 7 indicates that this is picture number seven of a series, which may well be that of the ten avatars. Rama is the seventh among the ten conventional avatars of Vishnu.

In this formal composition Rama and Sita receive homage from Hanuman, who stands with his club under his right arm, Angada with the bear face, and Sugriva, another simian. Rama holds his principal attributes, the bow and the arrow. The three brothers stand behind, and one uses the flywhisk. Characteristically, Rama has a dark complexion, whereas his three siblings are fair.

At least two pictures and a mural with the same subject and similar compositions have been attributed by Archer (1973, 2: 60, figs. 30-31, 2; 61, fig. 33) to Chamba. The two pictures are dated by him to about 1765— 70, while the mural is from about 1840. In all three Rama and Sita are seated similarly on a low seat and are supported by bolsters. Sita sits in an identical position in the two eighteenth-century pictures and the Green painting. Hanuman appears in two of the pictures illustrated by Archer and in the, Green picture. The Green picture, however, has more figures and is a larger and more elegant composition than the others. In any event, clearly the theme was especially popular with patrons in Chamba, where Rama was a state deity.

15.  Hermitage of Valmiki

Hermitage of Valmiki
A long Sanskrit text passage in Devanagari characters on the back describes the idyllic nature of the hermitage (asrama) of Valmiki, the author of the epic Ramayana. The verses (numbered nine to fifteen) do not appear to be from the Ramayana, however. They tell us how in the hermitage the lions and the tigers coexist with the cows, the cat with the mouse, and the snake with the peacock as well as how the deer roam about without fear and how the place is inhabited by Valmiki and other ascetics, their auspicious spouses, and sons. The number of the folio given both on the front and back is 19. Such a low number for a scene that occurs in the last book of the Ramayana also indicates that this series may have belonged to another text. This possibility is strengthened by the fact that in the painting the hermitage is placed in a hilly region, bin in the Ramayana it is situated in the plains.

In the picture both Valmiki and Sita are identified by labels over their heads. Three different incidents are included in the composition, following the traditional Indian preference for continuous narration. On the left a group led by the bearded Valmiki approaches the hermitage. The group includes three companions of the sage, all of whom carry wood. Sita brings up the rear.

Her bulging waistline clearly indicates that she is pregnant. In center stage is the same group, and now Sita, prostrating herself, pays her respects to the wives of the sages. Then, within an oval, reed hut on the lower right, a seated Sita is given a plate of food. Presumably she was isolated because of her condition and did not eat with the others. Within a protective wooden fence, in addition to small oval huts for individual families, the artist has included the kitchen, which is a large rectangular structure, and a cow shed with two calves inside. Predatory cats, deer, hare, cows, and peacocks rest or roam about in peaceful coexistence, as described in the text.

The picture is a typical example of the Kangra idiom of the early nineteenth century. It may have been painted by an artist belonging to the family of Godhu (fl. c. 1775), who had moved to Kangra from Chamba and became attached to the court of Raja Samsar Chand (r. 1775-1823). According to V. C. Ohri (personal communication), it belongs to a series known as the Nadaun Ramayana, as it emerged from the Nadaun principality, one leaf of which is in the Himachal State Museum, Shimla.

16.  Illustration from a Ramayana Series (?): Battle Scene

Illustration from a Ramayana Series (?): Battle Scene
This dramatic picture is in a style that appears to have been restricted to the town of Paithan in Maharashtra. Large numbers of paintings of themes from both the Mahabharata and the Ramayana have survived. Although the exact identification of this example is not known, it is very likely an illustration from the Ramayana. One cannot even be certain that the archer standing on the ground with his right foot firmly placed on a boulder and accompanied by two companions is shooting at the figure riding a horse above. Is the horseman on higher ground, or is he flying through the sky? If he is the target, then he isn't doing too badly, for it appears the arrows have missed him. Neither is it clear what is attached to these arrows. Could the horseman represent Meghanada, who fought with Lakshmana from behind the clouds?

Whatever the exact subject of the picture, it is a characteristic example of the so-called Paithan style. Although stylized, the figures have a heroic stature and are striking for their strong animation and boldly imaginative forms. Indeed, they are strongly reminiscent of the puppets that are still used by traditional storytellers in parts of Maharashtra and neighboring Karnataka. In some ways the forms are also strangely reminiscent of figures in Mayan art of the New World.

17.  Illustration from a Mahabharata Series: The Pandavas in Drupad's Court

Illustration from a Mahabharata Series: The Pandavas in Drupad's Court
The principal figures in the painting are identified by their names added above their heads in Devanagari script. The composition is clearly divided into four segments by architectural devices, as one encounters in the sectional view of a dollhouse. At least four if not five events are depicted, but their sequence is not clear. All the incidents are front the Book of Virata (or the Virataparva) of the Mahabharata, probably just before the Pandavas, who have been living incognito at the court of King Drupad of Virata, reveal themselves and take leave at the end of their term of exile.

In the upper left composition we see Drupad conversing with the five brothers Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva once inside the palace and again on a terrace. In the room below, the brothers are being fed. At the upper right Kunti, their mother, and Draupadi, their common wife and the daughter of Drupad, are first being led to their meal and are then being served. In the fourth segment six pairs of horses and three visible chariots are waiting to take the group back to their kingdom.

Another painting from the same series depicting Abhimanyu in the battlefield is in the collection of the Himachal State Museum, Shimla (V. C. Ohri, personal communication). Stylistically both pictures are close to Bhagavatapurana and Ramayana paintings rendered in a Kangra workshop of the last quarter of the eighteenth century (cf Goswamy & Fischer, pp. 340, no. 143: Randhawa 1660). Following Goswamy and Fischer, one might ascribe this painting to "a Master of the First Generation after Nainsukh." In other words, the Kangra workshop was probably headed by a member of this Pahari master's family.

18.  The Goddess Durga Slays a Titan

The Goddess Durga Slays a Titan
Individual pictures representing the cosmic goddess Durga slaying titans were popular with patrons in the states of Bundi and Kota during the eighteenth century. Usually in such pictures an elaborate setting is eschewed in favor of a direct and dramatic combat between the goddess and one or more titans. In this simple composition, for instance, only two curved segments at the two upper corners indicate a horizon and a sky. The figures are represented against a monochromatic background, which accentuates the forms and enhances the sense of movement.

The exact identification of the goddess's protagonist is not possible. He conforms to a type and is not distinguished by individualizing iconographic features. The goddess is eight-armed and rides a tiger rather than the more common lion. Instead of a saddle a soft cushion of lotus flowers serves as her seat. She does not appear to be very bellicose but sits on her haunches like a demure lady. What is interesting is that she has acquired a new weapon in the form of a dagger known as a katar and popular in Mughal India (second hand from the top on her proper left). The blue-black figure at the left margin brandishing a. dagger is very likely one of the goddess's companions, perhaps even the terrifying Kali. However, the sex of the figure is not clear, and it may be a male rather than a female. Behind Durga stands a young ascetic holding a trident in his right hand and what appears to be a flask and a cup in the left. Interestingly, both standing figures are wearing wooden slippers. The most impressive creature in the group is the tiger, which attacks the titan with customary ferocity, in strong contrast to Durga's serenity.

19.  Siva and Parvati

Siva and Parvati
Siva and Parvati sit in a relaxed mood on his leopard-skin shawl spread on the ground. He reclines against his bull, using it as a bolster, and strikes a posture that is very familiar in India. In fact, but for his third eye and the snake around his neck, Siva could be a prosperous human or a religious personage enjoying an afternoon off. Like a dutiful wife or a favorite female disciple, Parvati supports his right foot. A flowering tree bends over Parvati to form a charming canopy, while Siva's glistening white complexion is strongly contrasted against the dark and dense mass of foliage behind him. Although the theme was very popular among Pahari artists, few representations are as elegant and enchanting as this composition.

The closest parallel for Siva's head can be seen in Basohli-style paintings of about 1725 (cf. Khandalavala 1958, study supplement, no. 31), while Parvati's figure is remarkably like a Gujari Ragini attributed by Archer (i973, 2: 254, 110. 32) to Kulu and about 1765-70. The use of the beetle thorax casing for Siva's earring would also indicate a Basohli origin. Most scholars who have seen the picture are divided between a Guler or a Chamba provenance. Although it is difficult to be precise about the origin of the Green picture, it can be dated to around 1750 with greater certainty. The manner in which the trees are painted, the soft coloring, and the mode of rendering the sky are not encountered in Basohli paintings prior to 1730 and, in fact, anticipate the more painterly treatment of nature seen in Pahari pictures from about 1750.

There can be little doubt that the unknown artist was highily accomplished. He was an excellent draftsman, and his sense of coloring and skill in composition are admirable. The picture displays his sure vivacity in handling forms and an unfailing sense of style. If the picture was rendered in Guler or Chamba, the artist may have belonged to the school, if not family, of Pandit Seu of Guler, a family that is regarded as ushering in a new direction in Pahari painting and may have been influenced by the Basohli mode.

20.  Holy Family on the March

Holy Family on the March This picture depicts Siva and his family coming down the mountains. The group is led by Siva's simian attendant, Nandisvara, who carries a bundle on his head and a drum (a mridangam) hanging from his right shoulder. Siva, distinguished by his leopard skin shawl, the trident, and the snake, waits gallantly to help Parvati negotiate the difficult terrain. She has the multi headed Karttikeya held against her left shoulder. Above them Ganesa looks very comfortable on Siva's bull. Karttikeya's peacock too hitches a ride, while Ganesa's rat ambles along in front of the bull. The rear is brought up by the goddess's saddled tiger.

An almost identical composition of roughly the same date is in the Bharat Kala Bhavan, Varanasi (Kramrisch 1981, pp. 206-7, no. P-4o). In her catalogue (p. 205) Kramrisch has noted that "to this day, the people of the Himalayas believe that every twelve years Siva and Parvati descend from their residence on Mount Kailasa and come down to earth. Taking their children and some of their possessions with them they go from place to place to check on all of creation, for which Siva is responsible." It may be remarked further that the mountain-dwelling shepherds known as gaddis or gujars lead a seminomadic existence and move down from the mountains every year. And, although Siva's original habitat is Mount Kailasa, he is also known to lead a nomadic life. Therefore, it is not difficult to understand why the subject would be popular with the artists in the Hill States.

Because of their strong similarities, it is very likely that the two pictures are based on the same drawing or pounce. Pounces were made for popular compositions and kept in a family of artists to be used when necessary. If indeed the Green and the Varanasi pictures are based on the same pounce, then the two renderings may be by two different artists, but of the same family. The shapes of the. rocks as well as the trees are more schematized in the Varanasi picture. In the Green version Nandisvara holds his stick jauntily over his left shoulder, and great sensitivity is expressed in the manner in which Siva holds Parvati's hand. The bull is drawn more realistically than in the other version, and the saddle cloth is a patchwork quilt rather than a carpet. In both, however, the rat has the proportions and shape of a dog. For other versions of the theme, see Panthey  and Khandalavala.

Writer Name: Pratapaditya Pal

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