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Folio from a Manuscript of the Satsai of Bihari Lal: Krishna Talks to Radha's Maidservant
This painting depicts Krishna seated in a palace courtyard talking to a handmaid of Radha, who is shown beyond them in a bedchamber. Behind Krishna is a room with a large brass pot heating over a fire. A label in the upper border identifies the scene as "Upapati! Paramour! no. 194," and the text on the reverse of the painting (see Appendix) describes the demure eye contact of the divine lovers and mentions the fire in both the hearth and Krishna's heart.

The painting is thought to illustrate a passage from the Satsai (Seven hundred I verses!), one of the four great jewels of Hindi literature. Intriguingly, however, the inscribed verse does not correspond to the one given in the standard edition of the Satsai, which varies from other known versions of the text in the number and content of the verses (Holland, PP- 4-5).

The standard Salsa; consists 01 713 poetic verses, primarily in celebration of the romance of Radha and Krishna. The remaining verses describe nayakas and nayikas and the romantic sentiments associated with the six seasons of the Indian climate (sec no. 30). It was written by Bihari Lal Chaube (1595-1664), who was born in Govindpur, near Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, into the mixed caste of Rays, which also produced several other well-known Hindi poets (Randhawa 1966, p. 15). As a child Bihari Lal moved with his family to Orchha and later to Mathura. It was in the latter city that Bihari Lal must have learnt "Braj-Bhasha," the dialect of Hindi in which the Satsai is written and which was current around Mathura, the homeland of Krishna, and was frequently used for the deity's devotional poetry and song lyrics. Bihari Lal enjoyed a profitable tenure at the court of Amber under jai Singh I (r. 1625-67), for whom the Satsai was reportedly composed in 1662 (Grierson, pp. 4-5; and Leach, p. 271). Illustrations of the Satsai were particularly popular in Pahari painting, especially in Kangra during the reign of Sansar Chand (r. 1775-1823), under whose lavish patronage this work was produced.

Stylistically, this painting is a good example of the refined almost overly so expression found in Kangra painting. The soft palette and delicate ambience are the hallmark of the realm's workshops and are particularly adept at conveying the romantic connotations of the popular theme of love.

Writer Name: - Pratapaditya Pal
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