About the Book:
This important book on the Kangra Paintings on Love brings together for the first time a significant series of paintings on the theme of love-the Nayaka-Nayikas and the Baramasa as portrayed on traditional lines by the Hindi poets, like Keshav Das, Bihari Lal and others. This provides also for the first time a free English translation of Keshav Das's Rasikapriya which inspired the artists of this series.
These paintings, expressed in lyrical lines and charming colours, are remarkable for their romantic beauty, restraint and tenderness. The landscape, the countryside, the rivers, the trees and flowers, the birds and cattle-all delineated with poetic sympathy-enhance their compositional quality.
These paintings were deeply influenced by the warm sensuousness of the Vaishnava movement which preached the religion of love and devotion. The love which the Hindi poets have extolled is not parental love, but the love between wife and husband-as passionate yet selfless a love as that of Radha for Krishna. The love of Radha for Krishna is the ideal love and this feeling has inspired the common people in their conjugal relationship. It is for this reason that whenever lovers are shown in the Nayaka-Naayika and Baramasa pictures, they are depicted as Radha and Krishna with a deep symbolism of the soul's yearning for union with the Eternal and Absolute.
Dr Randhawa has given a lucid exposition of this delicate theme, which is sure to stimulate further writing on the subject by other scholars. His style is simple and elegant.
About the Author:
Dr M. S. Randhawa, the author of this beautiful book on the Kangra Paintings on Love, hardly needs an introduction to the scholarly world. He has to his credit more than thirty books in English, Hindi and Punjabi on such diverse subjects as social and scientific problems, art and culture. He combines in himself the critical acumen of a scientist (which he is by academic training) with sensitive aesthetic feelings. It is both rare and laudable that in the midst of his multifarious duties in his official career as a member of the Indian Civil Service he could find time to pursue his studies on art, literature and aesthetics. His books on these subjects-to mention a few--The Kangra Valley Paintings, The Krishna Legend, The Basohli Paintings, The Kangra Paintings of the Bhagavata Purana, and the present volume-reveal his deep love and knowledge of Indian miniatures and the related literature. He explains the significance of the paintings with scholarly detachment and artistic sensitiveness.
It is not surprising that the finest expression of art centre round the basic facts of life, for what is more familiar and yet mysterious than birth, life and death? From immemorial times, man has sought to understand their meaning, and when logical terms fail to explain them, has resorted to their embodiment in music and dance, poetry and painting, sculpture and architecture.
A special characteristic of Indian art has been the fusion of the material and the spiritual in all artistic endeavour. Contrary to popular belief, the ascetic ideal has molded only certain marginal groups in India. The vast majority has sought a life in which the secular and the religious have influenced one another, and made spiritual realisation concrete, and mundane experiences religious. In the words of the Vaishnava poet, the beloved has become divine, and Divinity and mundane experiences religious. In the words of the Vaishnava poet, the beloveds has become divine, and Divinity has become the beloved.
The Kangra paintings on love, represented in this volume, are true to this basic tradition of India. They deal with love in all its fulness and yet there is always in the background a sense of unrevealed spiritual truths. The portraits are of full-blooded men and women who delight in passionate love, but there is always a glimpse of the unearthly, even in the midst of their physical ecstasy.
The Kangra paintings grew out of the courtly art of the Mughals, but underwent a radical change in the lovely valleys under the shadow of the Himalayas. In a setting, where life was unsophisticated, and men and women lived much closer to nature, the highly sophisticated art of the royal courts gained a new softness, delicacy, and human feeling.
The Kangra Paintings on Love is the second of five monographs, in which Dr M. S. Randhawa proposes to cover the best paintings of the Kangra school, including many which are preserved in the National Museum itself.
The first monograph, on the Bhagavata Purana, has already won many admirers, and the second will add to the delight and joy of many more readers in India and abroad. Dr Randhawa has earned our gratitude for the love and care with which he is editing and publishing this series on behalf of the National Museum, New Delhi.
IN July 1958, I suggested to Mr Humayun Kabir, Union Minister for Scientific Research and Cultural Affairs, that the
National Museum should bring out a series of monographs on Indian painting, in which the master works of Indian
painters may be published for the education, enlightenment and pleasure of art lovers. It was also felt that a publication
programme of this nature would provide an opportunity for publishing the best paintings in the collection of the National
Museum. I proposed that the study of the Kangra paintings under this series be entrusted to me. This suggestion was
accepted by Mr Kabir, and accordingly a programme of publication was drawn up in consultation with Dr K. N. Puri,
Assistant Director, National Museum, and Mr C. Sivaramamurti, Keeper, National Museum. I agreed to deal with
Kangra painting in five monographs so as to cover the best paintings of the Kangra School. The first monograph,
Kangra Paintings of the Bhagavata Purana has just been published, and the present monograph on the Sringara
paintings is the second in the series.
THE term 'Kangra Paintings' which has been adopted as the title of this book has been used in the broader sense. It
refers not only to the art of painting which developed in the Kangra Valley at Guler, and Nurpur and Tira-Sujanpur,
and Alampur and Nadaun - the places connected with Maharaja Sansar Chand - but also includes paintings done
in similar style in Garhwal, Chamba, Jammu, Mandi, Suket, Bilaspur, Baghal and other Hill States in the Western
Himalayas. No doubt the paintings from all these States have certain individual characteristics, but they have the same
spirit, which gives a particular character and flavour to Kangra art and distinguishes it from its Mughal predecessor.
Moreover, if the choice of paintings had been confined to the paintings from the States of Kangra and Guier only, which
constitute the Kangra style strictu sensu, it would not have been possible to illustrate the various situations described
in the Rasikapriya.
IN this book, I have given major findings of recent research on Kangra paintings, which are generally accepted by
scholars who are interested in this subject. No doubt, there are differences of opinion on details, but these, I felt, are
so insignificant that they are best left alone. Otherwise, the book would have acquired a controversial air, which is best
avoided in a work of art, particularly in this one, which deals with the theme of love.
THIS book mainly deals with the Rasikapriya of Keshav Das, though there is a reference to the works of some other
Hindi poets and rhetoricians also. It is for the first time that a free translation of the text of the Rasikapriya has been
provided. What impresses one is the manner and thoroughness with which the Hindi poets have analysed the feelings
of woman towards man in particular situations and circumstances. What intimate knowledge of the passions of the
body and soul is revealed in this analysis? It still holds good even in the modern world with changed environment,
and most women, even of the present age, fall in one category or the other of the Nayikasdescribed by Keshav Das.
Mixed with an intellectual urge for analysis and codification was a preference for enumeration. This was perhaps very
necessary in an age when printing presses were not known, and reliance was largely on memory for recital of poetry.
The Rasikapriyawas written for the enjoyment of princes and the aristocracy in the late 16th century. As the writers
were men; naturally they made woman the subject of their study and paid much less attention to their own sex. Possibly
woman is also much more interesting than man, and it is her study and inspiration, which is the source of most of the
literatures of the world.
IN the 18th century, the text of the Rasikapriyawas selected by artists for purposes of illustration for the delectation
of their royal patrons, the Rajas of the Hill States of the Punjab. For the enjoyment of a work of art, it is necessary not
only to know the name of the artist who produced it, but also what the people were like, for whom it was created, and
what their feelings, mode of thought and way of looking at the world were. This art blossomed under the inspiration
of Veishnevism which was the religion of the Hindus, and thus we find that Kangra painting is not a sudden
development, but is the culmination of a spiritual and literary revival. It was a puritanical society with a strict moral code,
particularly in regard to sex, and women were kept in seclusion by the practice of purdah. The inference drawn that
this art, the central theme of which is love, developed under such conditions as an escape cannot be regarded as far-
IN the task of translating the text from the Rasikapriya, I received great help from my friend and colleague S. D.
Bhambri, an eminent Hindi scholar. In fact the main burden of translation work was on his shoulders, and in spite of
heavy official work, he cheerfully assisted me. I had an invaluable helper in Prem Nath, who also prepared the index.
P. Banerjee and Krishan Kumar read the proofs. D. N. Paliwal was also of great help in the translation of some of the
Hindi texts. This translation will be of value not only in the study of Kangra paintings, but will also unlock the secrets
of the Rajasthani paintings, a large series of which are based on the themes from the Rasikapriya. I also express my
gratitude to Calcutta University for permission to quote from the works of Dineshchandra Sen, of which they hold
THE layout and book design have been prepared by J. Bhattacharjee, and the cover design by N. S. Bisht. Fram
Poonawala of Commercial Art Engravers (Private) Ltd. prepared excellent blocks of the paintings, and G. U. Mehta,
Managing Director and S. M. Desai of Vakil & Sons (Private) Ltd. took personal interest in its printing and production.
V. P. Agnihotri, Under Secretary of the Ministry of Scientific Research and Cultural Affairs, gave unstinted support to
this project which saved administrative delays. Above all, W. G. Archer, the most eminent scholar of Indian Painting,
has been my constant friend and guide, and grudged nothing from his marvellous store of learning and knowledge of
Kangra paintings. I have benefited greatly from his friendly criticism and the numerous suggestions, which he gave.
I also express my sincere gratitude for the hard work put in by my Personal Assistants, S. Vishwanathan, Satya Paul
and L. Rajagopalan, in typing the manuscript as a labour of love. I further express my gratitude to Mr Humayun Kabir,
Minister for Scientific Research and Cultural Affairs, Government of India, and Dr Grace Morley, Director, National
Museum, for the personal interest they have taken in this publication.
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