It is the swan that enabled the handsome Indian King, Nal, to unite with the love of his life, Damayanti. He was out hunting on the palace grounds and had chanced upon a swan. The swan begged the King to let it go, and gave him its word that it would fly straightaway to the loveliest of ladies and persuade her to become his. A fascinated Nal let the swan go, which - true to its word - flew across his kingdom to Damayanti. This painting depicts the beautiful Damayanti in commune with the fateful swan that suffused her dreaming and waking thoughts with Nal, flying back and forth between them till he married her and made her his queen.
The painting, inspired by Raja Ravi Verma's unconventional portrayal of women and nature, captures the most important moment of a woman's life - when she learns of and falls in love with the man destined to be hers. The mystical swan had swum across her pond, the lotuspads caught in its feet having been strung up the pillar as it settled atop the same. Damayanti had climbed down the steps leading to the pond in order to greet the irresitibly charming creature. She pauses right before the swan and gazes at it with the greatest wonder, her stance pensive yet carefree in terms of worldly concerns. The swan is about to close its pristine feathers around its slight body. Note how the twin pillars add balance and wholeness to the entire composition.
Damayanti's otherworldly beauty is not lost on those who gaze upon her. Her attire is distinguished, almost regal. A flowing red saree draped in Southern style around her lissome body, the gold booties sparkling in the outdoor light. The intricately brocaded border of the kapdaa complements the brocade on her matching blouse, a similar tint of pink as the rose in her bun. Her jet black tresses have been parted in the middle, as has traditionally been the norm, and gathered in a plump bun resting on the nape of her softly shadowed neck. Her dainty jhumke (Indian-style danglers) have the same golden resplendence as the rest of her jewels - the pearls around her neck, chunky bangles and anklets, and the meenakari rings around her fingers and even her toes. Do not miss the exquisite emeralds on each of her ornaments, setting off the hint of green that graces the brocade. She is wearing a bunch of green glass bangles, which are considered auspicious in this part of the world.
As fashionably as the lovely Damayanti is dressed, there is no denying the pensiveness in her stance. Clearly, she is enraptured by the swan's persuasive outpourings and her womanly imagination has been sparked. Her lusciously lined eyes seem to be looking beyond the swan, into the depths of the lotuspond, probably conjuring up an image of the man to whom she is destined to belong. Her shoulders have drooped ever so delicately as her mind plunges deeper into thoughts of Nal. The groves surrounding her home roll into the distance in the background, adding to the depth of the composition.