This superbly detailed oil painting is of a simple North Indian tribeswoman, tending to her tasks of the home and hearth. To be precise, she belongs to the nomadic community of Banjaras that people the Northwestern plains of the subcontinent; it is her homespun gharchola kapdaa and the silver of her ornaments that give it away. Her saree looks coarse; but it is dyed a vibrant blue, and her thickly laced aanchal (especially the part that goes over the head), the colour of moist earth, is luxuriantly embroidered with flowers. Indeed, like most things Indian, the banjara community is a seeming contradiction - they live a nomadic hand-to-mouth lifestyle, yet the women are widely imitated for their fashion and art.
Her adornments are no less. Her shringar is unelaborate but complete. A single-chain, heavy mangtika that grazes her forehead; shapely danglers that look great next to the flawless skin of her cheek; a kadaa of silver in each of her feminine, roughed-up hands; and a plethora of toerings gracing her feet. Note the multiple glass bangles on her wrists and the small red bindi on her brow, the staple of pan-Indian bridal fashion. The profusion of white amulets is typical of Rajasthani female body-embellishments, as anybody who has ever set foot in Rajasthan will tell you how ubiquitous it is. These are fashioned from the whitest lacs (endemic resins) and worn to cover the entire upper arm.
The woman is silently putting together the evening meal. She is transferring rolled-up bits of raw flatbread from the rolling board to a wood-fired angeethee, atop which she roasts it and lays it away on a plate for consumption. The angeethee is but a clay recess carved into the ground. She facilitates the roasting with the tips of her dexterous fingers - she does not have the luxury of metal tongs to turn the bread on the tavaa. Interestingly, the angeethee the rotees are cooking on constitutes the only source of light in the room, the rest of which is nothing but unfinished walls and floors of decidedly raw texture. In stark contrast to the dark background is the serenity on her face, a composure of countenance that betrays worldly innocence.
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