Laila’s messenger approaching Majnu
The tale of two lovers titled Laila - Majnu, was penned by poet Nizami in his immortal piece of literature Khamza I Nizami. Nizami was a 12th-century Persian poet. The story of Laila and Majnu was very popularly depicted in the art of Indian miniature painting, especially by Mughal, Deccani, and Rajasthani artists.
According to the story, Laila was the epitome of beauty and was the daughter of the Chief of Basra and Qais (later Majnu) was the crowned prince of Yemen. As destined both meet at a fair and instantly fall in love with each other. Their tryst did not last for long as one of the neighboring kings called Ibn, who also was infatuated with Laila, informed her father about this relationship. Laila’s father did not approve of their relationship and arranged to send Laila to exile. Qais who was deeply in the love with Laila kept wandering in search of her day and night and soon out of mockery people started calling him Majnu – a crazy one. Looking at Majnu’s condition his father intervenes and as a result, a fatal battle takes place between him and Laila’s father resulting in their death. Taking advantage of the situation Ibn captures Laila and marries her forcefully. Laila could not accept this relationship and Ibn died with a broken heart. Majnu, still a mad wanderer, had lost his love, and consequently, his interest in life. He left Yemen and retired to the forest intending to end his life. He was fed and taken care of by wild beasts. Learning about the condition of Majnu, Laila approaches him to peruse him to get back to normal life through her messenger and eventually goes to meet him herself. The present painting depicts the same scene where Laila can be seen seated under a tree waiting for Majnu and the messenger of Laila approaching Majnu to deliver her massage. Majnu who has given up all the worldly pleasure and also life essential things like food and water is looking very frail. His eyes have almost descended deep into their sockets and skin hardly binds the bones. The painting presents a typical Bundi landscape with a lotus pond and lush green vegetation.
Karl and Meherbai Khandalavala Collection.
Indian Miniature Paintings
Opaque water colour on paper
24.8 x 32.2 cm