Radha and Krishna on the banks of the Yamuna
Illustration to the Bilhari Satsai.
The aesthetic merits of the early Basohli miniatures of Kirpal Pal's time (1678-94) are uniformly high.It was a period of intensive creative activity and experiment, conducive to the formulation of new ideas. Hence, the creations of this period possess that fresh vigour and vitality in every glance and gesture, pulsating colour, and high-strung rhythm which so often characterize the beginning of a truly significant movement in art.
This work has been regarded by all critics who have seen it as one of the most beautiful Basohli miniatures which has hitherto come to light. Its fascination is largely due to its brilliant colour orchestration and the naive handling of the theme At the foot of a little knoll in the forest, depicted by a circle of trees, sit the two lovers amorously gazing at each other. There is a suggestion of demureness in Radha's attitude as she draws her odhani closer round her body, but the bold-eyed Krishna has no inhibitions. His ardour is candid, his approach passionate and direct. He is little disposed to indulge in the art of subtle wooing. In the quiet of the forest where only gaily plumed birds flit from one colourful mass of foliage to another, Radha surrenders to the Blue God.
Beyond the forest, on the bank of the Yamuna, a cowherd has spread his wrap and fallen asleep, fanned by the cool breeze which gently ruffles the lazy river. A white cow, whose colour balances the white frill of Radha's skirt, sleeps near the cowherd, while another with upraised head scents the air as though it has intimation of Krishna's presence in the forest.
Two main forms of male attire are to be found in Pahari paintings. The first is the dhoti, with the upper part of the body remaining bare though a dupatta is usually thrown over the shoulders and across the chest. This is the standard costume for Krishna. He wears a girdle of bells and a patka is attached to the front of the dhoti Shiny green particles of beetlewing are frequently employed to depict emeralds.
The painting is not likely to post-date the last decade of the 17th century and its colour organization and colour rhythm are unequalled in the whole range of Basohli miniature paintings.
It should be noted that in keeping with the intense, passionate, wide-eyed faces of men and women in Basohli art, even the cattle here are not the gentle, well-rounded kine, so characteristic of the Indian scene and depicted in Kangra miniatures. These have lean, narrow bodies, set on rather high legs, and their small narrow heads with somewhat wild eyes, are usually turned upwards as though in search of their beloved friend Krishna.
The formula for delineating a forest by means of a circle of trees occupying the main picture space is peculiar to and frequently employed in Basohli art. Archer' classifies this painting as belonging to the Kulu school.
Karl and Meherbai Khandalavala Collection.
Indian Miniature Paintings
Opaque watercolour on paper
21.2 x 14.8 cms.