Yearning of Damayanti
22.3229 F 20
Folio 20 from the illustrated manuscript of Nala Daman.
The story of Nala Daman originally appears in the Mahabharata and is followed by many different versions in various languages. It is quite frequently illustrated in Mughal, Rajasthani, Deccani, and Pahari paintings. The present version of this popular romance was composed by Suradas in Awadhi dialect and transcribed in Persian characters by Babullah for Miya Dilair Khan in ah 1110.The colophon reads – “transcribed on the 4th day of the month of Shawwal, Sunday 1110 [March 26, 1699] corresponding to the 43rd regnal year of Emperor Aurangzeb by the order of the Sahibzada of lofty position Miya Dilair Khan by Babullah, son of Sayyad Muhammad Zahid of Hasani-al-Hussainial- Najali.”
The scene is placed against a dark brown background indicating night. Damayanti, the heroine of the story, is shown in the company of three attendants. Deeply lost in her own world of love and desire, she is looking at a portrait of her beloved Nala. Poet Suradas describes how Damayanti herself made the portrait, which was surprisingly identical to Nala, and used to gaze at it throughout the night after her maids went to sleep. She says:
Even if sleep comes to me
where will I allow her to stay?
as my eyes who are the temple
of sleep, now filled up with
my beloved and no one else.
As described in the story, in spite of her companions’ repeated enquiries about the cause of Damayanti’s sadness, she never opened her heart to them. But one night they caught her looking at the portrait of Nala and thus her secret was revealed.
Sir Ratan Tata Art Collection.
Indian Miniature Paintings
Ink, opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Dated AH 1110 = 1699 CE
Folio 24.3 x 15.4 cms.