Holi is basically a restriction-free festival of cross-sections of Indian society, celebrated beyond restrictions of genders, castes or creeds, or age and status, though the folio here does not reveal such breadth. It represents the celebration of the festival in a palatial setting restricted to the ruling prince, courtiers, palace-inmates and servants of the court, that is, essentially in a feudal frame of mind as prevailed around the late medieval era. The blue-complexioned Lord Krishna-like modeled Rajput prince riding an elephant in the centre is the principal figure in the portrayal. There are obvious two groups of courtiers seeking to colour each other with ‘gulala’ – coloured powder more often dyed in red and pink. However, here in the folio the main volleys of ‘gulala’ is are being harged from the overlapping window or balcony of the palace occupied by his consort and her ‘sakhis’ – friends. Except one who is participating in showering the coloured powder, ladies in other windows are mere spectators – the inmates of subordinate rank. Towards the bottom of the folio there is a band of musicians singing and playing on instruments, an essential accompaniment of those celebrating Holi.
The Baramasa contexts of the month of Phalguna are simple but quite elaborate. A month, which is neither too cold nor too hot, when the crops are ripe but not yet ready to reap and hence has plenty of time to enjoy and love, and when colours are scattered all around inciting all to celebrate and indulge in merriment, Phalguna would not allow lovers to separate and to let the colours of ‘gulala’ transform into fire and parch the loving ones with the heat of separation.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.