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Dhola-Maru folklore is relatively simple. As the popular tradition has it, when yet a child, as per the custom prevalent in Rajasthan Dhola was married to Maru who was also in her childhood days. In such marriages the bride used to stay at her parents’ house, or came to the bridegroom’s house for a day or so and went back. She came finally to her in-laws’ house only after she as attained the age of majority. Accordingly, despite her marriage with Dhola, Maru remained at her parent’s house. She reached the age of majority and even beyond but Dhola did not come to take her home. Like this year after year passed but Dhola did not turn up. As the destiny would have it, Dhola had completely forgotten his childhood marriage and the bride by it. Hence when he attained youth, he married Malwani, a princess of Malwa. When Maru heard of the Dhola’s marriage, she broke down with grief. In desperation she asked the birds, perching on trees in the courtyard of her palace, to carry her message of grief and love to Dhola. Seeing her grief, her parents, too, asked their bards to visit Dhola and remind him by their heart-rending songs of the pangs of separation that tormented the heart of Maru, his childhood bride.
The birds, reaching the trees in the courtyard of Dhola’s palace, and bards, reaching his court, sang of Maru’s pain and desperation which moved Dhola to tears. He remembered his childhood marriage and his sweet bride by this marriage. With a painful heart he decided to go to the palace of Maru and bring her home. Before Malwani, his other wife knew it, he chose the fastest of his camels and drove it to Maru’s house. He stayed there for a few days as her parents’ guest and then proceeded with Maru to his kingdom in Marwar. The painting portrays their homewards journey.
The Dhola-Maru legend is sometimes used also for personifying Ragini Maru, a melody of sensuality and passion of love. Ragini Maru has been perceived in texts as a gold complexioned elaborately bejeweled passionate maiden who awaits her lover in the evening in her palace and kisses him as soon as he comes. Except that Maru’s figure glistens with gold’s glow there is nothing in the painting linking it with Ragini Maru. Besides the pyramidal pistachio green patch against which the principal figures have been painted there is a row of stylized beautifully conceived distant trees and zigzag and semi-circular courses of blue defining clouds. The adornment of the camel, gold ornaments on knees and neck, and the multi-coloured hangings reveal the mount’s majestic links.
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.