As suggest the multiple repeats of a line-drawn form covering the entire canvas : a form of the village-deity still in live worship in the entire rural India, especially for attributing special rituals, like those on the occasions of a marriage, child-birth or a festival, temple-towers’ like course of cypresses on all four sides along the border and the chain of lions contained in the border circumambulating the cow and paying her homage, all are suggestive of the cow’s unearthly status. Obviously, the portrayed cow is not just a dairy breed, but a heavenly being with thousands of gods standing around in attendance. The animal is the gods’ all-accomplishing cow. Kamadhenu, a name consisting of two terms, ‘kama’, meaning ‘worldly desire’, and ‘dhenu’, a ‘cow’, that is, a cow that fulfills worldly desires, or the giver of plenty. Kamadhenu is also known by her other name Surabhi. All cows on the earth are believed to incarnate Kamadhenu and are hence held in the same reverence as Kamadhenu. They are also seen as housing in their bodies the same number of gods as does Kamadhenu.
The artist has used a plain sheet of paper as his canvas for rendering the image of the celestial cow. Firstly, he drew the outline of his main theme : the cow, its calf and the feeding pot, and then coloured the entire surface of the sheet in bright copper tint except the spaces that the figures of cow and calf and the pot occupied, and those that defined the border on all four sides. After the canvas has been so readied, he began drawing with a pen with black ink first the border, drawing on its inside, a double line using a bamboo or wood-piece for straightening it and then drew the series of lions discovering every figure using broadly the straight lines, loop-designs and decorative basket type form for defining the hind part. As in routine in the Madhubani tradition the faces of the figures with wide open round eyes are unusually lively.
The space inside the border has been triply drawn. The border-line has been drawn with a chain of tree-motifs and the rest of the background with a deity form, the traditional folk perception of deity in a flaring costume, both arms raised upwards and a narrow triangle comprising the face. The white of the background has been retained for drawing the figure of the cow and its calf. As Kamadhenu is perceived as the cow with milk-like white colour, revealing divine purity the artist has used the paper’s original colour for discovering the forms of cow, its calf feeding on its thuds, and the pot containing fodder and eatables. The same style of using tiny dots and dots’ like fine and narrow lines, except a few thickly inked zones, has been used in drawing the three forms : the cow, calf and pot.
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.