This folio portrays the ‘praudha dhira-adhira nayika’ – a matured heroine who is impatient to unite in love but feigns restraint when her lover comes to her. As becomes obvious from her fully adorned person, lavish ornaments and rich costume and from a well laid bed, she has been eagerly awaiting her lover to come to her and make love, but the moment he comes and holds her hand imploring her to go to the bed, she feigns disapproval and smilingly turns her face away as in rage. Bhanudatta describes the nayika’s gesture of turning her eyes away from him as a fish, all red as dipped in molten lac, turns its back. As befits a matured one, the heroine is impatient in love but displays only her patience before her lover.
The Nayika-bhed is an ancient literary convention. The earliest known source that dealt with the theory at full length is sage Bharata’s Natya-shashtra of circa third century BC. Sage Bharata used it as a tool of characterization and behavioural study of the characters in a play. Since onwards Nayika-bhed has, as a highly popular theme, recurrence in a number of literary classics. In the course of time there emerged a large body of canonical literature dealing with Nayika-bhed and correspondingly there also emerged a great bulk of visual arts with Nayika-bhed as its theme. In the later part of the fifteenth century Bhanudatta, a poet from Tirhut in Bihar, composed his poem Rasamanjari, which gained exceptional favour of medieval painters. About a hundred years after him Keshava Das, a Hindi poet from Orchha, in Bundelkhand, now in Madhya Pradesh, wrote his Rasikapriya. These two timeless classics inspired a huge bulk of love paintings, isolated and in series, in the Nayika-bhed format.
Basohli seems to have had a long tradition of Rasamanjari illustrations, as not less than four Rasamanjari sets have been so far reported from here. The earliest among them is one by Kirpal, the father of Devidas, Basohli’s legendary painter who is credited to have painted another, more intact and full, Rasamanjari set in 1695. For long, art historians have been attributing to Devidas alone all Rasamanjari folios as part of his set. However, stylistic distinction among them is obvious. More notably, the father’s set had Krishna as the set’s hero while in that of the son it is a royal personage, a prince. Obviously by the father’s time Krishna alone was considered as the ideal around whom tales of love could be woven; by the time of the son, feudalism had begun having upper hand.
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.