There are episodes in Devi Bhagavata and other Devi legends wherein Parvati wished that Lord Shiva danced for her. Shiva declined and engaged in meditation. It was not acceptable to Parvati. She picked her 'vina' and began playing on it, and the music it produced was so bewitching that the entire cosmos began dancing to its tunes. The earth glowed with rarer brilliance, lakes gave forth lotuses, birds left feeding and began dancing, trees burst with flowers, fire in 'agni-kunda', or the ritual hearth, turned into lotus leaves, Shiva's snakes abandoned him to dance and Shiva's own form turned to dance modes. He was able to retain his 'padmishana' posture but the rest of his form betrayed to the magic spell of Parvati's 'vina'. His 'damaru', the double drum, was heard accompanying Parvati's 'vina' and his knotted hair unfurled and waved like a flag rising towards heavens.
The artist has translated the legend into lines and colours with exceptional genius. He, as a matter of fact, created his own legend wherein he has visualised the strength of music surpassing the strength of meditation, particularly in case of Shiva who has been conceived as accomplishing everything by dance, the love, union and creation by 'lasya' and destruction and dissolution by 'tandava'. For a more accomplished symbolism, he has hence blended in Shiva's form both, the 'lasya' and 'tandava'. He has painted his hair unfurling like flames of fire, as they do in 'tandava', but at the same time, and very unlike of Shiva's iconography, he has clad him in crimson red, the colour of love, union and creation, the representative colour of 'lasya'. Though in sheer 'padmashana' posture, the form of Shiva represents the 'absolute dance', which combines in it all dance forms, rhythm, moods and modes. Parvati, fully clad and covered in her clothes, charms him only by her music and not by her beauty, which the artist could easily render but did not, simply because he aimed at creating the cosmology of music, its creative strength and all-surpassing appeal.
Artistically the miniature is one of the finest examples reviving the medieval Pahari art style practised at Chamba. Despite diffusing and finely shading his colours the artist did not lose the form and identity even of a small leaf. Colours are contrasted within themselves by their varying tones and shades. He has covered the entire canvas but not to look crowded but only to better manage and balance it. The round faced Shiva and Parvati depict the true Pahari art style.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.