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Paintings > Mughal > Mumataj Mahal, Shahjahan and Nara-Pashu-Kunjara
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Mumataj Mahal, Shahjahan and Nara-Pashu-Kunjara

Mumataj Mahal, Shahjahan and Nara-Pashu-Kunjara

Mumataj Mahal, Shahjahan and Nara-Pashu-Kunjara

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Miniature Painting on Old Urdu Manuscript Paper

5.8" X 9.0"
Item Code:
MD56
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$95.00   Shipping Free - 4 to 6 days
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Mumataj Mahal, Shahjahan and Nara-Pashu-Kunjara

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Viewed 2530 times since 2nd Oct, 2008
This miniature, a strange combination of imagination and fiction on one side and realism and historicity on the other, is a queer art piece of exceptional interest. In his portrayal of Mughal empress Mumtaj Mahal and Shahjahan, the builder of Taj Mahal, the artist has sought recourse to realism and history and in composing the camel which Mumtaj Mahal rides by combining into its body multiple human and animal figures on 'kunjara' model he has been highly imaginative and fictional. This partly folk and partly classical 'kunjara' form of composition was quite common in medieval Indian art. The seeds of such form lied in India's legendary scriptures themselves. Indra's cow Surabhi and his elephant Eravata and some other celestial animals are acclaimed to have celestial forms composed of the bodies of gods, human beings and animals.

The 'kunjara' fiction in visual art seems to be an elaboration of this legendary belief. The 'kunjara' form was conceived on three lines; a 'kunjara' composed of all human male, called the 'Nara-kunjara', of all human female, called the 'Nari-kunjara' and of all animals, called the 'pashu-kunjara'. In Samskrat 'Kunjara' meant elephant, that is, initially and usually an elephant was the theme of 'kunjara' composition, but later 'kunjara' came to be an art fiction, a kind of compositional style, creating an animal form with multiple human or animal figures as its components. This miniature consists of two animals, one a horse which Mughal emperor Shahjahan rides and the other a camel which his consort Mumtaj Mahal rides. The camel has been composed of multiple human and animal forms. Thus, the 'kunjara', instead an elephant is a camel composed of a mix of both human and animal forms, a departure from the usual concept both in the principal figure and in components. This 'kunjara' form may be classified as 'Mishrita kunjara' or a composition of mixed components.

The composition makes another significant departure in context to its riding figure. The human figure which rode a 'kunjara' was itself an imaginary creation for with so apparent a fiction of 'kunjara' form a realistic rider could not collate, or rather retain its realism. This unique composition is differently designed. It presents a queer combination of fiction and realism. Instead an imaginative fictional figure a historical personality is made to ride it, that is, in this unique composition history's realism has been made to preside over imagination's fiction. It goes for a historical personality like Mumtaj Mahal, one of the two best known women of Mughal dynasty and known world wide in context to Tajmahal. Mumtaj Mahal, the inspiration of Tajmahal, was the most loved wife of Mughal emperor Shahjahan and the companion of all his struggles and trials. The artist seems to have been aware of the risk involved in mixing fiction with realism. He hence chose for presiding over his fiction such figure from history whose identity was so well known and who has come down to us generations after generations, much above and beyond history, as a legend of love.

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. the Miniature Paintings Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi.

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