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As the painting represents, Lord Shiva along with Parvati, his consort, and Nandi, his mount, has been camping under a large tree which has crept over it an elaborately flowering Malini creeper considered highly auspicious. Shiva did not have any garments on his person. It was a snake he wrapped around his groins that covered his nudity, and a fire close-by, that warmed his figure against cold. He seems to have been sitting with Parvati on a lion-skin, an accomplished sheet even the animal’s tail preserved. Close-by lay his gourd-jug. Parvati is fully clad in a golden lehenga – flared skirt, and an ‘odhini’ consisting of a patched sheet with golden border. Not indifferent to what has happened the abashed Nandi seems to be avoiding looking at its embarrassed Master making effort for concealing his nudity. The animal’s food-tray lay untouched as if Nandi was not interested even to look at it.
It seems, hearing that Lord Shiva along with Parvati was camping around there Vishnu came to pay homage to them but he no sooner alighted his mount, the great bird Garuda, than the serpent, afraid of Garuda, a clan of eagle, the dreaded enemy of serpents, deserted Shiva and leaving his private part exposed fled for life and slipped into an anthill erupted around there. Embarrassed Shiva unable to face his guests, and even his consort, turned his face away. With its hand laid over its heart the dismayed, repentant and apologetic Garuda seems to be assuring that it did not intend any such mischief, and its master lord Vishnu, being the cause of Shiva’s embarrassment stands without a word. The coy Parvati overcoming the awkward situation tears a stripe from her ‘odhini’ and gives it to Shiva who tries the cover with it his privacy.
The entire drama has been enacted over a green meadow with numerous flowering shrubs scattered around under a large tree consisting of a deep brown trunk and dense green leaves. It has mounted on it a Malini creeper bursting with colourful flowers with which the tree seems to bloom. There is on his left an anthill, an essential feature of the drama, and a fire in his front. As indicates the wide-stretched lion-skin, Shiva and Parvati were seated on it but seeing Vishnu come stand up to receive him; however, it was not his arrival that caused the climax. It was his mount Garuda, the bird that devoured snakes the moment it saw any, seeing which the terrified serpent fled and the real drama was enacted. The blue-bodied Vishnu holding his usual attributes : disc, mace, lotus and conch, and wearing his crown and ‘pitambara’, and so his green-bodied mount Garuda, stand remorseful. Dismayed Shiva and abashed Parvati look away from them. Tenderly conceived figures, delicate background rendered with soft colours and a lot of breathing space relieving the figures are greatly instrumental in leading the drama to its climax.
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.