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This excellent miniature, contained in a rectangular sleek and sophisticated bordered frame, another aspect of a long nurtured art tradition, depicts a Himalayan setting. The surging lake at the foot of the lush green hills, which gently roll down to it, suggests that the scene is laid around the Mansarovar Lake, which, as the mythological tradition has it, was Lord Shiva's sojourn during winters when the peaks of his permanent abode Mount Kailash were fully covered with snow and were rendered barren. Whatever the season, the Mansarovar is said to always have strewn all over its bosom lotuses like a perennial flower. The presence of lotuses of all stages, budding and blooming and lotus-leaves and seeds containing yellow bulbs further affirms lake's identity as Mansarovar. Here, close to its bank, under a dense Saptaparni tree, there is Lord Shiva seated with his consort Parvati on his usual tiger skin.
The real drama begins with the arrival of multitudes of divine singers and instrumentalists led by two celestial female dancers, one clad in violet and deep yellow and the other in orange and lemon yellow. Endowed with timeless youth, unfading beauty and heavenly glow these celestial dancers are essentially the mythological creatures, the apsaras of the Indraloka. So are their male counterparts. As suggest their divine look, bearing, costumes, crowns and jewels, youthful vigour, glowing faces and aesthetic charm, the surging crowd of singers and instrumentalists consists of the denizens of heavens. They are gods and celestial beings of other divine species. They are playing on mradangas, the long double drums, various kinds of lyres, vinas and sitars, and cymbals. The two apsaras, fully enthused as they are, are dancing with symmetrical moves and rhythmic pace. The artist did not forget to paint gungharus, the strings of small bells, around the feet of these dancers and to enliven and vibrate the atmosphere with the music, which these bells produced. A third apsara, dressed in orange and gold, is in the process of coming out of the crowd to participate in the dance. She is trying to put her dress in order and the two of her male companions are assisting her in donning it.
Parvati is wearing a ghagra, or a long and widely frilled skirt consisting entirely of golden thread. It has been neatly embroidered with floral motifs consisting of red flowers and green leaves. Her orange odhani is plain but has a rich gold border. With her long eyes receding back to her ears, golden complexion, long black hair, sharp features, round face and well defined neck Parvati represents the highest ideal of beauty. Tilting to his right the artist has painted the three-fourth of Shiva's face and his fully exposed third eye. His round face, well proportioned physique and glowing eyes brim with youth and vigour. His ash smeared brown hair lay scattered over his neck and shoulders where his pink sash provides them pleasant contrast. He has a snake wriggling around his neck and a lace of rudraksha beads suspending upon his breast. In Shiva's iconography the serpent is always an active participant in his master's feats, but here it seems to be quite indifferent. May be, it knows what its master, the Bholenath, the simple Lord, does not. The serpent knows that the dance and music and gods' entire exercise is motivated by their self-interest and it is hence indifferent to it. The Bholenath does not realise it and hence in agreeable mood begins his participation by beating his damaru.
The landscape has been treated with great artistic skill. The life like vigour defines everything and every one of human beings and animals. The music vibrates not only the atmosphere but also the waters of the lake and the branches of the trees. Deer, antelopes and black buck are dismayed but they nonetheless fearlessly enjoy the occasion. The serpent like creeper holds its beloved tree in animated grasp and the simple leaves of the Saptaparni brighten like gold. The tough hills impart a feeling of soft silken touch and the human faces of winding crowd multiply the colours of the landscape.
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.