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King, Attired as Krishna, Playing Holi

King, Attired as Krishna, Playing Holi
Item Code: PN31
Phad Painting on Cotton
21.5 inch X 12.5 inch
This masterpiece rendered against a scarlet background, within a yellow-black border consisting of a neatly and uniformly drawn floral creeper using the idiom of a Phad-painting : cloth as its medium, basic colours in their deep tones, used pure and without shading – red, green, blue, yellow, black among others, flavour of ethnicity, short-statured figures with irregular iconography, large wide open mesmeric eyes, disproportionate tiny nut-like noses, rounded faces … and one of the most popular festivals of Indian masses : rich or poor, its theme, represents a Rajput prince attired as Krishna, with blue body colour and the peacock feather crest, playing Holi, the festival of colours and gaiety, with his queen. Fully enthused the well bejeweled and semi-clad child prince and the elegantly clad and ornamented baby princess, loading their pipes from a beautifully designed large golden pot filled to the brim with coloured water, are also in the fray. A great moment the festival of Holi has diluted all barriers and has brought together the rulers and the ruled.

An exceptionally colourful band consisting of flower-motifs with vertical columns flanking each surmounted by multi-coloured semi-circular dome-like forms revealing rare beauty apart, the painting has been divided into two horizontal registers, that on the bottom being the foreground or the courtyard – the principal venue of celebration, and that in the middle of the canvas, the palace-part represented as balconied pavilions : two on the right and two on the left and a highly decorative oriel window in the centre. The façade of all five architectural units with beautifully conceived and painted parts, elegantly corbelled arch-openings and alcoves revealing rare beauty, has been brilliantly manipulated. A large size gold pot fully filled with coloured water and the royal family, the prince and the child prince on its right and the queen and the baby princess on its left, define the centre of the bottom register. On their left is the band of ladies, consisting of both, the musicians and those with pipes and trays of coloured powder, and on the right, the band of males, singers, instrumentalists and those with pipes. The balcony-pavilions, comprising upper register, house royal ladies, the other queens and the rest, discharging colours on the prince as if supporting the queen in her battle against him.

Besides a nimbus around the face of the blue-complexioned prince, and another, around the face of the lady encountering him the artist has sought their distinction as the king and the queen also in relatively larger sizes of their figures and by giving them greater prominence than others. They also occupy the centre of the painting. King’s identity is further affirmed with his crown, the only figure to have it. As she has been portrayed, the royal status of the queen reveals in her differently treated ensemble and ornaments. She seems to be attired like other female figures; however, the lehenga that she is wearing has extra multi-coloured gussets and a wider circumference. Apart, with an expensive gold necklace on her breast, specially designed bangles … her ornaments, costlier as they seem to be, reveal distinction. Other queens of the prince and the ladies of royal household are housed in balconied palace pavilions sprinkling ‘gulal’ – coloured powder, and shooting colours off their pipes from there. Obviously, the queen with the prince has her own distinction and rank, perhaps that of his principal or favourite queen. The two children’s proximity with the king and the queen and the style of their ensembles and ornaments suggest that they too are from the royal fold.

After the great saint and philosopher Vallabhacharya founded the cult of Pushtimarga, the path of the deity’s service, and the seat of Shrinathaji at Nathadwara in Mewar in early sixteenth century, the religious scenario of entire Rajasthan was transformed into the cult of Krishna’s Vaishnava worship. The revolution was so widespread and deep-rooted that idols of Krishna, now the Rajasthani people’s supreme god, not only enshrined every household shrine but also every major Rajput dynasty in Rajasthan founded a seat of Krishna’s worship in its state, installed and worshipped him under a different name : Jaipur, as Govindaju, Kota, as Baijanathaju …, many princes ruled their states in Krishna’s name, some added Krishna’s name with theirs, and a few attired themselves in Krishna’s fashion, colouring their bodies in blue and wearing a peacock feather to crest their crowns. Obviously, in his transform as Krishna the central figure in the painting represents one of the Rajput princes from Rajasthan devoted to Krishna-worship.

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.

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