Quite strangely and exclusively, by adding to the entire depiction a Krishna figure holding upon his shoulders a pot with water gushing out from it the artist has somewhat Indianised the tale and has imparted to it a different kind of symbolism. In Indian aesthetics pot stands for earth. Here in the painting the pot is seen intaking water into its base and is discharging it from its mouth, that is, the mother earth receives all heavenly waters and lets them flow in courses for life and it is the divinity that holds the earth to let her perform her pious obligation. Vishnu as Krishna here is the presiding deity of the earth. The artist seems to symbolise through this set of motifs that love and life would prevail till the divines uphold the earth and flourish it with life's nectar.
Majnun, the hero of the legend, desperate in Laila's love retired to the forest after he failed to win her. Laila too loved him but family traditions barred her union with him. With all interests in life lost Majnun submitted himself to wild animals to be eaten up by them. But the artist discovered that the world of animals was more compassionate, friendly, sympathetic and unbetraying than that of the man. Hence, all kinds of animals, lions, lionesses, cheetah, wild bears, boars, jackals, snakes, vipers of all kinds, elephants, nilgais, rabbits, crocodiles, rhinoceros, antelopes, many kinds of fish, deers, birds and many more, gathered around and cordoned him. They could not help him but shared his grief. The face of each animal in the painting has the reflection of Majnun's sad plight.
One hearing all about Majnun Laila failed to control herself. She visited him in the forest with a priest and some of her companions, says one version of the legend, or with the Holy Book, says the other, though the significance of both is the same. With the help of holy scriptures she wanted to ignite in Majnun's mind the desire to live and to accept all that happened as the course of destiny. In the painting the youthful damsel is seen reading out to Majnun from the Book but Majnun pays obviously no heed to it. By the action of his hand he seems to be requesting her to rather put it off. The painting is a reminscent of the great Mughal art of late sixteenth century.
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.
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