The painting takes back to the 19th century Jaipur where in one of its bazaars a young village damsel, seated under a tree for shade, is selling 'pani-puri' small round bread-cakes made of unleavened wheat-floor, and the spiced water. 'Puris' round cakes, are arranged in a large round tray laid on a stand made of reeds, and 'pani' spicy water, is contained in a big round bowl. Under the tray lies also a bucket containing more water. On her left rests her faithful companion dog and on her right is parked her beautifully embellished bullock cart under which hangs on four rings a cradle made of canvas, usually for a child to sleep, though here in the painting it appears to be a mere feature of the cart. Celestial beauty as if carved out of finest sandal wood, the 'pani-puri' seller is in red lehanga, pink choli and green odhani, all worked with fine gold, on borders as well as over the entire fields. The artist has sought to adorn her with various gems-studded gold ornaments as well as those made of pearls and other precious stones, for neck, forehead, ears, forearms, feet, waist and hair, though their brilliance is much inferior to her glowing beauty. Close to her on her right is seated a young handsome noble in a rich turban, angarakha a gown-like upper garment, dhoti and sash all white worked with gold, besides a huge neck-ring and a necklace of pearls, and opposite her his wife as young and beautiful as him, clad in blue lehanga, green choli and red odhani, all brocaded with gold, besides enormous jewellery. They hold in their hands small golden bowls to have 'pani-puri'. Behind the young lady lies their luggage, a 'potala' an earthen water container with a string attached for supporting it on the shoulder, typical of Rajasthan, and a 'potali' a bag-like unstitched cloth-piece with cords on all four corners to tie and carry luggage, in its golden cords reflecting effluence and their high status.
What is apparent, the young village noble was at Jaipur doing shopping with his wife. When connaughting with her, his eye fell on the maddening beauty and naïve simplicity of the 'pani-puri' selling young damsel. It seems to have worked. He asked his wife to have some 'pani-puris' and went to the young 'pani-puri' seller, himself occupying a place close to her and his wife, a little away opposite her. Not that her beauty had maddened the young man alone, the 'pani-puri' seller, too, was as much bewitched by his mesmerising eyes, cute look and entire personality. He looked at her and she cast her eyes below coyly appearing to see but not seeing anything. With her mind no more in her hold, she mechanically put a 'puri' in the bowl of the young man's wife, but before she had lifted another to serve it to the young man, he extended his hand to her from under the tray saying, perhaps, in unspoken words : let him have her, not 'pani-puris', and the coy young maiden with amour in eyes held it gently, and there where wasn't a seed a whole tree with colourful foliage was born.
The principal drama occupies centrally inclined forepart of the canvas while the artist has used its upper right triangle for portraying Jaipur's medievalism the row of uniformly designed and structured shops with a veranda elevated with stylistic pillars and semi-circular arched openings running all across, and swords, shields, angarakhas, various kinds of turbans, hangings, lamp-stands among others, the items of sale on shops, and, of course, the bullock cart all characteristic of medieval days. Alike, motifs heavy neck ornament, bangles and pendant made of lac and inlaid with mirrors, jewellery box of soft wood, colourful one-sided round drum, two-way drum, paper-fan, swords and bow, puppets on elephant, horse and on foot, garments like lehanga and angarakha, hangings, balloons, brocaded slippers, multi-coloured top and mirror contained in decorative frame, painted on bordering space all representative of Rajasthani life and culture give the painting ethnic touch.
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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