Two Royal Damsels Playing Chaupara

Item Code: OS51
Oil on Canvas
Dimensions 53 inches X 35 inches
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100% Made in India
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The painting, a contemporary work rendered in oil on canvas, represents two elite ladies playing ‘chaupara’, a derivative of the Sanskrit term ‘Chauranga’, one of the ancient games of India. The painting is rendered in the idiom of modern art of around 1880-1900 A.D. as practiced at Lahore, one of the main centres of Bazaar art. The recovery of a number of pieces or mans with which the ‘chaupara’ was played in excavations of Indus sites suggests that ‘chaupara’ was played in the subcontinent since Indus days, that is, since 3000 to 2500 B.C. Interestingly, the game marks its presence even in divine iconography. Besides scriptures alluding to Indra, other gods and ‘apsaras’ – celestial nymphs, playing ‘chaupara’, the ninth century Kailash temple at Ellora has a sculpture representing Shiva and Parvati as playing it. The Great War – the Mahabharata, as portrays the fifth century B.C. epic of the same name, was mainly the result of the game of ‘chaupara’. Not only the Pandavas’ kingdom but also their wife Draupadi won in the game by cheating had resulted in the Great War.

Though some of its folk transforms and variants have also been emerging from time to time, ‘chaupara’ has been since beginning an indoor game of elite, especially the people of court, male or female, played for whiling away time with or without stake, and sometimes as a means of developing skill and trying luck. Basically a game of dice, ‘chaupara’ is played usually with sixteen mans and four players, though sometimes, as here in this painting and in many other examples, such as above quoted those of Shiva and Parvati, or Yudhishthara and Duryodhana in the Mahabharata, it is also played with eight mans and two players. Each four of the mans form one group and have a distinct identity from other groups of four each.

‘Chaupara’ is played on a textile base or play-board having, besides a larger central square, four arms rising from each of the four sides of the central square. Each of these four arms is divided into three vertical columns, each having eight squares in alternating colours. Dices were made of ivory, bones and other material suiting to each one’s affordability. Each dice-piece of a set of three was marked on all four sides with dots numbering 1, 2, 3 and 6. Sometimes such dices were alternated by simple six cowries. When the game is begun, all sixteen mans are stored in the central square. Then by turn each player casts the dices and according to points gained by them moves his mans first out of the central square and then through the squares on his right protecting them from the opponent’s mans. Each man is required to travel across eighty squares before it reaches back the central square, the home. The player who succeeds in depositing first his all four mans in the central square becomes the winner.

The painting represents two ladies, one young, and other, in her advanced years, playing ‘chaupara’. A young girl is watching them playing, while an elderly maid is entering into the hall carrying in her hands a tray with a bowl in it, perhaps containing some snacks. Of the two players, the elder one appears to be one by royal birth or a rich trader’s wife, and in any case, the lady owning the house. The portrait of a prince, perhaps one in the family line, hung on the wall, the gold water-jug and glasses, character of the architecture – the hugeness of hall and drapery, all affirm her royal status. It seems that just for passing the time she has obliged the young girl, not equal to her status, by allowing her to play with her. All three ladies are seated on a large red velvet cushion with gold-line and great thickness. They are using cowries for the dices and a leather play-board with mutually alternating red and yellow squares on sides and the black ones in the middle.

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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Crafting Masterpieces: An Insight into the Making of Indian Oil Paintings

Oil painting is the most interesting technique in art. Unlike other paintings or art forms, oil painting is a process in which colored pigments are painted on the canvas with a drying oil medium as a binder. This medium helps colors blend beautifully to create layers and also makes them appear rich and dense. Several varieties of oil are used in this painting such as sunflower oil, linseed oil, etc., and depending on the quality of the oil, a particular consistency of the paint is developed. With the use of an oil medium, the painting gets a natural sheen on the surface which appears extremely attractive. India is famous for its old tradition of making oil paintings. This art form was brought by Europeans in the 18th century and is now practiced by almost all well-known artists. Nirmal, a small tribal town in the state of Telangana is the center of traditional oil paintings in India where the local people practice it with dedication. Most Indian artists still use the traditional technique of oil painting.

Canvas of the required size is prepared

The artists use either a wood panel or canvas made from linen or cotton. Sometimes the canvas is stretched onto the wooden frame to form a solid base, or cardboard may be used. The canvas is coated with a layer of white paint or chalk mixed with animal glue. This mixture is then smoothed and dried to form a uniform, textured surface. The wooden panel is more expensive and heavier but its solidity is an advantage in making detailed paintings with ease.
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Sketch is drawn on the canvas

Now the artist starts to draw the subject of the painting on the canvas using the actual charcoal or a charcoal pencil. Sometimes, he may sketch with thinned paint as well.

Oil paint is applied using paint brushes or palette knives

Now that the rough sketch is prepared, the artist is now ready to paint. Oil paint, a special paint that contains particles of pigments suspended in a drying oil (usually linseed oil), is again mixed with oil to make it thinner for applying it on the canvas. Proper consistency of the paint is maintained to avoid its breakage. The most important rule for the application of oil paint is “Fat over lean” in which the first layer of paint is thin and later, thicker layers are applied. This means that each additional layer of paint contains more oil. This results in getting a stable paint film. Traditionally, paint was applied using paint brushes but now the artists also use palette knives to create crisp strokes. To paint using this technique, the edge of the palette knife is used to create textured strokes that appear different from that of a paintbrush. Sometimes, oil paints are blended simply using fingers for getting the desired gradation.
Smaller oil paintings, with very fine detail, are relatively easier to paint than larger ones. The most attractive feature of these paintings is the natural shiny appearance that is obtained on the surface because of the use of oil paint. The blending of colors looks extremely realistic and this is the reason why oil paintings are loved by everyone throughout the world.
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