Vedic Art: Indian Miniature Painting, Part 23

BY: SUN STAFF - 15.3 2017

Sri Krishna holding Mount Govardhan (detail) 
Nihal Chand, Kishangarh, c. 1755

A serial presentation of India's artistic legacy in paintings, sculpture and temple architecture.

17th – 19th Centuries


'Boat of Love' (a painting featured in the previous segment), is heralded as one of the finest and most representative of the great Kishangarh miniatures. The painting illustrates a verse from Bihari Chandrika by the poet prince, Nagari Das (Savant Singh):

And when the sun was setting in the west, 
the lovers sailed along the Jamuna stream
To music from the sakhis mingling with 
the murmuring of each wavelet's crest
And the dipping of a single oar
by lotus banks the canoe its burden bore
Past marble palaces and temples gleaming white 
and low green hills athwart a crimson sky
Betimes its keel caressed the shore where rose 
a kunj of beauty unsurpassed

The gorgeous crimson sky of the evening provides a most magnificent and dramatic backdrop to the Divine Couple's pastimes. In the upper part of the painting, the Lord sits in the company of his consort Radha and her Gopi friend. The Jamuna River flows below the majestic white palaces of the city.

Sri Krishna holding Mount Govardhan 
Nihal Chand, Kishangarh, c. 1755

On the river, a grand boat carries Radha and Krishna and the eight sakhis along banks lined with lotus flowers in full bloom. In the lowest portion of the painting, the Divine Couple stand beneath a tree, Krishna holding aloft a garland of flowers for the coy Radha.

The time lag suggested in the three portions has been ingeniously depicted by the artist. First, Radha, Krishna and a gopi are sitting alone, in the upper right corner, in a grove on a secluded hill. Next, the whole party is pleasure boating down the Jamuna. Finally, the Divine Couple share a moment alone by the water's edge.

Radha and Krishna, at Night on the Terrace
Kishangarh, 18th century

'Boat of Love' is considered the most famous of all Kishangarh miniatures because of the artist's perfection in rendering the minutest details. The jeweled turban of the Lord, the jama, the marble pavilions, foliage, lush green vegetation, the red boat and the crimson sky all bring the lila pastime to life.

Another of the beautiful compositions by artist Nihal Chand is 'Dipavalika', a nighttime scene depicting the celebration of Diwali. Radha and Krsna are found sitting on a terrace that juts out over the water of a large tank. A dancer standing on a central pavilion is flanked on either side by groups of gopis holding fireworks for Radha and Krsna's pleasure.

Dipavalika (Deepvali celebration) 
Nihal Chand, Kishangarh School, c. 1750

While the Kishangarh miniatures produced after Nihal Chand's prolific era are still brilliant, clearly the magical effect of the lotus-filled Gundalao lake lying below the Kishangarh fort, featured in most of the great pictures drawn by Nihal Chand, is absent, and sorely missed.



Kishangarh Miniatures - In Quest Of Divine Love by Dr. Alka Pande