A Folk Dancer from Rajasthan
Water Color Painting on Paper
13.2 inch X 10.1 inch
This excellently rendered miniature in water colours – fine brush work, represents a female figure engaged in dance. For adequate focus on her figure the artist used a deep black background and except two drummers accompanying her there is neither a spectator nor a form to define it. As suggests her costume – red lehenga, lower skirting wear with periphery larger than a usual skirt, green odhani – upper wear covering body’s upper half from head down to knees, both printed with flower-butis, red, white and black on green odhani, and white and blue, on red lehenga, and a saffron blouse around her breasts, and those of the drummers – entirely characteristic to Rajasthan’s rural belt, she is a folk dancer practicing some ethic dance of rural Rajasthan. In every likeliness along the two drummers she is preparing herself for some prestigious event she has been chosen to perform at. Pushing the two drummers into marginal spaces the artist has apportioned to the dancer optimum space affording for her ecstatic moves absolute freedom. Similar to the dancer the two drummers are also in typical Rajasthani costumes, one of them putting on a laharia turban, and the other, putting on a turban printed with buty-motifs, short kurtis – tight-fitted half length shirts, embroidered and printed, white plain dhotis – unstitched textile lengths wrapped over waist and legs down to ankles, and colourful sashes besides a red band of cloth with a sash-like breadth for holding the drum over the neck. The artist, Navaneet Parikh, a young painter who paints in medieval idiom of miniature painting, has intelligently used the movement of sashes for defining the drummers’ body-movement and their ecstatic minds. The painting is a silent representation, the jingling of bells from the dancer’s feet and the melody produced by beating the drums might be heard aloud, though not by ears but through eyes. Not only in the movement of feet or the gesture of hands the rhythm reveals also in the curves of drummers’ figures. Though a miniature revealing medieval flavour, its contemporariness is well revealed in the dark background that is essentially the attribute of a modern painting. Seeking its prime concern in theme a miniaturist rarely looks for things like colour-contrast or rather for the entire colour scheme; however, contrary to this miniaturist cult colour-balance is one of the most fascinating features of this miniature. The green and red of the dancer’s costume, and even her gold like glistening complexion, and the white, saffron and bright red of the drummers’ wears create magical effects. For appropriate ambience for a dance theme the artist has designed the painting’s border with images of various musical instruments. All three figures have moderate height, average anatomy and their lifestyle revealing ethnicity suggesting that they come from Rajasthan’s rural belt, perhaps representing a tribe. The dancer’s figure has been modeled with a round face, large eyes, sharp nose, cute tender lips and well fed cheeks. The face of one of the drummers is turned back, the other’s is about three-fourth visible. He has been modeled with a face angular towards the chin, and with sharp features, moderately sized but length-wise expanded eyes, small well-trimmed moustaches and side hair and heavy neck. This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet.
The Mughal school of painting runs parallel to the Mughal dynasty. It came into prominence in the sixteenth century, during the reign of king Akbar. It reached its zenith under the patronage of Akbar’s grandson – king Jahangir. The reign of the latter’s successor king Shah Jahan saw its decline and finally under the unsympathetic Aurangzeb it breathed its last. Indeed, as a school of art, the duration of Mughal painting was a limited one, extending only over approximately two and a half centuries. Actually, it has often been referred to as not exactly a school, but rather an exceptionally brilliant phase in Indian art.
The roots of Mughal painting lay in Samarkand and Herat, where under the patronage of the Timurid kings, Persian art reached its apogee. Babur, a descendant of Timur, and the founder of the Mughal dynasty, speaks of a person named ‘Bihzad’ as ‘a most eminent painter’. It was with the descendants of Bihzad and the deep personal interest taken by Akbar, the grandson of king Babur, that the Mughal school of art started off with a flourish.
Regarding the aesthetics of Mughal painting, one exceptional feature is its commitment to realism or the delineation of likeness. The subjects were majorly drawn from the extremely rich and magnificent court life under the Mughals. That this was a flourishing art during Akbar’s reign is borne out by the list of more than forty painters found in a book written during his era.
However, it was under Akbar’s son Jehangir that Mughal painting gained its highest peaks. Not only portraits and hunting scenes, but also scientific studies of botany and natural history found favor with the artists under the king’s support. The Mughal painters were asked to paint unusual specimens of flora and fauna in their exact likeness. Some of these skilfully painted pictures have survived till today, narrating to us the uniqueness of those rich times.
Under the reign of Shajahan, son of Jahangir, the Mughal school of painting entered its decline. The actual treatment of the subject matter is replaced with more decorative embellishments like rich flowery borders etc. Under Shahjahan architecture scaled new peaks (Taj Mahal etc.), but painting deteriorated. Finally, with the rise of Aurangzeb, Mughal painting breathed its last.