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Prabal Pramanik's Academy of Arts
Bhamlada, Punjab -145 022, India
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ISBN No. 978-93-81200-03-2
|Romance, physical and metaphysical in Pahari
Schools of Art
or the basic "rasa" or emotional entity of sex, and the love that is associated
with sexual desires, is important in every school of art in the world, as this is a basic
urge in the cosmic forces of creation.
This basic urge inspires, excites and has the force to push up a conscious individual to
the realm of sublime realization or to push down an individual to grossest and vilest
"Shringer" is derived from the primeval force of Adishakti, and the expressions
of sex through art can range from crude perversion to earthly to the sublime.
This all depends on the viewpoint of the artist and the way this basic aspect is
interpreted in his art.
So Pahari schools of art with all the sensitive and decorative qualities depicted sex and
love, through the rasa of "Shringara" at different psychic levels. When
analyzing and appreciating sex and love in Pahari art, we have to keep in mind this
I have seen different ranges of psychic fulfillment in this aspect. It is unnecessary to
dwell on the crude sexual mating scenes that were painted to cater to the pornographic
tastes of certain patrons.
I have also seen worldly as well as other worldly interpretations of love in Pahari
paintings, and I would like to discuss these aspects in detail.
Kama is urge for sex and may just connote lust. So "Kama sutra" paintings often
remain at a very physical level and very few can elevate themselves or realize the pure
strength of love at the crude level.
When the same rasa is refined to a degree of greater self control with an understanding
that imparts a different meaning to this basic feeling, there is definitely a psychic
This development is manifested in stages. These psychic stages are shown in various Pahari
paintings presenting the shringar rasa in different ways.
To have a better grasp on the divine, humans all over the world try to bring the concept
of divinity to the human level. Pahari paintings give good examples of this attempt.
Beyond the concept of divinity, the hero, and the heroine, Nayaka and Nayika are portrayed
with their human qualities and faults.
The divine is supposed to be beyond faults. Love for humans does not implicate complete
surrender, while love for the divine implies absolute surrender to object of love.
This philosophy of absolute surrender prevails in other manifestations of Radha Krisshna
lila in various forms of visual, literary and performing arts in different places of
Indian subcontinent and have spread the traditional ideas about the relationship of the
divine and the devotee through centuries.
The forms and the styles have changed according to time and place, yet the basic Vaishnav
philosophy of Sadhana is the same.
The journey of Radha to meet Krishna at the eternal tryst goes through various phases.
These phases are in reality stages in "Yogic Sadhana".
Radha, the "Shakti" at "Muladhar" goes up to meet Krishna at
"Shahasrara" of the seat of the lotus with thousand petals along the way of
This is the Eternal tryst, and the stages are phases of yogic meditation in the exercise
of "Chakra bheda kriya".
The revelation at each stage is a phase in the "Avhisara" or tryst of Radha.
The urge to meet Krishna or the supreme divine power to achieve complete liberation from
worldly bondages prompts Radha or the consciousness of the devotee from the point of
"Kundalini" at point at the base of cerebrospinal nervous system, to meet the
point of supreme consciousness at the point of "sahasrara" in the brain.
These points are metaphysical, yet, the journey of the soul going through the spiritual
discipline and the feelings and realizations are very real in the physical sense.
These phases of "abhisara" are given symbolic images in Indian art through
different traditional schools of art.
"Shuklabisara", "Divavisara", "Sandhyabisara",
"Tamasabhisara" are all phases of the journey of the tryst that use the analogy
of the time of the day or night with suitable natural surroundings to connote the yogic
phases of Sadhana.
Romance reaches a range of refinement that surpasses the physical aspects and passes into
the realm of the divine.
The crude urge in this philosophy is filtered away and love that looses the self through
"Bhakti yoga" of Shrimad Bhagavat Gita, takes a pictorial form.
The successful portrayal of this etherial stage is one of the greatest successes of the
artists of Pahari Schools of art who innovated the compositions in the olden times.
The clarity of the imageries in those early compositions proved the deep understanding of
sadhana the artists of yore had.
Undoubtedly they had accepted the philosophy that linked the physical aspect of love and
romance to the metaphysical stage from standard views of aesthetics and the philosophy of
Vaishnav Sadhana in Indian art and it should be noted that in other miniature paintings,
especially in Rajasthan this idea of depicting various stages of Sadhana had prevailed
before the migrant artists came to the hills to start Pahari Schools of Art.
Romance even on earthly stage is of greater refinement than what we see in modern times,
as most people make love in much more calculative manner now.
"Nayaka" and "Nayika", the hero and the heroine enjoying view of the
flight of white egrets against the dark rain clouds and swinging in flower bedecked swing
in a garden full of flowering trees are inspiring scenes that evoke the pure romance for
the sake of the romantic joy.
This romantic joy in pahari paintings is shown in the nature around the romantic couple.
It is a joy that is expressed without any materialistic calculative constraints.
It is love for the sake of love. Different emotional situations of various types of
Nayakas and Nayikas are important in erotic Pahari art.
In this aspect Keshavdass "Nayaka Nayike Bheda" had provided guidelines
for the old painters.
Nuances of Shingara, from various angles, that may vary from "Vipralabdha" (the
lover who feels cheated) to Yugal milan (meeting and unification of two lovers), are found
in the pictorial presentations in the schools of decorative miniature paintings of Pahari
Schools of art.
So, I have found pictorial presentations of romance and erotic situations in Pahari
Schools of art in the stages that ranges from gross, to earthly, to divine and this great
diversity of "Shringara rasa" is remarkable indeed.
Prabal Pramanik ©
(from the published book
"My views on Pahari paintings")
ISBN No. 978-93-81200-03-2