Maharaja Man Singh of Jodhpur Visits the Mahamandir

Attributed to Bulaki

Geography:
Made in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, Marwar Region, India, Asia

Date:
1815

Medium:
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper

Dimensions:
20 5/8 x 30 inches (52.4 x 76.2 cm)

Curatorial Department:
South Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
2000-91-1

Credit Line:
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Alvin O. Bellak Collection, 2000

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Label:
Maharaja Man Singh folds his hands in devoted prayer to a surprisingly lifelike statue of the Hindu saint Jalandhar Nath, which rests on a thronelike pedestal. The maharaja stands at the heart of the Mahamandir (Great Temple) which he had built not long before this painting was made. The temple is surrounded by an arcade that separates the sacred spaces within from the worldly spaces outside. Smaller buildings and numerous courtiers fill the grounds, while the vibrant floral border locates the temple in a gardenlike suburb outside the city of Jodhpur. The buildings and people are depicted from many viewpoints, including profile and "bird's-eye" views. According to this system of representation, people and objects are accurately positioned within the overall layout, but the angle from which they are seen is determined by the viewpoint that makes them most recognizable.

Additional information:
  • PublicationIntimate Worlds: Indian Paintings from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection

    This uncommonly large painting depicts a bird’s-eye overview of the Mahamandir (Great Temple) near Jodhpur, the royal capital of Marwar state.1 The temple’s residential dependencies, marketplaces, and adjoining palace and garden fill the wide green expanse that borders three of its sides. The temple and its neighborhood, comprising 1,000 houses and 112 shops, were enclosed within a stone wall a mile and a quarter in circumference, and located about a mile northeast of Jodhpur on the road to Mandor.2 Today, the temple and its palace still exist, but the surrounding area, a former garden suburb, has become an overbuilt extension of Jodhpur itself.

    In this sylvan overview dated A.D. 1815, Maharaja Man Singh (reigned 1803–43) stands in the Mahamandir courtyard, flanked by three officers of his court (identified in the inscription as Dhandhal Govardhandas, Khichi Umo, and Gehlot Jivandas).3 With hands clasped in reverence, Man Singh is paying homage to the surprisingly lifelike image of the yogic saint Jalandhar Nath (c. A.D. 1050), which is enshrined in the temple’s inner sanctum. The maharaja is attended by four hereditary officers of the Mahamandir trust: the head priest (mahant), Devnath, holding a peacock-feather fan (morchal); Bhimnath, his brother; and Likhminath (or Laxminath) and Ladunath, the sons of Bhimnath and Devnath, respectively. This family resided in the courtyard palace that is depicted in smaller scale in the upper left of the picture. The maharaja’s enormous cavalcade—169 retainers on elephant, camel, horse, and foot—stands at attention in empty spaces on three sides of the temple’s perimeter wall. Their orderly configurations mimic, yet in mirror reverse, the staggered interplay of buildings depicted in topographical format on the remaining sides. This grandly structured composition converges on the figure of Jalandhar Nath: his face marks its exact center. Intensified by a background of soft color, a vibrant rectangle of red and gold focuses attention on the room where Jalandhar Nath is enthroned.

    Veneration of Jalandhar Nath and loyalty to Devnath, his priest, were the primary passions of Man Singh’s reign. He had acquired his devotion in Jalor, a town eighty miles south of Jodhpur, where he lived from the age of nine to twenty. Jalor was at once a stronghold of noblemen allied against Man Singh’s murderous uncle, Maharaja Bhim Singh (reigned 1793–1803), and the chief site of the Natha cult in Marwar.4 The local Jalandhar Nath temple was under the care of Devnath, a shrewd dispenser of advice and prophecy, who became Man Singh’s trusted friend. When Man Singh inherited the throne in 1803, he made Devnath his spiritual guru and principal advisor, and built the Mahamandir to honor Jalandhar Nath. Devnath and his family were installed in the adjoining palace, and the complex was furnished with houses and shops to provide income for their upkeep.5

    In the year this painting was completed, the temple and its surrounding neighborhood were only ten years old. In preparing this freshly minted overview, the artist Bulaki may have consulted topographical plans that were still available in the Jodhpur palace. The buildings outside the temple’s perimeter walls are depicted from a great height and are viewed in elevation as well as in plan, features that recall the topographical conventions that are distinctive to an Indian map.6 According to this visual system, a building can be viewed from any angle, for what matters is not the building itself, but its relative size and position in the overall plan. A similar topographical overview appears in only one other Marwar painting of this period: another image of the Mahamandir complex, dating from c. 1813.7 Terence McInerney, from Intimate Worlds: Indian Painting from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection (2001), pp. 182-183.

    1. For a good photograph of the Mahamandir, see R. A. Agarawala, Marwar Murals (Delhi: Agam Prakashan, 1977), plate XIII.
    2. A.H.E. Boileau, Personal Narrative of a Tour Through the Western States of Rajwara, in 1835 . . . (Calcutta: N. Grant Tank Square, 1837), p. 135. I am grateful to Deborah Diamond for this reference.
    3. The Rajasthani inscription along the top and bottom reads in full: “The Jalandhar Nath Temple/Ayasji [an honorific title] Devnath Maharaja, Bhimnath, Ladunath, Likhminath. Placed in the royal storeroom. His Royal Highness, Dhandhal Govardhandas, Khichi Umo, Gehlot Jivandas. Painted by Bulaki, Samvat 1872 [A.D. 1815].” I am grateful to Deborah Diamond for this translation.
    4. The Natha yogic cult embraces many occult Hindu beliefs and practices. Their saints bear the title “Nath.” There are traditionally nine Naths, including Jalandhar Nath, the historical son of a queen of Comilla in East Bengal. Popular tradition holds that the Naths never die, but live on in timeless suspension in Himalayan fastnesses. See Benjamin Walker, Hindu World: An Encyclopedic Survey of Hinduism, vol. 2 (New Delhi: Manoharlal Publishers, 1983), p. 128. The yogi members of the cult (Kanphata yogis) wear distinctively huge earrings.
    5. Devnath was assassinated by Man Singh’s enemies in 1815, that is, in the year this painting was finished. To avoid conflict in the family, Ladunath was put in charge of a newly built temple in Jodhpur city, and Bhimnath was put in charge of the Mahamandir. Bhimnath held this position until his death in 1828. His son Likhminath was chief priest of the Mahamandir from 1828 until 1842.
    6. See Susan Gole, Indian Maps and Plans: From Earliest Times to the Advent of European Surveys (New Delhi: Manohar, 1989).
    7. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur, 14(2); see Rosemary Crill. Marwar Painting: A History of the Jodhpur Style. Mumbai: India Book House Limited, 1999, p. 118, fig. 92. While this painting is not inscribed, its style is different from that of Bulaki. For other paintings by Bulaki, also owned by the Mehrangarh Museum Trust, see ibid., p. 149, fig. 123; p. 171, fig. 142.