The Awakening of Trust (Vishrabdhanavodha Nayika)
Page from a series of the Rasamanjari (Bouquet of Delights)

Attributed to Devadasa of Nurpur

Geography:
Made in Bashohli, Jammu and Kashmir, India, Asia

Date:
1694-1695

Medium:
Opaque watercolor, gold, and silver-colored paint on paper

Dimensions:
Image: 6 5/8 × 11 3/16 inches (16.8 × 28.4 cm) Sheet: 8 1/16 × 12 1/2 inches (20.5 × 31.8 cm)

Curatorial Department:
South Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
2004-149-25

Credit Line:
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Alvin O. Bellak Collection, 2004

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Label:
The Rasamanjari is one of the many Indian poetic texts that classify the nuances of love and lovers. This painting, from one of three illustrated Rasamanjari series by the same family of painters, shows a newly married wife who has just begun to learn of love and trust. Her eyes are partly closed, yet she scrutinizes her husband; with one hand she covers her breasts, but with the other she indecisively fiddles at the knot that would loosen her lower garment. The tension is tangible; her longing mixed with apprehension, his ardor with gentle persistence. At some time during its long history, the right half of this page was eaten by mice. The page has been completed with a simplified rendition of what research shows must have been its original composition.

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

    In writing the Rasamanjari (Bouquet of Delights), the poet Bhanudatta, who lived toward the end of the fifteenth century in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, elaborated upon a much older tradition of Sanskrit poetics (see also Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2004-149-19). These works deal with the mood of love (shringara rasa) by classifying nayikas (heroines) and nayakas (heroes), although it is the former who are the focus. This painting falls within Bhanudatta’s large section on the classifications of heroines, who are subdivided in terms of their fidelity, age, and experience. The label for the verse, written in Takri script in the upper margin of the image, identifies her as the Vishrabdhanavodha Nayika. She is the third of the four naive or artless types, the young wife who has just begun to learn of love and trust. Still newly married, she has become conscious of her sexuality and is no longer paralyzed by fear, yet she does not quite have full confidence in her husband nor comfort with herself.

    On the back is the full verse in Sanskrit, together with commentaries and interpretations: “The new bride sleeps, with eyes half-open, with one hand on her bodice, the other hand on her breast, bringing her thighs together, next to a young man.”2

    On a white bed with striped bolster lie the couple. She wears no blouse or skirt, but is wound in a single diaphanous garment, her tightly crossed legs entrapping its end and anchoring it in place. Her eyes are half-shut, drowsy, yet she scrutinizes her lover. With her right hand she shyly covers both breasts, while her left hand indecisively fingers the knot of her garment. The young bearded hero wears only a turban, loin cloth, and jewels. He supports his head on his right forearm so that he can meet her eyes. His right knee presses against her, insistently, while with his left hand he reaches over, encouraging her to undress. It is impossible not to fasten on the locked eyes of the couple, and the emotional tension is tangible; her longing mixed with apprehension, his ardor and gentle persistence.

    They lie in a red room ornamented with niches holding fruit in golden vessels and blue and white porcelain. His sword rests on a stand at the head of the bed, next to a small, gold water container. The prominence of the sword and the verse itself may indicate that he has just returned from a journey and snuck into the room to awaken her. Indeed, she may be slightly uncertain that this is really her husband, so new is she to the relationship. Outside of the room, on the left, the background is solid bright yellow. To the right, where the page was unfortunately half-eaten away by mice, the room undoubtedly continued as it has been reconstructed, with no additional architecture, focusing the scene on the expanse of mattress and the lovers themselves.

    This illustration is from a Rasamanjari series of extraordinary historical importance for its colophon page, which survives in the collection of the Bharat Kala Bhavan, Varanasi.3 The colophon gives not only a concrete date of completion of the series (January- February 1695), but also the names of both artist (Devidasa) and patron (Raja Kripal Pal of Basohli), as well as the place of production (Basohli). Devidasa’s Rasamanjari follows closely in style and format an extensive earlier Rasamanjari, probably dating to about 1660–70. This latter series has been attributed to the same hand responsible for the “Tantric Devi” pages (see Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2004-149-22, 23), a hand that B. N. Goswamy believes to be no other than Devidasa’s father, Kripal of Nurpur.4

    Like the “Tantric Devi” paintings of c. 1660–70, the brilliant images from the contemporaneous Rasamanjari are divided into patches of pure enamellike color, whose sumptuousness is highlighted by the application of tiny pieces of iridescent beetlewing cases to emulate the glimmer of emeralds. The Devidasa series of the next generation dispenses with the beetle wings but retains the rich color, and closely follows the earlier series in composition and style. Yet there are changes as well. In Devidasa’s version, forms are more rounded by shading, the sense of space can be deeper, and colors move further beyond the primary shades. Perhaps an even greater change is the accentuation of the emotional content. Not only does the setting no longer compete with the human drama, but faces show an intensity and subtlety of expression not seen before in this workshop. Unfortunately, this is the only image of the Vishrabdhanavodha Nayika among the pages from the surviving Basohli Rasamanjaris, so it is impossible to compare interpretations.

    Another major difference between the Devidasa series and its predecessor is that in the earlier example the hero is regularly depicted as the blue-complexioned god Krishna. Devidasa, on the other hand, follows the text precisely in showing the nayaka as a young, lightly bearded man except where the verse itself specifies a divine identity. Goswamy argues that the iconographic shift, rather than resulting from an overarching religious trend, more likely arose from the specific patron’s decision to follow the actual descriptions in the text.5

    While a good portion of the c. 1660–70 Rasamanjari exists in collections both inside and outside India, many fewer pages of the Devidasa series are known, although it was originally comprised of at least 130 pages.6 Recent publications list the known pages as 17,7 all of which are in public collections; the painting in the Bellak Collection adds an eighteenth to that oeuvre. Darielle Mason, from Intimate Worlds: Indian Painting from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection (2001), pp. 82-83.

    1. The right third of the painting is a removable modern reconstruction.
    2. Translation by Signe Cohen. The verse is followed by the number 7. Filling the lower section on the reverse are three additional verses in various formats, which each explains and elaborates the original Sanskrit verse. The final one of these includes a new description of the sweet scents that waft into the room.
    3. For the full text see B. N. Goswamy’s essay in Intimate Worlds: Indian Painting from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection (2001), and Asok Kumar Das. “Devidasa at the Basohli Court.” In Vishwa Chander Ohri and Roy C. Craven, Jr., eds. Painters of the Pahari Schools. Mumbai: Marg Publications, 1998, p. 17.
    4. B. N. Goswamy and Eberhard Fischer. Pahari Masters: Court Painters of Northern India. Supplement 38 of Artibus Asiae. Exh. cat. Zurich: Museum Rietberg, 1992, pp. 30–31. Through study of genealogical and land revenue documents, Goswamy was the first to connect Devidasa with a large family of painter-carpenters from the city of Nurpur, near Basohli. There is also a third Rasamanjari, clearly following Devidasa’s within the family tradition, which Goswamy (in ibid., pp. 60–61) attributes to Golu, Devidasa’s son. W. G. Archer. (Indian Paintings from the Punjab Hills: A Survey and History of Pahari Miniature Painting. London: Sotheby Parke Bernet; Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1973, vol. 1, pp. 41–42, Basohli nos. 10[i–ii]) called the Devidasa series the third, because he actually dated the “Golu” series earlier and called it the “second” Rasamanjari
    . 5. B. N. Goswamy and Eberhard Fischer. Pahari Masters: Court Painters of Northern India. Supplement 38 of Artibus Asiae. Exh. cat. Zurich: Museum Rietberg, 1992, p. 62.
    6. This can be determined by the fact that the colophon page is numbered 130 (Asok Kumar Das. “Devidasa at the Basohli Court.” In ishwa Chander Ohri and Roy C. Craven, Jr., eds. Painters of the Pahari Schools. Mumbai: Marg Publications, 1998, p. 19).
    7. B. N. Goswamy and Eberhard Fischer. (Pahari Masters: Court Painters of Northern India. Supplement 38 of Artibus Asiae. Exh. cat. Zurich: Museum Rietberg, 1992, p. 61) list them as follows: four in the Lahore Museum; four in the Bharat Kala Bhavan, Varanasi; three in the Dogra Art Gallery, Jammu; two in the National Museum, New Delhi; two in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; one in the Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh; one in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and one in the Binney Collection, San Diego Museum of Art. Das (Asok Kumar Das. “Devidasa at the Basohli Court.” In Vishwa Chander Ohri and Roy C. Craven, Jr., eds. Painters of the Pahari Schools. Mumbai: Marg Publications, 1998, p. 19) repeats that number but also gives additional information on provenance.