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Celebration of the Wedding of Manohar and Madhumalati

Page from an illustrated manuscript of the Gulshan-i 'Ishq (Rose Garden of Love)

This painting (see detail below) comes from a manuscript of the Gulshan-i ‘Ishq (GOOL-shan-ee-ayshq) (Rose Garden of Love), a romantic tale composed by the poet Nusrati in 1657–58. Although written for a Muslim ruler, the Gulshan-i ‘Ishq was actually inspired by a Hindu folk story. The manuscript (see image to the left), which boasts ninety-seven exquisite illustrations, was made in 1743 for a royal patron.

The main story of this long poem is the meeting, separation, longing, and marriage of Prince Manohar and Princess Madhumalati (mad-who-MAL-ah-tee). This section of the poem describes the couple’s wedding celebration, an event that traditionally lasts several days in India. The illustration shows some of the festivities leading up to the wedding ceremony. In the lower left, several men play horns and drums. Women dance to the music, their hands and feet painted with henna. Facing them, a group of people carry a colorful silk canopy and balance gifts on their heads. Many people wear bright, festive clothing for the occasion. In the background, men on elephants and horses march in procession, playing musical instruments and carrying red banners. Fireworks explode around them, lighting up the night sky.

The lines of text at the top are written in Deccani Urdu, the language of the Muslim elite in this part of India, and are read from right to left. Here, the poet uses the imagery of light, in particular the sun and moon, to refer to Manohar and Madhumalati. Just as the light of the day meets the light of the night, the bride and groom will soon meet on their wedding day to join as husband and wife.

Celebration of the Wedding of Manohar and Madhumalati (detail) from Gulshan-i ‘Ishq (Rose Garden of Love)

Let's Look

  • Describe the people and animals you see in the picture.
  • What activities are taking place?

Let's Look Again

  • What colors, shapes, and patterns do you see? Where are they repeated?
  • Describe the mood of the picture. How did the artist create this feeling?

This object is included in Looking to Write, Writing to Look, a teaching kit developed by the Division of Education and is generously supported by the Sherman Fairchild Foundation Inc.


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