Radha’s myriad moods and hues

waiting for her lord: Some of the Kangra paintings depicting Radha. Photo: Rupa Gopal  

The poet Kesavadas’s ‘Baramasa’ describes India’s seasons beautifully; the descriptions made in the 16th century hold good even today. The year, divided into six parts of two months each, portrays peoples’ lives with charm, varying according to the months. Radha and Krishna are the central characters, their emotions part and parcel of the seasonal vagaries.

The Kangra painting borrowed themes from Kesavadas’s works, embellishing and emphasising the Seasons by way of suitable clothing depicted in the regional style. Krishna is dressed in bright yellow in Spring, in light muslin for hot Summer, and in printed cotton for early Summer.

It is ‘Rasikapriya’, the other famous work of Kesavadas, which appealed greatly to the Kangra painters and the royal patrons of Kangra art. Kesavadas’s ashtanayikas were painted with his lines of poetry sometimes incorporated into the artwork. The Nayika theme exemplified Radha, the soul, and her surrender to Krishna, the Supreme. Radha goes through various moods, suffering the pangs of love, as well as the doubts and the anger that come with such an intense emotion.

Eight reactions are highlighted as the Ashtanayika-eight heroines, with eight specific emotions — verily Kesavadas understood the mystery that is Woman! His understanding is detailed below, with the 18th century Kangra works bringing alive the situations colourfully:

Svadhinapatika: She is the lucky one, claiming absolute devotion from her lover, a constant companion. Krishna is devoted to Radha, portrayed as even pressing her feet, taking care of her every need.

Utka: She is the anxious heroine, as her lover has failed to come at the agreed hour. The text says, “Is he at home? Is it the dawning of divine wisdom that keeps him away from me? Or treachery, floods, or the deep dark night?” Radha is painted standing alone by a stream, pining, fallen jasmine flowers around her, the dark sky threatening rain.

Vasakasayya: Here the nayika is waiting eagerly at the door for her man to arrive. Her emotions are charged, her excitement transmitted to the birds and animals. Her pounding heart confides softly to her maiden friends, her body glowing like the white sandal tree, in happy anticipation. The Kangra painter has posed the lady at her room door, and the whole household is agog preparing for the master’s arrival. The courtyard is swept, a water-jug is replenished, and the man himself is ready to be ferried across the river.

Abhisandita: This is the classic lovers’ quarrel. The heroine’s studied indifference to the hero is but a pose. She is actually full of remorse, but her pride does not allow her to make up. The Kangra painting shows the rebuffed Krishna about to leave, the angry Radha regretful of her outburst. “I was adamant, and would not yield when he fell at my feet, but now my limbs seem to melt like butter. My soul is filled with repentance,” rues Radha.

Khandita: The truant lover fails to appear as agreed at night, but sheepishly turns up next morning, having spent the night with another woman. The heroine (Radha) lashes out at the man, “You are feasting like a crow on discarded crumbs, unable to distinguish between good and evil. Tell me, O Ghanashyama, after seducing whom have you come to my house to hide like an owl?”

Prositapatika: The heroine’s husband is away on work. She misses him and appeals to the rain clouds for his safe return. In the painting, Radha is out on the terrace, looking at flying cranes, a peacock nearby. The fawn-eyed lady wears a spotted veil of bright hue, with sirish flowers adorning her tresses. With waning pride, she stands and prays to the lightning and rain-laden clouds, “Give me news of my dear Dark One.”

Vipralabdha: Here is the deeply disappointed and angry heroine. Her lover has not turned up all night. She tears off her jewels, and flings them on the ground, distressed, neglected and angry. “Ah! Kesava! The cool morning sun burns her body, melodious songs have the sound of abuse, betel leaf tastes like poison, and her every jewel burns her like a firebrand,” writes Kesavadas.

Abhisarika: Krishna and Suklaabhisarika go to meet the lover, in the dark and bright phases of the moon. Guru Gobind Singh too, in his ‘Dasam Granth,’ has described Radha as the Suklaabhisarika. “Radha went out in the light of the soft white moon, wearing a white robe to meet her Lord. It was white everywhere, and hidden in it, she appeared like light itself, in search of Him.”

Truly, the Kangra paintings have a high emotional appeal. And who better than Krishna, the divine child, friend and lover, to epitomise such human feelings, set in the most beautiful of surroundings!

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 3:56:48 AM |

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