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Palm-Leaf Miniatures - The Art of Raghunath Prusti of Orissa

Palm-Leaf Miniatures - The Art of Raghunath Prusti of Orissa
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Item Code: NAO781
Author: J.P. Das & Joanna Williams
Publisher: Shubhi Publications, Gurgaon
Language: English
Edition: 2017
ISBN: 9788182904538
Pages: 111 (Throughout Color & B/W Illustrations)
Cover: HARDCOVER
Other Details: 9.00 X 6.00 inch
weight of the book: 0.4 kg
Preface

Looking back from the threshold of the twenty-first century, we may be amazed at the quaint and archaic form of palm-leaf manuscripts. It comes as a surprise to learn that a pile of palmyra folios laboriously engraved by hand and strung together between boards was the standard type of book used in some parts of India less than a hundred years ago. In Orissa, some remain in use today, although the production of manuscripts is almost at an end. Such relics of the past are bound to change. Traditionally the palm-leaf manuscript was recopied and immersed in water after a hundred years. Today it merely crumbles into dust unless carefully preserved. It is therefore time for us to scrutinize what still survives, documenting what we can and retrieving from this a picture of the past. The illustrated palm-leaf manuscripts of Orissa record not only what existed when they were made but also what interested people, their stories, ideals, and sense of humour. If we examine the pictures carefully, we see no longer a blur of uniform style but rather a wide range of concerns and of artistic quality. Out of the too-prevalent stereotype of the anonymous Indian artisan, the makers of these illustrations emerge as real individuals.

This is precisely where the present study began. We had enjoyed looking at several manuscripts that were accessible from publications--a ragamala known as the Sangita Damodara, and a courtly poetic romance, the Lavanyavati. We realized that both were illustrated by the same hand, even though at that point the published evidence suggested that the first was produced early in the eighteenth century, while the present owners of the second work said that it had been made only three generations ago. This puzzle led us into obscure arguments about chronology and the reading of colophons; other information ultimately confirmed the more recent date. In the process of comparing these with various illustrated palm-leaf manuscripts, we were delighted to find that more works by the same hand were preserved, unrecognized, in collections all over the world.

We also made a total of five visits to the town where this artist had lived, discovering by the end three additional works of his still preserved there. The owners of these works came to trust us and in 1987 kindly allowed photography of the masterpiece, the Lavanyavati, for the first time. While the details of Mundamarai must have changed in the past century, we had some sense of entering into the world in which these manuscripts were made. The scribe/illustrator grew from a name into an artist, a story-teller, and a personality. Our admiration for his work increased. This short study is therefore dedicated to that skillful, witty, yet humble individual, Raghunath Prusti, son of an oil-man from the village Mundamarai in southern Orissa.

Contents

  Map vi
  Listof Illustrations vii
  Preface 1
I The Man and the Legend 3

II
Raghunath Prusti's Works 10
A Prusti as a Pupil 10
B Prusti as a Young Man 16
C The Matures Prusti 18
III Raghunath Prusti's Date 32
A The Colophons 32
B the Literary Texts and Writing 36
C The Subjects Depicted 37
IV Prusti and Other Palm-leaf Illustrators 39
V The Literature Illustrated 53
A Gita Govinda 54
B Artatrana Chutisa 57
C Kundali Janana 60
D Ushabhilasha 61
E Lavanyavati 63
F Sobhavati 66
G Sangria Damodara 67
H Prasna Chudamani 71
VI Home and the World 74
A The Village 75
B The Court 77
C Puri 80
D The World at Large 83
  Bibliography 87
  Index 91

 






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