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Radha and Krishna Playing the Game of Chaupara

Radha and Krishna Playing the Game of Chaupara

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Item Code: HM92
Water Color Painting on Paper
Artist:Kailash Raj
11.3 inch X 8.7 inch
A magnificent miniature comprising well conceived and elaborate imagery, every detail, a human figure or a lotus : flower or leaf, realistically rendered, represents Radha and Krishna playing ‘Chaupara’ – the game played with dice on a cross-shaped cloth or board, the each arm space divided into three horizontal rows of eight squares for the pieces to move across. The painting is a unique blend of the two of the major miniature art-styles of Rajasthan, Bundi and Jaipur, as it prevailed around the late eighteenth century, the figures’ iconography being closer to Bundi art style, and the background, to Jaipur. The scene is laid on a marble terrace lying in the midst of a highly beautiful background consisting of a column of green trees, plantains and Sapta-parni with colourfully flowering Malini creeper riding it in the main, beyond it, a semi-circular lake full of lotuses, and far beyond, green meadows with trees and shrubs scattered all over and the evening sky with coloured clouds covering the western horizon.

A moderately high railing composed of marble trellises separates the terrace from the background. For giving it a realistic look the artist has painted one of its sections as damaged and restored. The terrace’s forepart consists of rectangular flower-beds, three on either side, and a fountain with the pond in the centre. The terrace seems to have been paved with white marble slabs so fine in finish and cool in touch that Radha and Krishna prefer sitting on its bare floor without a carpet or cushion overlaid. Radha and Krishna are seated close to the railing with the Chaupara board in between. Krishna is seated in cross-legged posture, while Radha, with her right leg upwards raised, and left, straightened on the floor, a mode of sitting defined in iconographic tradition as ‘utkut akasana’. Being her turn Radha is holding the dice and is ready to cast and Krishna is looking at her with eager eyes to see the number that she gets.

An incarnation of Lord Vishnu Krishna has Vishnu-like blue body-colour and is clad in ‘pitambara’ – yellow ensemble : a long jama with full sleeves tight-fitted upper and a flared skirt, and a sash laid over the right shoulder and arm. Besides his usual garland of white Parijat flowers on his neck and a few more necklaces, bangles on the wrists and rings on fingers he is putting on a splendid gold crown studded with precious stones and crested with a feather. Radha is wearing a vermillion red lehenga printed with flower-buti design-pattern, green blouse with maroon edges and blue ‘odhini’ with gold border. Normally bejeweled she is putting on a wide range of bangles on the wrists, a number of precious gems-studded necklaces on her breast, rings on fingers, nose-ring, ‘karna-phools’ – flower-like designed ear-ornaments, and a splendid forehead pendant. Apart, the miniature includes eight other female figures, three, perhaps his other queens or Radha’s friends, seated on the floor close to them and assisting them in the game, two on the left, playing on musical instruments, and one of the three on the right, carrying a chowri, another, a cup of drinks, and third, just in attendance.

Chaupara is essentially a royal game popular among feudatory since at least six-five hundred BC or even before. It was the game of Chaupara that emerged as the turning point in the great epic Mahabharata, the story of the Great War that involved all Janapadas – states, of the Indian subcontinent those days leading the two sides to war. Hence, with such royal background of the game the figures playing it might also be some prince attired like Lord Krishna playing the game with his queen for after the burst of the cult of Krishna’s Vaishnava ‘bhakti’ – devotion, in Rajasthan not only almost every state consecrated Krishna as the state’s principal deity but many of their rulers resorted to fashion their attire and appearance like Krishna’s. They even painted their figures Krishna-like in blue and ruled the state in his name.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.

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