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Though the artist of this present piece has introduced a few changes too, he has effectively retained the spirit, as also the basic imagery, of the earlier Kangra masterpiece and its medievalism. Despite that he has sought a few modifications, such as different designing patterns of the young maiden’s costume, a single tree instead of a group of them, and a different style for Madhavi creeper, the painting’s antiqueness, not merely in depiction of a classical theme but also in its style and everything, has been wondrously reproduced.
The major change is seen in the deletion of the male soldier’s figure, a subordinate aspect of the imagery of Raga Kumbha, which the artist of this piece seems to have sacrificed for better projecting the main image-part, the pith of Raga Kumbha. With the figure of a soldier, as if thirsty reaching a well for water – a component of earlier Kangra painting, the painting’s meaning could diversify. As M. S. Randhawa has done, it could be seen as illustrating the well known folk of a soldier who went away the day he was married, before he had seen his wife’s face, or his wife, his, and returned after long years. While on his way to his in-laws’ village, he incidentally met his wife drawing water with her pitcher from a well. He went to her for some water, but thinking that finding her alone he was only teasing her, she turned down his request and rebuked him. However, she was dismayed when she found him at her house and knew that he was no other than her husband.
Thus, the painting with its present imagery more effectively and exclusively represents Raga Kumbha, which, as asserts its ‘dhyana’, is born of the sound of pitcher when water gushes in or out of it. As in this miniature, the Raga Kumbha is represented as a young woman standing on a beam laid across a dug-well having a circular form and sufficiently raised parapet. With her downward turned face she is painted as looking at her pitcher which, with the help of a rope held in one of her hands, she is slowly lowering down. The pitcher is usually partially visible.
The ‘dhyana’ prescribes white costume for the lady representing the Raga Kumbha. This artist, and the Kangra and all artists before him, alternated white costumes with the coloured ones, obviously considering her married status and young age. However, respecting the tradition, as laid down in the ‘dhyana’, all artists have painted the well’s parapet in white, symbolic of the body of Raga Kumbha. Raga Kumbha is a melody of the kind of love which is neither accomplished nor unaccomplished, as the young lady has her lover before her but not knowing him is also away from him. This in the imagery of Raga Kumbha the Madhavi creeper symbolises. It entwines around a tree and is loaded with flowers but is still, not its part.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.