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The four-armed Shiva is seated in padmasana – cross-legged posture, facing yajna-agni – ritual fire, on a specially constructed raised dais under an arched ceiling adorned richly with colourfully designed drapery, a beautiful chandelier and elegantly painted columns. With his folded forehands he is expressing his reverence to the ritual convention, and with the other two, held upwards, upholding the law. The absence of his essential attributes, such as trident, suggests that the artist has conceived for Shiva an absolutely different set of iconography, perhaps to suggest the rareness and special significance of the occasion, as also to portray Shiva’s enthusiasm for it. Shiva yet has matted hair, still a rich crown covers the larger part of his head. Besides his routine loincloth of tiger skin, he is also putting on a blue antariya – a textile covering lower half of his body. Quite unlike him he is covering artistically his breast and shoulders even if by using only another piece of tiger skin. Around his shoulders too he has a sash, a textile piece. His ornaments – ear-rings, necklaces, girdle, armlets, bracelets among others, are so unlike Shiva. Textiles and wears of hide symbolise two worlds, two cultures and two styles of living and in Shiva both meet and blend.
Richly bejeweled and costumed in red, the chosen colour of wedding costumes, Parvati is seated on Shiva’s left. As if enthralled by his beauty, or perhaps by his mere presence, she is incessantly or rather passionately looking at Shiva. She had won him by her long rigorous penance. Thus, his consent to wed her was for her an occasion of maddening delight, and this the artist has captured in the demeanour of her face and in her total being. The painting deviates from the Shiva Maha Purana that perceives her as seated on Shiva’s left thigh. The coy maiden of the Shiva Maha Purana whom her father carries and places on the groom’s thigh, the painting’s Parvati is a victorious person subduing Shiva to submit to her will. In stark contrast to Shiva’s blue, Parvati’s gold-like body colour gives her, her Gauri name.
Seated towards the foreground the four-faced and four-armed Brahma is performing the marriage ritual by pronouncing prescribed ‘mantras’ – sacred syllables. With a wooden spoon in hand he is making offering to ‘Agni’ – yajna-fire. With a white ‘antariya’ Brahma is attired like a purohit – priest. Strangely, there is on his each forehead a third eye, not a feature of his iconography, assumed by him, perhaps, to win Shiva’s confidence as Brahma and Vishnu had succeeded with great difficulty in convincing Shiva to marriage. Behind Shiva stands four-armed Vishnu carrying disc and conch in upper hands, and the lower ones, held in abhaya and varada. Close to Parvati stands her richly attired father Himvan. Around there lie a purna-ghata, a tall lamp, various pots and pieces of banana leaves, all ritual articles.
After the death of Sati, Shiva, desperate in her love, had decided not to ever wed. However, Brahma and Vishnu felt that for the act of creation as well as for eliminating some of the mighty demons it was essential that Shiva married and fathered for some of the demons could be killed not even by him but only by one of his sons. Hence, Shiva’s adherence to ‘yoga’ was against the creation’s interest. One day they were Himvan’s guests where they saw his daughter Kali, subsequently named Parvati. With the vow to marry Shiva only, none else, she was undergoing rigorous penance. In Himvan’s daughter they saw Shiva’s prospective consort. Hence they approached Shiva and prayed him to marry. Shiva agreed but on condition that the maid he married should be so accomplished a woman that in his hours of yoga she was a yogini, and in his hours of ‘sanyoga’ – amour, she was the most amorous woman on the earth. On assurance of Brahma and Vishnu that Parvati, Himvan’s daughter, was the maid as would suit Shiva, he went to her disguised and after he was satisfied of her suitability agreed to marry her.
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.