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Such affectionate ties between beautiful maidens and a deer have long defined the softest impulse that a human being : essentially a woman, is capable of having in heart. In the great Sanskrit classic Abhijnana Shakuntalam by Kalidasa, a baby-deer, not a human being, holds Shakuntala’s sari and expresses its disapproval of her leaving it and the hermitage. This soft impulse is reproduced in a first century BC relief panel carved at Rani-gumpha, Udaigiri Caves, Bhubaneswar, where a tiny deer is sculpted as holding a young maiden’s wear in its mouth. Though largely eroded with time, the intensity of affection on both ends might be easily read. In medieval sculptures and paintings, frescos and miniatures, this theme has been repeatedly represented. The painters seeking to visually illustrate Ragas – modes of producing music on Indian classical lines, have used this imagery : a young maiden caressing a deer or fawn, for illustrating a number of such Ragas.
The young maiden as portrayed in this Kishangarh painting, aesthetically the most brilliant and beautiful art-style in entire Rajasthani painting, portraying its females with doe-eyes like innocence in their fish-eyes, sharp pointed nose affording to the entire face a bit angular dimension and with a curved neck, has strange dimensional symmetry with the up-raised face of the animal. Outstanding in great aesthetic beauty, elegantly modeled tall slender figures with sharp features and emotionally charged eyes and faces, long, dark black unbound long hair with a rippling lock falling down the cheek around the ear, a well defined chin, broad forehead, curved neck and moderately modeled breasts, besides a sensitively treated background usually the lush green nature, and sometimes a marble palace, temple, or building laid around, the Kishangarh art style has the flavour as also the type of imagery best suited to such rare aesthetic theme as portrayed in this painting. Perhaps it would not reveal so powerfully in other styles of painting. The artist, a contemporary one who had before him all art models, chose Kishangarh art form obviously for its great power to reveal such theme.
The young damsel has been portrayed with a dense column of lush green trees in the background and a green stretch of land with flowering shrubs scattered over, in the fore-ground and around. For facilitating the animal she has turned her left leg backwards, and the right, upwards, perhaps for supporting it. Her figure has been conceived with tall slim fish like eyes, arching eyebrows, thick long dark hair with a thin lock curling down the cheek, sharp pointed nose, small thin delicate lips, a well defined chin, mildly curved neck and slim slender figure exactly as is the iconography and anatomy of the female figures in the mid-eighteenth century Kishangarh miniatures especially those rendered by Nihal Chand, the painter who in the form of Bani-thani had created the timeless model of feminine beauty. Her ensemble : ‘choli’ – a breasts-wear, ‘odhani’ – the sash like upper wear, and ‘lehenga’ – flared long skirt, printed in typical Rajasthani motifs and character, reveals land’s flavour.
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.