The story of
Nal-Damyanti has its root in the epic tradition- Mahabharata, where it is
mentioned for the first time. Its treatment of human emotions was so wonderful
that the story was picked up by different artists, from the ancient and
medieval to the modern period who aimed at capturing the beauty of romance, separation,
For its translation to visual narrative, the version in Sriharsha’s Naishadha Charita, one of the five Sanskrit Mahakavya was chosen by the Pahari School of painting, recreating the varying states of human passions using Damyanti as the central image.
In this particular work by Kailash Raj, the scene is from Damayanti’s bed chambers, moments after Nal’s messenger, a golden swan reached her with Nal’s passionate message. The pleasure of receiving her lover’s message but her inability to express that happiness to him causes Damayanti a seething pain, quite common for the lovelorn human soul. The pain of the heart manifests itself in signs which are noticed by Damyanati’s attendants, who appear worried and amused at the same time. The stars in the sky and Damyanti’s minimal clothing hint that the night was not over when she was seized by a fit of sadness. Her head is drooping, her face looks distraught. Meanwhile, three of her companions standing around her bed, try to provide some solace to her with their sweet words. One attendant on the left carries a cloth in her hand, inwardly smiling at the influence of love on her mistress. Another attendant on the right can be seen entering the premise, with a bowl in her hand, probably containing sandalwood paste, a popular Indian remedy for bringing down the temperature of someone suffering from fever. But alas! What can the medicines for the body do for the ailment that grips the human heart?
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