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The Loves of Krishna in Indian Painting and Poetry   By: (1907-1979)

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[Illustration: Radha and Krishna in the Grove Kangra (Punjab Hills), c. 1785]

THE LOVES OF KRISHNA

IN INDIAN PAINTING AND POETRY

By W. G. ARCHER

To MR. AND MRS. H. N. WITH LOVE AND ADMIRATION

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I am deeply indebted to Dr. A.L. Basham for generous guidance throughout the preparation of this book, to George Keyt for permitting me to quote extensively from his brilliant translation of the Gita Govinda , and to Deben Bhattacharya who supplied me with new translations of later poems and discussed a number of important points. I must also express my deep gratitude to Mildred Archer and to Gopi Krishna Kanoria for valued criticism and advice, to Messrs. Faber and Faber, the Harvill Press, Messrs. Macmillan, the Oxford University Press, the Phoenix House and Messrs. Sidgwick and Jackson for permitting me to quote passages from works still copyright, to Professor J. Brough for an informative note on Bhanu Datta's Rasamanjari and to all those owners of collections who have either allowed me to reproduce pictures in their possession or have kindly supplied me with photographs.

Part of the material for this book was delivered as lectures to the Royal Asiatic Society, the Royal India, Pakistan and Ceylon Society and at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I INTRODUCTION

II THE MAHABHARATA: KRISHNA THE HERO

III THE BHAGAVATA PURANA: THE COWHERD i Birth and Early Adventures ii The Loves of the Cowgirls iii The Death of the Tyrant

IV THE BHAGAVATA PURANA: THE PRINCE i The Return to Court ii Marriages and Offspring iii Last Phases iv The Purana Re considered

V THE KRISHNA OF POETRY i The Triumph of Radha ii The Gita Govinda iii Later Poetry iv The Rasika Priya

VI THE KRISHNA OF PAINTING

NOTES

BIBLIOGRAPHY

INDEX

PLATES AND COMMENTARY

SOURCES

I

INTRODUCTION

During the twentieth century, a certain type of Indian painting began to fascinate the West. Unlike Mughal art, it was a product of Hindu courts in Rajasthan and the Punjab Hills and unlike Mughal painting, its chief concern was with the varied phases of romance. Ladies would be shown brooding in their chambers as storm clouds mounted in the sky. A girl might be portrayed desperately fondling a plantain tree, gripping a pet falcon, the symbol of her lover, or hurrying through the rainy darkness intent only on reaching a longed for tryst. A prince would appear lying on a terrace, his outstretched arms striving vainly to detain a calm beauty or welcoming with delight a bashful girl as she slowly advanced. In all these pictures, romantic love was treated as the highest good and physical passion was interpreted with a freshness and innocence unequalled in the world's art.

Such paintings were, at first sight, easy to appreciate. Although they alternated between two methods of expression the first a style of savage distortion, the second a style of the softest grace each manner enlivened the common subject.[1] Yet in two respects elucidation was vitally necessary. Just as in Japan, the lover might express his longings by cryptic references to Nature, the Indian artist employed poetic symbols to charge his subjects with romantic ardour. Flowers were never merely flowers nor clouds clouds. The symbols of Indian poetry the lotus swaying in a stream, the flowering creeper embracing a trunk were intended to suggest passion haunted ladies. The mingling of clouds, rain and lightning symbolized the embraces of lovers, and commonplace objects such as dishes, vases, ewers and lamps were brought into subtle conjunction to hint at 'the right true end of love.' What, in fact, might seem at first sight to be a simple portrait, proved on closer understanding to be a study in despair, a revelation of delight or a clue to rapture, each image with its sexual implications contriving to express some nuance of longing. In these pictures, only a part of the meaning was apparent and without a comprehension of the poetry, much of its true significance was lost... Continue reading book >>




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