In most of the paintings of the Rajput and Pahari
schools, he main theme is love. The emphasis is exclusively on the
emotions of women and how they react to this primary human sentiment.
Miniature paintings from
the Rajput and Pahari states show an interest in the depiction of the
Krishna legend and love seems to be their primary source of
inspiration. The literature of the Bhakti cult and the sringar
(love) poetry inspired patrons and poets alike to have these works
illustrated with paintings. In fact the transfer to colour and
lively forms gave these verbal images strikingly new dimensions.
Works like Bhanudattas Rasamanjari and Keshav Dass
Rasikpriya and Kavipriya were a gold mine for painters who
appreciated graphic descriptions of Krishna and Radha whose endearing
divine qualities were fashioned after familiar human likenesses. As
J.C.Harle remarks: So pervasive was the grip upon the
imagination of Krishna that in most of the nayak-nayika themes the
lovers of Brindavan are either explicit or implicit.
The emphasis is almost
exclusively on the emotions of the woman or on the situations in
which a woman in love finds herself. This, of course, parallels the
emphasis in all Vaishnava devotional poetry where it is the raptures
and distresses of the soul in love with God (Krishna) that are hymned
and the responses and other actions of the divinity are described
through he eyes or emotions of the devotee. The identification
between Radha, the supreme nayika, and the human soul enraptured with
god is all pervasive.
Keshav Das, a court poet
of Orchha in Madhya Pradesh, provided vivid images and subtle
distinctions to identify the different characters of nayak and
nayikas. Mainly the theme is love, how one reacted to his primary
human sentiment and how it shaped the vary existence of women. Nayak
is the hero the lover, and the Nayika is the heroine -- the
Krishna, the nayak, is
adept in the art of love. He is proud, emotional, selfless,
generous, handsome and expert in enthralling the heart and soul of
his devotees. Apparently meant as a study is discriminating various
attitudes of the nayak, Keshav Das mentions four categories of the
nayak Anukul who is honest in love to his beloved and loves,
cherishes and obeys; Dakshina who loves all women equally;
Satha who is false though sweet-tongued; Dhrishta who
is a shameless philandered. Krishna is t Ankul nayak the
ideal love, the beloved of all.
Women, however, provide a
more fascinating study based on their natural attributes. Thus,
Padmini nayika with a golden complexion is bashful, intelligent,
cheerfulb eautifully dressed and is not too keen on love play.
Chitrini is tremulous-eyed, smiling, loves perfumes, find arts
and her lovers portrait. Sankhini is
ill-tempered, unhesitant, has luxuriant hair and likes red dresses.
Hastini is fat and thick skinned, has a raucous voice and heavy body
and gait. Her hair is sharp and pointed. By and large these four
categories include all kinds of women. Age-wise a nayika is called
Bala upto sixteen, Taruni between sixteen and thirty, Praudha between
thirty and fifty-five and Briddha above fifty-five.
But the main interest of
Rasikpriya lies in its classification of nayikas in their response to
love: Svakiya (ones own), Parakiya (Sweet-heart of
celebrities), and Samanya (common). Savkiya has three categories
the artless the adolescent and the woman. The artless nayika is like
a sleeping volcano till aroused in love and excited, extremely cold
in erotic games, too obstinate and frigid to surrender in love.
The adolescent may have a
blooming youth with eyes like the god of love, impassioned and
unhesitant, expert in erotica and sharp-tongued. Accordingly the
language of a nayika can be oblique, fickle and harsh and forthright.
The Praudha (mature) also
has many categories which indicate her expertise and willingness to
participate in the erotic games. Samasta-rasa-kovida is an expert in
erotica; Vichitra-vibhrama has an exquisite charm; Akramita wins her
lover by all means of speech, thought and action; and Labdha-pati is
authoritative and is command of her lovers household.
Praudhadhira is obedient but occasionally disrespectful to her lover;
Praudha-dhira-akriti-gupat is the ice-maiden with an exaggerated
sense of prosperity; Praudha-adhira is intolerant of inconsistency in
her lover and openly upbraids him for default.
These above mentioned
categories of the Svakiya nayika have a sincere love for their
beloved and their existence revolves around the nayak. In contrast,
the Parakiya is the nayika who loves to be the sweet-heart of
celebrities. Udha is married and Aundha is unmarried. In our
cultural ethos love is related to conjugal ties and is rarely allowed
outside marital bonds. Further sub-categories are blooming fast;
beauty and grace; youthful and well-proportioned; one who has just
tasted the pleasures of dalliance; shy and diffident.
Bhanudatta gives a
detailed classification of nayikas. His study of Parakiya nayika is
particularly interesting for the study of the minds of such nayikas.
Of special note is the story of the nayika whose husband suggests
that the forest trees be cut down. She is greatly grieved at the
prospect of losing her rendezvous point with her lover so she throws
the axe into the chilling waters of the pool to pre-empt the felling
of trees. The Suratogpana-parakiya conceals the truth of love bites
by saying that a cat attacked her.
Yet another variety of
Parakiya is Vasaksajja nayika who persuades her attendant women to
sleep early so that she can meet her lover without fear.
What Byron said of women
Mans love is a mans life a thing apart, is womans
whole existenceis particularly true of the nayikas whose
love for the nayak has a devotional attachment. All of the eight
nayikas of Keshav Das thrive on love or just languish without it.
Svadhinapatika is love and admired by her lover who clings to her
like a shadow. Her works are like words of scriptures to him. Utka
nayika is the beloved awaiting a tryst in a garden. Sitting on a
cushion of leaves, or standing beside a tree, she is the embodiment
of feminine charm like a newly caged bird, she moves
restlessly in her leafy nook, says Kshav Das. She is
impatient, nervous and anxious for her lover.
The Vasaksajja nayika is
an incarnation of the goddess of love (Rati). She has prepared the
bed and adorned herself to welcome her lord from a sojourn abroad.
When he comes, she accords a passionate welcome. To her love
in a palace is perhaps at last more grievous torment than a hermits
fast, as Keats put it. The wait kindles her desires and
passion glows on her cheeks.
The Abhisandhita nayika
estranges herself from her lover over some paltry quarrel and refuses
to be appeased. In his absence she regrets her folly. But she has
no ears for the nayaks protestation of love. Khandita nayika
is the one sinned against. When the lover returns the next morning
after a night out with some other woman, the nayika chides him
Are they (Krishnas eyes) burning in the flames of separation
from me, or in the fire of some other womans love? she
questions him. The pangs of separation which the Proshitpreyasi
nayika suffers are unbearable.
He is coming back after
long; she should be happy but fears and hesitation have benumbed her
senses to allow any happiness on his arrival. The Vipralabdha nayika
has been disappointed by the nayak. She throws away her ornaments in
disgust. To her, flowers are like arrows, fragrance becomes
ill-dour, pleasant bowers like fiery furnaces
Das she is the jilted heroine, in the throes of disappointed love,
dejected and inconsolable.
The Abhisarika is the
forward nayika who sallies out into a stormy night to meet her
lover for love, pride or passion. She undertakes perilous
journeys during day, evening, dark or moonlit night. She is adamant
in her determination to meet the nayak for there is no fear in
love, but perfect love casteth out fear. Serpents, evil
spirits, torrential rains and lightning, storms or evil eyes and
wagging tongues cannot keep her away from the nayak. The Abhisariak
superbly dressed and bejeweled, surprise the nayak by her daring and
The Rajasthan and Phari
schools of paintings depict these nayikas.Bundi, Kota, Basohli,
Chamba and Kangra schools of miniatures have excellent collection of
paintings on the nayak-nayika theme. The work of Keshav Das had a
few earlier examples but none so psychologically fascinating as a
study of the mind of women in love.