Shiva & Parvati by Kailesh Raj

Title: Shiva & Parvati
Artist: Kailesh Raj
School: Jaipur
Size: 34x26cm
Price: POA

Representing the early 19th century heights of Jaipur art style this magnificently executed miniature depicts Lord Shiva with his consort Parvati on a palatial terrace which has laid on it a rich carpet woven with gold thread. In a queer blend of two life styles the artist has portrayed his figures on a terrace which is apparently the part of a royal palace but is not devoid of a mini model of mount Kailash and Shiva’s Nandi, the bull resting on it. The Jaipur artist knew the grandeur of court and harem life from his association with this life style and that of Lord Shiva from tradition and legends.

The artist obviously borrowed from the court-life the concept of rich jewels for Shiva’s person and a splendidly bejewelled and clad figure of Parvati, huge bolster, wall to wall carpet, gold lined parapet and multi-flowering plants suggestive of a royal garden setting beyond the terrace, all emblems of regalia, but he did not allow them to dilute his image of the Lord which essentially represents Shiva’s way of life. Over and above his gold necklace and other jewels his Lord is wearing the garland of human skulls. His gold anklets, bangles, ear-rings etc. have turned to his favourite snakes. River Ganga emitting from Shiva’s hair is pouring over the royal garden and thus watering it. The carpet has laid over it Shiva’s tiger skin and the terrace has installed on it the mount Kailash. Snakes are yet his principal ornaments and elephant skin his sole costume. He is drowsy with ‘bhanga’ and has lying beside him his trident and ‘tumara’, though turned to gold in this innovation of his royal image. The artist by superimposing on palatial life-style the life-way of Mahayogi Shiva has symbolised the supremacy of spiritual life over courtly grandeur.

Shiva, besides his usual attributes, bears on his face a mix of amour and intoxication. He has beads in his right hand but in his pensive mood has forgotten to turn them. So is Parvati’s case. She has in her hand a bowl filled with Shiva’s favourite drink ‘bhanga’ but charmed by her Lord’s alluring person the forgetful consort goes on looking at his face and forgets to present it to him. A multi-hooded snake adorns his head and his ‘tri-netra’ his forehead. Deep dark blue sky with frills of gilding clouds, quietude on Nandi’s face, vigorously twinkling eyes of the elephant skin and the contentment which each of the skulls bore by Lord Shiva around his neck reveals define not only the hour of night but also its serenity.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specialises 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.