Title: Dance Of Shiva & Parvati
Artist: Gopal Kumawat
School: Kishangarh

This timeless masterpiece represents Shiva accompanied by Parvati, his spouse, in a mode of ‘lasya’, the dance-form that manifests beauty and all softer aspects of being and kindles love and emotions. ‘Lasya’ and ‘tandava’ are the legendary dance forms associated with Lord Shiva. ‘Lasya’ descends in oceanic depths and ‘tandava’ rides the winds. Different from ‘tandava’, which is the dance of destruction and dissolution, ‘lasya’ is the dance of creation. ‘Tandava’ has cosmic dimensions spanning earth and heavens, blowing winds, kindling fire, tossing mountains and storming oceans. In ‘tandava’, friction of winds sends forth flames of fire and eyes yield devastation and destruction. ‘Lasya’ buds within the being and blooms in eyes, in the lustre of crimson cheeks, in sensually glowing lips and in the entire being. When the spell of ‘lasya’ begins working, each of body parts sprouts like petals of a drowsy rose. Love, union and creation are its modes. As fire defines ‘tandava’, ocean defines ‘lasya’ and Shiva as Natesh is the Lord of both, the dance of fire and the oceanic dance.

Shiva, the Lord of destruction and dissolution, is more widely represented in ‘tandava’ or in one of its allied forms as Natesh or Nataraj. His manifestations as Nataraj is the prime theme of the South Indian Shaiva iconography. Even Shiva’s spouse in her Bhairavi, Kali, Mahakali and Shmashana-Kali manifestations, preferred dancing on corpses or around a burning pyre. Shiva is the first of the Divine lovers, the progenitor of dance and the root of creation, yet, despite, ‘lasya’, the manifestation of love, sensuous emotionality and creativity, is a rarity with Shiva. One of its reasons may be that he was inseparably in union and ‘lasya’, which leads from duality to union, required at least initial separation, which Lord Shiva could not bear with. In Shaiva thought, duality meant dissolution, the disintegration of ‘Purusha’ and ‘Prakriti’, the self and matter, and thus a recourse to ‘tandava’. ‘Lasya’ leads duality to unite, create and sustain. Hence, “lasya’ is more akin to Lord Vishnu who, as Lord Krishna, led it to its greatest perfection. Lord Krishna danced to love, create and delight. He has been conceived as ‘Lokaranjaka’, the one who delights the world by his ‘leela’, or his sportiveness. His ‘leela’ manifested in his dance and his dance, the ‘lasya’, sought unity out of duality and in that the accomplishment of love and creation.

This excellent piece of canvas by the known artist Gopal Kumawat, who revived and led to glorious heights the medieval Kishangarh miniature art style, represents Shiva and Parvati, half sub-merged into water, engaged in oceanic dance, the cosmic form of ‘lasya’. The artist has blended in Shiva’s form not only the ‘lasya’ but also its master Lord Krishna and in the form of Parvati he has discovered the form of Radha. The figures of Shiva and Parvati, drawn with fine lines and subdued colour tones, both inside the water and beyond, are little perceptible or perceptible to only sensitive eyes. The symbolism that the artist has sought to create by such subdued manifestations of the divine couple has spiritual dimensions. Merged with the cosmos Shiva and his Shakti are themes of such eyes that are capable to see them. Parvati, Shiva’s spouse, is independently painted, but, despite, not only in his body language but also in his body-build, Lord Shiva has a semi-feminine look. The artist seems to emphasise that it is in ‘Prakriti’, the matter, which is feminine, that the ‘Purusha’ or the Self, has his manifest form. In abundance of lotuses manifests the mood of the painting. They are scattered all around the figures of Lord Shiva and Parvati as if sprouting from their beings. They are all, except one, in bud forms yet to bloom, which is suggestive of ‘lasya’ or of love and creation. In the painting, the full bloomed lotus is only one, the primordial lotus that is the Divine Couple. Radha and Krishna in lotus pond constituted the theme of quite a few medieval masterpieces from Kishangarh. Gopal Kumawat, by associating Lord Shiva and Parvati with such concept, created not only his own vision of ‘lasya’ but also a new legend of the primordial Divine Couple and the Great Creator.

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.