Title: Dancing Ladies
Artist: Gopal Kumawat
School: Kishangarh

¬†This line-drawing of Gopal Kumawat, the artist from Kishangarh widely known for making use of the medieval Kishangarh art style for depicting a quasi-modern theme using contemporary contexts, is a fine manifestation of great movement and as deep passion, which his two female dancers dancing in mad ecstasy represent. Their tall stature, style of costumes and ornamentation make them essentially Rajasthani but in their features they far more closely reflect the Bani Thani model of Kishangarh womanhood. They have the same sharp features, pointed noses, angular chins, well defined cheek bones, finely cast necks, large eyes resembling a ‘khanjana’ or wagtail bird, broad forehead, dark thick hair with a lock curling onto their cheeks, thin slender waist, well shaped breasts, proportionate thighs, long comely arms and fine long fingers.

A dance for amusing the self, the kind of amateur dance of today, was a rarer thing in medieval India and more particularly wherever feudal system of rule prevailed. It was mostly a professional thing performed for money which pooled only by entertaining others, mostly the feudal lords, influential courtiers and rich traders. It seems the physical exploitation and erosion of dignity and grace of a female dancer, and more so because the concept of a male dancer did not much prevail, had begun at early stages. Hence, by medieval days dance became the profession of concubines, courtesans, regular and quasi prostitutes and some tribes that traded with every act of their body and a dance performed to amuse the senses and blended with some element of sexuality was the most common of such money minting acts. The entire land of Rajasthan was divided into principalities, or states of sizes varying from very small to considerably large, ruled by various Rajput clans who considered lustful pursuits as their glory and their dancing crew as their pride. Hence Rajasthan of erstwhile days developed dance as a great professional art and its several alluring and fascinating styles as also created good many dancers who used in a dance their entire being, the body language and what not, to passionately incite their masters.

Gopal Kumawat has obviously discovered in his dancing figures this professional aspect of Rajasthani dance. The figures are semi-nude with the private organs of their bodies exposed to view. It is not a case of excitement or ecstasy, or of a carefree isolation where in an excited dance garments might naturally strip off. Though there are no viewers, yet where they have been depicted dancing is also not a private chamber. The nudeness is pre-scheduled used for blending sensuality with the dance. The extra transparency attributed to their costumes allowing their private parts, the breasts and vulvas, to stand fully exposed was part of the artistic scheme. The theme of the artist is essentially the professional dancers and in rendering it in a simple pencil sketch he has undoubtedly created powerful effects.

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.