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THE LADY AT THE TRYST Garhwal, c. 1775. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

From the fourteenth century onwards, Indian poetry had concentrated on the moods and actions of nayakas and nayikas-—the ideal lovers whose conduct embodied the very essence of romance. Moral restrictions were deemed to be lifted, lovers and their ladies were free to follow their hearts while every nuance of passionate sentiment was described with sensitive zest. It was by expressing in poetry such romantic longings that Indian feudal society maintained its moral code.
The present picture portrays an utha nayika—the girl who having reached the tryst prepares a bed of leaves and then stands waiting for her lover. Darkness hems her in while lightning, flickering in the sky, gives warning of storm. It is other meanings, however, which invest the picture with poetic charm. Echoing the girl's grave beauty, the lightning also reflects her agitation, its restless presence hinting at the frenzy beneath her tranquil poise. In Indian poetry, a girl's face was often described as 'lovely as the lightning' while the play of lightning on cloud was a common symbol for the union of lovers.