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A NIGHT OF STORM. A lady, abhisarika nayika, going through the dark to meet her lover. Garhwal, c. 1780. British Museum
A NIGHT OF STORM


Аs in many Kangra paintings, all the images in this picture are drawn from poetry and are inserted for precise symbolic ends. Frail lightning echoes the girl's beauty. Flowering creepers repeat the droop and pattern of her dress while birds, motionless in the rainy darkness, parallel her poise and calm. It is the pouring rain and the twin cobras, however, which sustain the vital rоles. The rain is a discomfort which the girl must silently endure and a symbol of her goal—the passionate encounter with her lover to whom she speeds.
'Take me to a country that I have never seen,
Where, O my love, the thunder roars,
Where, O my love, the lightning flickers,
And the rain pours down'.

— rain, storm and lightning all symbolising the climax of desire.
In a similar way, the two snakes have varied functions. Suggestive of danger and
the lover, the cobra, slithering to its mate, also enacts the girl proceeding to the tryst. Its undulations mimic her young curves and trailing dress, while lines such as
' Lying on their bed the two embrace
The girl is lovely as a cobra'
'A snake shines like lightning in the stream'
'Your body is soft and lustrous as a snake'

show how the image was also intended to stress the girl's charm. It was by accepting this variety of meanings and welding them into a single harmony that the Garhwal master-artist revealed his stature.