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RADHA BATHING. Garhwal, c. 1785. Victoria and Albert Museum

In Garhwal, as elsewhere in the Punjab Hills, the romance of Radha and Krishna fascinated the Rajput nobility with its insistence on love as a passion and its basic doctrine of devotion to God. Krishna, an embodiment of Vishnu, had lived among the cowherds and cowgirls of Northern India, exciting their adoration bv his love, friendship and idyllic charms. While Radha, Krishna's principal love, is not mentioned in the Bhagavata Purana, a Sanskrit text of about the tenth century (A.D.) she is the leading figure in the Gita Govinda, a Sanskrit poem by Jayadeva two centuries later.
In this greatest of love poems, George Keyt has said, 'the physical aspect is not something distinct from the spiritual nor is it parallel to the sort of love that is sexual in the manner of the Ars Amatoria. On the contrary there is the endowment of the physical side with the real and enduring qualities of the spiritual. Nothing is trivial. The most fugitive emotion in love is important'. And he goes on to stress 'any little gesture or physical sensation, the relationship and association of the surroundings, the hours and seasons and the bodily adornments'.1
In the picture, Radha is bathing while Krishna watches her in rapture. The scene with its innocent dignity has been given a Garhwal setting just as in Western, art characters from the Bible were portrayed in Flemish costume or against Italian backgrounds. The river is the Alaknanda which flowed past Srinagar the capital and the hillocks are the two hills, Nar and Narain, which jutted into the stream. The red border is a survival of an early Guler conventionthe hot flaming colour symbolising passion. Although by a considerably lesser artist than the Garhwal master, the picture includes a characteristic detail in the linear treatment of water.