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RADHA AND KRISHNA IN THE GROVE. Kangra, c. 1785. Victoria and Albert Museum
RADHA AND KRISHNA IN THE GROVE


With Plate 1, an example of the delicate poetic style which from Guler antecedents came to maturity at Kangra early in the reign of Raja Sansar Chand. The images which serve as a symbolic background are, in each case, taken from Hindi and Sanskrit poetry. Particularly common symbols for physical enchantment were the lotus plants which appear, nodding and swaying in the stream. If a poet wished to praise a lady's hands and feet, he said they were 'soft as lotuses' or if his concern was with her features, he wrote 'Your face is lovely as a lotus flower'. A shapely arm was 'graceful as a lotus stalk', while lovers sitting by a stream immediately called to mind the same exquisite plant with its delicate leaves and matchless blossom.
'My love and I sit together
Like lotus and its leaves.'
Besides the lotus, flowering trees were also regarded as symbolictheir spear-shaped branches, laden with flowers, being treated as poetic parallels for upsurging love. The waxen stems of plantains were other images which brought to mind the absent lover2 while their large cool leaves were often used in poetry as romantic symbols for a girl's smooth thighs. Even more common as an image for embracing lovers was the creeper entwined about a trunk while streams with tossing waves vividly evoked the force and flow of passion.
In the picture, all these images are fused in one - form, line and colour all serving to express and emphasize the associations of poetry. The girl's hair is treated with the same twining lines as is the water in the stream, the edge of her dress with the same scalloped curves which appear in the leaves of the lotuses. The curving outlines of her thigh are paralleled by the oval plantain leaves, while the thick creeper coiling round the tree echoes the blending postures of the two lovers. It is in ways such as these that Kangra artists accomplished the supremely difficult task of translating poetry into painting, creating in the process a type of art which, if literary in origin, transcends literature in its ultimate achievement.