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KRISHNA AND THE MILKMAIDS. Kangra, c. 1800. W. G. Archer collection, London
KRISHNA AND THE MILKMAIDS


Writing in 1916 of Kangra painting, Coomaraswamy admirably evoked the mood and inspiration of this picture. 'Their ethos is unique: what Chinese art achieved for landscape is here accomplished for human love. Here, if never and nowhere else in the world, the Western Gates are opened wide. The arms of lovers are about each other's necks, eye meets eye, the whispering sakhis speak of nothing else but the course of Krishna's courtship, the very animals are spell¬bound by the sound of Krishna's flute and the elements stand still to hear the ragas and raginis. This art is only concerned with the realities of life; above all, with passionate love-service, conceived as the means and symbol of all Union. If Rajput art at first sight appears to lack the material charm of Persian pastorals, or the historic significance of Mughal portraiture, it more than compensates in tenderness and depth of feeling, in gravity and reverence. Rajput art creates a magic world where all men are heroic, all women are beautiful, passionate and shy, beasts both wild and tame are the friends of man and trees and flowers are conscious of the footsteps of the Bridegroom as he passes by. This magic world is not unreal or fanciful but a world of imagination and eternity, visible to all who do not refuse to see with the transfiguring eyes of love.'