PAINTING OF THE DECCAN
About the same time two other series of ragas were painted. They are of a spectacular beauty, one of them a masterpiece. They share with the earlier style the well-worn Persian motifs of gold sky, high horizon and flowered ground. The women, still the stately creatures of Deccan taste, have exchanged the long sari for the skirt, bound with a sweeping, fringed sash. In place of the heavy chignon of southern fashion they affect the long single plait, as in the Ahmadnagar page. The figure is enveloped in a long veil (orhni) of embroidered gauze which projects in stiff, formal angles like wings. The men too are no longer brilliantly coloured puppets, but sleek and princely. The forms of nature begin to acquire significance for the artist: the two great mangoes which dominate the composition of our picture are true and splendid portraits of these magnificent trees. These new tendencies in Deccan painting suggest that the artist had suddenly become aware of the Mughal painting of Akbar's court, whose prestige was now paramount throughout northern India. This is not to suggest that the Deccan pictures are in any sense derivative. No painting from Akbar's ateliers has their poetry or formal qualities. But obviously the fresh and attractive realism of the northern school fired the imagination of the Deccan painter. He saw that it could be converted to his more serious picture-making. If we look for a patron who might have inspired such an artist we shall find him in Burhan II of Ahmadnagar. Burhan was the youngest son of that Husain celebrated in the early Ahmadnagar book. He rebelled several times against his elder brother Murtaza I (1565-86), known as the Madman, and finally in 1583 fled to Akbar's court, where for political reasons he was welcomed and honourably employed. It was not until 1591 that he returned, with Mughal connivance, to Ahmadnagar as king. Burhan's reign (1591-5) was short and inglorious, but he kept a brilliant court. The historian Ferishta and the poet Zuhuri, later to be the two chief ornaments of the court of Ibrahim II of Bijapur, were first attracted to Ahmadnagar, and it was to Burhan that Zuhuri dedicated his most famous composition, the Saki Namah or Book of the Cupbearer. That the Mughal elements in the raga paintings are due to Burhan's exile at Akbar's court is supported by a picture of which Burhan is the main subject This is the first and perhaps the most distinguished of Deccan portraits. Although Mughal painting alone could have supplied the incentive and the formal conception of the portrait-group, the quality of the Deccan version utterly transcends its models. The cool and subtle refinement which it communicates is unique in Indian painting. Colour, as always in the Deccan, plays the major role. The bland and luminous clarity of the tones, wonderfully lit by the gold ground, will be familiar to cultivators of the gallica rose.

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