Tempera on paper
circa 1780 - 1790
Numbered in Takri ‘326’ and ‘219’ on the reverse. Further inscribed in Devanagari on the flyleaf
“atha vira rasa lakshanam. doha. hoyi bir utsahmaya gaur barana duti anga. ati udara gambhira kahi kesava pai prasanga. 23. sri radha ju ko vir rasa. kavitta. gati gajaraja saji deh ki dipati baji hava ratha bhava patti raji chali chala son. kesodasa mandahasa ati kucha bhata bhire bhet bhaye pratibhata bhale nakhajala so. laj-saj kulkani soch poch bhaya bhani. bhonhe dhanu tani bana lochana bisala son. prem ko kavacha kasi sahasa sahayaka le jityo rati rana aj madanagupala son. 24”
'Marks of the Vira Rasa: The sentiment of heroism arises from enthusiasm and it manifests as a radiant and golden body. Under certain situations it also exhibits compassions and sombreness. 23. Radha’s Vira Rasa: A Sakhi speaks to a Nayika, “O Nayika! You have today won the war of love and subdued Krishna. In this war your gait was the elephant, the radiance of your body the horse, your gestures the chariot, your emotions the foot soldiers that walked with you. Your sweet smile was the sword, your breasts the weapon and with your nails you met the enemy. You used your demure nature, concern for the family and wisdom to annihilate everyone. Love was your armour, good conduct your compassion, your eyebrows your bow and your eyes the arrows. This is how you won Krishna. 24'
The poetic text of the ‘Rasikapriya’ was composed by Keshavadasa in 1591 AD. Whilst the subject-matter deals with the classification of heroes and heroines according to their moods, behavioural characteristics and stations in love, the poetry also reflects epochs of the Bhakti movement since the composition revolves around the romantic lore of Radha and Krishna as the source for Sringara Rasa, the erotic sentiment. Appreciation of poetry was a crucial element of connoisseurship amongst nobles and royalty, and poets were lavishly rewarded for their merits. The popularity of the Rasikapriya was celebrated in the courts of North India where recitation of the text was rejoiced by the art-loving kings. Rasikapriya also sought manifestation in the pictorial art and remained a prevalent subject-matter of Pahari and Rajasthani schools of painting.
The current collection of Rasikapriya paintings belong to a painting set which was produced in Mandi during the reign of Raja Surma Sen (r. 1781–88). This period is considered the last phase of the traditional style of Mandi painting, before the migration of Kangra artists to the Mandi court. The paintings are distinctive for the use of a floral frame for the poetic verses which are inscribed in Devanagari script instead of Takri, the royal script of the North-Western Himalayan principalities. The style is characteriesed by its earthy tones and bold delineation which provides the paintings with a rather dry and folksy appeal. The artist appears to employ certain complexities in the space-division to denote the change of surroundings by either using architectural elements or at times simply changing the monochromatic backdrop. The symbolism of the poetry has also been represented subtly by the artist, who depicts the similes and metaphors in the paintings as charming and whimsical compositional elements.