Kangra or Mandi, India
Tempera on paper
Circa 1810 – 1820
Numbered 6 on the reverse, with Mandi stamp bearing number 258
Further inscribed on the reverse in Sanskrit ‘dheryasya vachanam drishta vichare tatpar shiva karnam kinchidutpannam nanyathedam bhavediti. Disho vilok yama saparitah shankara stada vambhage sthitam kamam dadarshvana kartthiranga tandrish krodha sanyukta santatasya kshanadapi ahoduhetu kamenan muktohandusha saha. Ityevam sa krudha shiva par makopina nritaya tasya netradeti sansaragni harchhakha bhasma sankrivanne namadanecha devahi yakachcham maruta vacha kshyama tanve prabho tavya bhavanti Chatata purvam hato somakaradhuja hatetasmi havi virye deva dukham mupagaja kshana matram ratistatra visanja hya bhavatada bhartaja nyacha dukham tuna gyatam rishi shatrama jataya cheva sangya yarati dukham samachicha vilalapata data travane aasi dasa dukhitam.’
‘On seeing the dissipation of His courage, Lord Shiva, thought to himself – “How is it that obstacles have cropped up while I am performing the great penance? Who can be that wicked person who has made my mind perturbed?” The great Yogi [Shiva] his suspicion aroused surveyed all around. His eyes fell on Kama, stationed on His left side with his bow fully drawn and ready to discharge the arrow. Seeing Kama in that attitude, instantaneously anger was aroused in Shiva, and a great flame of fire sprang up from the third eye of the infuriated Shiva. Even before the god had the time to ask for mercy, Kama was reduced to ashes. When the heroic Kama was thus slain, the gods began lamenting and cried aloud. Due to the misery on account of the death of her husband, Rati fell down unconscious, as if dead. When she regained consciousness after a while, Rati in her great agitation lamented and cried loudly.’
The current scene depicts Lord Shiva seated on a tiger skin, at the precise moment that he is awoken from his deep meditation by Lord Kama. Lord Kama can be seen standing holding his lotus blossom bow, entirely engulfed in flames which have sprung from Shiva’s third eye. To the left of Kama, his wife Rati falls unconscious to the ground having witnessed the moment of his immolation. The scene accurately follows the text of the Purana that is inscribed on the reverse of the painting. The scene prior to the current painting from the same manuscript is a known work, and depicts Kama and Rati arriving at Shiva’s place of penance. In that scene Lord Shiva is depicted with his head inclined and his eyes closed in meditation, Nandi his bull slumbers at his feet. The animals now seen fleeing from Lord Shiva’s anger, are there seen in couples, some even copulating filled with lust by the power of Lord Kama’s presence. The two images present a pivotal moment in the Purana. The scene has been elegantly handled by the artist and is full of lively details and lush foliage. Although the work is unsigned the composition reveals many elements that are stylistically related to the work of the Master artist Purkhu, and it is possible that further research may support this attribution.