Tempera on paper
Mid 19th Century
The Rajasthani ballad, the Hamir Hath or 'Pride of Hamir'. composed by the bard Sarangdhar, relates the story of Raja Hamir, the Chauhan ruler of Ranthambore, who battled with Ala-ud-din, the Sultan of Delhi. A series of paintings illustrating the story are known to have been presented in 1810 by the artist Sajnu to his patron Raja lshwari Sen of Mandi. The aritst presented these to the Mandi ruler after having left Kangra and his former patron Sansar Chand. The current work although illustrating the same story belongs to a later series produced at the court of Mandi. A composition that appears to be from the same series as the current example is now in the Reitberg Museum collection, and has been dated to the mid 19thcentury.
The painting is inscribed on the reverse with verses 118-134 from the text of the Hamir-Rasa. According to the story, Raja Hamir was enjoying a dance performance in his court. On seeing the festivities from his camp Ala-ud-din Khilji, became angry and asked his archer Mir Gabru to murder the dancer. The archer instead of killing the dancer aims at her foot, wounding her, and disrupting the dance performance. In response, Mahima Mir, who is present at the court of Hamir, shoots an arrow hitting Khilji's crown. In the current painting, Mir Gabru can be seen with bow raised, having just shot his first arrow from Khilji's tent. In the upper-left corner of the painting the dancer is seen lying on the ground wounded surrounded by an astounded group of musicians. Mahima Mir can be seen asking the King if he could shoot an arrow in return.
'Although widely known, the Hamir Hath does not seem to have been illustrated before 1800. Suddenly, by around 1810, at least five known series were produced at the courts of Guler and Mandi. The story involves the siege and catastrophic downfall of a ruler, the heroic but arrogant and obdurate Hamir, the Chauhan prince of Ranthambore, a vast fortress surrounded by dizzy precipices not unlike Kangra Fort. Hamir was besieged and Ranthambore taken by Ala-ud-din in 1301. His tale has striking parallels with the despotic Sansar Chand of Kangra, a tyrant who dominated the Kangra Valley until the Gurkha invasion of 1805. His entrapment in Kangra Fort spelled the end of his reign of terror. The Hamir Hath would therefore have appealed to the oppressed Guler and Mandi rulers as an allegory of Sansar Chand's demise. ' (Simon Ray, Indian and Islamic Works of Art, London, 2012, p. 105)