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The Devi Parades in Triumph

Attributed to Kripal of Nurpur

Not on view

This composition in a horizontal format is among Kripal’s most impressive works. The great goddess is shown riding in a carriage drawn by a pair of tigers; unlike her two companions, she is in full profile. Radiating calm and heavily armed with the weapons of the gods, Devi sits in her chariot with crossed legs, honored with yak whisk and parasol. The intense yellow ground and the numerous irridescent green beetle wings invest the picture with an iconic potency. Kripal paid little attention to landscape, employing only a horizontal line and tufts of grass. Instead, he concentrated attention on the goddess herself, thereby capturing the grandeur of the great Devi. Elsewhere, as in his Rasamanjari pictures for example, architecture and landscape play a greater role that is appropriate to their more overtly narrative content.

About the Artist

Nurpur Masters: Kripal, Devidasa, and Golu
Active ca. 1660–ca. 1690, ca. 1680–ca. 1720, and ca. 1710–ca. 1750, respectively; Kripal was
the head of an artist family from Nurpur, including his son Devidasa and grandson Golu

Each of these three generations of painters, beginning with Kripal and continuing with his son Devidasa and the latter’s son Golu, left a series of illustrations for the Rasamanjari. The text they illustrated takes up the popular theme of the hero and heroine (nayaka–nayiki) and catalogues the many aspects of love (longing, rejection, and deception, among others). Together with other works attributed to these artists, their three versions of this text comprise a corpus of work that is unique in Indian painting for its icon-like quality. These paintings are dominated by the use of thick pigments, polished colors, monochromatic backgrounds devoid of descriptive details, and occasionally, they include applied lustrous green beetle wings and dots of shell-lime body-white that stand in relief to the picture surface.

There is no documentation of the existence of painter families in Basohli, but there are inventory lists (bahis) for the painter Devidasa from Nurpur, so one can assume that all three painters originated at Nurpur, in Himachal Pradesh. The three series were produced in rapid succession, Kripal’s around 1660–70, Devidasa’s in 1695, and Golu’s around 1715. Although the hero is not characterized as such in the text itself, the artist Kripal associated the nayaka expressly with the god Krishna, who is omnipresent and is thus intended to show the prototypical nature of the scenes. Additional folios with depictions of a goddess (based on an as yet unidentified text) are attributed to the artist Kripal. Meditative verses (dhyanas) on the backs of the works invoke the great goddess, and Kripal’s depictions of her are to be understood in the same light, as pictures for meditation, providing believers with an iconic bridge to divinity.

Kripal’s son Devidasa undoutedly had access to his father’s sketches. Even so, his series diverges in two significant respects; he does not employ the beetle wings and does not adopt Krishna as his hero. His works are situated more evidently in the present, with a patron-prince as the main protagonist. Whether or not the latter change reflects the express wish of his patron cannot be determined.

Golu, too, whose Rasamanjari series is of inconsistent quality, built on the paintings of his father in composition. He also had a princely figure assume the role of the hero (nayaka), whose features in Golu’s series closely resemble those of the ruler Raja Daya Dhata (r. 1700–1735). Once again, the artist employed beetle-wing cases as adornments. Both Golu and his father Devidasa produced Ragamala series, which are readily distinguished.

The Devi Parades in Triumph, Attributed to Kripal of Nurpur (active ca. 1660–90), Opaque watercolor, gold and beetle-wing cases on paper, India (Nurpur, Himachal Pradesh)

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