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Kusuma Raga: A Prince and a Woman

India, Nurpur

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 692

This folio illustrates the romantic mood of the Kusuma Raga, depicting an amorous encounter between a princely man and woman, the overtly sexual imagery conveyed by the bow of stringed flowers with a lotus-bud tipped arrow aimed at the coy woman. The name Kusuma poignantly refers to the cactus flower that blooms for a night, only to wither and die the next day. The couple are both richly dressed, the man with jewelry and a yellow turban secured by a jeweled headband and feathered turban ornament (sarpech). The woman wears an orange sari banded with gold thread, and with the veil drawn forward to partly conceal her face in a gesture of modesty or coquettishness. Whilst the traditional rendering of this subject is for the prince to be seated on a lotus and to hold lotus blooms in his hands, in this Pahari Hill’s version the lotus blooms have been transformed into floral bow and arrow, the weapons of Kamadeva, the Indian god of love.

Kusuma Raga: A Prince and a Woman, Opaque watercolor with gold on paper, India, Nurpur

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