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Rajput Painting

Author(s): A. K. C.
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Bulletin, Vol. 16, No. 96 (Aug., 1918), pp. 49-62
Published by: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4169664 .
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XVI, 49

Fig. 1.


Pahari, Kangra, eighteenthcentury, unfinished


Nepal, and a few frescoesin Ceylon. There is
not, however, the least doubt that the art was
HILE Mughalpainting,as pointedout in a continuouslypracticed-on a large scale upon
'previous numberof the Bulletin,*represents plasteredwalls,and on a smallscale on wooden
merelya brilliantepisode in the historyof Indian panels and on cotton cloth, afterwardsalso on
art,and, in its realisticand secularpreoccupations paper. It is precisely in Rajputanaand the
is remotefromHindu feeling, Himalayas- comparatively
and personalinterests,
inaccessibleto Mughal
the paintingknown as Rajput,that is to say, the domination,
and even to this day intenselyconseressentiallyHindu artof Rajputanaand the Panjab vative- that the older traditionsof paintingbest
ground survived,not only in the sixteenthand seventeenth
Himalayas,had deep rootsin the permanent
devotionalfaithsandthecommonlife. centuries,but even up to the end of the eighteenth
The traditionof Indianpainting,illustratedby century,comparatively
littleaffectedby the Persian
extantexamples,coversa periodof over two thou- and Europeaninfluenceswhich enterso largelyinto
sand years,and even this does not by any means the artof the Mughalcourts.
take us back to its real beginnings. In the actual
An absolutecontinuityof subjectmatteris not,
record there are many gaps, the greatesthiatus of course,to be expected, for we must take into
extendingfromthe art of Ajanta(seventhcentury accountthe decline of Buddhism,which provided
of the fifteenthcen- the themesfor all the paintingof Ajanta. But the
A. D.) to the Jainamanuscripts
tury,which are the earliestknown Indianpaintings subjectstaken from the epics, and many of the
on paper; this intervalis bridged only by a few Vaishnavaand Saiva th^-mesare identicalwith
Buddhist paintings,mainly in manuscriptsfrom thoseof the lostpaintingsof a thousandyearsearlier,
the formerexistenceof which is indicatedin the
* No. 93, for January, 1918.

I. Introduction


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XVI, 50


or paralleledin stillextantsculpture.The outline, and works in this state have remarkable

actualthemesof Rajputpaintingwill be dealtwith charm: a good example (Pahari, Kangra, eighteenth
at greater length in subsequent articles. It may be
remarked here, however, that Rajput painting is
both essentially and formallyreligious. It interprets
every experience of human life in the sense of a
spiritualdrama. It is an art of ideas and of feeling: and in this respect it contrasts most markedly
with the work of Persian and Mughal artists,which
is almost exclusively preoccupied with secular
themes, and in the latter case, with portraiture.
There exists, moreover, the closest relaticnship
between the Rajput paintingsand the contemporary
vernacularpoetry (in Hindi): and while in a few
cases the works deriving from the epics, and those
of a conspicuouslyhieratic type, are inscribed with
the Sanskrittexts they illustrate,in many more cases,
-particularly in illustrationsof Ragmalas, the Eight
Nayakas, and other stock subjects- the back of
the picture, sometimes the picture itself, carriesthe
correspondingHindi inscription. The picturesshould
not on this account be regarded as belonging to
illustratedmanuscriptsor as book illustrationsin the
Persian sense: they are rather portfolio pictures,
often indeed painted in series of a considerable
number dealing with one theme, but not to be
described or catalogued as manuscripts. Those
which are not directly executed on walls, but on
paper on a small scale, would usually be wrapped
in a cotton cover and stored in a box: these pictures
are intended to be held in the hand, and not for
hanging in frames upon walls.
The names of the artists are almost unknown,
and the paintings are only in the rarest instances
signed or dated; the Museum possesses one
Rajasthani example signed by the painter Natthu,
and dated Samvat 1 75 1 (1 694 A. D.).
The technique employed is closely related to
that of ancient and modern Indian " fresco," which
is actually a process of tempera painting rather than
pure fresco. In any case, the painter,whether on a
wall or on paper, makes a preliminarysketch, usually
in red, or transfersan alreadyprepareddesign,pricked
with holes for use as a stencil, by pouncing. These
outlines, forming the underdrawing which in the
finished work alone marks the original surface, are
then overlaid with a thin white priming, through
which they show faintly. Very often the handmade paper employed has a rough surface, but the
better sorts are " burnished like glass" before the
painter sets to work on them. In any case, however, the white primingaffordsa very smooth surface
for the finerbrush outlinewith which the artistnow
redraws the whole composition,often correcting or
departingmore or less widely fromthe originallines.
When everything has been drawn that is to appear
in the finished picture, the coloring is begun: first
the background, then the buildings, and always
last of all, the human or animal figures. A high
proportion of Pahari drawings is met with in the
unfinished state, either entirely uncolored, or with
the background colored, leaving the figures still in

century)is illustratedin the accompanyingfigure(1),

representingthe Hour of Cowdust.
This unfinished work, together with those of
an earlierdate reproduced in the following pages,
exhibits the salient characteristicsof the Rajput
style. It is essentially an art of outlines like the
painting of a Greek vase: its affinities are with
Ajanta, with Early Asiatic and the AEgean, rather
than with the contemporaryMughal art of representation. Free strokes of the brush with astonishing mastery carry down in a single movement
the lines of drapery flowing from head to foot,
outline the features, or follow the whole contour of
the body - and by contrastwith this and with the
pure and brilliant color which fills the spaces thus
delimited, Mughal paintingis almost to be described
as an art of stippling. When the Rajput drawing
is enlarged by projectionto many times its original
size it exhibits without any loss of intimacy a
boldness and a simplicitywhich mark its derivation
from a school of mural decoration, and show the
identity of style which subsists as between the
smallest Rajput work and the large, almost life-size
cartoons, which in the eighteenth century were
still prepared for use in the decoration of wall
The surviving Rajput paintings range in date
from the sixteenth to the twentieth century.
Geographically they are divided as Rajasthani
(from Rajputana) and Pahari (from the Panjab
hills). In the sixteenth century there is not a
marked divergence of style between these areas:
the consolidation of the Mughal empire, however,
gradually divided the Rajputs of the hills from
those of the plains more and more effectively, and
in the hills particularlyRajput painting pursues a
somewhat independent course, maintaining a hifh
degree of excellence up to the close of the eighteenth
century. At the same time Mughal influences crn
be recognized in much of the later work, especially
the Pahari and Sikh portraiture,and in a modification of the strong colors of the primitives. Scarcely
anything of importance has been produced since
1825. The principal centre of the Rajasthani
work, it should be mentioned, has been at Jaipur:
of Pahari production,in Jammu (a provincial style,
rather exaggerated in its physical types and hot in
color) and Kangra (a very cultivated school, dainty
alike in drawing and color). With the Kangra
group are to be classed the late productions of
Garhwal, of which some are attributedto a painter
by the name of Mola Ram, who died in 1833.

11. The Musical Modes

A favorite subject of Rajasthani painters is a
set of illustrations to the thirty-six Ragas and
Raginis, forming a Ragmala, a designation which
applies in the first instance to a "garland" of
poems describing the Ragas and Raginis; and
these poems are often inscribed upon the actual

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XVI, 51




t '4,t',5,'"



~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~v






Fiu. 2.


Rajasilhari, sixteenth century


Ross Collection

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XVI, 52


pictures. Broadlyspeaking,the Raga is equivalent feeding a peacock: the sky is heavily overcast.
to the musicalmode of Europeanand particularly Accordingto the poem superscribeda beautiful
of old Greek and ecclesiasticalterminology,inas- woman has come from the palace and standsin
muchas it representsa selectionof not morethan the garden: "Heavy black clouds are gathering
the sweet, sweet rumblingof thunder
seven notes, ranging over the scale and never auspiciously,
departedfrom in any one song or composition; is heard, and flashes of lightninglight up the
but the Raga is actuallysomewhatfurtherdeter- sky. . . . Eagerlyshe waitsfor her beloved,with
and is more her body like an open flower, and because she
mined by characteristic
accuratelytranslatedby " melody-mould."The thinks of her lord's embrace there is joy in her
Raginiis merelyan abridgmentor modificationof heart."
The second, by the same hand and from the
a Raga. The Ragmala usually describes six
Ragas, each with five Raginis. It may be added same series, is Ragini Vibhasa (" Bnrlliance"or
that the Ragas and Raginis are personifiedas " Splendor"),andrepresents
Kamadeva(the Indian
and these Eros)fittingan arrowto his bow, which he aims
musicalangels with familyrelationships,
musicalgeniiare implicitly,if not explicitly,invoked at hiswife Rati,the IndianPsyche,who is sleeping
on the palaceterrace. The themeis the "Return
by the artistat everyperformance.
The most importantfact to be observed in of Love " with the comingof the rains. According
studyingthe Ragmalapicturesis that,preciselyas to the Hindi poem superscribed,"The monsoon
the old Greek mode was felt to possessa charac- cloudshave broughtin desire,and their gloryhas
teristicand definiteethos,so fromthe Indianpoint filled the eye. Love has set an arrowto his bow,
of view the Raga is expressedand recognizedas and Delight is consideringthe battlein her heart.
clearlyin and by its mood as by the strictlymusical . . . Hearing all the tale unfoldedby Love, she
definition. Each Raga and Ragini is associated gazed with swimmingeyes, and fromhead to foot
with a particular
hourof the day or nightand with she was filledwith longing."
Another group of early RajasthaniRagmala
seasonsor phenomena;there are modes
and moods of noon and midnight,of the spring picturesin the Museumcollectionincludesfifteen
and of the autumnrains. Most of thesemoodsare examplesby one handand fromone series. These
connectedwith love, in the variousphasesof expe- are distinguished
alikeby very brilliantcoloringand
nence recognizedby Hindu rhetoric,with morecr by daring draughtsmanship.Here the esprit of
less mysticalimplications. It will be readilyappar- Indianrhetoricfinds a vigorousand powerfulexent from all this that, without of course adding pression,not only withoutany sentimentality,
anything to the music as such, a picture may with a savage and daring force that is clearly
from the tendernesswhich is so
embodythe same mood that the musicexpresses distinguishable
and so in a sense interpretthe musicto thosewho characteristic
of much of the later Rajput art of
are not primarily
musical;and this interpretation
is the hills.
assistedby the representation
of the characteristic These sixteenth century Rajasthani Raginis
associationsof the hour or the weather and the possessan importancequiteapartfromthatof their
of the humanactors. But thoughthe themeor emotionalcontentand decorativecharm.
modernstudentmay availhimselfof the picturesin They representthe primitives
of Rajputpaintingas
this way as the concert-goerreads his program,it we knowit, and throwa lighton the originsof the
was not for this purpose they were designed. technique,which, so far as the drawing goes, it
Where they were made an understanding a has alreadybeen pointed out very closelyrepeats
that is - of the musicwas the methodsof classic Indianpaintingat Ajanta.
taken for granted. We can only say that these The dominantcolorsare red, yellow, black, and
modes or moods, in whicheverway we regard darkgreen,and this tonalityis stronglyreminiscent
them,were favoritethemesin Rajputpainting,par- of the ratherhot coloringof muchof the work at
ticularlyin the Rajasthanigroup, and form the Ajanta. Everythingis in the highestdegreeconsubject for many of the finest works. Amongst ventionalized,
and thereis not the leastresearchof
Pahari paintingsthey occur only in the Jammu verisimilitude,and only the slightest traces of
group,and Kangradoesnotafforda singleexample. modelling. On the whole these earlyRaginis are
and with the
Those from JammugenerallyillustrateRagmalas to be regardedas the mostimportant,
with morethanthirty-sixmembers,and are briefly exceptionof the largecartoons,as by far the purest
inscribedin Takricharacters
withoutthe quotation in idiom of all Rajput productions. If it were
of whole verses.
possibleto makeuse of the term decadencewithThe two Raginisreproducedin Figs. 2 and 3 out disparagement,
one mightsay thatwe see here
are amongst the most importantof the Rajput examplesof the decadence of Ajanta painting
paintingsin the Museum. Equallyin drawingand aftera thousandyears; but theseare rasherbrilliant
tender color they are adequate to the ideas in- retardatairesthan decadents- they combine extended to be expressed, and characteristicallytremeconventionality
with an almostdisconcerting
vitality. Theirsummarymethodsare carriedeven
(" Honey Flower"). furtherin the circularplayingcards' which are still,
The firstis Madhu-Madhavi
A lady with her maidsstandsin the palace garden
* R4jpt Patntinua, PI. LXXVI, a and b.

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XVI, 53




Fig. 3.

Rajasthani, sixteenthcentury

Vibhasa Ragini
Ross Collection

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XVI, 54


Fig. 4.

Todi Ragini


sixteenth century

Ross-Coomnaraswamy Collection

believe,made in Rajputana,and in the illustra- It will be noticed that in all cases the sky is dark by
a royalhoroscope,- thatof a convention; where night scenes are represented the
Maharajaof Bikanir(Sri Ratan Singh Bahadur), darkness of the sky extends to the foreground; in
dated equivalentto 1838 A.D., -in the Museum day scenes it is limited by the horizon. In many
collection. There the stylizationis carriedto the of the pictures tLere is representation of heavy
furthestconceivablelimit,and no more summary clouds with lightning and falling rain.
for human featurescould be imagined;
The Museum also possesses four Rajasthani
but even therethereis no loss of vigor.
Raga pictures from one hand and series of the
Of the fiveillustrations
these notes, seventeenth century, similar in style to the two
RaginiTodi, a day scene, shows a woman with a examples firstreferred to in this article, though not
vina, standingin a grove of trees: a black buck so fine, and similarto those in the BritishMuseum
and a fawn are attractedby the music(thisis often MS., Or. 282 1. Some of the pictures in this
made a symbolof the soulof manensnaredby the series are of special interest on account of their
pleasuresof love), and the buckis eatinggrassfrom sympathetic and distinguishedrenderingof Rajput
thewoman'shand(Fig. 4). RaginiKedara("from civil architecture: this is true of the example illusKedar,"in the Himalayas),a nightscene,showsan tratedin Fig. 8, showing a lady performingBrahma
asceticseatedon a deerskinat the doorof his cell, Puja, and representing Khambavati or Khamaj
listeningto a malemusicianwho is playingthe vina: Ragini. The Museum possesses another sevenhere the architecture,reminiscentof vliharacon- teenth century example of the same Ragini represtruction,is especiallycharacteristic
and interesting sented in the same manner. A picture of Ragini
(Fig. 5). RaginiPatamanjari,
a nightscene,shows Asavari shows as usual a lady seated playing the
the heroineseated in conversationwith the mes- bin or nagasara, with many cobras attracted by
senger,who is doubtlesspleadingthe lover'scause the music, deserting the sandal trees, their favorite
(Fig. 6). RaginiLalita," amorous,"a day scene, haunt,and as the inscribedpoem remarks," writhing
showsthe hero,with a somewhattruculentexpres- and fawning" on the musician.
sion,hasteninghome to his sleepinglady (Fig. 7).
Two other pictures from another series, by

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XVI, 55


P ti e








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XVI, 56






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Fig. 9.

XVI, 57

Pahari, Jammu, eighteenth century

Gujari Ragini
Ross-Coomaraswamy Collection

another hand, represent Bhairava Raga and Varanr

Ragini; these exhibit a very unusual color scheme
in which deep blue predominates and gold is conspicuous, and are to be regarded as Mughal
rather than Rajput paintings. The architecture
is represented as decorated with color, in the
manner very usual in Mughal building, especially
in the time of Shah Jahan. These two examples,
by exception, have short inscriptions in Persian
Raga pictures from Jammu exhibit the usual
characteristics of this provincial school. Ragini
Gujari is represented by a woman seated in a
field fondlingtwo black bucks, while anotherwoman
is playing the vina (Fig. 9). The motif is here
not very differentfrom that of Todi Ragini in the
Rajasthani example. The inscription speaks of
Gujari Ragini as the wife of Dipak Raga. Another
example illustratesa Raga not identified but related
to Dipak (the mode of " Fire "), and shows a male
figure with three flaming heads and four arms
riding on a white elephant.
Certain of the Raga subjects are occasionally
adopted by Mughal painters and used as picturesque motifs ratherthan to express those general
ideas which are characteristicof Rajput art. A

Mughalexampleof this kind,based on an original

of Ragini Todi is illustrated
in Fig. 10, while another,based on Bhairavi,
representingSivapuja- ladies worshippingthe
Lingam at a Saiva shrineat night- is shown in
Fig. 11.

III. The School of Jammu

Jammuis one of the largestof the northemgroup
of HimalayanRajputhillstates,and givesits name
to a provincialschoolof Paharipaintingwhich even
in the seventeenthandeighteenthcenturiespreserves
to a largedegreethe hot colorand forcibledrawing
of the
whichwe haveremarkedto be characteristic
sixteenth century Rajasthani primitives. With
Jammu are to be associated Basoli, Kishtwar,
Chambaandotherkingdomsof independentRajput
chiefs lying outside the main areas of Mughal
Of this school the Museumpossessesimportant
examplesin a seriesof unusually
episodesof the siege
drawingson paper,illustrating
of Lankaas relatedin the Lankakandamof the
Ramayana. The storyof the Ramayana, one of
the two greatepics of India,may be brieflyrecapitulated. Rama,as an avatarof Vishnu,took birth

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XVI, 58

Fig. 10


Todi Ragini

Mughial, seventeenthcentury

Fig. I/.

Sivapuja(Bhairavi Ragini)

Goloubew Collection

as the son of Dasarathaof Ayodhya, in order to

accomplishthe destructionof the demon king of
Lanka, Ravana. Rama's three brotherswere
Lakshmana,Bharata,and Satrughna. He married
Sita, daughterof Janaka. By the intriguesof his
mother-in-lawhe was banishedfor fourteenyears,
his brotherBharatameanwhileacting as regent.
Sita and Lakshmanaaccompaniedhim in exile,
and these three led an idyllic life amongstthe
hermitagesof the Himalayanforests. Ravana,
however,carriedoff Sita while the brotherswere
pursuinga magic deer. The vultureJatayu lost
his life whileendeavoringto rescueSita as she was
bornethroughthe air. Rama formedan alliance
with Hanuman,a leader of the monkeys,and
received the aid of the hosts of the bears and
monkeys perhapsoriginallysignifyingthe aboriginaltribesof southernIndia. Hanumandiscovered
Sitain the Asoka groveof Ravana'spalacegardens.
A bridge was thrown acrossthe sea ("Rama's
bridge"acrossthe sea fromsouthernIndiato Ceylon, in fact,a seriesof coralreefs)and Rama and
brotherof Ravana,
and by all the bearsand monkeys,but especially
Hanuman,laid siege to Lanka,ultimatelydefeating
and slaying Ravana and rescuingSita, whose
puritywas attestedby an ordeal. All returnedto
Ayodhya, where the coronationof Rama took
place, and Rama establisheda kingdomof justice
and prospenrty.


In the picturereproduced(Fig. 12) we see the

armiesof Rama investingthe fortressof Lanka.
Rama is seated upon the ground,which is red.
Stormyclouds appearin the narrowstripof sky
whichis seenabovethe high horizon. The groves
are filledwith leapingmonkeysand blackbears
the subtlydifferentiated
velvetyblacksare particularlyattractive. On the left the golden walls of
the fortressrise up into the sky; below the wall
thereis a gardenof fruittrees,and in the foreground
the sea, full of strangemonsters. Vibhishanais
pointingto two capturedrakshasa(demon)spies.
As M. Blochet lately remarked,"Cette peinture
est evidemmentla reproduction
une ceuvre tres puissante,digne de cette Iliade
d'Extreme Orient, dont les episodes emouvants
illustrentles murs du temple d'Angkor,dans un
style tout different." We recognize truly the
aspect of a muraldecoration the
descendant surely of just such an art as is
spoken of in the Utlara Rama Charita Cf
Bhavabhuti,where a whole scene in the first
Act is occupiedwith a descriptionof a series of
Ramayana picturespainted on the walls of a
quadranglein the garden of Rama's palace at
Otherpicturesin the seriesshow the ten-headed
Ravana within his city taking council with his
followers;Sita in the Asoka garden,guardedby
rakshasis(female demons); and battle scenes,in

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XVI, 59







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' .


XVI, 60





z U

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Fig. 15.

XVI, 61


Radha and Krishna

Pahari, Jammu,
seventeenthor eighteenthcentury


severaluncoloreddrawings. Severalof the pictures trated (Fig. 14), deeply felt, shows the devotee
are inscribedat the back with extractsfrom the "1takingthe dustof thefeet" of Narayana(Vishnu).
ValmikiRamayana in Nagari characters,and in The latter,in accordancewith Vaishnavaconvenseveralcases the drawingsare annotatedwith brief tion, is of a dark blue color-the same will be
in Takricharacter,the vernacularscript noticed to be the case with the figuresof Rama in
of the Jammuhills. With the exceptionof certain the Ramayana picturesand of Krishnain other
Rajasthanicartoons,these are the largest Indian Rajputpaintings- and wearsa yellow dholi and
paintingson paper extant. The Ragas and a garlandof flowers: the fourarmscarrythe usual
Raginisof the Schoolof Jammuhave alreadybeen attributes,mace, discus, conch, and lotus. The
groundis a brilliantred, and only a very narrow
The collectionsfurtherinclude an incomplete stripof cloudysky appearsabove the high horizon.
senes of sixteen small paintingswith shortinscrip- The identityof style with that of the Ramayana
in Takri character. The pictureswill be obvious.
tionsand superscriptions
subjectsare very varied,includingrepresentations The KrishnaLila, the themesof which will be
of gods,planets,andanimals. Of the two examples discussedin subsequentarticlesmainlyin connection
here the first(Fig. 13) -a pictureof two with the school of Kangra, is also dealt with
deerfightinghead to head undera tree is notonly amongstthe worksof Jammupainters.An example
in Fig. 15, representing
of remarkablecharmof design and distinguished is illustrated
execution,but of interestas reproducinga motif betel to Krishna,who is leaningtowardsher and
which occursalreadyseveralcenturiesearlierin a standsupona full-blownlotus,the lattera hieratic
treated. The archaistic
page of the Morganmanuscriptof the Manafi-al motifsomewhatrealistically
Hayawan (Arabian,A. D. 1295), where it is to renderingof the flutteringmuslindraperywill be
be associatedwith otherIndianelementsappearing remarked. It will also be observedhow intently
in early Arabic illustration.The coloringis rich each is gazingat the other. It should be rememwithoutbeing brilliant. The second pictureillus- bered thatin thistraditionsacredand profanelove

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XVI, 62


Fig. 16.

Raja of Bandralta

Pahari, seventeenth century

Ross-Coomaraswamy Collection

are treated as phases of one and the same experience -an intuition of identity. The meeting of
eyes is a motifconstantlymet with in Rajput painting;
in Indian rhetoric " love at firstsight" is summarily
spoken of as charchasm (the meeting of four eyes).
Romantic and decorativesubjects are also found,
a characteristicexample representinga lady wringing the water from her hair after her bath. But
even pictures such as this have generally a traditional associationof ideas of more significancethan
their traditionaltheme. In Buddhist art this subject
might representthe goddess of Earth wringingfrom
her hair the water of merit when called upon by
the Buddha as his witness; in Rajput art it is
usually Radha, whose beauty touches Krishna's
heart as he oversees her at her bath, when she
wrings from her heavy tresses a "river of pearls."
We also meet with sets of pictures illustratingthe
Eight Nayakas, or Heroines in Typical Situations:
the collection includes a strikingAbhisarika of early
seventeenth century date, in very strong colors,
representinga lady who has fearlessly braved the
dangers of a dark and stormy night, and stands on
the threshold of her lover's chamber, he lifting up
his hands in amazement.
Paintings of the Jammu School also include a

small proportion of portraits, showing Mughal

influence, but having a vigorous local character.
A very distinguished example is illustrated in
Fig. 16, representing a Raja of Bandralta, one
of the smaller Himalayan Rajput states in the
Jammu district. The inscription reads: Raja
Hataf Bandral.

A. K. C.


provided by the liberalityof a friend of the Museum

and carried on under the supervisionof the School
Committee of the city and of the Boston Social
Union, were resumedJuly 1, and will continue daily
during August. The childrenare broughtin special
cars fromvarioussettlementhouses and public playgrounds,and spend about an hour and a half in the
Museum under guidance. They firsthear an illustrated talk in the Lecture Hall, then are to,kento the
galleries to see some of the objects mentioned, and
after returningto the hall and talkingover what they
have seen, are dismissed, each with a post card of
some object spoken of. It is noteworthy that the
interest excited by the excursions,especially among
children from the most congested districts of the
city, suffices to bring some of them again on foot
when it is not their turn to come in the cars.

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