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Eastern Encounters pattern
Eastern Encounters

Drawn from the Royal Library's collection of South Asian books and manuscripts

CAT. NO. 79

Wajid Ali Shah and his wives watch a dance drama

Lucknow, <i>c</i>.1850

Fol. 326r from a manuscript of the Ishqnama (see cat. no. 77) | Painting in opaque watercolour including gold metallic paint with ink on paper | 27.7 x 44.4 cm (folio); 21.8 x 39.3 cm (image) | RCIN 1005035

In addition to writing innovative treatises on music and performance, Wajid Ali Shah wrote and directed his own rahas (‘dance dramas’). In this painting, the King, his brother, privileged wives and a select group of courtiers watch a Radha-Krishna-inspired performance by two of his paris and musicians. Others watch from inside the pavilion, cleverly depicted behind a gauze-like blind. As described in the accompanying text, Radha was played by Sultan Pari (her face in the painting is obscured by a veil), and beside her Mahrukh Pari takes the role of Krishna, who stands with her back turned. True to character, she wears a peacock crown and her body is painted a purplish blue underneath her splendid saffron robes. In Bani, his book on performing arts, Wajid Ali Shah described different rahas, giving detailed instructions as to the appropriate costumes, poses, dance movements and stage directions to be employed in each.[265]

  • [265] See Wajid Ali Shah 1878. 

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