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Divine Encounters

Hindu paintings from northern India

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, dynasties of Hindu rajas ruled a large area of northern India called Rajasthan. They commissioned their artists and scribes to create paintings and manuscripts for bhakti (personal devotion). On display here are intimate images of earthly encounters with Hindu gods intended to connect the soul with the Divine. The same figures may appear multiple times in a painting because the paintings do not depict any fixed time or human realm.

Paintings on paper traditionally echoed the heavily contoured and colourful imagery of wall paintings. Rajput artists developed distinct styles and techniques which evolved into regional styles, some bold and bright, others more delicate and muted. These paintings illustrate epic Hindu texts in an easily-accessible way.

Gifts for a Prince

Queen Victoria’s son Albert Edward, later King Edward VII, toured India as Prince of Wales in 1875 – 6. The Prince’s first port of call was Bombay (Mumbai) where lanterns had been set up for the Hindu festival of Diwali. These were left in place to mark the Prince’s birthday the day after he arrived. Mangaldas Nathubhai, head of the Bombay welcoming committee, presented the prince with a gift of three albums of paintings portraying Hindu deities, including many of those on display here.

Indian School, late 18th century

Vishnu and Lakshmi

Indian School, late 18th century

Krishna and the gopis celebrate Holi.

Indian School, late 18th century

Folio from the Gita Govinda.

Indian School, late 18th century

Folio from the Gita Govinda.

Indian School, Pahari style, 19th century

Hiranyakashipu learns of his brother's death

Indian School, Pahari style, 19th century

Hiranyakashipu consoles his mother and sister-in-law

Indian School, Pahari style, 19th century

Hiranyakashipu conquers all the world's territories

Indian School, Pahari style, 19th century

Hiranyakashipu sends his son Prahlada away to be taught

Indian School, Pahari style, 19th century

The demons try to crush Prahlada with an elephant

Indian School, Pahari style, 19th century

Narasimha bursts out of pillar and attacks Hiranyakashipu

Indian School, Pahari style, 19th century

The world rejoices as Vishnu is garlanded

Indian School, Pahari style, 19th century

Proshitapatika Nayika

Attributed to Sajnu (active early 19th cent.)

Ragini Todi

Pahari style, Guler

Khambhavati Ragini