PAHARI PAINTINGS OF AN ANCIENT ROMANCE: THE LOVE STORY OF USHA-ANIRUDDHA; PAINTED WORDS: KANGRA PAINTINGS OF MATIRAMíS RASRAJ
By Harsha V. Dehejia †& Vijay Sharma
D.K. Printworld, New Delhi, 2011,2012, pp. 168, 184, Rs.3200.00, Rs.1400.00
VOLUME XXXVI NUMBER 7 July 2012
Pahari Paintings of an Ancient Romance:The Love Story of Usha-Aniruddh, brings to our reach the entire run of the great romance Usha-Aniruddha, popular amongst the art patrons, during a certain period of history in India. It has been commissioned during the eigthteenth and nineteenth centuries by many Pahari aristocracy and states men. The romance was apt as a theme for illustration of rasa and bhava and most especially sringara rasa and in the production of illustrated manuscripts that could also be appropriate gifts. Many such works have come down to us and are housed in various collections both private and public. The book, to our benefit, has made the effort to bring together, the images of the original paintings. The reproductions are sleek and clear, representational of the best specimens extant for study.
The authors begin with the subject of myth, history and legend. However, it was disappointing to realize that instead of dealing with the area so as to see how myth and legend can be sources to recover an aspect of the socio-intellectual life of a historical period, the authors’ confused understanding halts in equating mythology and its content as historical facts, to at least be taken as such, without co-relating it to established historical understanding and facts based on authentic documents, records and evidences. This is a myth making exercise on the part of the well meaning authors, who only help to keep this beautiful romance at the mythical level. The authors themselves emphasize:
The love story of Usha and Aniruddha, throbs with romance, pulsates with narration of longing and the joy of belonging, it bristles with fierce battles, there are long passages of venerations of Kirshna, it meanders on the ground and in the sky, has moments of tensions and scenes of celebration and rivets our attention, as fantasy and fable and fable create a delectable myth.
However, it is extremely difficult to accept as historically viable that ‘in Tezpur is Agnigarh where ancient ruins still remain and it is believed that this is the fortress that Banasura built to imprison her (his) daughter.’ This is the hypothesis suggested by the two authors. To replace the local memory of a Banasura, who might have been the king, with the mythical demon Banasura who had many hands, who fought Krishna in a battle and was spared his life by the latter, would be ...
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