Nala and Damayanti (A Great Series of Paintings of An Old Indian Romance) : Three things come magically together in this remarkable series of paintings: a great text, a delectable old romance, and the work of one of the most talented families of painters known to Indian art. The text is the 12th century Naishadhacharita of sriharsha, one of the last great kavyas of Sanskrit literature; the story told with the utmost delicacy, centres around the intense love that grew-mutual sights heard of, but yet unseen-between King Nala and Princess Damayanti; and the painter family that produced this exquisitely painted series came from the small principality of Guler in the ‘Pahari’ hills; today’s Himachal Pradesh.
The intent of the painters was to cover the story in close to 110 paintings, but for reason unknown, the work was interrupted: only 47 paintings could be completed- all of them now in the collection of the Amar Mahal Museum and Library at Jammu, and here published-the remaining having survived only in the form of highly finished drawings. But none of this interferes in the slightest with the magic that the paintings weave: the golden hamsa-bird continues to speak in a human voice and carries messages between the lovers the ripening pomegranates hanging from a tree keep reminding the lover of the breasts of his beloved the love lorn Damyanti swoons, the gods play their usual but unfair games , Nala assumes invisible form. Trees bend in symphthy with the lover’s state of mind, aerial chariots race through the cluouds, diaphanous dupatta veils flutter in the air. Everything is bathed in luminosity; it is all stated every nuance of emotion explored poetically with limpid clarity.