Scene from the Mahabharata
Pigments and gold on paper
India, Kangra, 1810 – 1820
Height 33 Width 47,5 cm
This painting is depicting a night scene; some characters are sleeping, while others are holding torches. King Dhritarashtra is depicted sleeping, while his wife Gandhari, who choose to live with her eyes folded, to share the sufferings of her husband, is sitting in the room nearby. Some of the characters of the painting are named in devanagari as: on the left, Sahadeva, Bishma, Vidura, Bhimsen, Nakula and Drona, on the right, Kaurava.
The Mahabharata is one of the two most important Indian epic tales with the Ramayana. Its name is literally meaning “The Great Story of Bharata”, and it is said to have been written by Ganesha, the elephant headed god, helped by the sage Vyasa. The main story is interrupted by many other texts, stories about Hindu gods, for example the adventures of Krishna and the young and beautiful gopis. Composed of eighteen books, the Mahabharata tells the story of a war between the Pandava, sons of King Pandu, and the Kaurava, sons of King Dhritarashtra, the blind half-brother of King Pandu, in their quest to conquer the throne of the kingdom of Hastinapura. The bold outlines, the use of inscriptions within the image to identify the main characters, as well as the crowded composition, the figures in the sky, the treatment of the architecture and the use of windows to depict pair of figures are all stylistic elements associated with the master artist Purkhu of Kangra working at the same period.