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, centers 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 painter/s was to cover the story in close to 110 paintings but for reasons 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.