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Inspired by a rich poetic tradition celebrating the changing seasons across the Hindu calendar, these six Baramasa paintings depict the months of Chaitra (March-April), Baisakha (April-May), Bhadon (August-September), Asoja (September-October), Pausha (December-January), and Phalguna (February-March). A cohesive palette of vibrant colors tempered with pastels unifies the set, giving each painting a fairytale quality. Each exuberant painting is filled with evocative details suggestive of the season, temperature, and time of day.
For example, with the month of Bhadon (July-August), Krishna and Radha watch the exhilarating drama of the summer monsoon rolling in, from the comfort of their canopied balcony. The billowing clouds have cast the palace's exterior walls into shade and a flash of lighting streaks across a distant rainbow, signifying that the rains have turned day into night. The weather is changing, but it is still hot, and elephants crazed by heat-madness uproot trees by the swollen riverbanks that are carried downstream.
For Asoja (September-October), a month of religious ceremonies, Krishna and Radha watch the Dussehra festival culminating in the early evening. A royal procession reenacts Rama's victory over Ravana, whose army and kin are represented by large effigies walled up inside the city of Lanka and set ablaze by fireworks. Meanwhile, given that in some states Dussehra marks the end of Durga Puja, the buffalo sacrifice in honor of the goddess is also performed in the bottom left corner. Whereas some Baramasa series focus on conveying the relationship and shifting emotions of the romantic protagonists, this series emphatically celebrates calendrical events and the natural wonders that rouse them.
Baramasa sets were popular in Bundi and the neighboring state of Uniara, giving the artists an opportunity to indulge in their love for landscapes. The present group comprises one half of a complete series adhering to the conventions of the Bundi atelier and its offshoot at Uniara. For example, the present Baisakha painting matches the composition from another set from Uniara, c. 1780, and the other paintings seem to follow the set's textual description (Daljeet, Rajasthani Miniatures, 2018, p. 332, pl. 6). Moreover, the present Bhadon painting compares favorably to another with a matching composition, attributed to Bundi or Uniara, c. 1750, in the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena (P.2003.2.9). A later version of the same composition for the month of Chaitra is in the Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois (1965-15-3), attributed to late 18th-century Bundi. Lastly, the present set also bears a strong likeliness to a ragamala painting with almost identical rules and borders from Uniara, circa 1760-70, published in Sodhi, Bundi Painting, 1999, pl. 73.
Moti Chandra, Mumbai
Pramod Chandra, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1964-2014
American Private Collection
Dr. Moti Chandra, the eminent art historian, author, numismatist, and Indologist, was Director of the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya) for over thirty years. His son, Dr. Pramod Chandra, was Harvard University's George P. Bickford Professor of Indian and South Asian Art for twenty-four years and was described in a tribute in the Harvard Gazette as an "exemplar of the most exacting standards in the scholarship of Indian art history." As well as a beloved professor, Pramod Chandra was a celebrated author and curator, including guest curator of the renowned 1985 exhibition "The Sculpture of India" at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The contributions of both father and son to the appreciation and understanding of Indian art cannot be overstated.