Raja Surath in battle: an illustration from a Devi Mahatmya (Glorification of the Great Goddess) series Mandi, circa 1750

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Lot 133
Raja Surath in battle: an illustration from a Devi Mahatmya (Glorification of the Great Goddess) series
Mandi, circa 1750

£ 3,000 - 4,000
US$ 3,900 - 5,200
Raja Surath in battle: an illustration from a Devi Mahatmya (Glorification of the Great Goddess) series
Mandi, circa 1750
gouache and gold on paper, inscribed on the reverse in Hindi nagari script with the subject of the painting, a summary of the Sanskrit verse on the attached cover sheet within a pale blue floral border and red margins
266 x 366 mm.

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Formerly in the royal library, Mandi.

    This painting illustrates the introductory verses to the Devi Mahatmya, a poem of seven hundred lines probably composed in the 8th Century. It celebrates the victories of the great goddess Devi over various asuras (demons) and is recited daily by her devotees. The text, also known as Chandipatha, is embedded as an interpolation in the fourth part of the Markandeya Purana, a 9th or 10 Century work attributed to the mythical sage Markandeya, a devotee of Vishnu. The Devi Mahatmya starts at Canto LXXXI of the Markandeya Purana.

    Two subsequent paintings, after this first battle scene, depict Raja Surath returning to his capital, and being driven out from his kingdom by the malice of his powerful and corrupt ministers, who rob him of his treasury and army. He departs alone on horseback to a dense forest under the pretext of hunting. It is in this forest that he sees the peaceful hermitage of the noble Rishi Medhas. When he asks the muni questions about his misfortunes, the great sage replies by narrating the Devi Mahatmya and telling him about the glory of the Goddess.

    In his discourses, Rishi Medhas ascribes Rajas Surtah's feelings of sadness and disappointment to the goddess Mahamaya or Great Illusion, and relates how Brahma lauded the goddess at the end of a former kalpa (duration of the world), in order to seek deliverance from the demons Madhu and Kaitabha, and how awakening Vishnu slew the demons. By placing his faith in the text, reciting and visualising the Devi Mahatmya, Raja Surath and by extension all followers of Devi, can similarly overcome dangers and obstacles as they propitiate the great goddess.

    Robert Skelton has suggested that the Devi Mahatmya paintings have some stylistic similarities to a Mandi Rasikapriya set painted for Maharaja Surma Sen circa 1770. These however are more accomplished than the present lot, so that an earlier date has been suggested, of circa 1750.
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