Nayikas in art : some glimpses from miniatures

 

          The Nayika occupies a very important place in Indian art and literature. She is seen in different moods. A translation of the word nayika is heroine. The depictions in art have captured her description in different hues and settings. The Kangra nayika is fluid in movement surrounded by nature. The elements of nature are captured in strong colours. The nayika could also be forlorn, sitting in a forest with the background in slightly softer shades. There is a  nayika in every woman. Bharata first captured the various nayikas , eight in number or the ashta nayika in his Natyashastra. Human feelings of eagerness, anger,separation, dejection etc. are all expressed through these paintings. The Nayika goes through different moods in her lifetime as per the situation prevailing then. Various poets and authors have described the feelings through their works in literature. Kalidasa has captured the anguish of separation of his nayika Shakuntala in his work Abhijnanashakuntalam in Sanskrit.  

     A nayika”s beauty is very much a part of the shringara rasa which includes the amorous , the erotic, the decorative, song and dance. The heroine forms the  central character in many works of Indian literature. Through the work one can experience her different moods and emotions, her challenges, her failures and her victories. The description of her beauty and character also make interesting reading and understanding of the social environment of a given era. A nayika brings out the best in a poet or dramatist, by lending her presence by illusory, historical or real presence.

Proshita-patika nayika, painting, early 19th century.

By Unknown – http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/labs/splitsecond/painting.php?id=15, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17106519

       Bharatmuni composed the Sanskrit treatise Natyashastra ( between 1st century BC and 3rd century AD, with others adding to the main work) on dance and the performing arts,  in which he has classified eight types of nayikas  called ashtanayikas. This theme has been well used in painting, sculpture, dance  and drama. Bharatamuni has focussed on the nayikas as she can appear in a given drama again depending on the plot. He has envisaged women as the root cause of happiness.

 

Swadhinabhartruka nayika, Kalighat painting, 19th/20th century.

By The original uploader was ENVI1 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Redtigerxyz using CommonsHelper., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11806481

  The Natyasastra  describes eight types of nayikas. Though the term can encompass many types of nayikas in many facets and contexts, the various states of the nayika in love are depicted in drama. Bharatmuni has described many kinds of nayikas depending on other factors like social status, nature and also on how she is treated by the king as being part of the royal harem during ancient times. The different nayikas are the    Vasakashajja,Virohotkanthita,Svadhina-bhartruka,Kalahanatarita,Khandita, Vipralabdha, Proshitabhartruka and Abhisarika.

    Vasakashajja means one who is dressed up for union. She  is depicted below in a painting readying her shajja or bed with flowers. She is full of longing and is in a state of waiting for her lover.

Vaskashajja nayika, painting,late 17th century.

By Unknown – Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, X623.2_IMLS_SL2.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10966883

      One who is distressed by separation is virohikanthita or  Utka,  a nayika who is pining for her lover who has failed to meet her or come home due to preoccupation. She is utterly disappointed.

File:Utka Nayika. A lady awaits her lover in the forest. 1775-1780. Kangra, British Museum, London.jpg

Utka nayika, painting.Kangra,late 18th century.

By Anonymous (British Museum) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    A nayika is a svadhinabhatruka if she is one who is having her husband in subjugation. She controls her husband who is subjugated because of her intense love for him. He listens to her, applies mahawar on her feet, vermillion on her forehead. Radha has been portrayed as such in Geeta Govinda. Such a nayika  is  happy, proud and feels fortunate.

     Kalahanatarita is a nayika who is separated or angry with her lover due to quarrel. Sometimes she is separated due to her arrogance. In this state her lover is usually shown pleading with her, or leaving her house dejected. She might also be shown refusing his advances. She may also be depicted refusing a wine-cup that he is offering to her. The nayika is however repentant without him.

   Khandita is a nayika who is enraged with her lover because he has not come to her and probably spent his time with another woman and she is angry with him. In this state she is depicted as offended and rebuking her lover.

Vipralabhda is a nayika  who is a deceived heroine is a vipralabdha, one who has waited for her lover, she is usually depicted throwing away her jewellery and adornments. She is disappointed and her heart is full of discontent.

    Proshita-bhartruka is a nayika  who has a travelling husband and who does not come back on the scheduled day. She is depicted seated alone or surrounded by her maids and refusing to be consoled. She does not bother to dress up or apply any make-up or comb her hair.

    Abhisarika is the nayika who moves, setting aside her modesty to meet her lover secretly. She is shown facing dangers on her way like snakes and animals in the forest, thunder-storms etc. She is shown depicted as starting from the door of her house, in a hurry to reach her destination. She is drunk with the emotion that she feels and just wants to meet her lover who is waiting for her.

Abhisarika nayika,painting, Garhwal, 18th century.

By Mola Ram (MFA [1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

File:Vipralabdha Nayika. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum, London.jpg

Vipralabdha nayika.,painting, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum, London.

By Anonymous (British Museum) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

References :

  • Nayika bheda in Kathak/Jyotishi, Chetana,Delhi : Agam Kala Prakashan,2009.
  • shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in

 

 

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Soma Ghosh

 

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