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Browsing: Ḍholā-Marū and Madhavanala kī copaī (Or. 14687)

Image: Ḍhola and Māru flee on a camel

Title: Ḍhola and Māru flee on a camel

Source:
The British Library Board
Shelfmark:
Or. 14687
Author:
Kuśalalābha Upādhyāya
Date of creation:
composed in 1560, this copy created in perhaps 18th to 19th centuries
Folio number:
69 recto
Total number of folios:
117
Place of creation:
western India
Language:
Rajasthani / Gujarati in Devanāgarī script
Medium:
opaque watercolour on paper
Size:
20 x 14.5 cms
Copyright:
CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
Image copyright: Creative Commons Public Domain

Description

A well-dressed man and a woman are mounted on a richly caparisoned camel. The man holds his sword up in salute, his shield on the saddle. An armed man is bent over, cutting the camel’s hobble. Behind him a blue-skinned figure raises his hand.

The painting depicts a dramatic episode from the very popular love story of Ḍhola and Māru. Ḍhola and Māru are riding their camel, going as quickly as they can to escape the villainous Umar, who wants to capture the beautiful Māru. In their haste, they have forgotten to remove the hobble that held the animal’s legs when they stopped for a rest earlier.

On their way Ḍhola and Māru meet the blue-skinned Cāraṇa, who tells his servant to cut the hobble with his knife. He waves the lovers on their way and informs the villain Umar that he might as well stop chasing Ḍhola and Māru because their camel is so quick.

Other visual elements

The paintings of this manuscript are colourful and lively. Note the comparatively modern format of the page, very different from the traditional long and narrow rectangle.

Script

The elaborate script used for the main text is the Jaina Devanāgarī script. It is used for writing numerous Indian languages, here for Rajasthani / Gujarati.

Background

The moving love story of Prince Ḍhola and the young girl Māru is a folk ballad from western India known in many oral and written versions. The lovers are separated and finally reunited after many adventures. In this episode the camel, an animal associated with the Rajasthan desert, plays an important role.

Jain monks, who are fond of all types of stories, have copied it many times and are therefore partly responsible for spreading it around India. It is a story with a rich pictorial tradition.

The author of this version is the Śvetāmbara Mūrtipujak monk Kuśalalābha Upādhyāya, who wrote it in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, in 1560 CE (1617 VS). He was affiliated to the Kharatara-gaccha, one of the most numerous monastic orders in Rajasthan.

Glossary

Common Era
The period of time starting with the year when Jesus Christ was traditionally believed to have been born. Using CE is a more secular way of dating events in a multinational, multi-religious world.
Kharatara-gaccha
Subsect of the Śvetāmbaras, chiefly found in Rajasthan and Mumbai and established in the 11th century. 
Upādhyāya
Preceptor or tutor. One of the Five Supreme Beings, who is worthy of being worshipped by ordinary Jains.
Vikrama-saṃvat
Often abbreviated, Vikrama-saṃvat is the calendar associated with Emperor Vikramāditya. It begins in about 56 BCE so the equivalent date in the Common Era can be calculated by subtracting 57 or 56. Based on Hindu traditions, it is a lunar calendar often used in contemporary India.
Monk
A man who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to formally enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, monks perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.
Gujarati
The language that developed in Gujarat, in western India. It is also spoken in neighbouring states. Also a term for someone or something associated with or coming from Gujarat.
Jaina Devanāgarī
The distinctive version of the Devanāgarī script found in Jain manuscripts.
Jaisalmer
A city in the northwestern state of Rajasthan in India.
Rajasthan
The largest state in India, in the north-western part of the country.
Rajasthani
The language spoken in Rajasthan, in north-western India, and surrounding states. It is also spoken in some parts of neighbouring Pakistan. Also the adjective describing people, things or places in or associated with the state of Rajasthan.
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