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The painting stands midway between a simple portrayal of the divine figures and landscape and the depiction of a chain of events contextual to some unmanifest themes. Besides taking a bath in the lake the six-headed Karttikeya, it seems, has collected water in a bowl to fetch it for preparing his father’s favourite drink : ‘Bhang’ that his brother Ganesh is grinding with a pestle. With his arms and attributes : axe, battle-axe, club, sword … laid aside, the multi-armed Bana is lying on the floor before Lord Shiva. Another form of Bana has been represented as walking towards where Shiva is seated. This other figure of Bana seems to emerge from the palatial building represented in the distant corner. The gesture of the blue-bodied Shiva reveals on one hand his displeasure, and on the other, amnesty for his follies. The face of Parvati who favoured Bana and loved him as her son, and hence neither in a position to defend him nor to condemn, reveals her dismay.
Besides Parvati, Ganesh and Karttikeya, Shiva’s larger family consisted of Bana and Virabhadra, two of his Ganas elevated to the status of his sons for their outstanding devotion. Bana was born to the demon king Bali Vairochana, a descendant of Vishnu. Bana was the eldest of Bali’s one hundred sons and ruled Shonitapura, one of the three Cities of Demons. The ambitious Bana with a desire to be all powerful dedicated himself to the worship of Shiva and won from him first the boon that Parvati took him as her son, and the other, that he had a thousand arms. He was granted both, one inducted him into Shiva’s family as Parvati’s son, and the other, turned him into Shahastrabahu – thousand-armed. Thus having acquired unparalleled might he grew arrogant and highly ambitious and not he alone but instigated by him the demon kings of others of the Three Cities began inflicting atrocities on all.
One day all sages, gods, holy men and others came to Shiva and narrated him their sad plight. Shiva called sage Narada and asked him to find why the Three Cities were invincible and soared into the sky. Sage Narada discovered the reason and as advised by Shiva began weakening it and thus the Three Cities. Consequently the demons’ Cities reversed and landed on the earth. Now rendered weak, Shiva asked Agni to burn all them. When Bana knew about it, he rushed to Shiva and prayed him to forgive him and spare his City from his wrath. Shiva pardoned him and spared Shonitapura but other Two Cities of demons were burnt. Obviously, the miniature seems to portray this event. Angry Shiva pardons Bana but not other wrong-doers.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.