As the mid-twentieth century Hindi poet laureate Maithili Sharana Gupta said : Rama’s life is by itself a poetry; anyone who sings of him becomes a poet. This is as much true of a painting : any vision of Rama’s likeness on canvas shall make its renderer a painter for Rama’s sheer likeness, irrespective of its image quality, inspires reverence in the devotional mind and it accepts the image as Rama, and the representation, as painting. This, however, is not the case in regard to this image of Rama by Kailash Raj, a painter by birth inheriting the talent and skill from a family that matured it across many generations. In rendering this image of Rama, and of course, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman, Kailash Raj has used the best iconographic diction and the truest idiom of the Rama’s imagery, especially as it prevailed around 1780 to 1810 AD at Kangra, a Pahari art School : a highly simplified background, elegantly modeled figure with moderate height in fascinating blue, sharp features, serenity on face, simple ‘pitambara’ – yellow antariya, a maroon sash and modest ornamentation … In image-quality, treatment of theme, rhythmically poised figures revealing Himalayan hills’ like sky-line, colours’ contrast and divine simplicity the painting is simply outstanding.
The artist has discovered most of his effects in the painting’s stark simplicity. Except a plant the background, more than three-fourth, consists of uniform green, and the one-fourth bottom part, pale yellow like an old lime-laid floor. Highly simplified the plant itself is just an expanse of irregular vertical lines, the thicker one defining the trunk, and rest, the branches that bear on them pinkish white flowers – large and small : an humble tool that balances the emptiness of that part of the background but without dominating it. The tree affords mystic proportion and delightful perspective to the seated figure of Hanuman. Not involving any kind of drama, gestures, indulgence or even an act, a divine serenity and absolute calm define all figures. An inner dialogue seems to be going on between Rama – the enlivening Spirit, and Hanuman – the nature, or matter, affording to the painting rare mystic dimensions. The painting’s mystic angle is further strengthened in the attributes of Rama. Instead of his usual bow and arrow : the tools of balance sought in elimination, Rama is carrying a lotus, the symbol of life and growth, perceiving him as upholding the cosmos by his mere presence. Rama is in yellow representing purity and majesty, Sita, in red, representing amour and complete submission, Lakshmana, in black, the formless void and ignorance indicative of the mass to take form, and Hanuman, red, symbolic of fire. The figures of the blue-bodied Rama, gold-hued Sita and Lakshmana, and red-faced Hanuman, have been conceived with sharp features and a highly balanced anatomy.
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. .