Shringara Of Shrinathji – A Romantique Illustrated Book on the Genesis of Nathdwara Paintings

Conceptualised by Vikram Goyal, owner of Viya Home, a new limited-edition book featuring 60 miniature works from the collection of the late Gokal Lal Mehta and an essay by Amit Ambalal has recently been published by Mapin. 

Each page of this illustrated book depicting intriguing paintings of Shyama is bound to fill your soul with glee and exuberance as the distinctive Nathdwara paintings originated in Udaipur, Rajasthan have always been noted for their use of colour and detailing. Usually, the deity is represented as shyama (black) while the pichwai (handpainted textile) backdrop and other elements exude vibrance.  Shyam (Black), Ghata, Pausha, in which the pichwai too is black, with a new moon motif shining on top.

The classical and exquisite limited-edition book is conceptualised by Vikram Goyal, who owns Viya Home, which offers luxury products with a focus on indigenous crafts, and his eponymous interior design label. The book also carries an essay by penned by artist-scholar Amit Ambalal. 

Shringara Of Shrinathji will navigate you the the classical era of the evolution of Nathdwara painting as seen from the lens of Gokal Lal Mehta’s family collection. 

The 60 miniature paintings depictied in books are associated with centuries-old Pushtimarg tradition of Vaishnavism and were commissioned by the then head of the Nathdwara temple, Tilkayat Govardhanlalji (1862-1934), and executed by chief artist Sukhdev Kishandas Gaur between 1890-1910. These paintings were gifted to Gokal Lal Mehta’s ancestor, Mehta Sahab Pannalalji, a prime minister of Mewar, for his devotional   contributions to the temple and state.

Tracing the influence of the Nathdwara school of painting,  a melting pot of most schools of Rajasthan, emerged with a distinct style and character of its own, the book also narrates the intricacies of how the colours of shringara change with the seasons. For instance in winter, the paintings are ornate with deep colours, while the warm season is reflected in pichvais with the lotus motif. 

Ambalal, together with the descendants of tilkayats (custodians of the idol at Nathdwara), has deconstructed elements of the paintings. “For each of these paintings, Ambalal meticulously details the different aspects of the shringaras, including the season and day, the shringari, the headdress, ornaments, dress, and the pichvai backdrop,” writes Vanmala Mehta—Gokal Lal Mehta’s daughter and Goyal’s mother—in the foreword. 

He states that the lotus in the garland worn by the deity symbolises Radha’s heart, which Shrinathji always keeps close to his own. The tiny pitcher of water wrapped in red cloth and placed on a tiny pedestal represents his foster mother, Yashoda, and expresses vatsalya bhava. “His lotus-shaped eyes are so set that they appear to look downwards to cast grace, pushti, on those who seek refuge at his feet,” he writes.

The box in which the book is enclosed references the old khakhas that used to hold Indian manuscripts. Priced at ₹9,500, Shringara of Shrinathji is available on Amazon.

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