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In Nala Damayanti's world

In an illustrated talk, hear historian BN Goswamy discuss paintings and the story of a couple who fell in love without having met

A resident of Chandigarh and a professor Emeritus of Art History at the Punjab University, Dr BN Goswamy will share his thoughts on the Nala Damyanti paintings. During the illustrated talk titled, Light as Breeze, Colourful Like the Rainbow, Dr Goswamy will analyse a series of Nala Damyanti paintings by eminent artists and elaborate on the story they have been derived from. The intent of the talk is to present a deep-rooted connection between fine art and stories.

A painting from the Nala Damyanti series
A painting from the Nala Damyanti series

It will shed light on how all historical paintings have been derived from stories and how these paintings are a reflection of the artists’ interpretation of the saga. The tale of Nala Damayanti is ancient and the text on which this series of paintings is based goes back about 800 years. “I first saw the paintings nearly 40 years ago.

They are in a single collection in Jammu. The idea is to enter the spirit of the paintings to gain insight into not just the story or the narrative behind them but the experience that the painter went through or the one that you and I may go through while looking at them,” says Goswamy.

Dr BN Goswamy
Dr BN Goswamy

Created by the members of a family of painters based in Guler in the Pahari region of Himachal Pradesh in the 18th century, this story of two lovers: Nala and Damayanti first occurred as the Nalopakhyana in the Mahabharata and kept being built upon in generations that followed. Vernacular versions were written and circulated widely; it even became part of the repertoire of performing artistes, reaching as far down as Kerala where  Kathakali artistes continue to perform versions of it even now.

Presenting the other side of the story, Dr Goswamy will also discuss how the paintings can narrate the story, which in turn gives the audience a different perspective to a story they’ve been hearing for years.

On: Today, 6.30 pm onwards
At: Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point.
Call: 66223737

Closing in on the source

The paintings are based on the love story of a handsome prince Nala, who is the young ruler of the land of Nishadha and princess Damayanti, the daughter of King Bhima of Vidarbha.

The two lovers, who fall for each other without having met, unite despite the Gods wanting to marry off Damayanti. Their love story ends on a happy note.

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