Manaku of Guler: The Life and Work of Another Great Indian Painter from a Small Hill State centres upon Manaku of Guler, older brother of the greatly celebrated Nainsukh, reconstructing whatever little is known of his life, but following closely his artistic journey. Manaku came from an obscure little town in the hills of northern India – home to his singularly talented family – and yet his vision knew almost no limits. Endowed with soaring imagination and great painterly skills, this man – with a name that literally means a ruby, that ‘stone of fame and mystique’, whose glow keeps hinting at an inner fire – was capable of painting giant rings of time upon timeless waters, envisioning the world of gods and demons, littered with cosmic battles and earthly triumphs, but also gazing, with tender eyes, upon the world of two lovers in which there is tortured loneliness at one moment but, in the next, ‘her garlands fall on his chest and glisten like white cranes on a dark cloud’.
At least three great series were painted by Manaku: The Siege of Lanka which took forward the narrative of the Ramayana from the point where his father, the gifted Pandit Seu, had left it; The Gita Govinda – Jayadeva’s immortal 12th century Sanskrit lyric – which he completed in 1730; and the Bhagavata Purana, that remarkably extensive text, revered and recited by millions to this day, which he set about to negotiate with his brush in ca. 1740–45.
Every single folio that has survived and is at present accessible – the number comes close to five hundred – from these series finds a place in this uncommonly rich volume. For the second time – Nainsukh of Guler, was the first – Professor Goswamy looks here at the entire body of work of a great Indian artist from the past through eyes filled with curiosity and warmth.