The miniature paintings of the Gita by Allah Baksh, published in this volume for the first time, are from the late seventeenth century Mewar. Commissioned by Udaipur’s Maharana Jai Singh, these paintings of the Gita are part of an illustrated Mahabharata folio of more than 4000 works.
Allah Baksh’s luminous work on the Gita has no precedent in India’s art tradition. He has illustrated Krishna’s ecstatic song, verse by abstract verse. His images, meditative and unostentatious, are free from both heroic posturing and spiritual pride. Their colours are clear and luminous; their lines are restrained and precise. The folio reveals an artist for whom the Gita is a magnificent conversation between man and god about the pity and the sorrow of war. Allah Baksh’s art of visionary thoughtfulness deserves an honoured place in the great library of Indian scriptures and their interpretations.
Alok Bhalla’s commentary on the relationship between the paintings and the verses of the Gita is richly nuanced and imaginative. He challenges us to think about how artists have interpreted India’s sacred texts in radically new ways. Bhalla argues that these miniature paintings are not mere illustrations of Krishna’s divine discourse and that Allah Baksh’s work is a morally significant visual guide to the Gita, as each painting is a unique moment of revelation.
Chandra Prakash Deval’s fine translation of the Gita from Mewari into Hindi is a valuable addition to our understanding of the history of cultural exchange between the different regions and languages of India.