This view of a celebration in a Rajput palace is an early example of the genre of tamasha paintings, panoramas describing scenes of court life, that blossomed in the early eighteenth century at the court of the Mewar princely state of north west India.The location of the palace, probably at Bundi or Kotah, and the identification of the celebration are uncertain. The festivities may represent Diwali, the New Year Festival of Lights devoted to Lakshmi the Goddess of Wealth and Good Fortune. To secure luck for the coming year the Goddess is worshipped at her shrine, and the light from fireworks and oil lamps symbolises the victory of the forces of light over darkness. The palace is depicted from a bird’s eye view, the perspective of different sections skewed to present the architectural details and spaces within the building to best effect. The painting richly rewards close examination, with numerous entertaining vignettes and details, including the woman seen in profile through the window set into the bright orange main gate. Beyond the walls of the palace a lively gathering includes a group of muscians, men sprinkling the dust with water from a goat skin bag, a pair of sadhu (ascetics) and a man leading a leopard on a leash. Within the palace the Diwali festivities are celebrated before the Maharana who is accompanied by the women of the zenana and entertained by a diminutive performer. To the left a priest bows before the Diwali lights. The combination of intricate, lively details contained within a framework of palace architecture and landscape, and executed in dense, bold colours, characterise the tamasha genre of Rajput painting.

Text by Carol Cains © National Gallery of Victoria, Australia


  • Title: Diwali celebrations at Kotah
  • Creator: Indian
  • Date Created: (c. 1690)
  • Location Created: Udaipur, India
  • Physical Dimensions: 48.2 x 43.8 cm (Image)
  • Type: Opaque Watercolours
  • Rights: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Felton Bequest, 1980, =A9 National Gallery of Victoria
  • External Link: National Gallery of Victoria
  • Medium: opaque watercolour and gold paint on paper
  • Place Part Of: India

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