Karabhaka in the Court of King Dushyant with a Message From the Queen Mother

UnknownMid 19th Century

National Museum - New Delhi

National Museum - New Delhi
New Delhi , India

While King Dushyant is about to depart for the forest in response to the plea of the ascetics of the hermitage who have sought the protection of the king from the demons disturbing their ritual sacrifice, an attendant announces the arrival of Karabhaka from the capital at Hastinapur. The Queen Mother had ordered a ceremony upon the completion of her fast, and required the presence of Dushyant in it.

Dushyant is caught between the need to deliver his promise and protect the hermits, and his mother’s command for his presence during the ceremony. To solve this dilemma, Dushyant decides to send his close friend Madhavya to represent him at the ceremony.

By a system and network of engaging glances, the artist visually elucidates two events weaving them together in one painting. The gazes of the three men at the empty chariot direct the viewer's attention towards the chariot which has just entered carrying Karabhaka who is depicted as a diminutive man dressed in a simple white dhoti and wrap over his shoulders within the encamped enclosure of the court.

The figure of Madhavya is also repeated to form a continuous narrative - Madhavya is first depicted according to the narrative as a witness to the arrival of Karabhaka in the register below, and then depicted as taking him to meet the king. The gesture of Madhavya within a parapeted platform pointing to the chariot below while gazing at the king connects the group below and the space of the court of the king, while the gazes of all the men within the encamped durbar gaze at the king focussing him as the centre of our attention.

The artist also skillfully uses colour to bind the disparate elements in the visual plane into a comprehensive structure, where the eye of the viewer moves along the painting in a structured manner. In particular, the use of the colour orange that marks and highlights areas that the artist wishes to draw attention to creating sections where the eye is led through in the painting. Despite a bit of garish brightness to the colours, the fine detailing as well as the fine rendering of the portraits of some of the figures such as the figure of the Karabhaka is noteworthy.


  • Title: Karabhaka in the Court of King Dushyant with a Message From the Queen Mother
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Mid 19th Century
  • Physical Dimensions: 33 x 37 cm
  • Style: Nalagarh / Hindur
  • Accession Number: 89.503/40

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