King Dushyanta Chasing Deer; Prevented by the Sages from Hunting in the Premises of the Hermitage

UnknownMid 19th Century

National Museum - New Delhi

National Museum - New Delhi
New Delhi , India

Hot in pursuit, king Dushyant had chased a deer for long, but when the deer finally presents a fair mark for him and Dushyant fixes an arrow on his bow string to shoot it, a hermit and his pupils approach the king, interrupting his aim and urge the king not to slay the deer as it has entered the sanctuary of the pious saint Kanva.

The hermit cautions Dushyant that the weapons of kings and warriors must be used for the relief of the oppressed and not for the destruction of the guiltless. Dushyant heeds to the sage’s advice and replaces his arrow in the quiver, whereupon he is blessed by the sage that due to his worthy act, the king shall be blessed with a son who is adorned with kingly virtues, and become sovereign of the world.

The sage then invites the king into the hermitage of the sage Kanva, to witness for himself how the animals in the sanctuary are protected by Shakuntala, the foster daughter of sage Kanva, and realise the power and pleasure in giving refuge as far superior to the amusement derived from mindless slaughter.

The folio depicts the narrative in a lucid composition. Raising their arms, the sage and his two disciples are depicted as pleading with the king not to slay the fawn who has now found asylum in the hermitage of sage Kanva. On the right, Dushyant is shown poised to strike his arrow, riding a chariot of speeding horses. The artist portrays the scene in a verdant forest lush with variegated trees using a range of greens from the acidic greens to lime, emerald and parakeet. The artist delights in depicting a range of trees with different types of leaves all delineated with patient linework.

The verdant landscape reveals animals that dwell in it - a pair of boars speed out of their hiding on the top right, while a monkey adroitly jumps upon the branches of a sturdy tree in centre left of the painting, colourful little birds perch on the trees, and the beautiful plumes of a peacock are half visible behind a tree, its rich colours echoed in the royal blue cloth hangings of the chariot.

While the intricacy and skilful rendering of portraiture is a characteristic inherited from the earlier Guler-Kangra idioms, the hierarchical scale, the purple outlines of the bodies, a compositional format of using an extending background of undulating hills marked by a canopy of rich foliage with very little room for the sky, follow the stylistic traits of the Kangra idiom of painting. The lack of subtlety in rendering the colours makes them clash jarringly and is one of the tendencies of paintings of most styles of the Punjab hills during the mid-nineteenth century.


  • Title: King Dushyanta Chasing Deer; Prevented by the Sages from Hunting in the Premises of the Hermitage
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Mid 19th Century
  • Physical Dimensions: 33 x 37 cm
  • Style: Nalagarh / Hindur
  • Accession Number: 89.503/52

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