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Miniatures from Central India: Nigam’s Madhumalati by Nandlal

R N Misra (Author) Veena Misra (Author)

Nandlal wrote and illustrated Madhumalati in 18th century Gwalior, to present a version of Chaturbhujdas Nigam’s original composition dating from the mid-16th century. Madhumalati is an epic tale of amour in versified, vernacular text, singularly rich in folklore. Its story-telling remarkably transforms the incredible into the plausible and entertains the audience even as it critiques social norms. It is impossible to miss its central message of promoting harmony. Madhumalati fearlessly debunks conservatism, pomposity and class distinctions; appealing for avoidance and resolution of conflicts. The miniatures by Nandlal are charmingly illustrative of the narrative. These miniatures are independent of regal patronage and are rendered in a style that marries a popular, folksy oeuvre with the late Malwa-Bundelkhand painterly tradition of 18th century Gwalior (Central India). The illustrated manuscript resounds with the theme of love between Madhukar, the son of a trader (vanika) and Malati, a ksatriya princess.




reface and Acknowledgements

Part I

1. Introduction

Provenance of Nandlal’s Madhumalati

The Date of the Manuscript

Glimpses of Life in the World of Madhumalati

The Principal Protagonists

2. The Narrative

Prelude: (10-28)

The Naive Parrot (61-63)

The Tigress and the Blackbuck, the Tiger and the Monkey (67-98, 176-230)

The Owls and the Crows (98-105, 150-153)

The Titodar, the Sea and Garuda (106-132)

The Crow and the Serpent (123-129)

The Swans and the Hunter (157-166)

The Crows Burn Down the Owls’ Abode (168-175)

Krsna and Chandravali

Karan Singh and Padmavati (275-335)

A Dialogue between Madhukar and Malati (337-362)

The Brahmin and the Ungrateful Snake (553-614)

A Mughal and the Oilman’s Wife (658-690)

The Account of Maina’s Sat (699-890, 928-940)

The Trader and His Wife (891-927)

The Cuckoo and the Parakeet (961-1008)

Chandra Kunwar and Ruparekha (1036-1076)

Chandrasen and Madhukar in Conflict (1084-1285)

Mahabharata Stories: Madhumalati version (1297-1424)

The Demon Todi, Hundwa and Bhima (1313-1329)

The Pandavas, Virata and Kichaka (1331-1380)

Bhima Poisoned; Revived in the Serpent World (1382-1424)

Chandrasen and His Ministers (1426-1498)

Urgano and the Serpents Vege and Anvege (1502-1643)

Haridatta, the Raja of Malijjapur (1545-1562)

Urgano (continued; 1563-1578) and Raja Amarasen

Madhumalati Version of Ramayana Heroes (1675-1705)

The Cow and the Lion (1711-1779)

The Wedding and Celebrations (1801-1837)

Epilogue (1875-1889)

3. Madhumalati in Miniatures




Attire and Ornaments



Heroines, Gods and Goddesses

Battle Scenes


Beasts, Birds and Bees

Objects of Everyday Life

The Mysterious Nayika

Odds and Ends

Part II



Colour Plates



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About the authors

R N Misra

Professor R.N. Misra taught at the Universities of Sagar, Gwalior, Allahabad and Gwalior again (1959-2001), was also Fellow (1973-75; 2002-05) at IIAS, Shimla and Tagore National Fellow (2012-15). His recent publications include Rethinking Comparative Aesthetics in a Contemporary Frame (ed. 2019, in collaboration with Professor Parul Dave-Mukherji), Ascetics, Piety and Power: Saiva Siddhanta Monastic Art in the Woodlands of Central India (2018) and Outlines of Indian Arts (ed. 2014).

Veena Misra

Veena Misra (1941-2019), a poetess, artist, home-maker and a person of wide academic sympathy. Deeply interested in Indian and western philosophy, especially G.E. Moore’s Principia Ethica for her unfinished Ph.D., she also found immense pleasure in literature and the arts; even in homely surroundings her expositions on kavya-sastra were spellbinding. She wrote popular articles, reviews and poetry for journals like Dinman, Vama, Madhyam, Kritasankalpa etc., and essays for academic volumes published from Delhi and Bhopal. She enjoyed her casual stints with All India Radio, Lucknow and Gwalior as an interlocutor, anchor and presenter. For several years she taught part-time at the Ram Krishna Ashram, Gwalior where young girls and boys, colleagues and the staff found immense pleasure in ‘Misra Didi’s’ company. But above all, she devoted her life in tenderly chiselling out three men, her husband and two sons the way she thought would ideally help them.

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Bibliographic information

Title Miniatures from Central India: Nigam’s Madhumalati by Nandlal
Format Hardcover
Date published: 01.01.2022
Edition 1st ed.
Language: English
isbn 9788173056604
length x+240p., Colour Plates, Figs.; 28cm.