Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya

Vishnu as Narayana

Illustration to Vishnu Purana

Pahari, Kangra

c. 1790 CE

Acc No 92.25

The painting narrates an episode from Vishnu Purana, establishing Krishna as an incarnation of Vishnu. According to the story, there was a time when the earth was overburdened with demons. One amongst them was demon Kalnemi who was reborn as Kansa, the king of Mathura. The earth, then taking the form of a cow went to the gods. All of them, including Brahma and Indra then went to Vishnu for help. Vishnu assured the gods that he will descend on earth once again and destroy the demons.

The painting depicts Vishnu and Lakshmi seated on the coils of polycephalous Ananta in the midst of Kshirasagara. Four-faced Brahma along with Indra and other gods are standing in the right corner with a white cow representing the earth. The milky ocean is depicted by aquatic animals floating on the waves. The green grassy area around the ocean suggests the earth.

This theme was mainly popular with the Pahari painters.

Ragini Todi

Artist: Nisaruddin

Rajasthani, Mewar, Chavand

1605 CE

Acc No 2009.307

Ragini Todi is one of the most beautiful folios of the famous Chavand Ragamala dated 1605. The heroine holding a vina is proceeding somewhere, and turns to look back at the two blackbuck fawns following her, gently coaxing them to return home.

Generally, Ragini Todi is described as a lady attracting deer. A careful study of the painting makes it obvious that the lady is walking away while the fawns follow her. The imagery is reminiscent of the famous scene from Abhijnana Shakuntala where a fawn follows Shakuntala who, on taking leave of the members of the hermitage of Kanva, proceeds towards the kingdom of Bharata. She feeds the tiny one fresh shoots of grass and coaxes it to return. Sangita Damodara, one of the earliest treatises on the iconography of the ragas, datable to the 15th century, visualizes Ragini Todi in similar manner:

Standing near a dense forest, fondling the deer with the shoots of lotus,

with beautiful eyes like half blown lotus, possessing the complexion of a

lotus garland, she is the Ragini Todi.

The term todi connotes parting or breaking in Persian. Traditionally Ragini Todi is also considered to evoke sad feelings. The pain of parting with the daughter after her marriage, so poignantly described by Kalidasa, is an unforgettable experience for every parent. It is possible that musicologists derived the iconography of this raga from this description of Kalidasa. The melody itself may have developed from the songs which are sung at the time of bidding the daughter goodbye. Even today, these songs form a part of the wedding ritual of almost every community in India.

The date of the painting was read by Khandalavala himself in the colophon of the set which is now in the Gopikrishna Kanoria collection.



Tamil Nadu

Early 11th century CE

Gift of Lady Cowasji Jehangir

Accession No. S 63.35

Sadashiva is considered to be the highest form of Shiva as the supreme being from whom all others have originated. Shaivagamas gives description of Sadashiva murti as having one face, three eyes, and a crescent on his jata mukuta. He should be adorned with all the ornaments including the yajnopavita. Sadashiva is seated on a lotus pedestal with his two upper hands holding trishula and akshmala. His natural right hand is broken and the left hand is in the varada mudra. His tall jata mukuta has a crescent tucked on it and he is also adorned with the ornaments attributed to Shiva. The image represents the most important characteristics of Chola art.

Though Sadashiva images were popular in South India, they are also known to have come from Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

Please add the following tags to help make search easier- sadashiva, sadashiv, shiv, shiva, chola, chola art, sculptures, stone sculpture, granite, tamil nadu, south India, medieval India, indian art, hindu art.

Guardian Figure (one of the four Shitenno figure)

Polychrome wood

1679 CE; Enpō period

Kyoto (?), Japan

Sir Ratan Tata Art Collection


The figure shown here is one of the four Shitenno (guardian/ heavenly) figures of paradise. He is responsible for the protection of one of the four cardinal directions in a Buddhist monastery. Each figure stands on a demon symbolizing the victory over the evil, that is the victory of the Buddhist law. It must have been protecting the central Buddhist figure. Glaring and blazing, he is armoured and stands in a highly animated form that came to become part of the Japanese art from the medieval period. This figure from the CSMVS is not identified. The iconography however suggests that he could be the protector of the south. The exhibit is signed and bears an inscription stating that it was made by a great priest sculptor Fukuji during the Enpo period in Omiya (Kyoto)

Gunpowder flask

Nautilus shell inlaid with mother of pearl and lac

Kota, Rajasthan

19th century CE


This beautiful mother of pearl gunpowder container was displayed in the 1903 Delhi exhibition (and published in the catalogue). This flask is a fine example of the 19th century of Indian craftsmanship with delicate material. Made in the princely state of Kota, Rajasthan that was famous for marquetry or inlay work, this flask resonate with the legacy of the Mughal influence in the contemporary regional art in northern India. There was a similar primer exhibited in the exhibition. Such objects were popular not just with the Indian populace but also found buyers in the European market.

The princely state of Kota produced works of marquetry/ inlay. Wood inlaid with ivory and mother of pearl, wood inlaid with wood was produced in different parts of India. Kota, however, became a prime centre of such art. Even today marquetry tiles from Kota are famous. Though the Portuguese are credited with promoting this craftsmanship, there was a high demand for inlay objects in Mughal India. The Museum has a few exquisite examples of this craftsmanship in its collection.

Folio from Khamsa-i-Nizami

Deccani, provenance uncertain,

dated AH 992 = 1584 CE

Script – Nastaliq, language – Persian

Ink and opaque watercolour on paper

Folio 21.7 x 16.3 cm, painting 6.1 x 12.5 cm

Sir Ratan Tata Art Collection

22.3225 (332 folios)

The Khamsa-i-Nizami is a masnavi (collection of poems) by poet Nizami. A famous classic of Persian literature, it consists of five poems: Makhnul Asarar (not dated), Khusru-wa Shirin (1584 CE), Haft Paikar (1584 CE), Laila Majnu (1583 CE), and Sikandar Nama (not dated). Among these, only Haft Paikar is illustrated.

Haft Paikar is the story of Prince Behram, the son of Yazdegar, King of Persia. He was an expert in the game of hunting and achieved the title Gur – wild ass – after killing a fighting lion and wild ass with one arrow. Later he married seven beautiful princesses from different countries. He then ordered his most talented architect Shideh to build a palace for each of the seven princesses. Shideh, true to his abilities, built seven palaces with different coloured domes constructed according to the positions of the planets and their respective colours. Behram decided to visit the princesses one by one according to the day of the week, and requested each of them to tell him a story.

The seven stories told by seven princesses reflect seven different stages in the philosophical journey of human life. Behram first visits the princess in the black pavilion, which symbolizes the mystery of god hidden by the veil of ignorance. His journey ends at the palace of Princess Diroste, which is white, a symbol of divine purity and unity.

The colophon pages of the manuscript do not mention the name of the scribe. However, the notes in Persian before the beginning of the second and third masnavi give information about the owner of the book in a later period. It seems that in the mid-17th century this book was in the possession of a Mughal noble who took it with him on the expedition to Kandahar led by Prince Muhammad Aurangzeb. The study of these notes yields very interesting information about the movements of the royal army and the distances covered. After this, the manuscript seems to have gone into the possession of one Karam Ahmed Saheb. The text on the last page of the manuscript says: “Karam Ahmed Saheb purchased this manuscript and now it is his property whoever claims it will not have any good”. The seal on this page is illegible.