Pratham Milan

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Size: 15 x 19.5 inches
Medium: Opaque Watercolours and Gold on Paper
Period: circa 1930
Origin: Nathdwara, Rajasthan


This artwork is titled Pratham Milan, and it shows Vallabhacharya and Shrinathji on Mount Govardhan. In the course of his life, the great philosopher Vallabhacharya undertook three major pilgrimages, during which he expounded his teachings and perfected his doctrines. According to legend, on one of these pilgrimages he travelled to Mount Govardhan in the northern Indian region of Vraj, accompanied by two devout disciples. It was here that he discovered the svarup (living embodiment) of Shrinathji, in the form of Krishna as a young boy. He had a shrine erected over it and prescribed a simple seva, or loving service. This event is referred to as the Pratham Milan (first sighting), the subject of this painting. At the top right on rocky Mount Govardhan, Vallabhacharya embraces Shrinathji next to the shrine, in which the lord's image would be installed. Below is the figure of Sadu Pande, the chief cowherd of the village of Aynor and his daughter Naro carrying a bowl of milk. Above is a cowherd, and a cow emanating milk into a cleft in the rocks where the young Shrinathji was concealed. In the foreground, a peacock frolics on a grassy meadow abutting a stream.
Such dramatic scenes were painted by Nathdwara artists, who produced these images for devotees visiting the great Krishna temple at Nathdwara in Rajasthan, India. Founded in the 17th century, this temple (Shrinathji ki Haveli) attracts an enormous following even to this day, in turn ensuring a continuing tradition of devotional images. Towards the end of the 19th century and early 20th century, Nathdwara artists were exposed for the first time to European art prints, whose influence can be seen in the paintings of this period.