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SOFT SMILE AND SWEET PRATTLE

Were it not for the superb reproductions, Harsh Dehejia’s THE FLUTE AND THE LOTUS: ROMANTIC MOMENTS IN INDIAN POETRY & PAINTING (Mapin, Rs 1,950) would be an inordinately expensive Valentine’s Day confection. Dehejia, a practising physician and professor of religion, attempts to bring together two parallel amatory traditions. The poetry ranges from 4th-century Prakrit to Sufi mysticism, including Kalidasa, the Bhagavat Purana, Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda, and the work of Bihari, Keshavadas and Bhanudatta. The paintings include Mughal, Deccan, Rajasthani, Pahari, Madhubani and Kalighat masterpieces, most of them exquisitely beautiful. The protagonists are Radha and Krishna, enacting the various roles and stages of erotic play, as in this 18th-century painting. The writing is cloying and rather mindless, but this survey’s wide chronological sweep allows for much visual pleasure.

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