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Bifolio from the Gulshan Album
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Although the devanagari script is not clearly written, this yogi has the name of the Hindu god Rama stamped on his body in several places. This indicates that he is a Ramanandi yogi. Today the Ramanandis are the largest ascetic order in India.

A Mughal artist adapted the figures, as well as the hazy blue tones of the distant landscape, from the European prints and paintings that were popular at the Mughal court. The guru seated in front of the cave wears a necklace with cloth strips that identifies him as a senior Nath.

Yoga: The Art of Transformation

Bifolio from the Gulshan Album

Like today’s scrapbooks, Mughal albums contain images linked by subject matter without reference to texts. The albums of Emperor Jahangir (reigned 1605–27) and his son Shah Jahan sympathetically deploy the figure of the yogi to project their vision of a diverse and harmonious empire. Created for Jahangir’s renowned Gulshan Album, the bifolio is dazzling in its jewel-like colors, palpably present yogis, and atmospheric landscapes.

left folio
Impeccably assembled from paintings by different artists, this folio depicts, clockwise from top left, a yogic devotee of Rama with a peacock fan and a dramatically billowing saffron wrap, a black-robed Shaiva Nath with his brown dog, a group of ash-covered yogis gathered companionably in a banyan tree’s shade, and a mother cat with her kittens.

right folio
Albums were designed to invite reflection on the meaning of juxtapositions. The artist who assembled the pages from separate vignettes playfully drew attention to some seams through contrasts of scale. The combination of yogis from different lineages alongside animals nurturing their young portrays Hindu ascetics as members of an amicable collective.

Bifolio from the Gulshan Album
India, Mughal dynasty
First quarter of the 17th century
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Staatsbibliothek zu Berline, Preuβischer Kulturbesitz, Orientabteilung Libri pict. A 117, ff.6b, 13a

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