Yogini with Disciple
India, state of West Bengal, Murshidabad, 18th century. Opaque watercolor on paper. Lent by the Victoria and Albert Museum.

In a peaceful remote hermitage, a disciple plays a double-gourded vina for her female guru, who listens attentively to the music with a yoga band around her knees that enables her to retain this yogic posture for long periods. A peacock-feather fly whisk, an attribute of yoginis, lies at her side. Both yoginis wear the salmon-colored robes, rudraksha beaded necklaces, and large earrings (darshani) that are characteristic of ascetics of the Nath sectarian order.

The subdued colors and the sparse composition communicate effectively the peaceful atmosphere of the yoginis retreat. A sandy plain between the silver-gray river and the sky, a simple white hut, and the restrained postures of the two women further enhance the mood of tranquility. This painting was produced in the provincial court of Murshidabad, which rose to power in the eighteenth century, asserting its independence from Mughal rule in Delhi.


Yogini with Disciple.