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The story of Prahlada from the ‘Bhagavata Purana’

Nainsukh family workshop

c.1775–90

Opaque watercolour with gold and silver paint

The Hindu epic text the Bhagavata Purana narrates the stories of the avatars of Vishnu. In the story depicted here, the demon king Hiranyakashipu turns against his son Prahlada for his devotion to Vishnu, Hiranyakashipu’s enemy, who killed his brother while in his boar incarnation, Varaha. The god Brahma grants Hiranyakashipu a wish that he cannot be killed by any human or animal, neither inside nor outside, neither during the day nor at night. Vishnu does eventually kill him in his Naramsimha (Narsingh), half-man half-lion, avatar on the threshold of his palace at twilight.

Although few Pahari artists signed their works, certain styles can be associated with family workshops. Best known among these is the family workshop of the early eighteenth-century artist Pandit Seu and his two sons, Manaku and Nainsukh. Nainsukh’s four sons and two nephews were also all painters and it is this generation to which this series of paintings is attributed.