A painting showing Shiva and Pārvatī seated on the ground with Nandi, Shiva’s vāhana, beside them. The painting dates to the late 18th century and was painted by Mohan Singh (fl.c. 1780–1782) in Lucknow in Northern India.

The painting

The painting depicts Shiva seated in front of a cave with his consort Pārvatī beside him. In the foreground of the painting is shown Nandi the bull, Shiva’s vāhana or animal associate.

Shiva sits on a tiger skin and wears a necklace of skulls and a snake coils around his arm and his neck as a symbol of his worldly attachment. He is shown with his hair in a topknot out of which pours a stream of water representing the river Ganga and to the side of his topknot is a crescent moon representing time. On Shiva’s right hand is a gomukhi, a bag that is used to cover a set of mala, or prayer beads, that are used in the recitation of mantras and represent the cyclical nature of time.

Pārvatī is shown seated in front of Shiva, with her hands raised as she pays homage to her husband. Nandi, Shiva’s vāhana, is also shown seated facing Shiva, adorned with a necklace of bells and a cover over his back. The painting has two inscriptions in Persian. Below is written ‘amal-i mohan singh’ (the work of Mohan Singh) whilst above is inscribed ‘tasvir-i mahadev ma‘ah parvati’ (a picture of Mahadev and Pārvatī).

Nim-qalam paintings

This Indian miniature is painted using the nim-qalam (‘half-pen’) technique. The technique consists of line drawings in ink or paint with shading added through the use of washes of brown or grey paint. In some cases colour washes and gold are used to highlight parts of nim-qalam paintings although in this instance only subtle washes of brown paint have been used to create shadows and a sense of depth.