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Laila faints after seeing Majnun turned into a Skeleton

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Laila faints after seeing Majnun turned into a Skeleton
A.D. 1740-50: Late Mughal, Muhammad Shah period

Place of Origin: (Based on the Khamsa of Nizami, one of the Persian classics by Nizami)
Acc. No. 61.1021

An episode from one of best known Persian tales transformed into a classic by the early 12th century Persian poet Nizami Gajnavi, and an often painted theme in miniatures and other formats, the painting represents Laila swooning after she sees Majnun turned into a skeleton in her love. One of the most pathetic tragedies of love in world literature, the tale of Laila and Majnun was a live tradition when in early 12th century poet Nizami elaborated it in full details and included it as one of the five poetic narratives in his Khamsa. Later, some other great poets to include the 13th-14th century Sufi poet/saint Amir Khusrau of Delhi further elaborated the tale and added to it also mystic dimensions.

Though elaborated in full details, the narrative does not have a well grown body progressing along time-scale. In childhood Qays, subsequently known as Majnun, a term denoting one mad in love or inclining to 'fanna', a concept under which a lover bent on annihilating himself and making every kind of self sacrifice, falls in love with Laila, a young girl from a neighbourhood tribe. However, after she grows to adulthood her father refuses to marry her to Qays. This completely shatters his heart, though instead of trying to achieve her by any other means he retires to forest aspiring to be eaten up by wild animals, though contrarily instead of harming him they only take his care and look after him. Having given up food and even water Qays, now Majnun, is reduced to a skeleton. Laila, after she knows Majnun's pathetic condition and his love for her, decides to go to the forest and persuade him to abandon this madness.

This late Mughal painting represents this stage of the narrative. Along some trusted friends and attendants and a Maulavi Laila reaches the spot where Majnun, turned into a skeleton, is awaiting his end. All around are animals - crocodiles, dragons, deer, monkeys, various birds..., grieving over Majnun's condition. No sooner Laila sees this sad plight of her lover than she, unable to bear with his pathetic condition, herself swoons. Here the focus divides into two parts Laila's companions rush to her and try to revive her to senses by fanning her with scarves they have in their hands while the Maulavi tries to revive Majnun by pouring water into his mouth. Laila's transparent ensemble, beautifully portrayed figures and details of nature, in every aspect the painting is simply outstanding.

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