, Sohni swimming to her lover Mahiwal Enlarge 1 /1
Pahari painting, Kangra style Sohni swimming to her lover Mahiwal late 18th century Place made: Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, India
Materials & Technique: paintings, miniatures, opaque watercolour, gold Support: paper
Dimensions: image 16.4 h x 25.3 w cm mount 31.6 h x 43.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: The Gayer-Anderson Gift 1954
Accession No: NGA 91.1335
Subject: Folk tales
  • Acquired in India by a collector named Fadnis (alternatively spelled Phadanavis or Furnuwees), mid-1800s or before
  • by descent to his great-grandson B.M. Fadnis, Pune, Maharashtra, India
  • who sold it to Colonel Thomas Gayer Gayer-Anderson, 1929
  • exported from India by Colonel Thomas Gayer Gayer-Anderson, 1930
  • held in the collection of Colonel Thomas Gayer Gayer-Anderson and Major Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson, Pasha, both of Little Hall, Lavenham, Suffolk, England, 1927-1953
  • who gave it to the Commonwealth of Australia, 1953
  • held by National Library of Australia, Canberra, after transfer from London, 1954-1991
  • transferred to the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 1991.
  • The collecting history of this painting is partial. Its whereabouts are unknown between its creation and entering the Fadnis Collection in the mid-1800s or before. The earliest confirmed transaction is its purchase by the donor in India in 1929. The National Gallery of Australia welcomes further information regarding its history of ownership prior to 1929.

The story of the ill-fated lovers Sohni and Mahiwal is among the most popular in Punjabi literature. Unable to swim, Sohni uses an inverted pot to cross the river at night to join Mahiwal who waits playing his flute to a herd of buffaloes. When Sohni’s brothers learn of her liaison they replace her pot with an unfired one. It disintegrates in the water and Sohni drowns. The role of the ascetic crouching outside a hut smoking a hookah is unclear.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label