Few civilizations have thought about love as insistently as India. Love is the driving force of almost every plot of epic, legend, drama, or song. In devotional cults it is seen as an earthly foretaste of divine bliss. It is transformed into mystical ecstasy where devotees unite with gods through love-play. Its variations are endlessly analyzed in rhetorical texts known as riti literature. In this genre, lists are drawn of numerous types of men, women, degrees of experience, and of love situations. Combinations across the categories are developed in verse and in painting. There are verses transmitting the arts of Kama, the god of love. There is love demanded by honor and duty, even among thieves. There is love so undeniable that it overpowers codes of conduct otherwise observed. There is love so painful that it steals dignity, reason, and life.

Desire, as the root of action, can lead only to the cycle of rebirth. By ascetic discipline of body, mind, and senses, desire is yoked in meditation (yoga), leading to the release from worldly existence. Love is adored, love is abjured; but in temple, court, home, or hermitage, the matter is considered deeply.

Lovers share wine
Mir Kalan Khan Mughal
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, ca. 1740
11 9/16 in. x 6 25/32 in. (29.4 cm x 17.2 cm)

Edwin Binney 3rd Collection