Museum Treasure: Rati and Kamadeva

In one of the galleries on the ground floor of the Government Museum, Bengaluru, there is a cordoned off area in the centre which holds a large wooden piece of furniture with delicate inlay work. From the cordon and the placement one would assume that this is an important exhibit and also be a little puzzled by the lack of any information about it. Except for a piece of paper taped on the surface which says “Dressing Table”. That’s it.

It is almost as if the Museum was telling the visitor that now that you know what it is, you can admire it and move on. Or you can attempt to interpret it.

I chose the second option once I saw the details and the theme of the inlay work on the dressing table, which has two distinct parts — the lower simple table with minimal inlay work, and the ornate upper part. The upper part of the dressing table has an elaborate depiction of the Hindu god of love and desire, Kamadeva and his consort, Rati. Both are depicted with bows made from sugarcane stalks and flower tipped arrows. Kamadeva or Manmatha as he is also known as, sports a mustache and is heavily bejewelled. Rati, who is also the goddess of sexual desire and pleasure strikes a bewitching pose. Both are framed in separate panels with very delicate arabesque design on them.

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