Kedara Kalpa series of Pahari paintings
However, in 1996 the authors had the opportunity to study a relatively unknown text written in Sanskrit called Kedara Kalpa, and they were immediately struck by the similarity of the narrative to this intriguing series of pahari paintings. It became apparent to them – and since then the conclusion has been accepted by art historians around the world – that the paintings that had intrigued scholars for so many years were in fact a visual interpretation of Kedara Kalpa’s text. , believed to be part of one of the Puranas.
In the text, Shiva tells Parvati (in some versions her interlocutor is her son, the six-headed Kartikeya) the infinite merit of making the journey and worshiping at the holy shrine of Kedar Nath. Among other stories he tells to illustrate the amazing grace and piety of the Kedara tirtha, there is also the story of five sadhakas (worshippers) who undertake the pilgrimage with dedication and determination and achieve salvation by achieving their goal .
Both sets of paintings, although with minor stylistic variations, capture this journey of the sadhakas. Each unfolds the gradual stages of their arduous trek—sometimes over icy streams, now across barren rocks and vast, moody mountain landscapes, now past opulent celestial cities filled with beautiful maidens—narrow waists and high breasts—who would please if they so desired. However, the five pilgrims reject all temptation and rush towards their Holy Grail.