Raja Bikram Collecting the Clothes of the Bathing Fairies

Author: Mulla Nusrati

(India, c. 1710)

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He has taken their clothes and stuffed them in a bag under his arm. But it’s not what you think. He needs the beautiful fairies’ assistance, and is holding their clothes until they agree to help, an action which is a common trope from South Asian literature and religious mythology. King Raja Bikram, as depicted in this scene from a Gulshan-i ‘Ishq manuscript, has been unable to bear a child with his queen. So he’s on a journey to find a solution. Finding the winged fairies, he demands that they take him to see a holy man, who ultimately gives Bikram a magic, pregnancy-inducing fruit.