The wedding procession of Maharana Raj Singh II at Bedla

Nema, son of Bhagwan, and Jiva, son of Chand, 1754–55
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Sheet, 79.2 × 125.8 cm
The City Palace Museum, Udaipur, 2012.20.0016

Snap, Crackle, Pop

Four unique types of fireworks—from exploding vessels to spinning wheels—light up this royal wedding procession. In eighteenth-century India, artisans produced pyrotechnics from gunpowder mixed with pigments like bright yellow orpiment and light green verdigris. Nema and Jiva used red, pure gold, and a range of brushstrokes to capture different effects and to communicate the sensory experience and celebratory mood of the moment: popping and cracking sounds announce the spectacle, embers glitter in the sky, and the smell of smoke lingers long after the procession has passed.
—Emma Hartman, graduate student, NYU

Here Comes the Groom

The wedding procession of Raj Singh II extends from the day into the night. The artists picture the maharana in Bedla, a town just north of his palace in Udaipur, five times: first in his royal tents in the upper left, last inside the palace of the bride in the upper right, and three more times in between. Along this route, the artists crafted a distinctive contrast between light and dark.

Primped and Polished

Raj Singh and his courtiers first set up camp to get ready for the wedding procession. It is still daylight here—notice that none of the men carry lamps or torches.

Everywhere the Light Touches

Once the sun sets, Raj Singh starts on his way into Bedla. Lamps and fireworks flank the procession. From this point forward, light touches only the king’s route. The artists used a translucent gray wash to denote darkness along the margins of the route.

Shadows and Light

The shadowed areas of Bedla are far from marginal, though. Instead, they are full of activity. In the streets, a woman spins fiber and townspeople wander. The surrounding town becomes a shadowy complement to the illuminated spectacle: in both the light and the dark, people gather, labor, celebrate, and watch.

A Warm Welcome

The scene is at its brightest where Raj Singh is welcomed into the white place with a seven-pronged lamp. The only thing that is missing? A bride! Raj Singh’s new wife is never pictured in this painting.

The World at Night

The artists’ strategic use of illumination compels us to navigate across both bright and unlit spaces in the nighttime spectacle, fully immersing us in this evening in Bedla.

Authored by Emma Hartman

Authored by
Emma Hartman