Maharana Sangram Singh II celebrating the Spring Festival with his nobles in the Gulab Bari

Udaipur, ca. 1715–20
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Image, 69 × 52.5 cm
Private collection

Flower Power

Every spring, when roses bloom and soft breezes scent the air, the Udaipur court would visit a rose garden southeast of the City Palace. Surrounded by rose bushes, Sangram Singh holds court on a gleaming white platform. While his nobles, all wearing pink rose garlands, enjoy the sweet-smelling blooms, the maharana delicately relishes the fragrance of a single petal of the champaka flower (a type of magnolia). Through this unique scent, the maharana elevates himself above his nobles and the world.
—Mohammed Salih Cholakkalakath, graduate student, NYU

The painting depicts Maharana Sangram Singh celebrating the Spring Festival with his nobles in Udaipur’s Gulab Bari (rose garden). Its artists organized the landscape according to smell.

Scent upon Scent

The king surrounds himself with delicate flowers. He inhales the fragrance of a single petal, losing himself in the smell of champaca, a type of magnolia.

The Abundance of Roses

In the spring, damask roses bloom throughout the Indian subcontinent.

Scent Circle

The abundance of roses makes the white marble platform the most significant concentration of fragrance. One layer of aroma encircles the other, making the smellscape most intense around the king.

Smell across Borders

These servants of the king are barred from access to the fragrance and music in the garden. Reflecting their social status, the artist minimized them by placing them in the corner.

Smell Assemblies

Everything smells in this world. The horses and elephants provide a distinctive animal odor. The bazaar diffuses the aromas of spices and food. Petrichor, the unique, earthy smell associated with rain falling on dry ground, is evoked by the lush brown.

Odor Eliminators

The trees surrounding the garden make a barrier that separates the world of pleasure inside from the ordinary world outside. Like a veil, it ensures privacy and intimacy for people in the garden.

Scent in Motion

Beyond the garden, a rose-adorned palanquin awaits the king. He will perhaps carry his champaca blossom back home.

Authored by Mohammed Salih Cholakkalakath

Authored by
Mohammed Salih Cholakkalakath