The Abduction of Rukmini or Rukmini-Harana is part of the Bhagavata Purana or story of Krishna. As Princess Rukmini of Vidarbha is unwilling to marry Prince Sisupala, the man most people expect her to, she goes to pray at the temple with the high born women of her city. Krishna, her lover, comes to abduct her. He is shown in the chariot, helping Rukmini into it – a deed that sends the kings who oppose him into fury (depicted on the left). Krishna’s companions are shown in the upper right corner waiting for him before returning to Dwarka where Krishna and Rukmini will be wed. Rukmini is shown twice, directly to the left of the shrine with her ladies and eloping with Krishna in his carriage.
The dramatic setting of the scene, with the high temple shikara rising against a vibrant yellow ground is a convention for landscape painting already seen in another Rukmini-Harana series, now in the Bhuri Singh Museum, Chamba and accounted to be by Nikka, the third son of Nainsukh (B.N. Goswamy and Eberhard Fischer, Pahari Masters, Zurich, 1992, cat. 147, p.345). Although dated 1790-1800 by Goswamy and Fischer it is dated circa 1775-80 by V.C. Ohri (‘Nikka and Ranjha at the court of Raja Raj Singh of Chamba’, V.C. Ohri and R. Craven (ed.), Painters of the Pahari Schools, Marg, Bombay, 1998, pp.98-114).
The present painting seems influenced by Nikka and may have been executed by an artist who had access to Nikka’s work at Chamba. Two other paintings, originally attributed in 1973 by Archer to Garhwal circa 1770-85 are published in Indian Paintings from the Punjab Hills, London, 1973, vol.II, cat.12 and 20, p.83 an 85. A later painting of Krishna abducting Rukmini from the temple, attributed to a Kangra or Mandi artist, circa 1800-20 is published in Paintings from the Royal Courts of India, exhibition catalogue, Francesca Galloway, London and New York, 2008, cat. 39.