“Kshitindranath Majumdar’s Death of Sadhu Haridas from the 1950s reveals his particular mastery of rendering emotions in this moving, pathos-filled composition that gave to the pale translucence of the Bengal School idiom the strength of his artistic intent.” (M. Mandhwani, ‘The Bhakti Movement and Chaitanya in Indian Art’, Shri Chaitanya Meets His Mother, Kshitindranath Majumdar, Masterpiece IX, New Delhi, 2016, p. 21)
Kshitindranath Mazumdar was a student and disciple of Abanindranath Tagore and a proponent of the Bengal School of Art that he founded. Mazumdar studied and then taught alongside Nandalal Bose at Abanindranath’s Society of Oriental Art, and embodied the key philosophy of the Bengal School, namely to embrace Indian and Eastern mythology and spirituality over the naturalist materialism of Western academic realism. Mazumdar was particularly drawn to classical Indian religious imagery, such as that found in the Ajanta cave murals and court paintings. There is a lyricism that is intently entrenched in tradition, spirituality and emotional expression in Mazumdar’s paintings.
Death of Sadhu Haridas refers to an incident from the life of the Bengali saint Chaitanya, a highly influential figure and reformer whose spiritual beliefs rejected the competitive dogmas of Budhism, Hinduism and Christianity in favor of an inclusive deep devotion and love. In this particular scene, Chaitanya is present at the death of Haridas, a yogi and fakir who was famously voluntarily buried alive for forty days and nights to prove his mind's power over his body before being revived. For the artists of the Bengal School, Chaitanya represented the embodiment of the values they sought to inject into their lives, creative processes and art, and multiple scenes from his life appear in works by Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Asit Haldar and Prosanto Roy to name only a few. Death of Sadhu Haridas, painted in the 1950s, is an exceptional example of all that the Bengal School stood for.