Collections: Asian Art: Sohni Swims to Meet her Lover Mahinwal

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    Sohni Swims to Meet her Lover Mahinwal

    This painting illustrates a well-known Punjabi folk tale about a forbidden love affair that ended in tragedy. The lovely Sohni fell in love with a young man who lived across the river from her family’s land. She could not swim, so she used a pot to float across the deep river to meet him each night. When Sohni’s disapproving family discovered the affair, her sister-in-law replaced the pot with one made of unbaked clay. It disintegrated, and Sohni drowned.

    This painting shows Sohni during one of her successful crossings, with her lover, Mahinwal, waiting for her on the other side and sleeping figures in the foreground. The gloom of night has been created with a dark palette and thin layers of gray paint. Sohni and Mahinwal, however, appear to glow against the dark setting, an effect that highlights their passion and heroism.

    • Culture: Indian
    • Medium: Opaque watercolor on paper
    • Dates: ca. 1775-1780
    • Dynasty: Mughal
    • Dimensions: sheet: 10 5/8 x 15 1/8 in. (27.0 x 38.4 cm) image: 9 11/16 x 13 7/8 in. (24.6 x 35.3 cm)  (show scale)
    • Collections:Asian Art
    • Museum Location: This item is not on view
    • Accession Number: 77.208.2
    • Credit Line: Gift of Dr. Bertram H. Schaffner
    • Rights Statement: No known copyright restrictions
    • Caption: Indian. Sohni Swims to Meet her Lover Mahinwal, ca. 1775-1780. Opaque watercolor on paper, sheet: 10 5/8 x 15 1/8 in. (27.0 x 38.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Dr. Bertram H. Schaffner, 77.208.2
    • Image: overall, 77.208.2_IMLS_SL2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    • Record Completeness: Good (65%)
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    Recent Comments
    02:32 04/20/2011
    Sohni’s heart pines
    for Mahinwal
    for she loves
    him beyond all things earthly
    By day she paints flowers
    on the pots her father makes
    O Sohni’s heart is always filled with love
    And by night
    she swims across
    with a pot to help her float
    and she goes each night thus
    to meet her forbidden love

    O Mahinwal’s heart
    that herder of cattle
    his heart too is filled with love
    and he has given up his name
    and his land
    for he is no longer Izzat Baig of Buhkara
    but he is simple Mahinwal –
    Sohni’s Mahinwal
    O so full of love is he
    day and night
    for the beautiful Sohni

    and how will this end?
    O river that nurtures us – tell us…
    O how will this forbidden love end? –
    O fish and cattle and deer
    and creatures of the river bank –
    tell us, how this love will end…



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