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Sohni Swims to Meet her Lover Mahinwal

Asian Art

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.
MEDIUM Opaque watercolor on paper
  • Place Made: Farrukhabad, India
  • 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)
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Dr. Bertram H. Schaffner
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    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 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 77.208.2_IMLS_SL2.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 77.208.2_IMLS_SL2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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