Nandalal Bose: Meet the Modern Indian Artist Who Painted Sati

Nandalal Bose was prestigiously known for his contribution to Indian Modern art. His artwork encompasses religious, domestic and cultural forms with a lasting impact on the viewer.

Nandalal Bose

Paintings are the most purified semblance of expression, thinking, reality, and interpretation. When it comes to colours, it can create both negative, as well as, positive things. Our society has torments due to numerous degeneracies that will not change overnight. As we bought ourselves to this time, our past has taught us many things. Sati System is a degeneracy that can cause us to exhale the cold breath of despair. According to the Sati system, the woman was let be in flames after her husband’s death. Almost the decade had seen these horrifying incidents with their naked eyes, but one such artist who painted it was Nandalal Bose. He was one of the renowned artists from the Indian Freedom struggle who belonged to the modern Indian painters’ community and ditched the odds of social evils through his numerous artworks. Commonly called Master Moshai, painted taking inspiration from Ajanta and Bagh caves, hitting the European norms of art.

As a part of the Swadeshi movement, Nandalal Bose used brushes to visualize Ancient India to instill patriotism in India. Surprisingly, these were sold for just 25 Paise (USD 0.003) back. His absolute work is contrasted more with women, rural India, and, mythologies. Today, the world demands sustainable art. Interestingly, at the time of the Fazipur session,1936 his Haripura posters were very well depicting this form. The tents, shelters, pandals, etc were made of bamboo and a remarkable approach of sustainable art.

Nandalal Bose with Mahatma Gandhi
Nandalal Bose with Mahatma Gandhi showing Haripura Posters at Fazipur Session of Congress

In contrast, their beauty comes from the fact that they are mixed combinations of elements from different types of Indian art.

Early Life of Nandalal Bose.

Born in 1882 to Kshetramonidevi and Purnachandra Bose, he grew up in a middle-class Bengali family in the British Presidency, at Haveli Kharagpur. He had four brothers and sisters. His father used to work as a manager for the Raja of Darbhanga, while his mother made toys for children as a housewife with a creative side. Her creativity instilled in him a sense of curiosity that grew throughout his life. Sketches of Indian Gods and Goddesses became part of his style, as well as decorations for poojas and pandals. Additionally, he was inspired by his surroundings, who used to be potters.

Nandalal Bose, Photograph

He moved to Calcutta when he was 15 to study at Central Collegiate School. In the year of 1903, Nandalal Bose married his mother’s friend Sudhuradevi, who was 12 years younger than him. This though didn’t affect his marriage, it was a happy one. He wanted to pursue art but his family didn’t want the same. After repeated failures in his classes, they finally permitted him to pursue arts. Later, he joined Calcutta’s School of Arts.

His Inspiration.

Ajanta Caves murals profoundly influenced his art when he was a young man. Nandalal Bose also became a prominent member of the international circle of artists passionate about bringing back Indian culture. Okakura Kakuzo, William Rothenstein, Yokoyama Taikan, Christiana Herringham, Laurence Binyon, Abanindranath Tagore, and Eric Gill comprised this community.

Nandalal Bose Contributions.

He made contributions at different times during his career. On the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s arrest in 1930 for Salt Satyagrah, he created an iconic image to represent the nonviolent movement. In black and white, he created a licorice print of him standing in the same position while walking. In addition to these, he drew emblems for government awards such as the Bharat Ratna and the Padma Shree. He was also responsible for embellishing the constitution book with a gold leaf emblem. Haripura posters of famous Congress sessions were also on display.

In the Tagore family, Nandalal Bose studied with Modern Indian Painters – Gaganendranath Tagore and Abanindranath Tagore. A few years later, they founded the Indian Society of Oriental Art with Ananda Coomaraswamy and O C Ganguli. The year 1922 marked his appointment as principal of the Kala Bhavana (College of Arts) at Tagore’s International University Santiniketan.

We bought you some of his exquisite artwork or you can say we are providing a brief Nandalal Bose paintings description with this article. Scroll more to learn.

Visiting the Gallery of Nandalal Bose.

1. Sati.

Women are incredible souls made to nourish and love their families and society. She contributes most to every form of her living. Despite all of these, why is her worthiness always compromised? Take an instance from Ramayana, where Sita sacrificed herself for her purity, likewise in Mahabharata, Draupadi was humiliated in the court in front of his husband. These sufferings became worst with time when the Sati system stepped in.

Why did women weren’t given the privilege to live their own life after their husbands passed away? The utterly nonsense and heartbreaking incidents were increasing in past times, till Raja Ram Mohan Roy initiated to stop. Amongst every painter, the only man who painted Sati is our Bose!

The painting is the proclamation of the pain felt by all the women who sacrificed their lives without reason. We hold a tremendous remembrance of the first Sati painting.

With the brilliance of the fire and the deathly black night, the surroundings are delicate and sympathetic. Alongside, the lady with a light-colored saree has adorned herself with the ornaments of dignity. You may see the dark and smooth color tones in the painting by Nandalal Bose. The detail-oriented portrait of someone who is burning alive is tearful and somber.

Sati Nandalal Bose
Sati by Nandalal Bose | Source: Sotheby’s

2. Annapurna.

Food is adorned as a deity in India. The word “Annapurna” halves into two words- “Anna” + “Purna,” which means the supplement of food.

There is an Indian belief that each woman possesses the Annapurna, which can supplement the nutrition needs of everyone. The Annapurna is divine energy that can withstand the hunger of everyone. The painting by our lovable Nandalal Bose depicted the Annapurna on the basis of the Bengal famine of 1943 where 1-3 Million people died due to starvation and disease malaria.

The artistic representation of the pot of rice in Parvati’s hand (Lord Shiva’s wife) here is the remark of abundance and fulfilment. One engrossing story behind the formation of Annapurna lies here. During a dice game between Shiva and Parvati, she won all games. Now Shiva wanted to win at least once to get his lost bowls, serpent back. So, he asked Vishnu for his help in winning everything back. Vishnu’s fallacious advice lets Shiva win the game by creating an illusion. In excitement, Shiva revealed everything to Parvati. In addition to this, he declared the statement that food is too an illusion. When Parvati heard this, she became furious, and so she left mother earth, standing still. In this way, she brought devastation to mother Earth because she was a source of abundance. Due to famines, and havoc on the earth, Shiva finally asked her for forgiveness. And she came back to Kashi(a city in India) with a bowl of food, providing fulfillment and nourishment back to everyone. It taught everyone that food is not an illusion, but a necessity.

The blue color symbolizes Mother Earth, surrounded by a crescent moon and stars behind Parvati. She appears here sitting in a lotus position with four arms, whereas shiva has a depiction in Vairagya Roop on a dance form. The dark orange-red color of the surrounding separates the two deities through a smooth dark contrasting color in this painting with Nandalal Bose.

Annapurna Nandalal Bose Paintings
Annapurna by Nandalal Bose | Source: WikiArt

3. Radha’s Viraha.

The exquisite artwork formed when the Bhakti movement was on the shores of India. Radha is an epic form of love and beauty with her vivid love stories with Krishna. The story of how Radha used to bring realization to her people is an interesting one. On the ghats of the Yamuna river, she used to sit with her friends, soaking her foot in the river. She ultimately circulates her uniform positive energy in the river by her holy feet. When women carried that water, they gained realization. Henceforth, the divine vibrations were everywhere. Through this painting, Nandalal Bose injected modernism into Radha’s character. He portrayed her in a peaceful state with her sakhis. The fragrance of flowers astounds the necessity of peacefulness and sleep in our lives. This painting showcase the compositional features of Rajasthani Miniatures.

Radha's Viraha Nandalal Bose
Radha’s Viraha by Nandalal Bose | Source: WikiArt

4. Gandhi March.

The world knows Gandhiji for his truthful practices, dharma, and non-violence. In March 1930, due to excessive salt levies for the ordinary people, Gandhi pledged to take satyagraha by walking miles from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi (a village). On reaching the shores of the sea, he broke the salt law by boiling seawater and extracting salt from it. This painting depicts a leader who broke the rules to better the lives of people. Gandhi isn’t a person or character but an emotion of patriotism. As a portrait of the father of India, it carries an emotional effect.

It is the black and white representation of Bapu holding his stick, that symbolizes the dark clouds during the Indian freedom struggle against the British, during which Bapu stood united as an Indian.

Mahatma Gandhi (Bapuji) Dandi March Nandalal Bose
Mahatma Gandhi (Bapuji) Dandi March by Nandalal Bose | Source: Art Institute Chicago

5. New Clouds.

Clouds, commonly known as ‘Megha'(in Sanskrit), are an essential part of our lives. As we can see from the painting, the dark clouds and a white woman represent a different perspective. India suffered from famines, troubles, and economic depression during the colonial era. The colonial Indian obstacle represents the dark cloud. The women displayed here might be the mightiest power of the society carrying themselves in white color for peace. The crowd of women might show the togetherness and unity against all of these obstacles. With this artwork by Nandalal Bose, everyone was stunned by the elements of modernism and the Indian art school.

New Clouds painting by Nandalal Bose
New Clouds painting by Nandalal Bose | Source: Indian Culture

6. Saraswati.

Almost everyone agrees that knowledge can avert a depression in the economy and society’s evils. Hence, the most dominant weapon of the regular man is the pen he holds in his hand. Devoted knowledge can revolutionize the whole world. This painting is the amorphous beauty that says this aloud through Goddess Saraswati, the Indian Goddess of Knowledge. The veena she is holding carries the message of creativity in artistic expression. It can illustrate a story as well. As a form of opposition to the British abuse of Indian heritage and destruction of the people, enlightened leaders rose. Retaliation was taking the form of magazines, newspapers, hoarders, speeches, paintings, and music. This painting depicts the importance of knowledge for everyone.

Devi is seen in her vivid form with long hair and divine eyes, carrying her instrument, Veena.

She is wearing ornaments and the portrait displays the blooming of flowers behind her. The hue colors are dominating and giving a naturalistic look.

Saraswati Nandalal Bose
Saraswati by Nandalal Bose | Source: WikiArt

7. Darjeeling and Fog.

Mount Kanchenjungha shone against a blue sky while fog hovered over valleys from Darjeeling to Namchi in Sikkim. There is significant geographical importance of Mt Kanchenjunga through which the fog arises. The painting is the true beauty where nature is not bound to anything.

The fog is showcased here in white hazy abstract form with striking corners of the mountains. It looks more like abstract art to me with the constantly changing patterns when gazed for longer period.

Darjeeling and Fog painting by Nandalal Bose
Darjeeling and Fog painting by Nandalal Bose | Source: Indian Culture

8. Flower Gatherer.

Nature is a therapy that can fight all the odds of human behavior. In the same way, the painting by none other but Nandalal Bose displays a lady carrying a flower pot in her hands. There is a saying in India, Foolon ko bechne walo k hath Bhi mehkate hai, which means those who sell flowers have their fragrance in their hands. In simple words, when you do good, you get good. This painting is a therapy in itself, carrying this beautiful message inside. The green shade blended with the folks of saffron color saree is a remark of its exceptional beauty. A person can truly enjoy its charm.

Flower Gatherer Nandalal Bose
Flower Gatherer by Nandalal Bose | Source: WikiArt

9. Siva Drinking World Poison.

The artwork represents the famous incident from Samudra Manthan. At one time, demons cheated deities for attaining Amrita (the immortal potion). But before its formation, a destruction potion developed known as ‘vish.’ It was harming both the sides, the demons, and the deities. When they asked for help from Brahma, they advised them to ask Shiva. Shiva consumed the whole vish for everyone’s safety from the havoc. At the same time, Parvati held his throat so that the vish can’t go into the body and remain in his throat itself.

And this gave Shiva another name, ‘Neelkantha.’

The painting by Nandalal Bose well displayed the theory of the story from Indian epics.

Siva Drinking World Poison by Nandalal Bose
Siva Drinking World Poison painting by Nandalal Bose | Source: Indian Culture

10. The Studio of Abanindranath Tagore.

The painting can be seen in reality as well as in a humorous way. It depicts the critic Ananda Coomaraswamy ( on the couch) that discussed the sketch with Nandalal Bose. We can see here Abanindranath dozing off whereas Satyendranath and Rabindranath reading a book

The Studio of Abanindranath Tagore Painting
The Studio of Abanindranath Tagore by Nandalal Bose | Source: WikiArt

11. Floating a Canoe.

Canoeing is an adventurous sport where you paddle a canoe in water streams, an ancient mode of transportation. Nandalal Bose had sketched a piece of art displaying two men in the mid of the sea where they are fighting against the waves to survive. They are wearing a loincloth and are displaying great teamwork. There are several emotions and scenes in one sketch. The gigantic waves are horrifying through their heights and dark shades. However, a key takeaway from this painting can be its clear visualization. It can be commonly termed ink on paper art which is a monochrome version of ‘touch-work’. In contrast to the codes and conventions governing earlier, the suggestive richness of touch-indicating light, shapes, space, and tactility with the slightest nuances of tone and stroke is shown here.

Floating the Canoe Gopalpur Nandalal Bose
Floating the Canoe Gopalpur by Nandalal Bose | Source: Indian Culture

12. The Golden Pitcher or Swarna Kumbha.

A single-figure panel painting of the Golden Pitcher, Swarna-Kumbha, recalls the conventions of Egyptian art. A theme running through these is the search for a personal pattern of the decoration with resonances that can reconcile the various antecedents without incongruence. The sharp features of the lady who is decorated with gold jewelry are mesmerizing. She is holding a golden pitcher here. The effective color contrasts are just amazing and make it even more beautiful. The blue-colored upper garment is well combined with the golden bottom wear.

The Golden Pitcher or Swarna Kumbha Nandalal Bose
The Golden Pitcher or Swarna Kumbha by Nandalal Bose | Source: Pundoles

13. Rati With Her Bow.

Rati is the Hindu Goddess of love, sensibility, carnal desires, lust, passion, and sexual desires and the wife of Kamasutra. She was known for her beauty and sensibility in Hindu scriptures. The painting by Nandalal Bose is depicting the simplicity in appearance and the invoking folk painting here. It is a part of Haripura posters that was originally done to decorate a temporary township for the INC session in the early 1938s.

Modern India Painting Rati with Her Bow
Rati With Her Bow | Source: Indian Culture

14.Shiva Carrying the Corpse of Sati on His Trident.

Devi Sati or Adi Shakti, the Hindu goddess of longevity is the first consort to Lord Shiva. She is known to be extremely fiery and frightening temper but benevolent and caring at the same time. It is believed that she was called to Yagya by her father but he humiliated Shiva the God. And since she was madly in love with him, she could not tolerate the belittled by his own father about her husband and so she sacrificed herself in the fire. Shiva when heard about this was broken and took the corpse of Sati in her hands. Further to break the despair of Shiva, her body pieces fell on 51 places known as Shakti pithas. This painting by Nandalal Bose belongs to this story.

Shiva Carrying The Corpse of Sati on His Trident Artwork by Nandalal Bose
Shiva Carrying The Corpse of Sati on His Trident by Nandalal Bose | Source: Google Arts and Culture


There are numerous artworks from the Bengal Art School Of India by Nandalal Bose. They inspired Indians as well as the world with the integrity and bright colours of freedom. These paintings helped uplift society through the rich colours of Master Moshai. With his rich composition and works, he is undoubtedly the pioneer of modern Indian painters. Which painting of him inspired you most? Do you find any resemblance from the current world?

Frequently Asked Questions.

Why is Nandalal Bose famous?

Nandalal Bose was a student of Abanindranath Tagore who made paintings in Indian style. He is important because of his portraits that uniquely depicted cultural beliefs. Bose is also the artist who designed the cover page of the Indian Constitution.

Which painting is made by Nandalal Bose?

Nandalal Bose commissioned more than 7000 artworks throughout his lifetime. Most of his paintings depicted religion, cultural beliefs, and patriotism. He used the Japanese Wash Technique throughout his works and Saffron or Kesari is among the most commonly used colours by the artist.

Who made the cover page of Indian Constitution?

Nandalal Bose alongside his students from Shantiniketan depicted Indian culture and heritage on the constitution. The Preamble Page, however, was designed by Beohar Rammanohar Sinha.

Who portrayed the painting Sati?

Sati was created in 1943 by Nandalal Bose. It depicts a woman in a saree with intense and cruel flames around her. The painting is the first one to portray the Sati practice that used to take place in India.

What is the contribution of Nandalal Bose in Indian Constitution?

Indian Modern Painter Nandalal Bose alongside Beohar Rammanohar Sinha was responsible for decorating the original manuscript of the Indian Constitution.

Who made Shiva and Sati painting?

Nandalal Bose made the Siva and Sati painting where he portrayed the Indian mythological theme of Lord Siva carrying the corpse of Sati after her sacrifice. The artwork utilizes Bose’s famous Japanese wash technique.

When was Shiva and Sati painting made?

Nandalal Bose commissioned Siva and Sati painting in 1947.

Who made the paintings of Indian Constitution?

The task of decorating 22 parts of the Indian Constitution was accomplished by Nandalal Bose and his students in Shantiniketan. They made elaborate art that depicted Indian cultural heritage.

Which is the most famous painting of Haripura panel?

Nandalal Bose showcased 77 paintings to decorate the pandal for the Congress session at Haripura. These represented common people like the tailor, the drummer, the gardener, etc. and are among the crucial works of Modern India Art.

Who created Haripura poster?

Mahatma Gandhi commissioned Nandalal Bose to create paintings portraying several aspects of Indian life that visitors can interact with at the Indian National Congress’ session in Haripura in Gujarat.

What is Haripura poster?

The Haripura Posters represent the common population of India and were made to be accessed by visitors of the Indian National Congress’ session in Haripura in Gujarat in 1938.

What was the technique used by Nandalal Bose in his paintings?

Though Nandalal Bose paintings were based on Indian cultural heritage and patriotism, they utilized the Japanese Wash Technique that he specialized in. One of the identities is the use of Kesari or Saffron colour that essentially belongs to India.

Where does Nandalal Bose stand in Modern Indian Art?

As in the history of Renaissance art, he occupies a place that is comparable to Raphael’s and Durer’s in the history of Modern Indian art. Raphael Nandalal was also a great synthesizer, but his originality lay in integrating ideas from Abanindranath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore, E.B. Havell, Ananda Coomaraswamy, Okakura Kakuzo, and Mahatma Gandhi into an integrated and unique program to create a new art movement in India. He also possessed an irrepressible analytical mind that compelled him to delve deeply into the realm of ideas like Durer’s different art traditions. Even in India, his work is yet to be fully appreciated because he did it quietly without self-aggrandizing fanfare.

How was Nandalal Bose linked with Tagore Family?

Among Abanindranath’s pupils and his successor,Nandalal Bose was considered the most gifted. Rabindranath found him the most in tune with his ideas. His guru, Abanindranath taught him that art is a vocation, not a profession and that it is important for all creative work to be free, even if the artist aims to reclaim a sense of cultural identity from a colonial age. Rabindranath, who asked him to shape and guide the art program at his Santiniketan University, imbued him with the belief that engagement with the environment in which an artist lives and shares with others around him creates a stronger sense of identity than historical studies. One can be contemporary and locally rooted at the same time, he suggested. A challenge was also set before him to create a program of arts that would respond to society’s needs and refine the minds and sensibilities of society.

How Nandalal Bose was inspired by Gandhiji’s beliefs?

Frequently assisting Gandhi to organize exhibitions of art and craft at venues where the annual sessions of the Indian National Congress were held or to set up and decorate temporary townships for these massive gatherings, he was also required to work frugally and use local materials. Nandalal Bose learned to appreciate and adopt the Gandhian ethics of self-reliance in his work, which led him to develop a version of nationalist art that used local materials and indigenous resources rather than depicting nationalistic subjects.

What was the effect of Havell, Okakura, and Coomaraswamy on Bose?

In contrast to Abanindranath, Rabindranath, and Gandhi, Havell, Coomaraswamy, and Okakura are credited for their methodology. In contrast to many of his contemporaries, he recognized the importance of Havell’s ideas, particularly his emphasis on preserving traditional artisanal skills and using civic art to rebuild India’s cultural identity. In the same way, Coomaraswamy taught him to see traditional crafts and arts as part of a single spectrum, shaped by different social needs, but with a visual language that becomes more complex as it moves from functionality to expression. Taking after Okakura, he taught art practice must be shaped in equal measure by tradition, nature, and the artist’s individuality, and that any predominance of one aspect will result in work that is idiosyncratic or imitation, or repetitive.

How were Nandalal Bose’s works differ as an individual?

Though he was heavily influenced by his contemporaries, he displayed remarkable individuality in combining their ideas into one coherent whole. It was driven not merely by external circumstances but by an innate disposition to weave selective affinities into a singular vision. He realized, even as a student, that while he too was interested in art that reflected the cultural aspirations of an emerging nationalism, his sensibilities were different, and therefore his path must be a different one. A more hands-on and down-to-earth experimenter than Abanindranath, whose engagements were more intellectual and who was more comfortable in hyper-reality, Nandalal Bose thought and realized through his hands and eyes. Nandalal’s Indian art included the rich tradition of miniature paintings, the relatively non-realist legacy of folk painters, the classical–but equally non-realistic–tradition of Ajanta, and a wide spectrum of traditional relief sculptures. For Abanindranath, Indian art was primarily the refined and naturalistic art of the Mughal court. Having grown up in the countryside, he was also more responsive to the natural world.
These innate preferences and the lessons he had learned from Coomaraswamy and Okakura became handy when he was called upon by Rabindranath to develop an art program that would not only train professional artists who were responsive to their immediate environment but also devise activities that would build up into a new visual culture. And over the years Nandalal became Rabindranaath’s perfect collaborator in his efforts to lay the foundations for a community with new culture at Shantiniketan. While Rabindranath conceived secular festivals and wrote songs that drew the attention of the students of his school and members of the small community that grew around it to the changing aspects of nature and the finer emotions of life, and wrote plays that scrutinized social issues from a broadly human and rational perspective, Nandalal and his associates added a distinct visual aesthetics to his efforts. They did alpacas or floor murals with simple white lines that glimmered against the brown earth and transformed the familiar locations where the events were held into enchanting spaces, they designed all the accoutrements needed for the festivals and the plays using local and natural materials relying entirely on the evocative and transformative power of design. They also designed functional objects including buildings, furniture, and ceramic pottery, and textiles for wearing and furnishing using different methods of weaving and printing adapted from different parts of the world.
In contrast, their beauty comes from the fact that they are mixed combinations of elements from different types of Indian art.


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