Art collector Anil Relia had always admired the miniature paintings of the Nathdwara school, which grew out of the religious devotion of the Pushti Marg (Path of Grace). On one of his trips to this pilgrimage town, he encountered manorath paintings, whose unusual visual elements attracted his attention immediately. Originally part of the Pushti Marg popular culture, manorath paintings were often commissioned by devout followers as an indelible record of a pilgrimage trip to Nathdwara.
Manorath (“mind’s vehicle”) paintings are a visual representation of the pilgrim’s wish to enter into mutual communication with a divine Pushti Marg icon. The popular manoraths in this collection, which employ mixed media and photo-realism techniques, illustrate worshippers in the presence of Shrinathji. These images had a deep emotional resonance for worshippers because they embodied both the corporeal pilgrimage to Nathdwara as also the inner devotional experience.
As author Isabella Nardi demonstrates, the paintings in this collection are not merely souvenirs of a pilgrimage trip; they represent the worshipper’s journey to Nathdwara for a darshan with their beloved and revered deity. With pilgrims as patrons, these manoraths are truly portraits of devotion.