Bani Thani paintings characterize the Kishangarh school
of paintings. It is believed that Bani Thani was a housemaid
or slave girl of Raja Sawant Singhs (1748-1764)
stepmother Bankawatji. She remained in close proximity
of Bankawatji and got the opportunity to study literature.
She had a natural flair for poetry and composed beautiful
songs on Krishna.
Though Bankawatji and Raja Sawant Singh did not have
cordial relations, love blossomed between him and Bani
Thani. She was an enchanting beauty, tall, slim, with
queenly smile and red lips. There is a painting, which
describes Sawant Singh sitting in the premises of the
temple and a beautiful maiden in a yellow sari walks
steadily in a soft, shy manner holding the sari, in
the right hand and making a veil. She carries a garland
of white flowers in her left hand to be put on the deity
and all attention of Sawant Singh is on this elegant
girl. And the girl is none other than Bani Thani.
Besides being an ardent devotee of Krishna, Savant
Singh was an accomplished poet and painter. He under
the name of Nagari Das composed many poems in praise
of Bani Thani. Also, there are several paintings depicting
the amorous episode of Krishna and Radha carrying the
name of Nagari Das at back. He instructed his chief
court painter Nihal Chand to paint Radha, the consort
of Krishna drawing inspiration from Bani Thani.
The Radha of Kishangarh was the epitome of graceful
Indian woman. She had an elongated face with a high
forehead, arched eyebrows, half open lotus eyes, sharp
pointed nose, thin curved sensuous lips and a pointed
chin over a long narrow neck. The curl of the hair around
the ear added to the feminine grace.
The sharp features used to portray Radha were used
to describe other characters too, including the male
faces in the Kishangarh.
As Sawant Singh had completely given himself to Bani
Thani, she also completely entrusted herself to him.
Sawant Singh went to Mt. Govardhan along with Bani Thani
where Krishna had lifted the Mt. Govardhan on his index
finger to safeguard the people of Brij from the wrath
of Indra. He and Bani Thani sang devotional songs and
later came to Mathura the birthplace of Krishna. Bani
Thani came to be known as Rasik Bihari and composed
the hymns for the priest Hari Das.
She died a year after her lord Nagari Das.