Unlike other Folk Paintings for example Madhubani Paintings and Warli Paintings, Kishangarh Paintings usually depict two themes – religious (especially of Radha-Krishna) and social (predominantly hunting and court scenes). The Kishangarh school excels in its Bani Thani paintings that depict a beautifully-dressed (bani thani in Hindi) Radha. These paintings belonged to the rulers of Kishangarh and were first seen by the outside world in the 1940s. Some of these exquisite masterpieces are now on view at the National Museum, New Delhi.
This school of painting developed in Kishangarh, a town in Rajasthan about 27 kms from Ajmer. Raja Sawant Singh, the king of Kishangarh, was a great patron of the arts. He was himself a painter and poet and wrote verses under the pseudonym of Nagari Das. He was greatly in love with his mistress, a singer-poet in his court named Bani Thani. She was a quintessential Indian beauty and is acknowledged to have inspired the way Radha (Krishna’s consort) is depicted in the Kishangarh School of painting.
Nihal Chand, a talented artist in the king’s court, developed this style and is known to have painted some of the finest examples of Kishangarh School.
The rulers of Jaipur shared social and political relations with the Mughals. This resulted in a distinct Mughal influence on much of Rajasthani art. However, the Bani Thani style of Kishangarh is widely acknowledged as being quite unique and in a class of its own.
Kishangarh is picturesquely situated by a lake and its fort and palace overlook the waters. Painters of this school have beautifully depicted this palace, fort, lake, bridges, gardens and the Kishangarh town in the background of their paintings.
The rulers of Kishangarh worshipped Nritya Gopal, Krishna in the dancing pose. So many painters of this school portray the god and his consort, Radha. However, while in other Folk Paintings, the couple is usually depicted in the forest, Kishangarh Paintings always show Radha-Krishna in their palace or court.
Great attention is paid in this school, to the features of Radha, who epitomizes Rajasthani notions of beauty. She is always shown as having a high forehead, arched eyebrows, half open lotus eyes, aquiline nose, curved sensuous lips and a pointed chin over a long narrow neck. The stylized curl of the hair around her ear adds to her innate grace – a distinguishing feature of Kishangarh Paintings.
Kishangarh Paintings Today
After Sawant Singh’s death, the Kishangarh school lost much of its originality, and declined from ninteenth century onwards. Today, most painters of the Kishangarh school merely reproduce older works instead of doing original work.
Commercial considerations have also changed the way Kishangarh Paintings are executed today. Traditionally, only Natural Dyes were employed, but today, these have been replaced by poster colours. Originally, the brushes used were made by the artist himself from the hair from squirrel tails. Now all that has been forgotten and commercially available paintbrushes are being used.
- About Kishangarh Paintings
- http://www.ethnicpaintings.com/indian_painting_styles/miniature/rajput/kishangarh_court_painters/ Indian Miniature Paintings]
- Kishangarh Paintings
- Mathur, Asharani and Khullar, Rupinder, 1995, Indian
Miniature Paintings, India Book Distributors, Mumbai