Pahari Paintings are literally, paintings from the hills of India, from the states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir, as well as some parts of Pakistan. These miniature paintings became popular in the period from 17th to 19th century, under the patronage of Rajput kings.While the style of these two schools is derived from the Mughal school of painting, the mood is not; they are gentle, spontaneous and more lyrical. Characterised by delicate motifs inspired by nature and the splendour of the Himalayas, Pahari Paintings epitomize the best of stylized Indian miniature art. Sadly, this art began dying out decades ago when its royal patrons relinquished their kingdoms to become a part of modern democratic India. The quality of brushwork began to deteriorate and today, with a few exceptions the art of Pahari Painting of lore is virtually at an end.
Did You Know?
- Pahari paintings have been widely influenced by the Rajput paintings, because their royal patrons were related to the Rajput kings.
- Unlike the Rajput Kishangarh Paintings, which primarily had court themes and glimpses of palace life, Pahari Paintings basically celebrated the beauties of nature, and the qualities of love and devotion.
- Pahari Paintings are different from other types of Indian Folk Paintings because they use shading extensively. This gives them a sense of depth which most other folk paintings lack.
- One of the most extensive and exquisite collections of Pahari miniatures may be found in the Bhuri Singh Musuem in Chamba, Himachal Pradesh.
Types of Pahari Paintings
Pahari paintings may be broadly classified into three distinct schools -- Basohli, Guler-Kangra and Sikh.
Basohli paintings were characterised by geometrical patterns and bold colors. Some paintings from this school are also known for their use of lustrous enamel colors. FIgures in Basohli Paintings were often depicted in rich costumes with stylized faces, and large bulging eyes. The best known paintings of this school are the Devi series, which depicted various manifestations of the supreme goddess. These paintings were bold in execution and iridescent beetles were used in the illustrations as jewels.
The Guler Kangra Style grew out of the dramatic changes in painting traditions around 1800. Figures and landscapes became much more natural-looking as this school employed extensive shading. Artists from this school were also known for their idealisation of the feminity of Indian women -- women's faces were so beautifully shaded and modelled that atural they looked delicate and porcelain-like.
A number of factors have contributed to the development of Kangra style. The Mughal technique of painting, the inspiration of Vaishnavism, the charm of Sanskrit poetry, the beauty of the people of the Kangra Valley, and the lovely landscape of the Punjab Hills. Together, these factors have imparted a delicacy and sensitiveness to Kangra Paintings that set them apart from the rest of Indian Folk Paintings.
Kangra Paintings have some distinct characteristics –
- There was a lot of emphasis on landscapes, with very natural-looking trees.
- Kangra artists employed shading techniques, especially when painting trees and faces. Different tones of green were used for painting trees, a device that enabled the depiction of several local plants. The shading used imparted a sense of depth that set them apart, especially from the flat Madhubani Paintings.
- The use of the colours in these paintings was both imaginative and pleasing. Colours were beautifully balanced so no one shade stood out. The sky was generally shown as light blue and at times as a greyish blue lending depth to the landscape.
The main centres of Kangra painting are Guler, Basohli, Chamba, Nurpur, Bilaspur and Kangra. Later on this style also gained popularity in Mandi, Suket, Kulu, Arki, Nalagarh and Tehri Garhwal. The famous Chamba Rumaal (handkerchief) with its fine and intricate embroidery is also influenced by Kangra paintings.
The Sikh School was the last phase in the development of the Pahari painting, and was not as refined as the former schools. It was apparent that this painting from the hills of India was quietly withdrawing from the stage of Indian Art.
Themes and Motifs in Pahari Paintings
Unlike Rajasthani Paintings, which are often portraits of kings or depictions of splendid court life, Pahari paintings deal with the subjects of love and devotion. Since they developed around the same time as the Bhakti Movement, the two themes often interlinked. Hence, many Kangra Paintings depicted the life and times of Krishna and Rama. In fact, they played a significant role in broadening people’s understanding of the religious texts like Puranans and Ramayana. Gita Govinda (the Divine Love Song) and the tenth book of the Bhagavata Purana (the stories of Krishna) also provided evergreen themes.
To view Kangra Paintings online, go to Gallery. Buy them at India Club
- Pahari Paintings
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