Pahari Schools of Paintings

The Pahari region comprises the present State of Himachal Pradesh, some adjoining areas of the Punjab, the area of Jammu in the Jammu and Kashmir State and Garhwal in Uttar Pradesh. The whole of this area was divided into small States ruled by the Rajput princes and were often engaged in welfare. These States were centers of great artistic activity from the latter half of the 17th to nearly the middle of the 19th century. The various schools are discussed here.

Basholi Painting

Basholi or Bashohli is located in Kathua district of Jammu & Kashmir. It is founded by Raja Bhupat Pal in circa. 1635 AD. It was known for magnificent places which are now in ruins and miniatures paintings of Basholi style. This style developed under the patronage of Raja Kripal Pal. Under Kripal Pal, an artist named Devidasa executed miniatures in the form of the Rasamanjari illustrations in 1694 AD.

Its main features are use of strong and contrasting colors, monochrome background, large eyes, bold drawing, use of beetles wings for showing diamonds in ornaments, narrow sky and the red border are observable in this miniature also. Basholi style of painting is characterized by vigorous and bold line and strong glowing colors.

Guler Painting

Guler has the longest tradition in the art of painting and is also known as birthplace of Kangra paintings.

In fact, the Guler style of paintings is the early phase of Kangra Kalam. About the middle of the eighteenth century some Hindu artists trained in Mughal style sought the patronage of the Rajas of Guler in the Kangra Valley. There they developed a style of painting which has a delicacy and a spirituality of feeling. The Guler artists had the colors of the dawn and the rainbow on their palette.

Guler painting is marked by liquid grace and delicacy. The drawing is delicate and precise. Subject matter of these miniature paintings are Bhagavata, the Gita Govinda, the Bihari Satasai, the Baramasa and the Ragamala. The style of these paintings is naturalistic, delicate and lyrical. The female type in these paintings is particularly delicate with well-modeled faces, small and slightly upturned nose and the hair done minutely.

Kangra Paintings

Guler style was followed by the third phase of Pahari paintings i.e. Kangra style. It developed in the last quarter of the 18th century. The Kangra style possesses the main characteristics of the Guler style, like the delicacy of drawing and quality of naturalism.

The name Kangra style is given to this group of painting for the reason that they are identical in style to the portraits of Raja Sansar Chand of Kangra. In these paintings, the faces of women in profile have the nose almost in line with the forehead, the eyes are long and narrow and the chin is sharp.

Features of Kangra painting

Kangra Paintings depict verdant greenery. Naturalistic style is followed and a great attention is paid to detailing. The depiction of flora is made noticeable by the use of multiple shades of green. The Kangra artists adopted various shades of the primary colors and used delicate and fresher hues.

Shringar (the erotic sentiment) is considered as the Focal theme of Kangra paintings. The subjects seen in Kangra painting exhibit the taste and the traits of the life style of the society. The love story of Radha and Krishna was the main source of spiritual experience, which was also the base for the visual expression. The other popular themes were Gita Govinda by Jayadeva and Bhagavata Purana. Feminine figures are depicted very beautifully in these paintings with soft and refined facial features.

Kangra paintings are known for the lyrical blending of form and color. Colors made of vegetable and mineral extracts are used by the artists.

Kulu Mandi Style of Painting

Along with the naturalistic Kangra style in the Pahari region, there also flourished a folk style of painting in the Kulu-Mandi area, mainly inspired by the local tradition. The style is marked by bold drawing and the use of dark and dull colors.

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