Rajasthani School of Painting

Though there been some example of Pre-Mughal paintings of this school, yet this school took a definite shape only by the turn of the 17th century. The Maru-Gurjar painting is one term which collectively denotes all the paintings in Rajasthan. The earliest form of this Maru-Gurjar painting is the Western Indian painting style that started taking shape in 8th century. Under the Royal patronage, various styles of paintings developed, cultivated, and practiced in Rajasthan. In the 13th century, a Mewar Jain painting style developed in the form of small illustrations of the Jain Tirthankaras and some themes from the Kalpasutras. This was followed by a various transformations in the Maru-Gurjar paintings finally, we have the four principle schools of Rajasthani paintings.

The Rajasthani Paintings are broadly of two type viz. Courtly and Literary. The paintings of courtly type include the portraits of the rulers holding different states of Rajputana. Most of these rulers have been depicted either as holding the courts or doing some past time such as hunting. The literary paintings on the other hand show the intimate connection with the poetry. These are the illustrated versions of some of the important literary works such as Amar-Sataka, Sur Sagara, Rasamanjari, Rasikpriya etc.

Factors leading to development

Two major factors contributed greatly to the development of Rajasthani Paintings. First, the commercial community of Rajputana was economically prosperous. Second, the revival of ‘Vaisnavism’ and the growth of Bhakti cult provided a direction to the development of a distinct school. The influence of poets and seers like Ramanuja (worshipper of Vishnu) in the 14th century and writers like Jaydev (worshipper of Krishna) greatly influenced thinking, spiritual awakening and art of the people of large parts of India. The Rajasthani School, akin to many others, was influenced greatly by the advent of Ramananda, Tulsidas, Kabir, Raidasa etc. This is how the subjects of the Rajput paintings included the Sri Ram Charit Manas, Geet-Govinda, the divine love of Radha and Krishna, ancient tales, lives of saints, Baramasa (monthly festivities of the year) and Ragamala (Rag-Raginis) and religious texts such as the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagvat Purana, Krishna Lila and Devi Mahatmyam.

The four principal schools under the Rajasthani paintings are as follows:

  • Mewar school of painting : It included Nathdwara, Devgarh and Shahpura sub-styles
  • Marwar school of painting: It included Kishangarh, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Pali and Ghanerao styles
  • Hadoti school of painting: It included Kota, Bundi and Jhalawar styles
  • Dhundar school of painting: It included Amber, Jaipur, Shekhawati and Uniara styles

The above four schools were greatly shaped by the Mughal connection, which started when Raja Bharmal of Amber gave his daughter Jodha to Akbar in 1562. The matrimonial alliances of the Rajputs with mughals brought about the interesting and important changes in the various styles of paintings. These changes were visible in the dress designs, architectural details, art motifs, landscape patterns and the choice of subject matter. However, the ratio of this influence was unequal; for example, the Bikaner school showed more influence of Mughals in comparison to the Bundi and Amber schools.

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