Pahari painting is the name given to Rajput paintings, made in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir states of India. These paintings developed and flourished during the period of 17th to 19th century. Indian Pahari paintings have been done mostly in miniature forms.
Styles of Pahari Paintings
Pahari paintings of India can be divided into two distinct categories, on the basis of their geographical range, namely:
- Basohli and Kulu Style (Influenced by Chaurpanchasika style)
- Guler and Kangra Style (Based on cooler colors and refinement)
History of Pahari Painting
Pahari paintings have been widely influenced by the Rajput paintings, because of the family relations of the Pahari Rajas with royal court at Rajasthan. One can also see strong influence of the Gujarat and Deccan paintings. With the emergence of Bhakti movement, new themes for Indian Pahari paintings came into practice. The Shaiva-Shakta themes were supplemented by argot poetry and folk songs of Lord Krishna and Lord Rama. At the same time, the themes of the paintings revolved around love and devotion also. There was also illustration of great epics, puranas, etc. The depiction of Devi Mahatmya manuscript painted at Kangra, in 1552, has been much acclaimed.
Types of Pahari Paintings
The town of Basohli is situated on the bank of the Ravi River in Himachal. This town has produced splendid Devi series, magnificent series of the manifestations of the Supreme Goddess. Apart from that, it is also known for the magnificent depiction of the Rasamanjari text. Artist Devidasa painted it under the patronage of Raja Kirpal Pal. Gita Govinda of 1730 is also believed to have Basohli origin. Geometrical patterns, bright colors and glossy enamel characterize Basohli paintings.
Bilaspur town of Himachal witnessed the growth of the Pahari paintings around the mid-17th century. Apart from the illustrations of the Bhagavata Purana, Ramayana and Ragamala series, artists also made paintings on rumal (coverlets) for rituals and ceremonies.
Chamba paintings are quite similar in appearance to Mughal style of paintings, with strong influences of Deccan and Gujarat style also. The late 17th century witnessed Chamba paintings of Himachal being dominated by Basohli style, which ultimately gave way to Guler painting tradition.
Garhwal Paintings originated in Himachal and were first dominated by the Mughal style. Later, it started reflecting the cruder version of Kangra traditions.
Guler Kangra Style Paintings
The nature Guler Kangra style of Himachal developed somewhere around the year 1800. It was a more naturalized version of painting, with visible difference in the treatment of eyes and modeling of the face. Landscapes were also commonly used as themes. Along with that, this style also accentuated the elegance and grace of the Indian women.
Jammu paintings of the late 18th and early 19th century bear a striking similarity to the Kangra style. Shangri Ramayana of the late 17th and early 18th century was produced in Jammu itself.
Jasrota paintings are mainly found in Jammu and Kashmir and revolve around court scenes, events from the life of the kings, allegorical scenes, etc.
The paintings of Kulu style include a Bhagavata Purana, two Madhumalati manuscripts, etc.
Mandi, situated in Himachal, witnessed the evolution of a new style under Raja Sidh Sen (1684-1727). During that time, the portraits depicted the ruler as a massive figure with overstated huge heads, hands and feet. Other works were characterized by geometric compositions and delicate naturalistic details.
Mankot paintings of Jammu and Kashmir bear a resemblance to the Basohli type, with vivid colors and bold subjects. In the mid-17th century, portraitures became a common theme. With time, the emphasis shifted to naturalism and subdued colors.
Nurpur paintings of Himachal Pradesh usually employ bright colors and flat backgrounds. However, in the later periods, the dazzling colors were replaced by muted ones.