Pahari Paintings – UPSC Notes – Art and Culture

Pahari paintings encompass a genre of Indian art that emerged in the Himalayan hill kingdoms of North India, predominantly executed on a miniature scale. In terms of both design and color palette, it bears a striking resemblance to Rajput paintings.

Pahari Paintings Styles

The Pahari School of Painting, flourishing from the 17th to the 19th centuries, predominantly embraced miniature painting techniques during its formation and development. Emerging from Mughal painting roots, Pahari art found significant patronage from Rajput rulers who held sway over various regions, contributing to the creation of a distinctive expression in Indian painting.

The diverse regional influences gave rise to two main groups within Pahari paintings in India:

  1. Basohli and Kullu Style – Characterized by the Chaurapanchasika style.
  2. Guler and Kangra Style – Notable for their serene colors and stylistic modifications.
Pahari Paintings - Basholi Style of Painting

Pahari Paintings – Distinctive Features

The subject matter of Pahari paintings encompasses a wide range, spanning from mythological narratives to literary themes, with the introduction of innovative artistic techniques. A prominent figure in this artistic tradition was Nainsukh, a master known for his contributions in the mid-eighteenth century, and his family workshop persisted for two subsequent generations.

At the heart of Pahari art lies the portrayal of the timeless love between Hindu deities Radha and Krishna. A characteristic trait of Pahari paintings is the presence of multiple animated figures on the canvas. Each figure is meticulously crafted with a unique blend of composition, color, and pigmentation, showcasing the artists’ attention to detail and individuality.

It’s essential to note that identifying Pahari paintings solely based on geographical regions may be misleading, given the flexible political boundaries during the era of their creation, frequently changing hands among different rulers.

Jammu Kashmir Style of Pahari Paintings – Basohli Paintings

  • Geographical Distinction: Basohli Paintings are renowned in the Kathua region of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Devi Series: The town has gained recognition for producing a remarkable series depicting the incarnations of the Supreme Goddess.
  • Rasamanjari Portrayal: Basohli artists are well-known for their exquisite portrayal of the Rasamanjari text, showcasing a high level of artistic finesse.
  • Artistic Characteristics:
    • Geometrical Designs: Basohli paintings are characterized by intricate geometrical designs.
    • Brilliant Colors: The artworks feature a vibrant and rich palette of brilliant colors.
    • Shiny Enamel: The use of shiny enamel adds a distinctive visual element to Basohli paintings.
Pahari Paintings - Basholi Paintings

Jammu Paintings:

  • Resemblance to Kangra Art: Jammu paintings bear a striking resemblance to the artistic style of Kangra paintings.
  • Shangri Ramayana Creation: In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Jammu gave birth to the Shangri Ramayana, showcasing its significant contributions to the artistic heritage.

Jasrota Paintings:

  • Predominantly in Jammu and Kashmir: The majority of Jasrota paintings find their home in the culturally rich region of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Themes: These paintings depict a range of subjects, including kingly events, court scenes, and symbolic representations.

Mankot Paintings:

  • Geographical Presence: Mankot paintings are prevalent in the artistic landscape of Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Similarity to Basohli Style: Notably resembling the Basohli kind, Mankot paintings make use of vibrant colors and explore striking subjects.
  • Evolution of Style: Portraiture gained popularity in the mid-seventeenth century, and over time, there was a shift towards realism and a more subdued color palette in Mankot paintings.
Pahari Paintings - Mankot Paintings

Himachal Pradesh Style of Pahari Paintings – Chamba Paintings

  • Comparison to Mughal Art: The artistic style of Chamba paintings in Himachal Pradesh is notably comparable to the finesse of Mughal art.
  • Influences: Chamba paintings draw significant inspiration from the painting styles of Deccan and Gujarat, infusing a unique blend into their visual narratives.
  • Evolution of Styles:
    • Basohli Dominance: In the late 17th century, the influence of the Basohli style was prominent in Chamba paintings, shaping their initial artistic expressions.
    • Transition to Guler Tradition: This era marked a transition, paving the way for the emergence of the Guler painting tradition, showcasing the dynamic evolution within the Himachal Pradesh style of the Pahari School of Painting.
Pahari Paintings - Chamba Painting

Bilaspur Paintings:

  • Artistic Flourish in the Mid-Seventeenth Century: Around the mid-seventeenth century, Bilaspur became a flourishing hub for the growth of Pahari art.
  • Diverse Subject Matter: Artists in Bilaspur showcased their skills by creating paintings on coverlets specifically crafted for sacraments and rites. Additionally, they contributed to the artistic portrayal of revered epics such as the Bhagavata Purana, Ramayana, and the Ragamala series.
Pahari Paintings - Bilaspur Paintings

Guler-Kangra Style Paintings:

  • Formation in 1800: The Guler-Kangra painting style took shape around the year 1800, representing a distinctive evolution within the realm of Pahari art.
  • Naturalized Artwork: This style presented a naturalized version of artistic expression, marked by noticeable differences in the treatment of eyes and face modeling compared to its predecessors.
  • Inclusion of Landscapes: Guler-Kangra art frequently featured depictions of landscapes, adding depth and context to the visual narratives.
  • Emphasis on Grace and Delicacy: Notably, this style placed a significant emphasis on portraying the grace and delicacy of Indian women, contributing to the thematic richness of Guler-Kangra paintings.
Pahari Paintings - Guler-Kangra Style Paintings

Garhwal Paintings:

  • Origins in Srinagar: The inception of Garhwal Paintings occurred when painters from outside the region settled in Srinagar.
  • Dominance of Mughal Style: Initially, the Mughal artistic style held dominance in Garhwal Paintings, influencing the early expressions of this artistic tradition.
  • Transition to Kangra Customs: Over time, Garhwal Paintings evolved to reflect a more straightforward interpretation of Kangra customs, showcasing a dynamic shift in artistic influences and stylistic expressions.
Pahari Paintings - Garhwal Paintings

Kulu Paintings:

  • Content Inclusions: Kulu Paintings encompass various works, including two Madhumalati manuscripts, depictions from the Bhagavata Purana, and other artistic expressions characteristic of the Kulu style.

Mandi Paintings:

  • School’s Inception (1684-1727): The town of Mandi witnessed the establishment of a new school of painting between 1684 and 1727 under the patronage of Raja Sidh Sen.
  • Unique Depictions: Notably, paintings from Mandi featured distinctive portrayals, such as depicting the king as a monstrous figure with exaggeratedly large heads, hands, and feet, offering a unique artistic perspective.
  • Diverse Styles: Additionally, Mandi paintings showcased versatility with some pieces featuring geometric configurations, while others portrayed delicate and realistic features, reflecting the diverse artistic expressions within this school.
Pahari Paintings - Mandi Paintings

Nurpur Paintings:

  • Geographical Origin: Nurpur paintings find their roots in the artistic heritage of Himachal Pradesh.
  • Distinctive Characteristics:
    • Vibrant Palette: Commonly, Nurpur paintings are characterized by the use of bright and vivid colors, contributing to their visual richness.
    • Flat Backgrounds: The artworks often feature flat backgrounds, providing a unique visual context to the depicted subjects.
  • Evolution of Color Palette: In later periods, there was a notable shift in Nurpur paintings, where subdued colors began to replace the initially bright ones, marking an evolution in the artistic style and preferences over time.
Pahari Paintings - Nurpur Paintings

Originating in the Himalayan hill kingdoms of North India, Pahari painting stands out as a distinctive style in the realm of Indian art. Executed in miniature dimensions, this art form shares design and color similarities with Rajput art. Flourishing primarily in the 17th to 19th centuries, Pahari paintings were predominantly created within the miniature painting tradition. In this article, we delve into the key aspects of Pahari painting techniques.

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FAQs on Pahari Paintings

  1. What is Pahari painting?
    • Pahari painting, sometimes referred to as Hill painting, is an art form closely related to Rajasthanī painting and shares a preference for depicting legends of the cowherd god Krishna. It originated in the hills of Himalayan, Indian, and Rajput regions.
  2. Who are the famous Pahari painters?
    • Artist Pandit Seu had two talented sons, Manak or Manaku and Nainsukh, who significantly contributed to maneuvering the style of Pahari painting from the Basohli stage to that of Kangra.
  3. Who is the founder of Pahari painting?
    • The earliest Pahari School of miniature painting is associated with Basholi. The Basholi School produced marvelous portraits and the Rasamanjari series. Pahari art reached new heights under Raja Sansar Chand in Kangra.
  4. Was Kangra a famous Center of Pahari painting?
    • Yes, under the patronage of Maharaja Sansar Chand, Kangra became the most important center of Pahari painting. The Maharaja Sansar Chand Museum, near Kangra Fort, houses some masterpieces of Pahari painting.
  5. What is the main theme of Pahari painting?
    • The life and loves of Krishna, as expressed in the Bhāgavata-Purāṇa and the Gītagovinda, form the common theme of Pahari paintings. Other themes include Hindu myths, hero-heroine narratives, rāgamālā (musical modes) series, and portraits of hill chiefs and their families.
  6. Which state is famous for Pahari painting?
    • Pahari painting was patronized by the Rajput kings ruling the sub-Himalayan regions in states like Himachal Pradesh, previously known as the hill states of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. This patronage gave birth to a unique idiom in Indian painting.

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