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The Museum has a good representative collection of miniature paintings of the Pahari School of Art, and also a good number of miniatures of the Rajasthani idiom, and paintings concerned with the Sikh Art. Almost all important centres of Pahari Schools are represented in the collection of miniatures. Thematically also, there are some rare examples of sets of paintings not found elsewhere. Also there are many paintings in the nature of portraits of different rajas who patronized the Pahari schools of painting. Most of the paintings were executed by and large by anonymous painters but there are a few examples in the collection wherein the painters are identifiable either by inscribed labels or by comparison with similar representations already identified. There are paintings accompanied by inscriptions mentioning the name of the painter or the patron.

An illustration from
Laur Chanda Romance, Gouache on paper, Central India, c 1550 A.D.
Click to enlarge
Ten Gurus, Water colour on paper, By Bhai
Puran Singh, Punjab Plains, c 1882 A.D.
Click to enlarge

Two or three sets of paintings in the collection stand apart for their quality. For example, mention should be made of the Laur Chanda and Pahari Gita Govinda sets and also a unique set from Kangra depicting the major narratives of the Shiva Purana.

The Rajasthani and Sikh Schools are also similarly represented in the collection. However, the portraits of the rajas, nobles and courtiers form the points of special interest in the paintings of these schools. In the Sikh school of painting there is the visual documentation of ordinary people pursuing their respective professions. There are some drawings and sketches both of the Rajasthani and Pahari Schools of Arts.

Akbar (1556-1605) is the founder of Mughal Painting. After he had consolidated his political power, he built a new capital at Fatehpur Sikri where he collected artists from India and Persia . More than a hundred painters were employed, most of whom were Hindus from Gujarat, Gwalior and Kashmir.. They worked under the two Persian master-artists Abdus Samad and Mir Sayyid Ali, but they were encouraged and inspired by Akbar.

The stories of Amir Hamza, an uncle of the Prophet, were illustrated by Mir Sayyid Ali. The paintings of the Hamza-nama are of large size, 20 x 27" and were painted on cloth. They are in the Persian safavi style. Brilliant red, blue and green colours predominate; the pink, eroded rocks and the vegetation, planes and blossoming plum and peach trees are reminiscent of Persia . However, Indian tones appear in later work, when Indian artists were employed.

Akbar was also interested in the Hindu classics and he ordered his artists to illustrate the epics of the Ramayana and the Mahabharta. The illustrated Mahabharata, called Razm-nama, now in the Palace Museum at Jaipur, contains 169 full page paintings and was completed in 1581. The chief artist was Daswanath.

Much of the painting of the Akbar period show a restless energy; the painters in their work reflected the exuberant activity of their patron. Figures are shown in hurried movement and the compositions are crowded. This is particularly so in the 'Timur-nama,' 'Babar-nama' and 'Akbar-nama,' the great pictorial sagas of the Mughal rulers. Among the chief artists of the 'Akbar-nama', Basawan excelled in depicting elephants, horses and crowds of soldiers all in the thick of battle.

Jehangir (1605-1627), the son and successor of Akbar, was a lover of nature. Whenever he came across an unusual animal, bird or plant he asked his artists to paint it. His artist Mansur excelled in the painting of birds, and animals and flowering plants.

Portraiture and durbar scenes were also encouraged by Jehangir. His most talented portrait painters were Abul Hasan and Bishan Das. In the portraits of Jehangir we see for the first time the nimbus painted behind his head. Albums of painting became fashionable. Some of the paintings have exquisite borders of floral arabesques painted in gold. Sometimes figures of birds and animals and elaborate landscapes are introduced in the borders.

Emperor Shah Jehan in darbar, Gouache on paper,
c 17th century A.D.
Click to enlarge

Shah Jehan (1627-1658) continued the patronage of painting, though his passion was architecture. Portraits and darbar scenes were popular with the artists of Shah Jehan, chief among whom were Mohammad Faqirullah Khan, Mir Hashim, Muhammad Nadir, Bichitr, Chitarman, Anupchhatar, Manohar and Honhar. Portraiture was especially good. Some portraits have highly ornamented borders decorated with figures of men, plants and animals; those of Shah Jehan are gorgeously nimbused. There are splendid darbar scenes of the Emperor on the dais or the Peacock Throne.

Painting achieved a new delicacy and romantic flavour in the reign of Shah Jehan. The rulers were no longer barbarians from beyond the mountains; painting reflected the warm sensousness of India . Since it was a period of comparative peace, and the Mughal empire was confident of its security and power, themes of warfare and bloodshed disappeared. In their place came courtly splendour and magnificence, love and romance. The artists portrayed the romances of 'Laila and Majnu'. 'Khusrau and Shirin', 'Kamrup and Kamta' and of Rupmati and Baz Bahadur riding by night.

Aurangzeb had no taste for fine arts. Due to lack of patronage artists migrated to Hyderabad in the Deccan and to the Hindu states of Rajasthan in search of new patrons.

Farrukhsiyar (1712-1719) and his successor Mohammad Shah (1719-1748) were patrons of art. The scenes of luxury and enjoyment of the court were popular themes of the painters of this period. A favourite subject was that of Bhils hunting by night. Female figures are elongated and appear graceful. Male figures wear 'jamas' which almost touch the ground. In 1738 Nadir Shah invaded India , defeated Mohammad Shah and occupied Delhi. Painting in Delhi received a mortal blow and artists migrated to Faizabad, Lucknow, Patna, Murshidabad in the east, Hyderabad in the south, Rajasthan in the west and the Panjab in the North.

The art of painting patronized by the Hindu rulers of Rajasthan and the Punjab Hills, which succeeded Mughal painting, is called Rajput Painting. During the Mughal rule Surat in Gujarat was the foremost port in India . Goods from the Middle East and Europe reached India through Surat , and Indian manufacturers were exported from there to the West. These trade routes passed through Rajasthan. The Rajas levied duty on the goods in transit, and this and the trade in general was a good source of income to them. Thus they were able to employ artists, including those who had left the court of Delhi.

Apart from this, there was also a spiritual revival in Hinduism. The worship of Krishna, the loving God, spread all over India. Krishna worship inspired the mystical literature of the 12th to 16th centuries. The literature in its turn inspired Rajput painting in Rajasthan and in the Punjab Hills.

Mewar was the premier state of Rajasthan. Rulers of Mewar belonged to the Sisodia clan of Rajputs. Their capital cities Chittor and later Udaipur were cultural centres of importance, where literature, architecture and painting received great encouragement. Rana Kumbha (1433-1468) was a distinguished scholar and musician. Udai Singh (1537-1573), after the destruction of Chittor by Akbar, built a new capital in 1559 on the Pichola Lake , named after him.

Karan Singh II (1620-1628) was a friend of prince Khurram and was familiar with Mughal painting.

Jagat Singh (1628-1652) was a patron of art. At this time (in 1648) a magnificent series of paintings of the 'Bhagavata Purana' was painted by the Muslim artist, Sahabdin. Sahabdin also illustrated the text of the 'Sukar Kshetra Mahatmya' in 1655. These paintings as well as a dated 'Ramayana' of 1651-1652 are in the Victoria Hall Museum of Udaipur. The Mewar painting of this period is characterized by great and primitive vigour. Primary colours, reds, blues and yellows are lavishly used. Archer describes it as a "style of virile intensity, characterized by glowing, passionate colour, deft rhythm and robust simplification."

Lady with a lotus, opaque water colour on paper, c 18th century A.D., Rajasthan
Click to enlarge

Raj Singh (1652-1681) was also a keen patron of art. Illustrations of the 'Mahabharata', the tenth chapter of the 'Bhagavata Purana', the ballad of the Prithvi Raj by the poet Chand Bardai, which is known as 'Prithvi Raj Raso', the 'Rasikapriya' of the Keshava Das, Bana Bhatta's 'Kadambari' and the 'Panchatantra' were all painted under the patronage of Raj Singh. Commenting on the paintings, Hermann Goetz observes: "The scenes are much simpler, but drawn with a sure hand, well composed and full of joy of life and a fine sensitiveness of observation. They are far from any naturalism, and their individual components must still be accepted more as symbols than as exact description of nature."

Two series of paintings of the 'Gita Govinda'  were painted for Sangram Singh (1710 - 1734) in 1723. A large series illustrating 'Sundar Shingar' was painted by the artist Jagannath in 1725. A series of 145 paintings illustrating the tenth chapter of the 'Bhagavata Purana', now in the Victoria Hall Museum, Udaipur, were also painted during this period. Painting continued in Mewar till the early 19th century.

Painting began under Rana Chhatar Sal (1631-1659) who was made Governor of Delhi by Shah Jehan. During the long reign of Ummed Singh (1763-1791) Bundi painting attained its most accomplished phase.

Bundi artists had their own standards of feminine beauty: a receding forehead and chin, a strong nose, and full cheeks and sharply penciled eyebrows. The landscape with its lakes, date palms and plantains is also faithful to that of Bundi. Colours: pure blues, reds, yellows and greens, are boldly used. Design and composition are sure and strong.

Apart from portraiture, hunting and darbar scenes, the 'Ragamala' was a favourite theme of Bundi artists. Bishan Singh (1771-1821) and his successor Ram Singh (1821-1889) continued to patronize art.

As in other states of Rajasthan, a Jain style of painting flourished in Jodhpur in the fifteenth and the sixteenth century. A 'Ragamala' series of 1623 was painted at Pali in a style of folk art. Painting in Mughal style developed under the patronage of Jaswant Singh (1638-1681), who served as the Viceroy of the Mughals for Malwa, Gujarat and the Deccan. Many portraits of this ruler exist in the palace collection of Jodhpur, which indicates the presence of a considerable group of artists. Ajit Singh (1707-1724) continued the patronage of painting in the Mughal style. His successor Abhai Singh (1724-1750) was fond of dance and music and was also a keen patron of painting and literature. There is a lovely picture in the Jodhpur palace in which he is shown listening to music. The elongated female figures and oval faces reflect the Mughal style of the Muhammad Shah period.

The late Jodhpur style, characterized by the lavish use of yellow, blue and green colours, spiral clouds on the horizon, reached its climax in the reign of Man Singh (1823-1843). In these paintings women wear bell-like skirts and men have side whiskers, flat-twisted turbans and accordion-pleated coats.

Rai Singh (1571-1612) was a distinguished general of Akbar. He built the fort of Bikaner in 1594. He was in contact with Mughal Painting. Karan Singh (1631-1669) a contemporary of Shah Jehan and Aurangzeb, employed Ali Raza, a local artist. 'Ragamala' and harem scenes were popular with the artists. Ustad Hamid Raknuddin was a distinguished artist whose paintings are characterized by elegant nervous craftsmanship and delicate harmony of colours.

During the rule of Anup Singh (1669-1698) more artists came to Bikaner from Aurangzeb's court. Up to the middle of the 18th century, Mughal style continued to influence Bikaner painting. In the middle of the 18th century there was a distinct change in style. The conventions of the Jodhpur style were adopted, and paintings from 1787 onwards are hardly distinguishable from Jodhpur painting.
( Dr. M.S. Randhawa )

Kangra Painting
The main centres of Kangra painting are Guler, Basohli, Chamba, Nurpur, Bilaspur and Kangra. Later on this style also reached Mandi, Suket, Kulu, Arki, Nalagarh and Tehri Garhwal.

A number of factors 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. All these elements combined together gave us the art known as Kangra painting. With its rhythmic lines and glowing colours, Kangra painting is one of the finest achievement of the human spirit. There is delicacy and sensitiveness in it combined with rare beauty of colour.

Kangra Painting
Shiva And Parvati, Gouache on paper, c 18th century A.D., Kangra
Click to enlarge

Of the hill states Guler has the longest tradition in the art of painting. During the rule of Dalip Singh (1645-1743) artists were working at Haripur Guler. However it was during the reign of Govardhan Chand (1743-1773) that an active school of painting developed at Haripur Guler. There are numerous portraits of this Raja in the Chandigarh Museum . It is Guler which is the birthplace of Kangra painting. Govardhan Chand's son Prakash Chand (1773-1779) continued the patronage of artists. His son Bhup Chand (1790-1826) also had artists working under him. Painting in Guler continued right up to the close of the 19th century.

Guler painting is marked by liquid grace and delicacy. The drawing is delicate and precise. The colours which emphasize cool blues and greens are handled with skill. Guler style owes its origin to Manak and Nainsukh. Manak worked at Guler while Nainsukh migrated to Jammu .

Kangra Painting Kangra Painting
Guru Gobind Singh Ji on horse back,
Water colour on paper, c 1815 A.D., Guler
Click to enlarge
Musician entertaining a lady, Gouache on paper,
c 1750 A.D, Guler.
Click to enlarge

The greatest patron of painting in the Punjab Hills was Maharaja Sansar Chand (1765-1823). In 1786 Sansar Chand occupied the Kangra Fort and became the supreme ruler of the Panjab Hills. Kangra paintings under his patronage were painted at Alampur, Tira Sujanpur and Nadaun, all on the banks of the Beas . He attracted artists from Guler and gave them great encouragement. Inspired by his patronage, the artists embarked upon ambitious project of illustrating the Hindu classics, particularly those connected with the Krishna legend. They illustrated Jayadeva's poem 'Gita-Govinda', the 'Rasikapriya' of Keshav Das and the 'Sat Sai' of Bihari, the Ramayana, the Mahabharta, Bhagavata Purana and the Durga Saptashati.

Jagat Singh (1619-1646) was in touch with the Mughal court of Jehangir and Shah Jehan and possibly the Basohli style originated independently at Nurpur during his rule, or that of his successor, Rajrup Singh (1646-1666). An active school of painting in the Kangra style developed during the reign of Prithvi Singh (1735-1789) and of his successor, Bir Singh (1739-1846)

During the rule of Amrit Pal (1757-1776) a good deal of painting in the Guler style was done at Basohli. Possibly it is the work of Ranjha, a son of Nainsukh, who had settled at that place. Guler style continued at Basohli during the rule of Vijay Pal (1776-1806) and Mahendra Pal (1806-1813)

Basohli Painting Basohli Painting. Click to enlarge.
Radha and Krishna in Discussion
(An illustration from Gita Govinda) Gouache on paper, c 1730 A.D., Basohli
Click to enlarge
Goddess Bhadrakali, Gouache on
paper, c 1660-70 A.D., Basohli
Click to enlarge

Painting in Guler style flourished at Chamba during the reign of Raj Singh (1755-1794). His chief artist was Nikka, son of Nainsukh. Painting continued under his successor Jit Singh (1794-1808) Chhaju and Harkhu sons of Nikka were the principal artists.

Painting in Kangra style flourished at Nalagarh during the rule of Raja Ram Saran Singh (1788-1848) Two of his artists whose names are known were Hari Singh and Narsingh Das. One of them painted the Ramayana, and the other themes related to the Krishna legend and the 'Nayika -bheda'. A collection of Nalagarh paintings was acquired for the museum from Kanvar Brij Mohan Singh of Nalagarh.

Painting at Arki, from the rule of Rana Sabha Chand (1640-1670) to Bhup Chand (1743-1778), was in the Basohli style. The Kangra style came to Arki during the last years of the rule of Jagat Chand (1778-1828). There are a series of paintings on the 'Bhagavata Purana' and the 'Nayika Bheda' in the collection of the present Raja Rajinder Singh.

Painting in Kangra style flourished in Mandi during the last years of the rule of Ishwari Sen from 1805 A.D. Ishwari Sen (1788-1826) was detained by Sansar Chand as prisoner in Tira Sujanpur in 1792 and released in 1805. It seems painting continued under his successors Zalim Sen and Balbir Sen (1839-1851).

Painting in Kangra style reached Kulu very late. It is only in the latter part of the rule of Pritam Singh (1768-1806) the painting in this style was carried on at Kulu.


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