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Dhundar school of Paintings - The region of Rajput paintings developements

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 12:22 AM
Dhundhar is a historical region of Rajasthan state in western India. It includes the districts of Jaipur, Sawai Madhopur and Tonk. In ancient times, the regions in and around Jaipur were known as Dhundar. Most parts of Alwar, Jaipur, and Shekhawati are still called Dhundar Pradesh. Under the banner of Dhundar Pradesh, we study the Amber, Jaipur, Alwar and Shekhawati styles of paintings. The Dhundar style of paintings had continued its pace of development through various new forms from time to time. 

The Dhundar school of paintings was much popular for its exclusive folk art paintings. This painting style was developed by the Hada Rajput rulers in the Bundi and Kota regions. The miniature paintings of these two centers are superb creations and typically portraying beautiful women with round faces, large eyes, long neck and pointed nose. The haunting activities of the erstwhile ruler and emperor's are depicted in these paintings. 

Amber style paintings 

Amber was a city of Rajasthan, it is now a part of the Jaipur Municipal Corporation. It was founded by the Meena Raja Alan Singh. Amber in Rajasthan was one of the first kingdoms to become the Vassal of Akbar but noticeably its painting style remained conventional like that of Malwa.It was at Amber, the former capital city of Rajasthan, that the Jaipur School of paintings originated. The capital was shifted to the newly planned city of Jaipur in 1728. The rulers at Amber had maintained cordial relations with the Mughal emperors, and this association left its impact on the artistic activities at Amber. Jaipur paintings are plentiful and embrace a variety of subjects, but they neither possess the subtler qualities as evidenced in the Bundi, Kota, Kishangarh or Bikaner Schools nor bear the bolder qualities of Mewar and Marwar Schools of Rajasthani paintings.

The Amber style is the rich heritage of the Rajas (rulers) of the Kachchava and Kush dynasties. In the 10th-1lth centuries they had a large kingdom around Gwalior. Ancient specimens of the Amber style of painting are not available. The oldest available pieces of this style are frescoes drawn around 1600-1614 upon cenotaphs in Amber. Besides the cenotaphs of Amber, frescoes in the Amber style may be noticed in the so- called Mughal garden of Bairath, in which themes like raag-ragini, Krishna-Lila, nayika-bhed, elephant riding, horse riding and camel riding were painted. 

The paintings of Amber style show strong Mughal influence. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries numerous works of art were produced that depicted episodes from the life of lord Krishna. The Amber style possesses its own characteristics, in which the structure of bodies of both male and female has been much influenced by Rajasthani folk art. Because of their kinship with the Mughals, mutual cultural exchange was natural. Hence the impact of ornamented dresses belonging to the periods of Akbar and Jahangir is visible. Poor quality of line is seen in the Apbhransh style. The Amber style has its own constitution quite visible in the some pictorial texts. 

Jaipur Style paintings
Jaipur is the capital and the largest city of Rajasthan. It is also popularly known as the ‘Pink City’, because of its architectural charm, pleasant combination of colors and specially laid out plan. It is a land of natural beauty and great history. The palaces of Jaipur are the favorite spots for tourists, both Indian and foreign. Jaipur and surrounding regions of Alwar and Tonk are famous for the Jaipur style paintings that have a substantial Mughal element. The Jaipur style has inherited the Amber style as a cultural legacy. This School came into light in 18th century A.D. and had a great effect of Mugal School

During the reign of Jai Singh I (1622-1668), Jaipur paintings entered its second phase of development marked by the simplicity of composition and the delicate features of women. In the last years of Jai Singh I, the influence of the mughal style of Shah Jahan’s period is all too evident. Under Jai Singh II (1693-1743), Ishwari Singh (1743-1750) and Madho Singh I (1750-1767), a new style was adopted for the female face. A good deal of Rajput-Mughal painting, characterized by oval face, is attributed to this period. Under Pratap Singh (1779-1803), there was a complete transformation of painting in Jaipur. The Mughal influence was eliminated and a genuine Jaipur- Rajpur style emerged. Jai Singh II was a great lover of the art. He and his successors patronized many artists. The paintings clearly showed inheritance from the Mughal source but the bold compositions and use of abstractions were distinctly regional. 

The Jaipur school, largely due to Jaipur’s friendly alliances with the Mughals and the patronage of Akbar in the 16th century, remained rooted in the Mughal style though the artists pushed the boundaries back to include tales from Hindu epics and the escapades of Lord Krishna. Over a period, the Jaipur school evolved a distinctive Rajasthani style which retained the Mughal penchant for restrained color and a sense of place in the background.

The Jaipur style of paintings excelled in life-size portraits, depiction of myths, ragas, astrological principles and different amusing and erotic themes. Jaipur style generally used a large size canvas, ornate backgrounds and bright gorgeous borders. In the time of Sawai Jai Singh’s son, Ishwari Singh, Sahib Ram emerged as a talented artist. He painted a portrait of Raja Ishwari Singh with the help of Chandras, which has been recognized as of high quality. Another popular artist of his period was Lall Chittara, who had painted many pictures depicting animals and birds in struggles. In the reign of Sawai Madho Singh I (1751-1767), Sahib Ram earned the reputation of being the seasoned artist. He painted large sized portraits with Ramji Dass and Govindji, two more artists while Lall Chittara continued to paint various royal sports. In the paintings of this age the Mughal influence began to wane and pure Rajput style showed signs of replacing it. 

The Jaipur style was not confined to the royal court but flourished and developed at the adjoining centers belonging to feudal lords related to the Jaipur family. From time to time pictures had been painted at Iserda, Siwar, Jhillaya, Chommu, Malpura and Samod. Fresco tradition is the main feature of the Jaipur style. Artists in the Jaipur style applied deep reds in the drawings margins on paintings. White, red, yellow were extensively utilized. In the paintings of the Jaipur style, men and women appear in proportion. Male figures have clean and attractive faces. Wealthy men are depicted wearing turban, kurta, pyjama, belt and shoes in such paintings. 

Female figures are depicted with large eyes, bunch of long hair, stout physique and pleasant mood. Like other Rajasthani styles, in these style too female figures adorned with various ornaments like necklaces, anklets, bangles, earrings etc. were shown. Lord Krishna and Radha, Rajput princes, fierce camel fights, Pomp and ceremony of the Mughal court, the Bhagwat Purana, the Ramayana and the Mahabharat are some of the favorite themes of Jaipur style paintings.

Shekhawati Style Paintings

Shekhawati, which means the ‘Garden of Shekha’, derives its name from Rao Shekha, its former ruler. It is situated in the Delhi-Bikaner-Jaipur triangle and is a semi desert region in north Rajasthan. This region has popularly been described as the 'open air art gallery' of Rajasthan. 

Shekhawati is mainly famous for its amazing and wonderful mansions (havelis), which are richly painted and decorated. These havelis of Shekhawati were built by the rich and prosperous merchants of the past. This region is also known for its frescoes. The frescoes of the some havelis even depict mythological and historical themes as well as images of huge animals. There are numerous havelis in Shekhawati, some of them dating back to the 18th century. They are in rich artistic traditions. The entire Shekhawati region is generously peppered with mansions and havelis with brilliantly painted exteriors that were constructed mostly during the medieval ages by wealthy merchants. 

The region of Shekhawati in Rajasthan, in western India, is famous for its traditional arts. The mansions built by the wealthy businessmen of the region feature exquisite paintings that decorate their walls, doors, and interiors. Shekhawati paintings have gained popularity over the years, and can be found in antique shops all over India. Depicting a vast range of traditional and modern themes, the Shekhawati paintings are of special interest to those with an interest in the folk arts of Rajasthan. 

Shekhawati is like a huge open air gallery of painted walls, havelis (mansions) and palaces in the vast expanse of the desert of Rajasthan. Every nooks and corners of the each town, street and home has been painted with frescoes. The homes built by the people of the region feature exquisite paintings that decorate their walls, doors and interiors. The themes of these frescoes depict gods, kings, flowers and scenes from daily life. Shekhawati is the only place in India where the walls have always been used as a canvas. The Chetram Sanganeria Haveli is a treasure house of paintings while Rathi Family haveli is a reflection of European impact with Grecian Column effect.

There is not a single town in Shekhawati where havelis (mansions) and temples have not been decorated with paintings. The mansions (havelis) built by the rich men of the region feature exquisite paintings that decorate their walls, doors and interiors. Shekhawati paintings have gained popularity over the years and can be found in antique shops all over India. The Shekhawati paintings depict a vast range of traditional and modern themes. The technique of Fresco painting in Shekhawati was neither primitive nor unique to the area. Instead it resembles closely the Italian Fresco technique developed around the 14th century. In Shekhawati, the fresco painters were called Chiteras and belonged to the caste of Kumhars (Potters). 

The salient features of the Shekhawati Style are as follows-
1. Drawings of elephants and horses and guards were made in bold relief in the brackets of havelis. Drawings of gods and goddesses were painted in sharp outlines on the main gates.
2. The exterior and interior walls of many havelis (mansions) are covered with pictures showing the impact of the Company style. Railway trains, motor vehicles, bicycles, sewing machines, aero planes, sofa sets and other articles belonging to the Victorian age may be seen. The impact of British rule brought great changes in manner of eating, style of dressing, way of living, which have been well depicted in these paintings.
3. Shekhawati paintings are really marvelous and gorgeous.

Alwar style Paintings
Alwar is located at the foothills of the Aravalli hills. It is a historical city of forts and palaces and is also home to the real tigers due to its rich natural woods, splendid lakes and valleys. Thus, it is also known as 'The Tiger Gateway to Rajasthan'. The princely state of Alwar came up only in the late 18th century when the once mighty Mughal Empire was breathing its last. 

Alwar’s rich history is reflected through its many temples, forts, tombs, gardens and palaces. It was always a popular for its paintings. The Alwar School of paintings had contributed superb and wonderful paintings. Paintings from the Alwar school of the 19th century include a series of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu and a Ragamala series, as well as portraits of the Alwar royal family. The city is believed to have been founded by a family member of Kachhawa originating from Amber. Like other styles, the origin of this style is presumed to have taken place after the establishment of Alwar state. Rao Raja Pratap Singh (1756-1790), by his valor, intelligence and political ability, made an independent kingdom after conquering parts of Bharatpur and Jaipur.

In 1770, after having laid out Rajgarh on a new pattern, he built a strong fortress there and made it his capital. About this time two artists named Dhalu Ram and Shiv Kumar migrated to Alwar from Jaipur. They presented some of their artistic works to the Maharaja. Shiv Kumar is believed to have-returned to Jaipur but Dhalu Ram was appointed in charge of the state museum. Dhalu Ram was skilled in drawing frescoes. The beautiful frescoes in the Sheesh Mahal (Palace of glass) of Rajgarh fort were probably painted under his supervision. The frescoes of this palace show a variety of themes, including paintings relating to Lord Krishna-Charit, Lord Ram-Chrit, nayikas, the royal courts etc. 

Drawings of yawning nayikas removing a thorn, nayikas and maidservants engaged in beautification are very pleasant and lovely. Scenes of the royal courts of Maharaja Pratap Singh and Bhaktawar Singh are painted on the walls. Blending of colors in various designs of foliage and the rhythm of the drawings are very remarkable. In the Sheesh Mahal of Rajgarh fort, the effect of the almond color of the Ajanta style is very evident. Light green, blue and gold used in these paintings are impressive. The Sheesh Mahal was constructed around the period of Rao Raja Bhaktawar Singh (1790-1814), son of Rao Raja Pratap Singh. 

The traditions of paintings frescoes also flourished in the temples and cenotaphs in Rajasthan. Examination of the frescoes of the Alwar style shows that the style of paintings developed there had flowed in dual waves, one in engraving frescoes and other into pictorial texts and miniatures. The Alwar style attained diversity in regard to themes. Krishna Lila, Ram Lila, religious conversation with saints in natural surrounding, Raag-Raginis had been extensively painted. In early paintings, till the period of Bhaktawar Singh, all the salient features of Rajasthani painting are clearly noted in the Alwar style. Drawings of white clouds, clear sky, forests and gardens full of bird and animals, mountains, rivers were painted with according to the natural perspective of Alwar. City Palace or Vinay Vilas Mahal in Alwar is a famous landmark in the city. It was built in 18th century and it stands as a symbol of Mughal architecture. All paintings are courtesy of Art of Legend India.

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