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Guler Paintings - A style of Hilly art

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 1:57 AM
was a small State in the Punjab Hills, and its capital was Haripur, a town, now in a state of decay. The name Guler is derived from the word Gwala which means cowherd and its former name was Gwaler, the place of the cowherd. It was founded by Raja Hari Chand who was the ruler of Kangra in 1405. The kings of Guler, Rup Chand (1610-1635), Bikram Singh (1635-1661) and Dalip Singh (1695-1743), were in touch with the Mughal culture. Guler has the longest tradition in the art of paintings. During the reign of Dalip Singh (1695–1743) 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 paintings. Govardhan Chand's son Prakash Chand (1773–1779) continued the patronage of artists. He was a spendthrift and was heavenly in debt. In paintings we see him with his moneylenders. 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.

In the middle of the eighteenth century, some Hindu painters sought the patronage of the Rajas (rulers) of Guler in Kangra valley. These painters were trained in the Mughal style. Slowly they developed a style of painting, which has a delicacy and a spirituality of feeling. They were known as the Guler Painters. Guler painters, who had earlier dealt with only on Rajput themes, now began to experiment with Sikh themes like the portraits of Sikh Gurus and Sikh dignitaries. Guler painting is marked by liquid grace and delicacy. The drawing is delicate and precise. The colors which emphasize cool blues and greens are handled with skill. The art of Guler style painting flourished in families with distinguishable styles and techniques, most significant amongst them were that of Pandit Seu of Guler, who died in about 1740, and his sons, the remarkable Nainsukh and Manaku. Later while Manaku worked at Guler, Nainsukh migrated to Jammu. 

It seems that during the latter part of Dalip Singh's rule, artists were already in Guler. In the Dalip Ranjani which is dated 1707, and contains genealogy of the Rajas (rulers) of Guler. Most of the paintings of Dalip Singh are in the early primitive style which is named after Basohli. The daughter of Dalip Singh married Medini Pal of Basohli, and the sister of Medini Pal married Govardhan Chand. This may have led to migration of some artists front Basohli to Guler. It was Govardhan Chand (1743-1773) who was the most distinguished patron of painting at Haripur Guler. There are numerous portraits of this Raja (ruler) in the Chandigarh Museum, as well as in other museums and private collections. This indicates that he was a patron of art. In one of these, he is shown dressed in magnificent clothes mounted on a powerful horse. He enjoyed a peaceful reign and his reign proved to be the most creative it the history of art in Northern India. 

Paintings from Guler have great charm. Their color is pure and delicate. The line is firm and unswerving in its flow. The artists were great masters and painted with confidence. The role of Guler in the evolution of Pahari paintings is thus summed up by Archer, “The state of Guler played a decisive part in the development of pahari paintings in 18th century. Not only did it develop a local art of the greatest delicacy and charm, but the final version of this Guler style was taken to Kangra in about 1780, thus becoming the Kangra style itself. Guler is not merely one of the thirty-eight centers of pahari art. It is the originator and the breeder of the greatest style in all the Punjab Hills." All paintings are courtesy of Art of Legend India.

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