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Kangra paintings - Painting art of Kangra valley

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 4:14 AM
Kangra is situated in the eastern part of Himachal Pradesh. It is the most populous district of the state of Himachal Pradesh. Today Kangra is also known as Bhawan or Nagarkot. Bhawan because of the Bajreshwari Devi Temple, and Nagarkot because of the fort Nagarkot. Various schools of miniature paintings, collectively called Pahari, flourished between the 17th and 19th centuries in the sub-Himalayan states. Perhaps the most famous, or at least the most prolific school, was that of the Kangra School, from which came an extensive range of delicate and beautifully detailed paintings. 

The Kangra school of paintings is an integral part of art literature. Kangra paintings belong to the school of Pahari paintings that were patronized by the Rajput rulers between the 17th and 19th centuries. Kangra paintings is not a folk art, it is essentially aristocratic art, the patrons of which were the rulers of had fine sensibility and good taste, thus like the best of Europe, Kangra painting is the art of elite. Though the main centre of Kangra paintings are Guler, Basohli, Chamba, Nurpur, Bilaspur and Kangra. Later on these styles also reached Mandi, Suket, Kullu, Nalagarh and Tehri Garhwal and now are collectively known as Pahari painting.

The Kangra School became widely popular with the advent of Jayadev's Gita Govinda, of which many extant manuscripts feature exquisite Kangra illustrations. This style was copied by the later Mughal painting, many of whom were patronized by the Rajput rulers who ruled various parts of the region. The pictorial art of Kangra is the finest gift of India to the art-world. This great art originated in a small hill state ‘Guler’ in the Lower Himalayas in the first half of the eighteenth century when a family of Kashmiri painters trained in Mughal Style of painting sought shelter at the court of Raja Dalip Singh (1695-1741) of Guler. The Kangra paintings reached their maturity during the reign of Maharaja Sansar Chand (1775-1823 AD.). Maharaja Sansar Chand was a great patron of Kangra art. Being a liberal patron, the painters working at his atelier received large commissions while others accepted a permanent settlement in the form of lands. He was also an ardent devotee of lord Krishna and used to commission artists to paint subjects based on the loves and life of Lord Krishna.

Kangra paintings were influenced by the Bhagavad Purana. They portrayed incidents and scenes from the life of lord Krishna. The other popular themes were the stories of Nala and Damayanti and those from Keshavdas's Baramasa. In Baramasa (the Twelve Months) paintings, the artists tried to bring out the effects of seasons round the year on the emotions of human beings. Kangra paintings depict the feminine charm in a very graceful manner. The figure of youthful coy nayika (heroine) seen in Kangra miniatures is an ideal physical type which is slender and elegant, radiating infinite charm, sensitiveness and refinement. Facial features are soft and refined. The female figures are outstandingly beautiful. Apart from female beauty, landscapes, countryside, rivers, trees, birds, cattle, flowers etc. are meticulously portrayed in these paintings.

The Kangra painters used colors made of vegetable and mineral extracts. They employed cool and fresh colors. Fattu, Parkhu and Kushana were important artists of this school. The Kangra artists were hereditary painters who worked in the quiet of their cottages in the sylvan retreats of the Kangra valley. Sons and nephews were usually accepted as pupils and they served the master artists by carefully grinding mineral colors, a work requiring skill and patience. It thus they were initiated into the art and technique of painting. Life was simple and the rulers provided food grains and a cow for milk to the artists. Whenever they presented a beautiful painting to the rulers, they were handsomely rewarded. Thus their economic needs were taken care of by their patrons and they were free to devote their time to paintings. In Kangra paintings, there is an art which celebrates life and love. This art is truly a record of human joy. The eyes of lovers meet and a world of feeling and tenderness is revealed in them.

Bhakti cult was the driving force and the love story of Radha and Krishna was the main source of spiritual experience, which was also the base for the visual expression. Bhagvata Purana and the love poems Gita-Govinda of Jaidev were the most popular subjects dealing with the legends and the amorous plays of Radha and Krishna symbolizing soul’s devotion to God. The Gita Govinda is a forest idyll and its Kangra paintings, the drama of loves of Radha and Krishna is played in the forest or along the river bank. In the paintings of the Sat Sai the background of the architecture provides the setting for the love drama of Radha and Krishna. Kangra painting presents a pure melody of flowing lines and glowing colors, breathing out a sense of space, tranquillity and poetic sentiment. Even the unfinished pictures and sketches reveal their own charms.All paintings are courtesy of Art of Legend India.


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