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Marwar School Painting

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 12:43 AM
After the Mewar school, the grandeur of the Marwar school of painting is well expressed in the Jodhpur style, the Bikaner style and the world-famed Kishangarh style as well as in the substyles of Jaisalmer, Naugore, Ghanerao, Sirohi, Ajmer. The Kishangarh style has a unique character, but being in a state of Rathores painting there should be linked with the traditions of Jodhpur.

Girl in meditationLike Mewar, Maru Pradesh followed the traditions of Ajanta. Its preliminary form may be seen from the artistic shape of the gate of Mandore.' This region attained fame in the domain of art and culture under the rule of the Gurjara-Pratiharas.

Tara Nath, a Tibetan pilgrim, referred to Sridhar as an artist of the 7th century in Maru Pradesh. This confirms that the Marwar school of painting had its own earlier traditions. In ancient times, this territory was a part of Gujarat state, and that is why the paintings of western Rajasthan cannot be dissociated from the developed form of the Gujarat, Jain, Apbhransh and other styles. It is assumed that many pictorial Jain and Apbhransh texts were executed in Marti Pradesh. In reality, Rajasthan painting emerged from the Jain and Apbhransh styles. Western Rajasthan remained the centre of these styles.

Rashtrakoot Rajputs established their rule in ancient Maru Pradesh. The art of painting developed in Jodhpur under Jodha of the Rathore dynasty, in Bikaner under Bikaji, in Kishangarh under Kishan Singhji. In the neighbouring states it was known as the Marwari school of painting, which flourished in many styles and substyles.


Jodhpur Style

Queen's makeupAfter establishing his kingdom, Jodhaji contributed impressively to the prosperity and enrichment of Indian culture in this new field. The Jain, Gujarat and Apbhransh styles were revived in new form. Credit goes to Maldeo (1532-68) for giving renewed vigour to the cultural traditions and artistic perspectives of Marwar. Before him, the Marwar style maintained its complete mastery over the Jodhpur style, but MaIdeo carved out an independent Marwar and devoted himself to the growth of the arts. From the point of view of primitive art, the Uttaradhyayan Sutra of his time, now preserved in Baroda Museum, occupies a prominent place. Glimpses of paintings of that age may also be visualised in the frescoes of Chaukhela Palace.

Many paintings of the early 17th century belong to the Jodhpur style, and even though highly influenced by the Mewari style possess their original character. Many paintings of the time of Raja Shur Singh (1595-1620) are preserved in the art and picture gallery of Baroda and in the private collection of Sangram Singh. Shur Singh was an art lover. Dhola-Marit is among the artistic historical pictorial texts compiled during his period and the Bhagwad of Pustak Prakash, Jodhpur, painted in 1610, is endowed with many special local features.

Dussashan unveils DraupadiRag-Main, an illustrated text painted in 1623 and preserved in the private collection of Sangram Singh, is a compilation of great historical value painted for the famous Vitthal Dass of Pali. These paintings are considerably influenced by the art of Marwar.

Some miniatures based on verses of Sursagar in the middle of the 17th century in the Jodhpur style are preserved in Baroda Museum and in the collection of Sangram Singh. They express poetic sentiments elegantly. Rasikpriya, also available in Baroda Museum, was painted in the same period. Its sharpness of colour combination and abundance of ornament deserve special mention.

Another phase of Jodhpur art started in the reign of Maharaja Jaswant Singh, a man of high intellectual qualities and a keen lover of art. In his reign, Marwar became an important centre of the Krishna-Bhakti cult, which became the subject of many paintings. Jaswant Singh was the commander-in-chief of Aurangzeb hence the impact of Mughal art was inevitable.

The impact of the Mughal school in its original form has been noted in the Jodhpur style paintings of this period. They are very simple, and the sharp outlines, the expression of sentiments and colour combination in these paintings are notable. Because of the spread of the Krishna-Bhakti cult, the effect of folk art on the Jodhpur school calls for study. Traditions of folk painting were a common feature of the Jodhpur style.

Waiting in Dark nightBecause of the great valour and courage of Durga Dass, the reign of Ajit Singh was a landmark in the annals of the development of Rajasthani art. Paintings of that age had themes like Rasikpriya, Geet-Govind, poetical texts and aspects of the royal court, hunting, festivals, processions, pictures of kings and feudal lords. Royal patronage in the reigns of Abhaya Singh and Rain Singh to artists in the Jodhpur style was generous. In the 19th century, the Nath sect dominated the life of Marwar.

In 1803, the last phase of the Jodhpur style opened in the reign of Maharaja Man Singh. Avasji Deo Nath was the spiritual guide of Man Singh," and painting flourished in many monasteries. Sixty-three paintings of this period based on the Ras-Raj of Mati Ram were recovered from a monastery belonging to the Nath sect and are preserved in the private collections of Ram Copal Vijayavargia and Sangram Singh and in the State Museum, Jaipur.

Though in this period many paintings in the Jodhpur style were produced they were not of high artistic quality. In towns like Kuchman, Naugore, Pali, Jalore, feudal lords also encouraged painting after building galleries.

In the middle of the 19th century, with the-advent of photography, the Jodhpur style, like other styles of painting, started deteriorating.

Salient Features

A Ladies PartyThe Jodhpur style is the principal style of the Marwar school, but even today a large number of paintings in this style are not available, and whatever is available belongs to the early part of the 19th century. Despite being influenced by the Mewar school, the Jodhpur style has its own striking features, and as a result its separate constitution comes to light.

Males in this style are stoutly built and tall. Their curved mustaches, touching their throats, raised turbans and dress decorated with royal splendour are very impressive. The limbs of females are shapely and plump.

Besides local influences, the impact of the Mughal style also deserves special consideration. Application of folk art, combinations of red and yellow, depiction of feudal splendourand of simple life are also highlights of this style. Where drawings of palaces and palatial buildings were made extensively, in respect of scenery, paintings were created to suit the tastes of the capitalists of Marwar.

Principal artists of this style whose names have been identified include Virji (1623), Narayan Dass (1700), Bhatti Amar Dass (1750), Chhajju Bhatti, Kishen Dass (1800), Danna (1810), Bhatti Shiv Dass, Dev Dass, Jit Mal (1825), Kalu Ram (1831). The Jodhpur style is the principal style of the Marwar school and requires a great deal of research work.

Bikaner Style

 Camel Riding In distant Maru Pradesh, the state of Bikaner was founded by Rao Bikaji of the Rathore dynasty in 1488. Being an integral part of Marwar and belonging to the same dynasty of Jodhpur, the artistic heritage of Bikaner is recognised as a signifi-cant link in the traditions of the Marwar school. Although influenced by many external forces, Bikaner maintains its original form intact. According to the artistic and other styles of Rajasthan, painting in Bikaner commenced its development from the end of the 16th century.

Early paintings in the Bikaner style may be traced to the pictorial Bhagwad Puran painted in the time of Rai Singh (1571-1591).8 He himself compiled the Rai Singh Mahotsav and Jyotish Ratnak texts. The impact of the Jain school is easily discern-ible in the early paintings of Bikaner. Matheran was a Jain monk who started painting Jain religious texts and exhibited the impact of the Jain school in the original Bikaner style.

The Mughal paintings of this region distinctly depict this mutual influence. Maharana Rai Singh had married Jasmade, daughter of Maharana Udai Singh (1537-1572). His second marriage took place in Jaisalmer in 1592, hence Bhagwad Puran (1599 approx.) in Bikaner style, Madhavanal Kamkalanda (1603) compiled and painted for Kunhar Raj of Jaisalmer, and Chor Panchashika (1540) compiled by Bilhan in the Mewar style and Rag-Mala (1605) painted by Nasir Di exhibit great similarity from the angles of techniques and selection of colours.

Kartik Mass Kalyan Mal, Raja of Bikaner, established relations with the Mughals after marrying his daughter to Emperor Akbar. The rulers of Bikaner occupied prominent positions in Mughal courts." Maharana Rai Singh, who held the exalted position of governor of Burhanpur in the south from 1604 to 1611, made a good collection of artifacts. In this regard the illustrated texts of Rag-Mala are very significant.

Hence the emergence of the Bikaner style appears to date back to the later part of the 16th century. The seccind phase of the Bikaner style began in the period of Anup Singh (1669-1698), but the middle link of this style was no less significant. Because of the non-availability of paintings nothing definite can be said about this period. In the reigns of Jehangir and Shah jahan very cordial relations were maintained with the Bikaner royal house.

Because of this fact mutual exchanges of art and artists frequently took place. The oldest specimen of the Bikaner style is a painting by Noor Mohammad, son of Saha Mohammad, in 1606. A large number of such paintings are preserved in museums and private collections, and a systematic study of paintings of that age could be undertaken with their help.

 Who needs a man in this world In the reign of Shahjahan the number of artists greatly increased and many migrated to other places to receive royal patronage. Because of the indifferent attitude of Emperor Aurangzeb to artistic activities, artists sought patronage in the princely states of Rajasthan. The renowned Usta family of Bikaner, which was concentrated in Lahore in the Mughal period, joined the courts of Maharajas Karni Singh and Anup Singh at Bikaner in the reign of Aurangzeb. In paintings in the Bikaner style, the name of the artist along with that of his father and sanvant are engraved. Usta Asir Khan came to Bikaner from Delhi in the time of Karni Singh (1650) and developed a high sense of artistry.

Maharaja Anup Singh was a man of great literary taste and artistic temperament, hence he had a high regard for artists from Delhi and Lahore." These artists had been specialists in the Mughal style, but after going to Bikaner they had executed many paintings based upon Hindu legends, and Sanskrit, Rajasthani and Hindi poems as fitted the taste of their master. These have been recognised as fine specimens of the Bikaner style after the adoption of Rajput culture.

 Maharaja's private life Dr Raghuvir Singh observes that a new synthetic Indian culture emerged in the reigns of the Great Mughals and these diverse influences had again begun to mingle and flourish in the royal courts." In the period of Maharaja Anup Singh this development attained its unique character.

His courtier Mussabir Ruknuddeen played a significant role in this process. He executed hundreds of paintings such as those entitled Keshav's Rasikpriya and Barahmasa. His whole family accepted fully the Bikaner style of painting. His son Sahabudin executed many paintings on themes of the Bhagwad Puran and his grandson Kayam painted in the Bikaner style at the beginning of the 18th century.

In the time of Anup Singh, Munna La11, Mukund, Chandu LaII and others belonging to the Matheran family also made their special contribution to the development of the Bikaner style. Artists from the Matheran and Usta families elevated the Bikaner style to its climax of glory in the reign of Anup Singh, whose pictorial texts and miniatures are preserved in the National Museum, the Baroda Museum and the private collection of Maharaja Karni Singh.

 Lovers in the garden of love In the 18th century the Bikaner style witnessed its third phase. With the steady downfall of the Mughals, the Bikaner style had freed itself from the impact of the Mughal style, and because of matrimonial alliances the Bikaner style was greatly influenced by the styles Of Jaipur, Bundi, Mewar and Pahari besides others. The impact of the Kishangarh style upon paintings of this period is quite discernible. In this period painters created an absolute Rajasthani style.

Artists of the Matheran family however continued to maintain their traditions. They had drafted copies of the Jain texts, and compiled such texts on festive occasions. They drew personal pictures of kings to be presented to them. Many paintings engraved with the names of artists like Munna Lall, Mukund (1668), Ram Kishan (1770), Jai Kishan Matheran, Chandu Lall (1678) along with sanvants may be viewed even today.''

Leading artists of the Usta family of that period include Kayam, Kasim, Abu Harnid, Shah Mohammad, Ahmad Al Sahabudin, Jivan who had brilliantly depicted Rasikpriya, Barah-masa, Ragragini, Krishna Lila, hunting, mehafil and royal splendour .
The Bikaner style further accelerated the process of developing frescoes in the Rajasthani tradition, palaces of Bikaner fort and many cenotaphs.

In Bikaner, superb paintings were drawn on wooden boards showing Radha-Krishna as in the wooden doors of the National Museum.'" Drawings on the hides of camels are a unique feature of the Bikaner style.

Salient Features

 A man eating heads of animals Because of Bikaner state's close ties with the Mughal court all salient characteristics of the Mughal style are quite visible in early paintings of the Bikaner style. Many critics therefore term it a provincial Mughal style. But drawings of slim and attractive females with eyes resembling those of deer, the frequent application of blue, green and red colours, turbans of the style of Shahjahan and Aurangzeb along with the high pagans of Marwari fashion, camels, deer and the Bikaneri style of living and the impact of Rajput culture make us believe it is a distinct style.

Rulers of Bikaner often served as governors of the Mughals on the southern frontier hence the impact of the southern style on Bikaner art is considerable. Tall and slim maidens, minute drawings of cypress and coconut trees, fountains playing and application of green colours are especially worth seeing. From the southern fronts, Rajput soldiers and artists used to return via Vijayanagar, Golconda, Ahmednagar, Malwa, hence the influence of the art of that region had its impact on local art.

 A lady and a yogini In the Bikaner style, abrupt linings, delicate drawings and minute lines had particularly been drawn. Arrangement of linings was very impressive. In place of bright colours soft ones were applied. Application of red, violet, white, brown and blue had frequently been made in this style. Ornaments of beads too were frequently marked.

The manner of dressing was a synthesis of Mughal and Rajput styles. As the Kishangarh style women are drawn tall, with eyes resembling those of khanjan birds and tight blouses and lambs, goats, camels, dogs and desert landscapes drawn in the Bikaner style in the 18th century. In later styles, drawings of fringed clouds are worth seeing in the frescoes of Chandra Mahal, Lall Niwas and Sardar Mahal. Drawings of sand dunes influenced by Persian and Chinese art, mountains and foliage deserve special mention.

The Matheran and Usta families had developed the Bikaner style. Even today their descendants produce paintings on auspicious occasions such as marriages. A last ray of light of the Usta family, Hissamudin, had been internationally ac-claimed for his drawings on the hides of camels.

Kishangarh Style

 A Nayika The Kishangarh style of painting occupies a significant position in relation to Rajasthani painting. A style of painting which flourished in the royal court of an erstwhile tiny state located near Ajmer is famous. Credit for making it known goes to Eric Dickinson and Dr Fayaz Ali.

Kishangarh state was founded by the eighth son of Raja Udai Singh of the Rathore dynasty of Jodhpur state in 1609. Raja Kishan Singh was accorded the status of a commander leading a thousand infantrymen and 500 cavalry by Em-peror Jehangir. Closely connected with Jodhpur state and the Mughal court, the rulers of that state were conversant with the royal culture and sophisticated way of living. In the developed state of the Marwar school the Kishangarh style had acquired its unique and glorious position in the realm of Rajasthani painting after having ascended to the pinnacle of glory in the time of Savant Singh.

Raja Roop Singh, fifth in lineage (1648-1658), made' Roop Nagar his capital to avoid some strategic difficulties which had existed under the rule of Savant Singh. Roop Singh was a man of outstanding intellect endowed with a kindly heart. Like his forefathers, he had been initiated into the Vallabha sect and adopted the cult of Krishna as a way of life and means of salvation. Contemporary artists had started painting various modes of the Radha-Krishna tradition to convert these myths into reality to keep their master pleased."

After Roop Singh came Raja Man Singh (1658-1706), himself a distinguished poet as well as patron of the poets and art. He was guided by the famous poet Brind in the art of poetry. A devotee of the Vaishnav sect, he was keenly interested in subjects pertaining to the Bhakti cult. He was also an artist in his own right. Some paintings belonging to his time are preserved in the Kapad Bhandar of Kishangarh."

In the growth of painting in this region his son Raj Singh (1706-1748) also played a major role. Raj Singh was an extraordinarily brave person endowed with a strictly religious temperament as well as artistic bent of mind. He himself compiled 33 texts which greatly influenced artists of that age. From this time the king-designate, Raja Savant Singh, was much influenced by his father's dedication to art. His education and religious initiation had been performed as his father desired to live in an artistic environment. He was at home as much in Sanskrit as in music. He also took a keen interest in painting. Four paintings in the private collection of the Kishangarh royal family bear testimony to this.

 Love on Terrace Savant Singh had cultivated a great taste for poetry early in life. From 1723 to 1731 he contributed significantly to expanding the volume of poetry dedicated to Krishna-Bhakti after compiling Manorath Man jar, Rasik Ratnavali, Bihari Chan-drika. Like their forefathers they had been initiated in the Vallabha sect by their spiritual master Ran Chhor Dass.

In the style of painting created in the middle of the 18th century new trends are visualised. The pleasant temperament of Radha-Krishna is depicted in the new form. To provide fine shapes to this style, credit goes to the royal courtier-aim-artist Mordhavaj Nihal Chand. Hundreds of paintings by him remain as an invaluable heritage. The grandfather of Nihal Chand, Surdhavaj Moot Raj, came from Delhi to serve as Raja Man Singh's diwan.

Later artists of his generation contributed to the growth of the Kishangarh style. Nihal Chand illustrated the brush poetry of Nagri Dass from 1735 to 1738. After Nagri Dass's Vrindavanbass, drawings of Mussavir Ni hal Chand continued to appear in the state, but in these later drawings his magic touch was missing.

The painting of this age is often associated with the love life of Vanithani and Nagri Dass, but this is not historically true. The former ruler of Kishangarh denied this view and stated: "Vanithani was a state singer whose status in the royal family resembled that of a mother for her sister. But it was a different matter that Vanithani had herself been a singer and poetess. Paintings of that time might have been influenced by her impact."

Ancestors of Diwan Surdhavaj Moo! Raj significantly contributed to the growth of Kishangarh art, Sita Ram and Badan Singh stand eminent among them. Drawings of Amroo and Suraj Mal are ascribed to the period of Nagri Dass. The artist Nanak Ram also created many paintings in the time of the brother of Nagri Dass. Artistic workmanship performed by Ram Nath and Joshi Swami Ram, ancestors of Nanak Ram, in the period of Raja Birad Singh (1782-1788) was greatly admired. In the regime of Raja Kalyan Singh (1798-1838) an artist named Ladli Dass played a very striking role in the development of the Kishangarh style. A renowned painting titled Geet-Govind was also created in the same period.

By and by the eternal quality of the Kishangarh style began to lose its distinct character. Its deterioration began to be visible in paintings in the reign of Prithvi Singh (1840-1880). After this period, the Kishangarh style was lost in oblivion.

Salient Features

The Kishangarh style possesses some distinct features which maintain its unique identity. Drawings of limbs of males and females, colourful paintings of nature, arrangement of colours, illustrations of themes connected with the Radha-Krishna cult are some distinct features of this style.

 The Month of Kartik Male figures are tall, of attractive physique with blue aura-like bunch as of hair, elevated turbans, with strings of pearls in white or blue, symmetrically developed forehead, thin lips and wide and attractive eyes stretched to the ears like khanjan birds are some unique features of the Kishangarh style. On the whole the eyes occupy such an important position that the viewer is first drawn to that spot. Pointed chin, long neck resembling a surahi of water, strong arms, round and tender fingers, transparent gowns draped down to the feet, and the whole body covered with ornaments and flowers are very distinct in the Kishangarh style.

Female figures are fair in complexion, and their wide eyes are adorned with kajal.

Semi-developed but firm breasts, body covered with lehnga, odhni and kanchuki and decorated with flowers and ornaments are salient features and half-blossomed buds of lotus in the hands exhibit the charm and beauty of the nayika-like Radha.

The natural perspective of Kishangarh and Roopangarh was endowed with lakes, mountains, gardens, various birds, and accordingly drawings of nature showed frequently large lakes spread far and wide, swans sporting in them, ducks, jahnugabi, cranes, bagula, heron and boats afloat and at anchor. Krishna engaged in romantic affairs in boats. Large buildings, white parapets covered with creepers, fountains and ponds covered with flowering lotus together make the Kishangarh style charming. Similar drawings were created in the Bundi style too, showing the love play of Radha-Krishna in the full moonlight, drawings of morning and evening clouds in crimson.

The Kishangarh style has its own combination of colours. To express tender sentiments of Radha-Krishna artists often used light colours. The principal colours were white, rose, cream and deep red. Margins are drawn in rose and green.

Writer – Jai Singh Neeraj 
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