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The paintings of the Sat Sai were first discovered by N. C. Mehta in the collection of Maharaja Narendra Shah of Tehri Garhwal and he published some of them in his Studies in Indian Painting (1926). From the fact that he found these paintings in the collection of the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal he assumed that they were painted in that State by the court artists of the Raja's ancestor, Sudarshan Shah (1815-1859). The term Pahari painting, which covered the entire hill area of northern India from Jammu to Almora, was in no way helpful. In fact it made the situation, which was in no sense clear, still more obscure. The importance of Mehta's Studies, however, lies in the fact that it represents a phase in the study of Pahari painting. No doubt, facts which are now known on account of recent research were not available to him. Besides, he did not visit the Kangra Valley. Nevertheless, his book is a stimulating account of Pahari painting, written vividly, by a genuine lover of paintings. Apart from paintings of the Sat Sai, the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal had another series on Jayadeva's Gita Govinda, whose colophon bears the name of the artist Manaku. These paintings are clearly of Kangra origin. The landscape with huge boulders, so characteristic of the Beas Valley, the glimpses of the town of Tira Sujanpur and its palaces, inscriptions in Devanagari on the back of the paintings in the Kangra dialect of Punjabi as also a specific family tradition that the paintings came from Kangra, all suggest that Kangra, not Garhwal, was their source.
The paintings of the Sat Sai have some features in common with the paintings of the Gita Govinda. Masterly drawing, with extraordinary sensitive line, dramatic design, and festal radiance of color, is seen in both the series. Dashes of red in the horizon are another common feature. The clothes of dramatis personae and the treatment of vegetation are also more or less similar in both the series. In the facial formula, however, there is a difference and the buildings and landscape depicted are of Alampur, the garden retreat of Sansar Chand. We know that Manaku had a son, Khushala and if Manaku died some time before 1800 it is likely that these pictures were painted by Khushala after his father's death. The work of the son is influenced by the father. The series on the Gita Govinda is more complete, and more than one hundred and forty paintings exist. On the other hand, there are hardly forty paintings of the Sat Sai and about twenty drawings. The latter are in the collection of the Bharat Kala Bhavan, Varanasi, and are possibly late. It seems that the Sat Sai paintings were painted later than those of the Gita Govinda and hence their date of composition is probably in the region of 1805.
How did paintings in the style known as Kangra come to be painted in the Kangra hills which, prior to the eighteenth century, had no artistic tradition? Who was Maharaja Sansar Chand? If these paintings were painted in the Kangra hills, how did they reach Tehri Garhwal? These are some of the questions which we must now attempt to answer.
The Mughals made Delhi the cultural and art centre of India. More than their battles and conquests, it is their contribution to the arts of peace, which assure them a place of honor in the cultural history of India. They had a passion for gardening, architecture, poetry and painting. Babur had a remarkable gift of literary expression, and his memoirs are a vivid record of the experiences of a lover of beauty in nature. Akbar (1556- 1605), despite the handicap of illiteracy, had a great zest for knowledge, and spent long hours list eningto learned men of all religions. He rejected Muslim orthodoxy, which condemned the painting of human figures, and patronized the arts of painting and music. In fact the Mughal School of painting owes it existence largely to his enthusiastic patronage. His son and successor, Jahangir (1605-1626) was a liberal patron and a discerning connoisseur of painting. Shah Jahan (1626-1658), though his interest was more in architecture and buildings, continued to patronize painters. His son, Dara Shikoh, aperson of rare sensitivity and scholarship, ardently encouraged artists. The album of paintings named after him in the collection of the India Office Library in London is an eloquent testimony to his cultured taste and aesthetic sensibility. He translated the Upanishads into Persian, and it is through his translation that Schopenhauer came to know of this great system of Hindu metaphysics. It is unfortunate that Dara did not succeed his father, otherwise the course of Indian history might have been different. Instead, it was his puritanical younger brother, Aurangzeb (1658-1707), a fanatical Muslim, who became the Emperor of India, and ruled long enough to stifle most of the art activity which had been fostered and developed by his liberal-minded predecessors. Aurangzeb was followed by a number of undistinguished successors, Bahadur Shah (1709-1712), Jahandar Shah (1712), Farrukhsiyar (1713-1719), and Muhammad Shah (1719-1748). It was during the reign of the indolent and effete Muhammad Shah in 1739 that India was invaded by the Persian marauder, Nadir Shah. Delhi was sacked rapine and murder were the order of the day and people dispersed in all directions in search of safety. It is possible that among the refugees fleeing from Delhi and Lahore were some Hindu artists, trained in the Mughal style, who may have escaped to the hills of the Punjab. It is also possible that pictures painted at the court of Muhammad Shah reached some of the Hill States during the years 1720 to 1750.
Guler, which is an off-shoot of Kangra and is close to the plains, was among the first of these states to respond to later Mughal stimulus. The kingdom of Guler was founded by Raja' Hari Chand, ruler of Kangra in 1405 under very unusual circumstances. It is said that Hari Chand had gone out on shikar, and while in pursuit of a boar, he got separated from his companions. While wandering in the forest after dusk in search of his retainers, he fell into a neglected well. After many days he was rescued by a merchant who happened to pass that way. When the Raja did not return from the hunt for a long period, his younger brother presuming him to be dead, ascended the throne and his wives committed sail. Hari Chand moved on to Guler where he learned about the happenings at Kangra. To save embarrassment to his brother he decided to remain at Guler and founded the town of Haripur where he built a fort. When one compares the selflessness of Hari Chand with the rapacity of power-hungry royal fratricides and patricides, whose names disfigure Indian history, one has nothing but admiration for this noble prince.
The Rajas of Guler, from Rup Chand (1610-1635) to Bikram Singh (1635-1661), were loyal supporters of the Mughal emperors and were in close touch with the court of Delhi. As such they must have come in contact with Mughal artists and their works. It seems that artists were definitely practicing at Haripur-Guler during the rule of Dalip Singh (1695-1743), for a note in the Daliparanjani dated 1707 refers to their presence. Moreover, portraits of Dalip Singh in half-Mughal, half-Guler style exist and these can hardly be later than 1720. Portraits of his eldest son Bishan Singh also exist and these can be dated to about 1730. Bishan Singh died during the lifetime of his father. In 1743, his younger brother Govardhan Chand became the Raja of Gillen" He was an ardent patron of art, and figures in a large number of paintings. He married a princess from Basohli which was one of the important centres of painting in the hills, and is regarded as the place of origin of the style of painting which derives its name from it. It seems that there was a free movement of artists between the States of Guler and Basohli during the rule of Govardhan Chand. Govardhan Chand's son and successor, Prakash Chand (1773-1790), continued the patronage of artists and many paintings are attributed to his period.
The paintings in early Guler style, which have some Mughal features, are usually attributed to a family of artists, Manako and Nainsukh, sons of Pandit Seu. For some years Nainsukh worked for Mian Balvant Dev of Jammu, but he seems also to have kept in close touch with Guler. His elder brother Maplai probably worked at Guler and also at Basohli. At Basohli, during the rule of Amrit Pal (1757-1776), it was the Guler style which prevailed. Thus the new style of painting, which began at Guler, spread to Jammu and Basohli. A number of Guler paintings of Bishan Singh and Prakash Chand were in the collection of the Rajas of Basohli. Prakash Chand had also a wife from Basohli. This indicates intimate cultural and other contacts, particularly in relation to painting, between these two States, which figure so prominently in the art history of India. This was the first phase of the evolution and development of the Kangra style of painting.
The second phase began with the dispersal of artists from the court of Prakash Chand to Chamba and to Tira Sujanpur in Kangra State. Marital ties played an important part in the dissemination of art in the Punjab hills. The ranis, though kept in purdah, were also keen admirers of paintings and shared the joy of looking at them along with their husbands. Prakash Chand had a wife from Chamba, and this explains the presence of Guler artists at Chamba, who were working for Raja Raj Singh (1764-1794). It was, however, the migration of artists from Guler to Tira Sujanpur, capital of Sansar Chand, which proved most fruitful. The art reached its climax under the patronage of Sansar Chand, and the best series of Kangra paintings, such as those of the Bhagavata Purana, the Gita Govinda and the Sat Sai, were painted under his patronage. It is thus that a style which first began in Guler came to be known as `Kangra'.
The role of Guler in the evolution of the Kangra style is thus summed up by Archer 'The State of Guler played a decisive part in the development of Pahari painting in the eighteenth 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 thirty-eight small centres of Pahari art. It is the originator and breeder of the greatest style in all the Punjab hills.'
Subsequent research has fully confirmed Archer's thesis, and if any place can be called the birth-place of Kangra painting, it is Guler.
Maharaja Sansar Chand of Kangra, who became the greatest patron of painting in the Punjab hills, was born in 1765 at Bijapur, a village about six miles from Lambagraon in Palampur tehsil of the Kangra district. His father, Teg Chand, died after a brief and uneventful rule of one year only. The Katoch dynasty, which Sansar Chand headed, was of great antiquity, and Susarman, their ancient ancestor, was the ally of the Kauravas in the Mahabharata war. The original seat of the family is said to have been Multan. After the Great Battle of Kurukshetra, they lost their lands in Multan, and retired to the district Jalandhara and built the fort of Kangra. The kingdom of Jalandhara or Trigarta, in the beginning of the eleventh century, comprised almost all the country between the Satluj and the Ravi in the outer hills, as well as the area in the plains known as Jalandhar Doab. The country to the west of Kangra was also called Katoch, and was one of the three provinces of the Kangra valley, the other two being Changar and Palam. Chatrgar is the name given to the area south of Palam, which consists of chains of barren, low hills, and Palam is the fertile area to the east, between Kangra and Baijnath, studded with tea-gardens and paddy fields.
The ascendancy of the Katoch rajas, after a long period of obscurity, commences with the accession of Ghamand Chand, grandfather of Sansar Chand, to the gaddi in 1751. The Mughal Empire was in the throes of dissolution, and taking advantage of the confusion that prevailed, he recovered all the territories that had been wrested from his ancestors, except the Kangra fort. Ahmed Shah Durrani, who was in control of the Punjab, appointed Ghamand Chand as Governor of Jalandhar Doab, in 1758. He raised a large army and defeated the Raja of Chamba and seized the fertile taluka of Palam, which is the rice bowl of the Kangra valley. He founded the town of Tira Sujanpur and embellished it with many new buildings. Ghamand Chand, however, had no taste for fine arts. As his name indicates, he was proud and also insensitive and cruel. The few portraits of this ruler which exist are late productions, and seem to have been painted during the reign of Sansar Chand, his grandson.
When Sansar Chand ascended the gaddi in 1775, he was only ten years of age. There was complete confusion in the plains of the Punjab. The Durranis of Afghanistan were unable to establish their power effectively, and the Sikhs under the misls were holding sway over the plains, and were also extending their power towards the hills. Sansar Chand raised a large army of mercenaries, consisting of Rajputs, and Afghans, and extended his rule over all the neighboring Rajput States.
The Kangra fort, the ancient capital of the Katoch kingdom and symbol of power in the Punjab hills, was conquered by the Mughal army of Jahangir in 1620. Since then it had remained in the possession of the Mughals." The last Mughal Governor to rule the Kangra fort was Saif Ali Khan who, though cut off from Delhi, continued to hold the fort in the name of the Mughal Emperor. In 1781, Saif Ali Khan died, and the fort was conquered by Jai Singh Kanheya of Batala. In 1786, Jai Singh surrendered the fort to Sansar Chand, who was then twenty-one years of age, in lieu of territory in the plains which the latter gave him. A place impregnable by the armies and artillery of those times, its possession gave control of the neighboring country. There is a proverb in the hills 'he who holds the Kangra fort holds the hills.'
Thus, with the occupation of the Kangra fort, Sansar Chand became the most powerful Raja of the Punjab hills and embarked on a career of conquest. In 1794, he defeated and killed Raj Singh of Chamba, at Nirti, and annexed the fertile tract of Rihlu. Another battle was with Raja Dharam Prakash of Sirmur. Sansar Chand's sister was married to Dharam Prakash, and it is said that one day she taunted her husband that her brother had more syces in his employ than his whole army. A battle took place on the boundary of Kahlur, and Dharam Prakash was killed. After this Sansar Chand attacked Kutlehr and captured the fort, and built a new fort at Solah Singhi. He took possession of the fort of Ramgarh from Raja Prakash Chand of Guler who was virtually his vassal. He also incorporated portions of the territory of the State of Banghal in his expanding empire in the hills. In 1792, he invaded Mandi and plundered the capital. The Raja of Suket tendered his allegiance, and Raja Ishwari Sen of Mandi was carried off as a prisoner to Tira Sujanpur, where he was detained for twelve years.
When the Mughal power collapsed, the question was: who would fill the vacuum in north India? While Ranjit Singh was consolidating his power in the plains, Sansar Chand was also aspiring to recover the territory which was ruled by his ancestors in the Punjab plains and even dreamed of occupying Lahore. The favorite salutation at his court was "Lahore prapat which means "may you get Lahore". Whenever a merchant brought costly goods to Ranjit Singh and he did not buy them, he used to take them to Sansar Chand, who invariably bought them to show his superiority over his rival.
While Sansar Chand was organizing his kingdom in the hills on feudal lines, a mighty social upheaval had taken place in the plains of the Punjab. Sikhism, which was based on repudiation of the caste system, emerged as a militant social revolutionary force, and the so-called shudras, who had been suppressed for such a long time, ennobled by Guru Govind Singh into the Khalsa, organized themselves into `misls', or confederacies. Ranjit Singh brought the misls together, conquered the plains of the Punjab, and then turned his attention towards the hills. Ignorant of the strength of his rival, Sansar Chand invaded Hoshiarpur in 1803, but was defeated and driven back into the hills by Ranjit Singh.
Disappointed in his designs on the plains, in 1805 Sansar Chand turned his armies against Kahlur and annexed a portion of the territory on the right bank of the Satluj. Ultimately this proved to be a turning point in his fortunes, and his decline started. At about this time he had given shelter to the deposed Nawab of Rampur, Ghulam Mohammed, whom he had received with great courtesy. The Nawab, who was regarded as a military expert, as a measure of economy advised him to employ Rohillas in place of the more costly Rajputs and Afghans. The Gurkhas of Nepal were extending their sway over the Western Himalayas during these years, and were dreaming of fashioning a hill empire. When the change-over suggested by the refugee Nawab was about to take place, Amar Singh Thapa, the leader of the Gurkhas, was invited by the Raja of Bilaspur (Kahlur) to attack'Sansar Chand. All the hill Rajas who were smarting under defeats and indignities suffered by them from Sansar Chand also joined the Gurkhas. Sansar Chand was defeated at Mahal Morian, and after a short halt at Tira Sujanpur he took refuge in Kangra fort with his family.
The Gurkhas then advanced into the State and laid siege to the fort, but all their efforts to capture it were fruitless. For four years they plundered and laid waste the country. 'The memory of those disastrous days', writes Barnes, 'stands out as a landmark in the annals of the hills. Time is computed with reference to that period, and every misfortune, justly or unjustly, is ascribed to that prolific source of misery and distress. The people harassed and bewildered, fled to the neighboring kingdoms, some to Chamba, some to the plains of the Jalandhar Doab. Other hill chieftains made inroads with impunity and aggravated the general disorder. For three years this state of anarchy continued. In the fertile valleys of Kangra, not a blade of cultivation was to be seen, grass grew up in the towns and tigresses whelped in the streets of Nadaun'.
The siege lasted for four years, and Sansar Chand and his army were in a desperate situation. One night he left the fort in the charge of his officers, and, disguised as a peasant, along with his family, reached Tira Sujanpur. He again sent an appeal to Ranjit Singh, who met him at Jwala-mukhi. A treaty was made according to which the Kangra fort and the adjoining territory were ceded to Ranjit Singh who swore friendship to the unfortunate Rajput prince over the sacred flame of Jwala-mukhi. In August 1809, the Sikh army attacked the Gurkhas and chased them across the Satluj. The Sikhs retained the Kangra fort and with its cession the Kangra State and all other hill States became subject and tributary to the Sikhs.
In 1809, Sansar Chand employed two European adventurers. Of these, O'Brien was an Irishman, who established a factory of small arms, and raised a disciplined force of 1400 men, for whom he designed a quaint-looking Georgian uniform. The other was James, an English man, who was a gunner. Moorcroft, the English traveler who saw these men writes: "Both these men are of use to the Raja and might be of more, but their means are limited, and their habits not of the most temperate description... Ranjit Singh exacts military service from Sansar Chand and put him foremost in the attack on the Kahlur Raja, whose forts were taken by the troops and artillery of Sansar Chand, under O'Brien and James". Both these men figure in paintings. O'Brien is seen playing Holi with Sansar Chand, and James parading troops dressed in scarlet coats and wearing blue helmets.
The period 1786-1805 was the most glorious in the history of Kangra. Law and order were established in the valley, and unruly hill chieftains were tamed and brought under control. Arts and crafts were encouraged and there was much building activity. Sansar Chand settled goldsmiths, blacksmiths, carpenters, and weavers, who were experts in carpet making at Tira Sujanpur. Nadaun was a gay place during his reign and there was a saying current in the Kangra hills: 'Who will go away, once he comes to Nadaun?' This is explained by the fact that there were two hundred singing and dancing girls at Nadaun, and whoever came under the spell of these enchantresses never thought of leaving Nadaun. Thus writes Ghulam Mohiuddin in the Tarikh-i-Punjab: 'For many years he passed his days in great felicity. He was generous in conduct, kind to his subjects, just as Naushirvan, and a second Akbar in the recognition of men's good qualities. Crowds of people of skill and talent, professional soldiers and others resorted to Kangra, and gained happiness from his gifts and favors. Those addicted to pleasure, who live for the gratification of others, flocked from all quarters and profited exceedingly by his liberality. Performers and story-tellers collected in such numbers, and received such gifts and favors at his hands that he was regarded as a Hatim of that age, and in generosity the Rustam of that time!'
Sansar Chand was a great builder and raised many new buildings. At Alampur he built a palace and planted a garden which is said to have rivaled the Shalimar gardens at Lahore. In the early part of his reign, he resided in the Amtar palace near Nadaun, on the left bank of the Beas, which was the ancient seat of the family. The town of Tira Sujanpur, which was his capital, was vastly improved by him. He extended the palace at Tira and built a large reception hall with twenty-two gates by which the. chiefs of the twenty-two Hill States were expected to make their entrance, each by his own door, to pay homage to Sansar Chand, whose throne stood at the head of the hall. The temple of Gauri gankar was constructed by him in 1794, and it is known after him as Sansarchandesvar. In 1791, he constructed the Krishna temple, known as the Muralimanohar, on the fringe of the maidan. His Rani from Suket built the Narbadesvar temple which was decorated with mural paintings in 1824.
Sansar Chand was mystically inclined, and was an ardent Vaishnava. He had also great faith in holy men and sooth-sayers. He used to consult Fazil Shah, a Muslim saint, whenever he embarked on a battle. When Fazil Shah died, he built a mausoleum over his grave at Nadaun. He was also a devotee of Bhikhe Shah whose tomb is at Bhawarna. Gossain Sarupgir and Mani Rain, well-known saints, were supported by him." There are many miracles attributed to them.
When did the artists fromler reach Tira Sujanpur? Most likely in the period 1780-86. There are a number of portraits of Sansar Chand in which he is shown as a beardless youth of hardly eighteen years. When he became the overlord of the Punjab hills, by the acquisition of Kangra fort in 1786, some of the most talented artists from the court of his amiable, but feeble, contemporary, Prakash Chand of Guler, migrated to Tira Sujanpur.
In the evolution and development of miniature painting in Persia, as well as in India, most creative periods have been those when artists of genius got an opportunity of working for enlightened and appreciative rulers. Real artists, whether poets or painters, are men of extraordinary sensitivity, who respond to appreciation of their works. There is nothing so encouraging as sincere praise, which raises the spirit of man to heights of creative effort. 'Behind the world bewilderment, beneath the tangle of political and economic problems', says Laurence Binyon, 'lives the spirit of man, delicate and sensitive, which has expressed through creative art its relation to the world and to the universe.... The most precious and enduring is the art which embodies most fully the desires, the exultations and the agonies of that spirit.' The calm serenity of the Bodhisattva with the blue lily of the Ajanta caves, the agony of Christ on the cross, so vividly expressed in Grunewald's Isenheim altar-piece, the joys of love expressed in the faces of Radha and Krishna in Kangra paintings, are all manifestation of that spirit.
Persia's greatest painter, Bihzad, whose work is characterized by lustrous color, as well as Mirak and Sultan Muhammad, who painted miniatures of dazzling beauty, enjoyed the patronage or Shah Tahmasp of the Safavi dynasty in the sixteenth century. Mughal art owes its rise and development to the liberal patronage of Akbar, who used to examine the works of his painters weekly and to confer rewards, according to excellence of workmanship. Jahangir, though lacking his father's religious, mystical feeling, was voluptuously appreciative of exquisite workmanship and gave enormous prices to his artists for their paintings. When, during the reign of Aurangzeb, royal patronage was withdrawn, art also languished. In the history of Guler and Kangra painting it was the patronage of Rajas Govardhan Chand and Sansar Chand, particularly the latter, which stimulated the work of highest quality. The artists responded to the appreciation which Sansar Chand gave them unhesitatingly, and embarked upon ambitious projects of illustrating Hindu classics, such as the Ramayana, the Bhagavata Purana, the Gita Govinda of Jayadeva, the Rasikapriya of Keshav Das, and the Sat Sai of Bihari.
The history of art shows that prominent patrons of art who gave a new trend and direction to art activity have usually been virile men with a zest for life. Facts which have been collected about the life of Sansar Chand indicate that he was of a romantic temperament. Apart from his three queens from Suket, Sirmur and Bara Banghal, he also married Nokhu, a Gaddan beauty.
Below the Dhauladhar is the picturesque village of Bandla. Green ears of wheat were swaying in the morning breeze. White flowers of kainth were vying with the snow-peaks in purity. It was the lovely month of April, when the Kangra valley puts on the smile of spring. From behind a veil of mist, glimpses could be had of the shining snow of the Dhauladhar. The air was heavy with the scent of gardenias. In the distance were the neat houses of Gaddi shepherds. Sansar Chand was out on shikar followed by a retinue of soliders on horse-back. Near the fountain was standing a Gaddi maiden, lithe and handsome, clad in a woollen gown, with a black rope tied around her waist and wearing a necklace of amber beads. Swayed by the breeze, when her dark hair fell over her lovely face, it seemed as if a cloud had covered the moon. Her radiant beauty spread a charm about her, and the Raja was fascinated, and forgot all about shikar.
'Who are you, girl, filling your pitcher at this fountain? Are you a dryad from the forest, or an apsaras who has strayed from Indra's heaven?'
'Neither am I a dryad nor an apsaras. I am a simple shepherd girl and that is my home', said she pointing towards a cottage on the fringe of the village.
'Come with me to Sujanpur, I will make you my queen. Here you sleep on the floor, at Sujanpur you will sleep on a bed plated with silver. Here you eat coarse rice and dal from a brass plate, there you will eat food of thirty-six varieties in utensils of silver.'
'I am happy, 0 Raja! in my cottage in this village, in the company of my kids and lambs, sheep and goats. I do not want to go to your Sujanpur.
Intoxicated by her beauty, the Raja would not listen to her arguments. He called for a palanquin, in which she was asked to sit. As under the swoop of an eagle a monal gets paralyzed, so was the Gaddi girl. Posthaste was she carried to Sujanpur. She was a married woman, and for long she remembered her husband, Dhanna by name. Dhanna often came and grazed his flock of goats and sheep below the palace walls, while she looked at him wistfully. After the lapse of some years she became reconciled to her new situation and the Raja paid some compensation to Dhanna and her brother Tota of village Kandi, and thus got her released from her marriage bond with the shepherd. The romance of Sansar Chand and Nokhu, the Gaddan beauty, later on ennobled and named Gulab Dassi, is celebrated in Kangra folk-songs.
In the last days of his life, Sansar Chand fell in love with a dancing girl whose name is given as Jamalo. Now he was a frustrated, middle-agedman, who had suffered considerable humiliation at the hands of Ranjit Singh. While he was dreaming of becoming the monarch of the Punjab plains, he was deprived even of his conquests in the hills. With ambition gone, and glory faded, he found solace in the company of Jamalo, who entertained him with song and dance. He shut himself up with Jamalo in the Amtar palace at Nadaun, overlooking the Beas. The courtiers and visitors were asked to salute a kamal tree at the entrance to the palace and to depart. The kamal tree and the ruins of Jamalo's house are still pointed out to visitors near the palace of the Raja of Nadaun. The Amtar palace enjoyed a delightful location and was built on a hillock right on the river. Due to the ravages of the earthquake of 1905 it has been totally demolished and now only a few ruined walls stand on the site.
Sansar Chand spent his winters in the Tira palace overlooking Sujanpur, and summers in the garden palace at Alampur. In 1820, Moorcroft, an English traveler, paid a visit to Sansar Chand at Alampur, while on his way to Samarkand on a mission to purchase ponies. He was able to cure Fateh Chand, his younger brother, of a serious malady. Sansar Chand and Fateh Chand gave him a robe of honor and also conferred a land grant on him. Fateh Chand became his 'turban brother'. As Moorcroft describes it, Tateh Chand, when sufficiently restored, insisted on exchanging his turban for my hat, and making me his brother by adoption. He placed his turban on my head and my hat on his; each waved his hand, holding a handful of rupees round the other's head and the rupees were distributed amongst the servants. He also gave me some green `dub' grass, which I was desired to wear, and thus, notwithstanding the difference of caste and complexion, I became an honorary member of the family of Sansar Chand. Whatever might be the value of such an association, it was a most unequivocal testimony of the sincerity of their gratitude.'
Describing the daily life of the Raja at Alampur, Moorcroft writes: "Raja Sansar Chand spends the early part of the day in the ceremonies of his religion, and from ten till noon in communication with his officers and courtiers. For several days prior to my departure, he passed this period at a small bungala, which he had given up for my accommodation, on the outside of the garden. At noon the Raja retires for two or three hours, after which he ordinarily plays at chess for some time, and the evening is devoted to singing and dancing in which the performers recite most commonly Vraja-bhasha songs relating to Krishna. Sansar Chand is fond of drawing and has many artists in his employ he has a large collection of pictures, but the greater part represents the feats of Krishna and Balarama, the adventures of Arjuna, and subjects from the Mahabharata."
Moorcroft left an interesting account of Sansar Chand and his family. Thus writes Moorcroft: "In the evening I waited upon the Raja at his desire, and found him with his son and grandson in an open building in a garden. Raja Sansar Chand is a tall, well-formed man, about sixty. His complexion is dark, but his features are fine and expressive. His son, Rai Aniruddha Chand, has a very handsome face and ruddy complexion, but is remarkably corpulent. He has two sons, one of twelve and the other five years of age, both less fair than himself. Sansar Chand was formerly the most powerful Raja from the Sutlej to the Indus. All the potentates from the Sutlej river to Kashmir, were his tributaries or dependants, and he was extremely wealthy, possessing a revenue of thirty-five lacs of rupees. He is now poor and in danger of being wholly subjected to Ranjit Singh."
The dawn of the Katoch kingdom in the Kangra valley proved to be a false dawn. Though his people were attached to Sansar Chand and affectionately called him 'Pahar Badshah,' the king of the mountains, he could build no real unity among them. The petty hill Rajas were jealous of their independence and were constantly intriguing against him. His army, consisting of mixed feudal levies of Rajputs and mercenaries like the Rohillas and the Pathans, was no match against the organized and disciplined Khalsa army which drew its inspiration from the social revolutionary creed of equality which Sikhism practised as well as preached. No wonder that, confronted by the might of Ranjit Singh's army, Sansar Chand's power collapsed like a house of cards.
After the death of Sansar Chand in December, 1823, his son, Rai Aniruddha Chand, succeeded him. However, he was a Raja only in name and had to go frequently to the court of Ranjit Singh at Lahore to pay tribute. In 1827, Aniruddha Chand paid a visit to Lahore with his family. He had with him his two sisters. Raja Dhian Singh of Jammu, who was the chief adviser to Maharaja Ranjit Singh, happened to see them, and he wanted Aniruddha Chand to marry one of them to his son, Hira Singh, a handsome boy who had become a great favorite at the court. The pride of the hill chief was roused at the proposition of so degrading an alliance, but the influence of Ranjit Singh procured from him a written promise, that the young woman should be at his disposal. The mother of Aniruddha Chand, however, succeeded in carrying them off, and took refuge with them at Hardwar under British protection. Aniruddha Chand followed her leaving his possessions on the other side of the Sutlej at the mercy of Ranjit Singh, who sequestered the whole, and received the surrender of them without any resistance from Fateh Chand, Sansar Chand's brother, whom he made Raja of Lambagraon. Nokhu, Sansar Chand's Gaddan queen, fell on this occasion into Ranjit Singh's hands, with several children that she had borne to the late Raja. Two of the daughters, Mehtab Devi and Rajbanso, Ranjit Singh married himself, the third was married to Lehna Singh Sandhanwalia, and upon a son, Jodhbir Chand, he conferred the title of the Raja of Nadaun.
During his flight from Kangra to Hardwar, it is probable that Aniruddha Chand carried away with him some of the best paintings from the collection of his father, including those of the Gita Govinda, and illustrations to Bihari's Sat Sai". From Hardwar he married the two princesses to Raja Sudarshan Shah of Tehri Garhwal in 1829, and the paintings were given as a wedding dowry. At the close of the same year Aniruddha died of paralysis. It is thus that these famous Kangra paintings came to Tehri Garhwal. Some of the surviving artists also seem to have migrated to Tehri Garhwal, and some of the nineteenth century paintings from Garhwal, which were not painted by Mola Rain, were possibly painted by them. After the death of Sansar Chand, the art of painting became stiff and formal. It lacks the simplicity, vitality and grace of its great period, 1780-1823. As the best period of the art in the valley was over and the Katoch kingdom lost its independence, some of the artists also migrated to Lahore and Amritsar and enjoyed the patronage of the Sikh Rajas and Sardars. Thus we find the Rajput inspired art of the Kangra Valley evolving into the Sikh an of the Punjab plains.
Thus ends the most glorious period in the history of the Kangra Valley. The rein of Sansar Chand can truly be called the golden age of Kangra. Sansar Chand will be remembered not as much for his military prowess and conquests, but as the chief patron of the Kangra Valley art, in which sentiments of human love are portrayed with lyrical grace. In the history of the Punjab, the development of Kangra painting in the valley is like the fragrant breeze of spring which continues to exhilarate us. It is no doubt one of the finest achievements of the human spirit.
Writer Name: M.S. Randhawa