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Rajasthani and Pahari

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 4:09 AM
Portrait of Gehangir, Mughal
The Rajasthani School of Art is a natural outcome of a long sequence of art tradition. The miniatures that comprise the Rajasthani School, found in such profusion in several art galleries of India and the world, did not, strangely enough, originate as miniatures. There are several large-size drawings and cartoons which show that this was primarily a mural art. In the palaces at Jaipur and Udaipur, there are wall paintings which show how wonderfully the painter of this school produced large murals. The Rasalila and the love of Radha and Krishna form a happy theme. Mention in the Naradapancharatra, ascribed to the sixteenth century, of the palace of Siva at Kailasa, decorated with pictures of Krishnalila, indicates, as Coomaraswamy rightly observes, that such pictures "were commonly to be seen at the gates and on the walls of lovely palaces".

With a long heredity, Rajasthani painting continued a tradition and the conservative fashion remained practically unaffected except for a slight inevitable Mughal influence at a later stage. But the Mughal paintings which were essentially rich in Persian traditions soon imbibed the charm of Indian tradition. While the Mughal paintings were aristocratic, individualistic, strong in their character of portraiture, being fostered and appreciated only by royalty and noblemen at court, as they were reflections of their personal glory and vanity, the Rajput paintings were more in tune with the throbbing life around, simple, with a direct appeal to the peasant and the common folk, sublime in theme, universal in appeal, deeply religious and mystic, true interpreters of phases of nature in her moods in spring and in rain and emotions in man, bird and beast with a universal love for both the animate and the inanimate, the deer, the dove, the peacock, the monkey, cows and calves, trees and creepers, lovely brooks, shady bowers, moisture-laden clouds showering rain-drops with circling cranes, the melodies personified attracting even the beasts and reptiles to listen to the songs, or the lovers in separation or in union; in short, themes whose appeal goes direct to the heart of peasant and nobleman alike. As has already been remarked, Rajasthani painting and painting from the hilly region, Pahari, closely knit by affinities that make them almost a single major school, show the least trace of foreign admixture, while Mughal art betrays it most.

Krishna watching Ladies playing chauper, Bundi, a folio of Keshavadasa Rasikpriya poetryIt is just a late version of an early story repeated. Kushana sculpture in the Yamuna-Ganga doab is the indigenous type, with only an occasional flash of foreign influence, while the Kushana art in the Gandhara region imbibes more from the West, though both these schools were patronised in the same empire and almost by the same kings. Similarly, under the Mughal empire, art in the hills and the desert, that continued the early tradition in sequestered spots, undisturbed by Mughal magnificence, developed the Indian traditions untainted, while contemporary Mughal art at court imbibed quite a bit of the Persian tradition, though under the catholic spirit of Akbar and the liberal connoisseurship of Jehangir, the art flowered into a peculiarly charming new school having an essentially Indian flavour with a strong Persian bias. The Hindu spirit of religious fervour and dedication is best seen in the series of Rajasthani and Pahari miniatures illustrating the sports of baby Krishna, the episodes from Rama's life, the complex epic of the Mahabharata, the loves of Nala and Damayanti, the triumph of Chandi or Durga, the musical modes the main and subsidiary ragas and raginis, personified in picturesque fashion, the emotions, the longing of the separated wife, Proshitabhartrika, the pride of the wronged wife, Khandita, the eager expectant wife, Vasakasajjika, the damsel hurrying to the place of tryst, Abhisarika, the shy coy bride, Mugdha, and so forth. The Baramasa scenes with magnificent representations of the rains and spring, the former dark with rain-laden clouds and the latter bright with gardens and woods lit up with flowers in bloom, are all typical of the genius and outlook of the Rajasthani painter, who continued the tradition of the past, pleasing himself in this presentation of a maze of themes already executed by numerous predecessors but nevertheless still as fresh as ever in their charm and inviting depiction over and over again. It was very rarely that the artist individualized himself and put his stamp by inscribing his name. The themes survived. The glory of depiction is there but the artist effaced himself. As Anandavardhana would put it for literature, the same Mayas of the greatest poets like Valmiki, Vyasa and Kalidasa could yet be repeated by other poets drawing from the same sweet source-garden and portrayed to appear as fresh and lovely and glorious as in the originals by an artistic turn given individually by every great poet who utilized them. The Rajasthani and Pahari artists exactly followed this procedure and produced some of the loveliest creations with the brush.

Mughal art, on the other hand, being individualistic, glorified particular themes, specified aristocracy, peeped into the inner revelry of the harem, the magnificence of the court, the delightful wild bouts, depicted elephant and camel fights that appealed to the emperor, scenes of hunting, toilet, dress and decoration of coquettish damsels; and the very spirit of emulation in the court and the patronage of the emperors and the nobles drew out the stamp of the personality of each artist, which accounts for the signed examples of painting so profusely met with in the Mughal series.

Two princesses, Jodhpur
The Rajput rulers from Delhi, Mahoba, Ajmer and other places driven from their strongholds during Mohammedan inroads, but who would not easily yield, found resorts in the fastnesses of the comparatively neglected and to the Mohammedan invader unimpressive Pahari hills and the desert regions of Rajasthan. With their strong conservative views, hatred for everything foreign, and love and reverence for hoary traditions they encouraged the continuance of the age-old tradition of the art of painting on the walls, the old and beloved themes of Krishna, the lord of love, Rama, the righteous and mighty king, noblest friend and worthy foe and to his sweetheart most beloved, and a thousand other scenes of emotion and nature sublimated. In the Pahari hills, the artist conceived not a Rama or a Krishna clad in a form of great antiquity unknown and elusive to him, but these gods were to him almost his companions on earth living and moving exactly like those around him. It is this simple true-to-life type of delineation that makes the examples of this school such a valuable treasure-house for a study of the culture and civilization of the area during the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries.

The various sub-schools of the Rajasthani School can be distinguished by their peculiar characteristics such as the Mewar, Bundi, Jaipur, Bikaner and Jodhpur with close affinities to the Central Indian Mandu (Malwa) School, which in turn owes much to the Jain School of Gujarat. The Mewar School presents an early untainted phase of Rajasthani mode unlike schools like Bikaner and Bundi that absorbed Mughal influence. The pointed nose, large eyes and angular features of figures, the general arrangement of browns and reds, and the wavy skyline in the Mewar paintings recall influence from Gujarat manuscripts and from the very early Rajasthani School of which the illustrations of Chaurapanchasika from the N.C. Mehta collection are an excellent example. The Kishengarh School with peculiarly long and mango-shaped oblique like Radha and Krishna is another distinct school from the Rajasthan area. A peculiarly religious and almost repetitive school is noticed from Nathadvara.

The Pahari branch has its most graceful paintings in the Kangra, Guler, Chamba, Nurpur, Garhwal and Jammu Schools and a strong folk element is seen in the Kulu and Basohli  Schools. This was a period of great renaissance of vernacular literature when the influence of Kabir, Vidyapati, Umapati, Chandidas, Tulsidas, Kesavadasa and even late writers like Bihari Lal and Jaswant Singh had probably a greater hold than the more difficult and not so easily accessible Sanskrit poets. Thus, the Ramayana of Tulsidas and the Rasikapriya of Kesavadasa had probably a greater appeal and are actually the source of the themes of this unsophisticated sweet utterance of folk-art, a prakrita vernacular art to be distinguished from a classical samskrita art that went in handy with classical Sanskrit literature of an earlier period.

Writer Name: C. Sivaramamurti
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