This impressively researched, eloquently written, and sumptuously illustrated catalogue of Central Indian paintings and drawings in the Jagdish and Kamla Mittal Museum of Indian Art in Hyderabad is an important contribution to the study of Indian miniature painting. It presents some of the finest examples of so-called "Malwa"-style paintings, which are properly assigned to Bundel khand, and provides the first in-depth study of painting at such centres as Orchha, Datia, and Sitamau. The extensive section on Raghogarh painting is truly groundbreaking, and includes a comprehensive discussion of the Raghogarh style in its historical context, incisive analyses of many unpublished masterpieces, and the identification of the first major artist to work in that state. Jagdish and Kamla Mittal, an artist couple with exceptionally discerning taste, assembled this unparallelled collection of paintings over a period of more than sixty years. The superb quality of the illustrations, the insightfulness of the text, and the inclusion of key comparative material make this book essential to anyone who enjoys or studies Indian painting.
John Seyller, Professor of Art History at the University of Vermont, U.S.A., is an internationally acclaimed authority on Indian painting. He has written extensively on the imperial Mughal painting workshop as well as on individual manuscripts and their painters. His publications include Workshop and Patron in Mughallndia: The Freer Ramayana and Other Illustrated Manuscripts of 'Abd aI-Rahim (1999); Pearls of the Parrot of India: The Walters Art Museum Khamsa of Amir Khusraw of Delhi (2001); The Adventures of Hamza: Painting and Storytelling in Mughallndia (2002); and Eva and Konrad Seitz Collection of Indian Miniatures: Mughal and Deccani Paintings (2010). He is co-author of Secret Gardens. Indian Paintings from the Porret Collection (2014). He has co-authored with Jagdish Mittal six Museum catalogues, and is currently collaborating on a monograph of a Mughal Ramayana manuscript in the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha.
Jagdish Mittal is an artist turned collector and art historian. He is the Principal Trustee of the Jagdish and Kamla Mittal Museum of Indian Art, to which he and his wife, Kamla, gifted their unique art collection in 1976. He was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1990. His research articles have been published in prestigious publications on Indian art. His books include Andhra Paintings of the Ramayana (1969); Sublime Delight Through Works of Art from the Jagdish and Kamla Mittal Museum of Indian Art, Hyderabad (2007) (hereafter JKMMIA); Bidriware and Damascene Work in the JKMMIA (2011); and Deccani Scroll Paintings in the JKMMIA (2014). He is co-author with John Seyller of several catalogues: Pahari Drawings in the JKMMIA (2013); Mughal Paintings, Drawings and Islamic Calligraphy in the JKMMIA (2013); Pahari Paintings in the JKMMIA (2014); and Deccani Paintings, Drawings, and Manuscripts in the JKMMIA (2018). He is co-author with Milo C. Beach, Catherine Glynn, John Seyller, and Andrew Topsfield of Rajasthani Paintings in the JKMMIA (2015); with Andrew Topsfield of Rajasthani Drawings in the JKMMIA (2015); and with J.P. Losty of Indian Paintings of the British Period in the JKMMIA (2016). He is currently completing a study of Tirupati paintings.
The Trustees of the Jagdish and Kamla Mittal Museum of Indian Art and I are most pleased to bring out this long-awaited catalogue on Central Indian paintings and drawings in the collection, which is the eleventh Museum publication in the series. It fulfils our goal of producing a catalogue dedicated to each category or style of art objects in the Museum, and demonstrates our ongoing commitment to have our institution be a major vehicle in the dissemination of new scholarly information on Indian art.
In 1945, when I joined Kala Bhavan at Santiniketan to study painting, I had glimpsed only a few so-called "Malwa"-style paintings, which were published mainly in Coomaraswamy's catalogue of Rajput paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Since their main strength - colour - was lost in the black-and-white reproductions, they did not really inspire me. I was unaware of the true glory of the "Malwa" style until 1950, when I had an opportunity to handle a group of raga mala paintings in this style as they were being offered to the Art Purchase Committee of the future National Museum in New Delhi. In spite of their bold and somewhat folkish execution, their abstract placement of vibrant colours captivated me instantly. The same day I was able to see in the shop of a silver merchant a Devi Mahatmya series illustrated in this style when I accompanied Shri Rai Krishna Das to Chandni Chowk, Delhi, where he was looking for a dealer of miniature paintings.
In 1961, a few years after I had settled in Hyderabad, I met by chance a pujari in Karwan, an old locality near Golkonda, from whom I acquired ten fine paintings from a ragamala series. They were better than anything I had seen in this style, and I am happy to publish them here. In 1962, I saw a large group of paintings with the late Shri Nandagopal Mehra and his son Hargopal, who had acquired about 1,000 paintings from the royal family of Datia. This group consisted of paintings in the so-called "Malwa" and Datia styles. Thereafter, I bought on the art market some more examples of both these styles. In 1971, I was fortunate to see with a dealer in Jaipur about 400 paintings from the royal collection of Raghogarh. I acquired some examples that are of great art historical significance and whose variety and distinctive style appealed to me. About the same time, I purchased from dealers some fine works from the royal collections of Orchha and Sitamau. I am delighted now to share with the public images of the many paintings that have brought me great pleasure for so long.
The enthusiasm of my late wife, Kamla, and occasional discussions about Central Indian paintings with the Museum's Trustee-Secretary, the late Naozar Chenoy, a lover of all art forms, helped sustain me as I tried my best to produce a well-researched publication under the auspices of the Museum.
As always, I offer my profound thanks to John Seyller, who enthusiastically agreed to co-author this catalogue. In annual visits to Hyderabad over the last thirteen years, John has spent countless hours working with me on this and other catalogues. John has given his utmost to ensure that this study is truly pioneering, incorporating many discoveries, unpublished paintings, and illuminating comparative examples from other collections. There are no words to express the depth of my gratitude to him.
I also wish to thank those whose cooperation and assistance made this publication possible. I am deeply grateful to the various museums and collectors that kindly granted us permission to publish comparative paintings in their collections. Among them are Museum Rietberg, Zurich; Bharat Kala Bhavan, Varanasi; National Museum, New Delhi; Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai; Gursharan and Elvira Sidhu, U.S.A.; and Vinod Krishna Kanoria, Patna. I thank Dr Mukund Lath of Jaipur for translating and analysing the Sanskrit verses written in Devanagari script that accompany the ragamala series, and Dr Narmada Prasad Upadhyaya for locating the manuscript of Bhavishyottara Purana on which two Orchha paintings are based, and translating the relevant Sanskrit verses into Hindi and English. I am indebted to Dr Radhey Shyam Shukla, for kindly converting dates from the Vikram Samvat to the Common Era. I am thankful, too, to the following individuals who were instrumental in arranging access to certain material or who shared their insights into particular art historical issues: Nitin Bhayana and Lekha Poddar, New Delhi; and Milo Beach, U.S.A.
I also wish to acknowledge P. Parameshwar Raju, a sensitive graphic artist and Museum Trustee, for the elegant book design; Anna Seyller, who patiently formatted the whole text and helped prepare it for publication; A. Narayana Rao, who typed portions of some early drafts; and my grandchildren, T.M. Anirudh and Uma Devi, for taking exquisite photographs. Uma and Naveen Kumar, CEO of the Museum, attended unstintingly to the many tasks involved in overseeing production of the catalogue. I give special thanks to Kumara Guru, for his marvellous image editing, and to P. Narendra and his team at Pragati Offset Private Limited, Hyderabad, for their personal and painstaking attention to the printing process.
Central India or the central part of India is synonymous with the present-day state of Madhya Pradesh, and is situated between northern India and the Deccan. Madhya Pradesh, the second largest state in modern India, was in ancient times an important centre of learning. It is renowned for its fine palaces at Mandu, Orchha, and Datia, as well as for much venerated temples and monuments at Sanchi, Vidisha, and Khajuraho, which are internationally acclaimed for their magnificent sculptures. Madhya Pradesh consists of three regions. Bundelkhand, located in the northeastern portion of the state, is a partly hilly but fertile area that includes the important centres of Central Indian painting. Malwa, in the west-central part, is topographically a low plateau, with Mandu and Indore its main cities, and Sitamau state as a constituent region. The third area of Madhya Pradesh is its western region, which has mostly forested areas along with the open plains of Ratlam state. The Narmada and Tapti Rivers flow across the entire state of Madhya Pradesh. The Satpura hills that run through the central part of Madhya Pradesh have dense forests of teak, sal, and palash trees, which are inhabited by lions, tigers, leopards, deer, and even elephants. Bhil tribals live in the western part of the state and the Gonds reside in its central part.
Until the 19th century, the Bundelkhand region included the southern part of the modern state of Uttar Pradesh. Nowadays, only the northern districts of Madhya Pradesh remain part of Bundelkhand. Surrounded by the Vindhya Mountains, this region is watered by the Betwa and Kain Rivers and thus yields bountiful crops. Minerals of various kinds and the diamond mines in Panna have contributed significantly to its prosperity.
Bundelkhand derives its name from the Bundelas, valiant Rajputs who lived in the region in sizeable numbers for centuries. For our study of Central Indian painting, this region is important because so-called "Malwa"-style paintings were done there.' Bundelkhand became well known after Raja Madhukar Shah (r. 1554-92), an able administrator and devotee of Krishna, consolidated parts of this region and made Orchha his capital. His wife, an ardent adherent of Rama, brought an image of Rama from Ayodhya and installed it in her palace at Orchha. Due to Orchha's growing fame and power, Emperor Akbar sent his forces to annex it; they seized much territory, but failed to assert complete dominance over it. After Madhukar Shah's death, the Orchha state was divided into several jagirs that were given to his sons. His second son, Bir Singh Joo Deo, was given Badoni. In retaliation for Akbar's hostile attitude towards Orchha, Bir Singh plotted with Prince Salim (later Mughal emperor Jahangir, r. 1605-27) at the latter's capital, Allahabad. In 1602, Bir Singh assassinated Abu'l Fazl, Akbar's favourite counsellor and author of A'in-i Akbari, when he was returning from the Deccan and had to pass through Orchha on his way to Agra. Upon this nefarious deed, Bir Singh again met Prince Salim at Allahabad. When Salim ascended the Mughal throne in 1605 and took the accession name of Jahangir, he honoured Bir Singh and made him ruler of Orchha. Later on, Bir Singh was made maharaja of the entire region of Bundelkhand. He was a farsighted ruler, brave warrior, great builder, and patron of the fine arts. The proximity of Orchha to the Mughal capital Agra was undoubtedly one reason for Bir Singh's love for fine arts. As an expression of his devotion to Krishna, he used to visit Mathura and Vrindavan. This accounts for the existence of many paintings in Orchha and Datia with themes from the legend of Krishna.
Orchha was also home to the famous Hindi poet Kesavadas (1555-1617), author of the Rasikapriya, a classic Hindi poetical text that inspired a large number of miniature paintings in Central India and Rajasthan. Other late 16th-century Hindi poets, especially Matiram and Bihari, also popularised romantic themes, often dwelling on the love of Radha and Krishna.
Bir Singh added some fine palaces and temples in Orchha that were enriched with mural paintings. He divided the Orchha state among his male offspring. His second son, Bhagwant Rai (r. 1626-56), was given Datia in 1626. The process of partitioning the ancestral territory into discrete and ever smaller jagirs continued under Bir Singh's successors. After Bir Singh's death, Emperor Shahjahan started to dispatch his armies to control Orchha territory. Incensed by Mughal aggressions into Kalpi in the northern part of ancient Bundelkhand, which his father, Champat Rai, had formerly ruled, the brave Raja Chhatarsal (1649-1731) revolted and repulsed all Mughal invasions. He extended his territory and founded Panna state. In 1780, Raja Vikramjit, a later ruler of Orchha (r. 1776-1817), shifted his capital from Orchha to Tikamgarh, a place about 64 km south of Orchha.
As mentioned earlier, paintings in the so-called "Malwa" style were produced in Bundelkhand. The earliest examples date to the 1590s, but their numbers were apparently quite limited. The best and the most important paintings were done in the 17th century in Orchha and Datia states, primarily with such subjects as ragamala, baramasa, Bhagavata Purana, Ramayana, Amaru Shataka, and Devi Mahatmya. Sets of ragamala paintings are comparatively plentiful. Minor stylistic variations among them have occasionally led scholars to attribute them to centres even outside Bundelkhand. The so-called "Malwa" style, which has a bold and highly appealing level of abstraction and a particularly vibrant palette, continued to flourish until about 1700 C.E. Painters were still active at Orchha and Datia until the mid 19th century. Despite claims to the contrary, nothing is known about painting at Panna, Tikamgarh, and other successor states of Orchha. The one notable exception to this general rule is Bijna, a modestjagir of Orchha near Jhansi, from which several early 19th-century works have come to light over the last three decades.
The Malwa region was and still is very prosperous due to its rich agriculture, fine textile production, and advantageous location on the trade route between northern India, the Deccan, and Gujarat. It was ruled by the sultans of Mandu from 1401-02. The only manuscripts produced at the capital, Mandu, or other parts of Malwa were sacred Jain texts of the Kalpasutra and Kalakacharyakatha;2 a cookbook entitled the Ni'matnama painted in Mandu c. 1495-1505 for the sultans Ghiyath ai-Din Shah and Nasir ai-Din Shah;' an illustrated glossary entitled Miftah al-fuzula painted c. 1490-1500;4 a copy of the Bustan of Sa'di, a collection of moralising and highly entertaining tales painted in Mandu c. 1500-03;5 and an illustrated copy of the romance of the Chandayana assigned to Mandu and dated to c. 1540.6 These works appear to be one-off productions, inspiring neither the painters of Mandu nor artists of other parts of Malwa to formulate a coherent, distinctive regional style.
Akbar annexed Madhya Pradesh in 1562, and made Malwa a Mughal suba (province). Although Mughal officials were appointed throughout the region, Mughal painting neither influenced nor fostered painting in the province. However, the state of Raghogarh in the Malwa region did produce painting continuously from about 1675 to 1825, and artists were active at Sitamau c. 1780-1850. While the heavily forested western part of Madhya Pradesh did not produce miniature paintings because of its small jegirs and populace of Bhil tribals, paintings were produced at Ratlam state in a practically Rajasthani idiom during the 18th and 19th centuries. Opportunities for patronage of paintings in Madhya Pradesh became even more constricted after 1720, when the Marathas began to invade states in every corner of Madhya Pradesh. Their almost annual invasions, extraction of chauth (one-fourth of annual revenue), and oppressive administrative presence impoverished the rajas and other potential patrons. The Peshwa entrusted his key soldiers to rule the regions where they played active role to annex territories and raise funds. Among these, the Holkars were installed at Indore, Puars at Dewas, and Sindhia at Ujjain and later Gwalior. They controlled these states almost as independent rulers. But save for some works done at Gwalior in the mid 19th century, there is no evidence of miniature painting done in these places.
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