Centres of Pahari Painting

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Item Code: IDF974
Author: Chandramani Singh
Language: English
ISBN: 0391024124
Pages: 174 (B & W Illustrations: 90 & Color Plates: 13)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11.0" X 8.5"
Weight 1.30 kg
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Book Description


About the Book


Unlike the usual academic enquiries in the history of art, Pahari Painting is imbued with personal feelings of the author.

The author has studied the intriguing pattern of stylistic development of the art of painting in the north- western Himalayan region. How the decorative formalism of Mughal painting is linked up with the political situation in the region, and the migration of the artists and their families to the small Himalayan kingdoms. And the resultant change in style artistic conventions and technique also reflects the changing aesthetic tast5e of the royal patrons of the region in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The author has studies all the important collections of Pahari paintings in India , Europe and the USA . She has referred to many heretofore unpublished specimens in her analysis of crucial stylistic changes, particularly in such important Centres as Kangra and Guler.


About the Author


Mrs. Chandramani Singh acquired M.A. (1962)and PhD (1970) in the History of Art from Banaras University, earned her Senior Diploma in Sculpture from the same University and has taken courses in Museology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA.

Dr. Singh worked in Bharat Kala Bhavan, Banaras University Museum, in various Capacities, Storage Assistant , Assistant Curator, lecturer in Museology and Keeper from 1964 to 1973. In April 1973, she joined M.S. Man Singh II Museum. Jaipur as Registrar.

As a graduate student at the University of Michigan she edited Japanese Prints Catalogue and arranged the exhibition with other fellow students. Dr. Singh was Assistant Editor of Chhavi: Bharat Kala Bhavan Golden Jubilee Volume, for which she got National Award in Designing and planning art books; participated in a seminar on Banaras (Cultural Life of Kashi), organized by Simla institute of Advanced study, and in Museum Camps of Ministry of Education, Government of India, held in Bombay and Lucknow. She contributed to the Encyclopaedia of World Art along with other Indian scholars. Dr. Singh has been a regular contributor to a number of art journals.



This book is on Pahari Painting-a subject much discussed, much publicized and on which much has been written in recent years by art historians as well as amateurs. This sweet and lyrical art style "unique in world art" according to Laurence Binyon developed in the North Western Punjab Himalayan region which is the modern Himachal Pradesa. The work contains a detailed survey of all important centres of this charming school as it flourished in the 16th-18th centuries. In all eleven centres were studied which encompass hundreds of master- pieces ranging from bold and warm coloured 17th century style to delicate and sombre I8th, known respectively as Basohli and Guler- angra. Here my aim has been to classify these miniatures on stylistic basis though I must confess that the problem was a little too big to be solved fully. I shall be more than• amply rewarded for my task if scholars feel that the approach is worthwhile.

This work is an outcome of my Ph.D. dissertation, submitted in 1970 to Banaras Hindu University; therefore I am deeply indebted to the late Prof. V.S. Agrawala on whose suggestion this work was taken up and to the late Rai Krishnadasa who gave me basic training to look at the paintings. I do not have enough words to express my deep sense of gratitude to them. I am much grateful to Prof. Anand Krishna under whose able guidance this work was originally complet- ed and to Prof B.N. Goswamy whose doors were always open for any academic advice and help. Similarly I am grateful to Prof. Walter M. Spink, for allowing me to study the slide collection at the University of Michigan and Dr. V.C. Ohri for his valuable suggestions.

My sincere thanks go to the authorities of the National Museum, New Delhi; Prince of Wales Museum, Bombay; Panjab Museum, Chandigarh; Bharat Kala Bhavan, Varanasi; Bhuri Singh Museum Chamba; State Museum, Simla; British Museum, London; Victotia and Albert Museum, London; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Cleveland "Museum of Art, Cleveland; Freer Art Gallery, Washington; Metro- politan Museum of Art, New York; Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia; Sir Chester Beatty Library, Dublin; and American Institute of Indian Studies, Varanasi without whose generous cooperation this work could not have been completed.

I wish to thank private collectors: Mildred and the late W.G. Archer, London; Edwin Binney 3rd, Boston; J.P. Goenka and G.K. Kanoria, Calcutta who permitted me to study their collections of Pahari paintings and use in this work.

I sincerely thank Dr. Betty I. Monroe, Chicago who very kindly went through the text and made valuable suggestions.

In preparation of this work I have been greatly helped by Sri D.M.D. Mathur who typed and retyped the manuscript un grudgingly; Sri Jagadish Chaturvedi, who checked the manuscript for errors and omissions; Sri o.p. Khaneja, Banaras Hindu University, who prepar- ed all the photographs and Sri Shakti Malik, who took keen interest in the printing of this book and they deserve my heart-felt thanks.

I am grateful to my friends Miss Jaya Appasamy and Smt. Shashi Bala Dube and my brother Anand Shankar who were of great help in hours of need.



The present work is devoted to the study of history and stylistic evolution of the Pahart painting; of its decorative forms from the mid- sixteenth to mid-seventeenth century, and of its naturalistic pattern as it gradually assimilated its borrowings from Mughal art, either directly or indirectly.

So far as our present knowledge goes, these styles were prevalent in the Himalayas, in a region extending from Garhwal in the east to Jammu in the west. Their time scale ranges from the mid-seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. We find a common bond between these styles: a common attitude of mind and in the subject matter of the paintings. Yet each of them shows its individual characteristics in expression or even in selection of human types, backgrounds and colours; except in some cases where the same family of painters migrated to a new centre and maintained its own traditions. The movement of paintings from one state to another also created a problem in determining their provenance.

It appears that the social attitude towards painting was the same all over the hills or even all over north India, since they are mainly Rasa Chitras, or based on human moods. Portraits were also made, which sometimes recorded the court events or the personal life of the rajas.

These princely patrons were generally politically insignificant but they had mature aesthetic taste and were leaders in the cultural pursuits of their time. Moreover, this was the age of decentralization of Rajput painting as it had already reached even the smallest courts.

Interest in the Pahari painting started with A.K. Coomaraswamy's work in this field, published in the beginning of this century. He was attracted by the decorative values of Basohli and lyrical qualities of the Guler-Kangra paintings, yet his information was limited to a few examples available at that time, and on that basis tried to classify and date the sub-schools.

Ajit Ghose and O. C. Gangoly took the lead and classified the Basohli paintings. In the meantime museums and other collectors were rediscovering miniatures and many important collections grew up.

J. C. French, a British scholar and a member of the Indian Civil Service, actually visited the centres of Pahart miniatures. contacted descendants of the painters and interviewed some of the rajas. His collection shows his extraordinary insight for the Pahari painting.

Justice Mukandi Lal, being connected with Tehri Garhwal, became interested in Molaram-a Garhwal painter. Mukandi Lal's publications glorify this painter, who was actually a mediocre artist.

Rai Krishnadasa, in course of his Ramdin Lectureship at Patna University (1940), pointed out that Pahari paintings needed a regional classification as the examples differed from each other in expression and treatment. He had rightly observed that the Rajasthani and Pahari paintings represented different types of expression and therefore could not be classed under one general group: "Rajpat".

W.G. Archer was getting interested in Indian painting, his first major publication Indian Painting in the Punjab Hills (1952) gave a new assessment of this group of paintings. He emphasized the importance of Guler in his book and used portraits of the Guler princes to establish his thesis. Archer's new book Indian Painting from the Punjab Hills came out when the press copy of this work was being prepared. This scholarly work is the result of Dr Archer's intensive study in the field. He has introduced many new sub-styles of Pahari painting which have not been known so far and has published a lot of new material.

Karl Khandaiavala's Pahari Miniature Painting (1958) was the first systematic effort to define various sub-schools in their historical perspective and to publish inscriptions on paintings. The inclusion of a very wide selection of illustrations drawn from a number of sources has made this work invaluable.

M.S. Randhawa published a number of books on Pahari painting, dealing with its historical and thematic aspects. He is mainly respon- sible for the important collection of Pahari painting at Chandigarh.

B.N. Goswamy added an important chapter to the study of this subject by looking into records, discovering the genealogies of painters and their patrons and their historical vicissitudes. Thus, he discovered certain important documents to settle a number of issues. The study of this subject involves a lot of controversies among scholars regarding interpretation and even in the matter of identification.

The question of the birth of Pahari painting and its transition from the decorative to the lyrical have been discussed variously. With the newer materials at hand it is now easier to probe into the problem which confronts the students of Pahari paintings. The decorative styles were influenced by the naturalistic treatment given by Pandit Seu's family, which gradually changed the aesthetic sense of their patrons. Thus, the process of transition was rather gradual than sudden.

The major problem that a scholar faces in this connection is regarding the set of criteria for the classification of sub-styles. Because a good number of miniatures painted at different centres resemble each other, a fact which is due to the painters from Pandit Seu's family working at Guler, Jasrota, Jammu, Chamba, Kangra, etc. They pro- duced paintings in a strikingly similar style. At this point, one faces difficulty in attributing paintings to a particular regional school and, therefore, I have referred to them as works of the Guler style, as Pandit Seu's family originally belonged to that region. But this remains a matter of conjecture. On some rare occasions, however, we find definite inscriptions which inform us that a particular series was painted for a particular raja, as in the case of Ranjha, son of Nainsukh and grandson of Pandit Seu, who painted a Ramayana series at Basohli.

Certain sub-styles were regional in character and were peculiar to a particular centre. For example, the mid-eighteenth century paint- ings of the Chamba style are not found beyond the geographical limit of that state. In such cases it is easier to pinpoint a local style.

The portraits can be a source for studying a local style, because they were generally made by the local court painters. In certain cases, we have based the classification of styles on that material. One must, however, be aware of pitfalls in such generalizations, since portraits in styles different from the local were also available. Similarly, portraits of various lines of princes from different palace collections further complicate the matter. The portrait of Raja Kirpal Pal of Basohli in Mankot collection, for instance, does not necessarily prove that it was a work in the Mankot style.

Likewise, the discovery of a particular set of paintings from a palace collection does not always suggest the prevalence of that parti- cular style in that court. For example, the Garhwal Gila Govinda has now been proved to be a work in the Guler style.

In the above context, I have tried to base my conclusions on a fresh appraisal of both the published and unpublished materials and of the various views expressed by scholars. I have attempted to go into the source material as offered by the collections, both private and public, and to introduce many unpublished examples to support my Views.

I feel that the numerous sub-styles and varieties of the paintings make a work like this difficult. It would be honest to confess that all the sub-styles could not be identified in this book due to lack of definite proof. Some styles remain yet to be identified and defined.




Introduction 1-4
Historical Background 5-17
Pahari Painting: Themes and treatment 18-25
The Basohli Style 26-46
The Period of transition 47-56
Painting from:  
Guler 57-79
Kangra 80-98
Jasrota 99-110
Jammu 111-116
Mandi 117-127
Chamba 128-133
Bilaspur 134-140
Nurpur 141-146
Kulu 147-151
Garhwal 152-155
Select Bibliography 157-163
Monochrome Figures 164-169
List of colour plates 170
Index 171-174


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