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  • Different forms of Art and Early History of Rajput Style Painting

     06.06.2017
    Different forms of Art and Early History of Rajput Style  Painting

    Different forms of Art and Early History of Rajput Style  Painting

    Art is a cultured way of life. The experience of joy relating to the visible or invisible physical or astral body or sentiments being in real form, appear before human beings in expressive forms. That expression is termed art. 

    Indian View of Art  or Kala

    The Hindi synonym of 'art' known as 'Kala', is derived from Sanskrit language. It has been used in Sanskrit literature in numerous interpretations, in which the 16th part of a principal object, "a part of time", and the expected intelligence in performing any task deserves special mention. Before the advent of Bharat Muni, 'Kala' had been applied in almost all other acts of intelligence except poetry, and was a special world for such work of the intellect. Any useful business regarding life had ever been placed in the category of art. The best example of the application of the word is clearly discernible in the Natyashstra by Bharat Muni : "Na tajjanam na tachhilypam na vidyaa na saa kala." The word 'Kala' frequently used by Bharat Muni comes very near to fine art and architecture (Shilpa) is near to a useful art. In India all such knowledge and vocations requiring the slightest intelligence are termed 'Kala'.

    The Western view of art

    The Western view of art seems similar. Art is related to old French 'art' or Latin 'ars', whose meaning is to produce, to express or to adjust. Since the 13th century in England the word art has been used with the meaning intelligence. Since the 17th century the word has been associated with poetry, music, painting, icono¬graphy, architecture and the fine arts. According to place, time and circumstances, the word art has been used in numerous contexts, but still it has never been deprived of expressing the meaning of intelligent acts and thoughtful depiction. Whatever form of art we see, its main characteristic is that it is pleasing to the senses. It expresses the feelings and emotions of the artist and it can be interpreted in different ways by different people.

    Art is a strong form of communication

    Any type of art, essentially tells a story and it is a strong form of communication with another human being that is indirect but deeply profound. Art has a tendency to deeply move our soul and most masterpieces that we see in museums are a silent testimony to that. From time to time intellectuals have defined art in a manner which clearly echoes the meaning of fine art. To attain the exalted status of Shiva and express the beautiful form of truth, art is a powerful medium which according to the tastes and instincts of the artist has been conveyed from time to time for that eternal depiction. Hence through poetry, music, painting and iconography and through construction of splendid buildings, the artist from time to time made his special contribution to society.

    Among the above five arts painting occupies a unique status. Although there are many different forms of art, they can be divided into two classes- visual art and performing art. Visual art includes paintings, sculpture, literature, calligraphy, photography and architecture. Mehndi, Mahawar (Alata), Mandna, Rangoli and Sarvana (for Rakshabandhan) may also be considered as visual arts.

    Performing arts are all forms of dance, music, theater, opera and films. Another way that in which different art forms are classified are fine art, commercial art, modern art and applied art. However, such classifications are a little confusing since some of these art forms tend to overlap and what might be considered as applied art by one person can be considered as fine art by another. Marwar has bequeathed a rich artistic heritage to the cultural heritage of desert area. Indian art would be poorer without the artistic cultural legacy of Marwar. The folk-dances, folk-music, fine sculptures, attractive paintings and charming frescoes have greatly enriched the cultural heritage of land.

    Forms of Visual Arts

    Visual art can be defined as a form of art that uses any medium to represent the artist's idea, emotion and imagination. Visual arts like paintings, handicrafts, sculptures and architecture have evolved with time and different periods saw the emergence of different art movements. In previous chapter, we have studied about sculpture and architecture of Rajasthan. In this chapter we have taken paintings and handicrafts as the visual arts for our study.

    Painting : A chief Art

    Vishnudharmottara Puran says- In this world practice of Painting is the chief of all arts. (As Sumeru is the chief of mountains, As Garuda is the chief of those born out of eggs, As King is the chief of men, Even so in the world is the practice of Painting The chief of all arts. - Vishnudharmottara Puran, 10/3/39) The Puran further describes that the art of painting is considered a subtle means to pursue religion, pleasure and liberation. With this desire for happiness a painting is installed in the home. (Kala-naam pravarm chitram dharma kaamartha mokshdam, Mangalyam prathamam chetadgrihai yatra pratishatham. -Vishnudharmottara Puran, Chitrasutram, 43/38) Such sentiments have motivated the decoration of houses with drawings. Lines and colours are the medium of painting. On any infrasurface the artist could express his feelings through the application of lines and colours. Such infrasurface chiefly belongs to fresco, stone, wood, utensils and 'phalaks' of baked clay, ivory, leather, cloth, palm leaves and paper."

    The artist possesses a distinct characteristic to depict heights, distance and nearness on a plane surface in which he turns his imaginative ideas into visible paintings through the arrangement of colours and lines according to his capability. Hence it is said- "Poetry is a speaking picture and a picture is mute poetry." To create paintings artists have selected different media in accordance with circumstances of time and space and among them are frequently available paintings in the form of frescoes and scripts.

    Origin of Frescoes in Caves

    The art of frescoes belongs to the instinct of primitive human beings. Ancient cave paintings testify to this view. The frescoes in the caves of Ajanta, Ellora, Allania (Prehistoric paintings in caves on the banks of the Chambal near Kota are the oldest specimens of painting in Rajasthan) have attracted worldwide attention of art connoisseurs. Frescoes have been drawn in temples, palaces and cenotaphs. Frescoes have ever been an ancient tradition, and accordingly paintings have been produced with new techniques. The history of wall painting in Rajasthan is rich enough to provide a wide glimpse into the history and culture of this land. There is plethora of wall paintings documented and researched till now. But then there are a lot more waiting to be highlighted and researched over; in the havelis, palaces, forts, temples and other monuments of this vivid state. Merchant class built another kind of havelis, not architecturally noteworthy, but magnificently decorated with murals. Almost every available surface of the walls was covered with paintings, depicting religious and social themes. The dry desert climate of the area has ensured the survival of these paintings and they remain in a remarkably good state of preservation. An interesting facet of these frescoed havelis was that over the years the artists became more ambitious in their range of subjects; having heard of memsahibs who drove cars, of steam engines and trains that carried large numbers of travellers, of the fashionable dress of the Raj, but without having seen any of these wonders for themselves, they painted these subjects as they were described to them or as they had been depicted in pictures that came their way. The results are sometimes hilarious, but almost always imaginative and original.

    Tradition of Script Painting

    The tradition of script painting is very old. Drawing of Padd and Picchavai is done even today in Rajasthan. In regard to script paintings, a Tantric text of Buddhism titled Aray Manjushri Kalp says drawing is to be done on clean white cloth which has borders on both sides- Silk cloth is prohibited for this purpose. Script paintings are available in two forms as Padd or Picchavai scrolls. Padds are based on stories of folk gods while Picchavais relate to Krishna-Lila. Kundalitpat or scrolls have been made with less width and more length. The whole text has been painted in this scroll.

    Development of Manuscript Painting on Bhurj Leaves

    In ancient days the tradition of writing poetry and making drawings on bhurj leaves or palm leaves was kept alive. This resulted in the abundance of pictorial texts preserved in many Jain collections.( From the point of view of the oldest paintings the Jain collections of Jaisalmer and Khambat deserve special mention) The themes of the pictorial texts mostly relate to Jainism. Among them Kalpa Sutra, Kalikacharya Kathanak and Neimnath Charitra deserve special mention. Texts compiled on palm leaves had a definite dimension and the reverse sides of different leaves had been written or painted on. Such leaves had been compiled as texts after making holes in the centre. The invention of paper in the 12th century ushered in a new era in the compi¬lation of pictorial texts. Uttarayan Sutra of V.S. 1277 and Nyaya, Tatparya-Tikka compiled by Vachaspati Mishra in V.S. 1270 and painted on paper are preserved in the Granth-Bhandar of Jaisalmer.

    Credit for encouraging this tradition goes to the Sagun-Bhakti movement and the Mughal rulers of India. The coming of Mughal rule popularised the tradition of text painting greatly. Two artists, Sayid Ali and Abdul Samad, from Persia accompanied Humayun to India and painted the text Ameer Hamza. Besides Babar-Nama, Akbar-Nama, Rajjam-Nama and Tuti-Nama had also painted religious texts like Mahabharat, Ramayan and Anwar-a-Suhali (Panchatantra). After the advent of Akbar the tradition of manuscript painting gathered momentum. The Mughal school, the Rajasthani school and the Pahari school were important links in the art of painting texts based upon Ram Kavya, Krishna Kavya, Sufi Kavya, Riti Kavya, Barah-Masa, Ritu-Varnan, Rag-Ragini, which are still available.

    Development of Miniatures style of Painting

    Miniature art is an offshoot of manuscript painting. On the basis of imagination or poetical sentiments, providing a heading or without a title, such miniatures are available in large numbers in numerous museums and private collections. Laghuchitra or miniature painting is the heritage of Rajasthani painting.

    Rajasthani Painting Nomenclature

    With regard to the nomenclature of Rajasthani painting, scholars hold varied opinion. Some call it Rajput painting and others Rajasthani painting. Ananda Coomaraswamy was the first scholar who scientifically classified Rajasthani painting in his book titled Rajput Painting in 1916. According to him, the theme of Rajput painting relates to Rajputana and the hill states of Punjab. The administrators of these states, often belonging to the Rajput clan, had termed these paintings Rajput. According to Coomaraswamy, Rajasthani painting spread widely from Bikaner to the border of Gujarat and from Jodhpur to Gwalior and Ujjain. Amber, Aurachha, Udaipur, Bikaner and Ujjain had earned the reputation of being centres of artistic activities. Rajputana has been a centre of diverse princely indige¬nous states, but the expansion of Rajasthani painting had taken place from Bundelkhand to Gujarat and states ruled by Pahari Rajputs, that is why the name Rajput painting seems plausible." Vachaspati Garrola had recognised only Rajasthani painting under the auspices of the Rajput style of painting, which seems to be more ambiguous.

    Development of Rajasthani Painting, 6
    th to 12th Century A.D.

    Tibetan historian Tara Nath (l6th century) refers to an artist named Shri Rangdhar who lived in Maru Pradesh (Marwar) in the 7th century, but paintings of this period are not available. The period from the 6th century to the 12th century was a great landmark in the history of Rajasthan. From the 8th to the 10th centuries this province was termed Gurjaratra, hence with the development of art and other vocations painting might have flourished here. Among available compilations, pictorial Kalpa-Sutra (Pls. 1, 2) authored by Bhadrabhau Swami in V.S. 1216 is the oldest available artistic text of India.Dr. Goetz presented his research papers, which throw light on history of Rajasthani paintings. Karl Khandalawala discussed in detail the origin and development of this painting.Scholars like Raikrishan Dass, Pramod Chandra, Sangram Singh, Satya Prakash, Anand Krishan, Hiren Mukherji and others also published scholarly articles from time to time which highlight details of the origin and growth of Rajasthani painting. On the basis of this research and many available ancient paintings, it is now generally admitted that Rajasthani painting is a significant link with traditional Indian painting. Around 1450 A.D. one copy of Geet-Govind and two of Bal-Gopal-Stuti had been painted in Western India. This is the first pictorial text of Lord Krishna which comprises the first seeds of preliminary Rajasthani painting.

    Apbhransh style of Painting, 
    15th Century A.D.

    In 1451 A.D., Basant Vilas painted in the Apbhransh style, whose famous background script was compiled by Acharya Ratnagiri in Ahmedabad, makes special mention of the origin of Rajasthani painting. Up to the 15th century this style of painting flourished in Rajasthan. Using Jain and later Jain texts as the basis on which the painting was done, this may be termed the Jain style, Gujarat style, Western India style or Apbhransh style. Undoubtedly, the period from the 7th century to the 15th century saw an era of impressive growth of painting, iconography and architecture in Rajasthan devel¬oped from the synthesis of original art and the traditions of Ajanta-Ellora. From this point no distinction had ever been made between the Rajasthan and Gujarat styles. In these paintings faces are savachashma, noses resembling that of Garuda, tall but stiff figures, highly embossed breasts, mechanical movements and poses, clouds, trees, mountains and rivers are depicted. Red and yellow colours have been used frequently.

    Amended form of Rajasthani painting, 15th Century A.D.

    The art of coloured paintings was developed in 15th century A. D. It is difficult to tell where preliminary Rajasthani painting flourished in the 15th century, but on the basis of other pictorial texts it may be stated that the amended form of Rajasthani painting of that age had developed with some distinct features. Adi Puran, decorated with 417 paintings, was a text in the Gujarati style compiled in 1540. It was a beacon in the annals of Indian painting. In pictorial Chorpancha-Sika and Geet-Govind texts of that age, this school of painting was appreciably represented. Regarding Rajasthani paintings, two very significant texts are available. They are based on the Bhagwad. The first in 1598 and the other in 1610 had probably been painted somewhere in Rajasthan. In them developed the shape of Rajasthani painting with its special characteristics that had emerged.

    Rajput style of Painting

    Some scholars recognise the Gujarati style as the mother of Rajasthani painting and its guiding spirit. Gujarat was a principal centre where Rajasthani painting acquired its prominent status. The Gujarat style gave birth to the Rajput style, that rare beauty visible in drawings of mountain, river, sea, fire, cloud, tree in the Rajput style originated from the Gujarat style. In regard to the impact of Jain art, many scholars stress the view that it made a significant contribution to the growth of Hindu-Rajput art. Jain art was responsible for incorporating creeper foliage in Indian painting. Later, having surrendered the traditional heritance to the Rajput style, Jain art was lost in oblivion. Jain art does not represent the best art of its period. Hence it is argued that it might have surrendered its traditions to the Rajput style, but it would be a great blunder on our part to admit this view.

    Rajasthani painting in 18th Century A.D.

    The Rajasthani style of painting reached its zenith during the second half of the 18th century. Many styles vied with each other to attain the honour of being crowned as national but it was the fortune of Rajasthani style that it achieved this enviable position. The centres furthering and dealing with the Rajasthani style sprang up in many parts of the country. The Mughal School itself had been absorbed by it. In the Deccan, the Rajasthani school had travelled to Maharashtra in the last quarter of the 18th century and thence to Mysore, Tanjore and Ramesvaram.'' In the 19th century because of many reasons the Rajasthani style lost its original glory and degenerated into a coarse art devoid of vitality, vigour and harmony.

    Classification of Painting Schools

    The distinct characteristic of painting are termed the style of that particular region. In this way, several styles came into prominence in Rajasthan, notably the Mewar, Marwar, Kishangarh, Bundi, Kota, Jaipur, and Alwar schools had achieved great ascendancy. Rajasthani painting may be studied in four parts. In actual practice it has four principal schools in which many styles and sub styles flourished and influenced each other-

    (1) The Mewar school, comprising Chavand, Udaipur, Devgarh, Nathdwara, Sawar styles and sub styles.

    (2) The Marwar school, comprising Jodhpur, Bikaner, Kishangarh, Jaisalmer, Pali, Nagaur, Ghanerao styles and sub styles.

    (3) The Hadoti school, comprising Bundi, Kota, Jhalawar styles and substyls.

    (4) The Dhundar school, comprising Amber, Jaipur, Shekhawati, Uniara, Alwar styles and sub styles.

    In the medieval age it was quite natural for the small and big states of Rajasthan and the neighbouring states to influence each other in the domain of culture.


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