Marwar School of painting is recognised the world over. The Marwar School, though greatly influenced by the Mughal School, has greatly added to the glory of art in India. Its significance can, however, be gauged only if we have a deeper probe in the factors that led to the rise and prosperity of Marwar paintings. It is often observed that nowhere in the world the feminine figure has been handled so minutely and that too in a variety moods and poses as has been achieved at Marwar. The grandeur of the Marwar school of painting is well expressed in the Jodhpur style, the Bikaner style and the Kishangarh style as well as in the sub styles of Jaisalmer, Nagaur, Ghanerao, Sirohi, Ajmer. The Kishangarh style has a unique character, but being in a state of Rathores painting there should be linked with the traditions of Jodhpur. Like Mewar, Maru Pradesh followed the traditions of Ajanta. Its preliminary form may be seen from the artistic shape of the gate of Mandore.
This region attained fame in the domain of art and culture under the rule of the Gurjara-Pratiharas. Tara Nath, a Tibetan pilgrim, referred to Sridhar as an artist of the 7th century in Maru Pradesh. This confirms that the Marwar school of painting had its own earlier traditions. In ancient times, this territory was a part of Gujarat state, and that is why the paintings of western Rajasthan cannot be dissociated from the developed form of the Gujarat, Jain, Apbhransh and other styles. It is assumed that many pictorial Jain and Apbhransh texts were executed in Maru Pradesh. The paintings found in huge collections at various museums, art galleries and private collections of the Marwar area are important landmarks in historical studies. They stand as testimony of the age to which they belong. Right from the 14th to 19th century we come across several paintings which depict history and culture in their true perspective. Kalkacharya Katha, (size 5x7.3 cm.) was painted in V.S.1438 (1381 A.D.). It helps us to study through illustrations the life of the aristocrats, dresses of common men, ornaments and furniture used in the period.
In 13 century Rathore Seeha established his rule in Maru Pradesh. The art of painting developed in Jodhpur under Rao Jodha, in Bikaner under Rao Bika and in Kishangarh under Maharaja Kishan Singh. In the neighbouring states it was known as the Marwari School of painting, which flourished in many styles and sub styles. After establishing in Mehrangarh fort, Rao Jodha (1438-88 A.D.) contributed impressively to the prosperity and enrichment of Indian culture in this new field. The Jain, Gujarat and Apbhransh styles were revived in new form. Kalpasutra, was painted in V.S, 1536 (1480 A.D.). The illustrated MS. of Kalpasutra has 104 folios, each measuring approximately 4"x8', almost all of which are illustrated (size of illustration 3" x 3"). It depicts bedsteads, mirrors, dhoti, dress of Jaina monks, sari, bath-rooms and their equipments, wrestler's dress, chariots, ornaments, etc.
It also informs us that teaching was done orally, though the teachers used to have scrolls in their hands for references. Credit goes to Rao Maldeo (1532-68 A.D.) for giving renewed vigour to the cultural traditions and artistic perspectives of Marwar. Maldeo carved out an independent Marwar style and devoted himself to the growth of the arts. From the point of view of primitive art, the Uttaradhyayan Sutra of his time, now preserved in Baroda Museum, occupies a prominent place. Glimpses of paintings of that age may also be visualised in the frescoes of Chaukhela Palace. Kalpasutra, (size 2x11.3 cm.) was painted in V.S. 1517 (1461 A.D.). It may be used for the comparative references through illustrations regarding dress, mode of living and various other aspects. Madhu Prasad Agrawal classifies the Marwar style in four steps or charans. He defines the paintings before the 17th century as initial examples of Marwar style. According to him, the first step flourished during 17th century, second step during 18th century and third step flourished after 18th century.
Many paintings of the early 17th century belong to the Jodhpur style, and even though highly influenced by the Mewari style possess their original character. Many paintings of the time of Raja Sur Singh (1595-1620 A.D.) are preserved in the art and picture gallery of Baroda and in the private collection of Sangram Singh. Maharaja Sur Singh was an art lover ruler. Dhola-Maru is among the artistic historical pictorial texts compiled during his period and the Bhagwad of Pustak Prakash, Jodhpur, painted in 1610 A.D., is endowed with many special local features. Bhagwat Dashma skandha was painted in V.S. 1667 (1611 A.D.) by Govinda. It consists 423 folios. It gives illustrations from Krishna's life, illustrations of Jatakarma Sanskara, a village school and its out-door games as 'netrabandhana', 'nilayam-krida', 'phal-kse pan', 'Shalar', etc. Rag Mala, an illustrated text painted in 1623 A.D. and preserved in the private collec¬tion of Sangram Singh, is a compilation of great historical value painted for the famous Vitthal Dass of Pali. These paintings are considerably influenced by the art of Marwar. Some miniatures based on verses of Sursagar in the middle of the 17th century in the Jodhpur style are preserved in Baroda Museum and in the collection of Sangram Singh. They express poetic sentiments elegantly.
Rasikpriya, also available in Baroda Museum, was painted in the same period. Its sharpness of colour combination and abundance of ornament deserve special mention. Another phase of Jodhpur art started in the reign of Maharaja Jaswant Singh (I) (1635-78), a king of high intellectual qualities and a keen lover of art. In his reign, Marwar became an important centre of the Krishna-Bhakti cult, which became the subject of many paintings. Jaswant Singh was contemporary Hindu king to the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, hence the impact of Mughal art was inevitable.The impact of the Mughal school in its original form has been noted in the Jodhpur style paintings of this period. They are very simple, and the sharp outlines, the expression of sentiments and colour combination in these paintings are notable. Because of the spread of the Krishna-Bhakti cult, the effect of folk art on the Jodhpur school may be seen easily.
Traditions of folk painting were a common feature of the Jodhpur style. The Jodhpur portraits depicting Jaswant Singh I, (The Victoria and Albert Museum London); Ajit Singh (1679-1724), Bharat Kala Bhavan, BHU, Varanasi and M.S. Man Singh II Museum, Jaipur); and Abhai Singh (1724-50A.D.), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Sardar Museum, Jodhpur) form an interest¬ing group and gives us enough material to study the Jodhpur Kalam and to prove that the Marwar court had a competent atelier in 17-18th centuries.
Among these the earliest is a portrait of Maharaja Jaswant Singh I, of about 1645 in which he is shown sitting and conversing with his courtiers. This is a partly coloured drawing, tinged with black and gold. A brave soldier, he ruled with ability till the battle of succession for the Mughal throne. The painting shows him a sensitive person with expressive eyes & the movement of his hand, which could not be completed. The finished faces indicate that this Court scene is meant to be a neem kalam not a fully coloured work. The Maharaja and his courtiers appear in their characteri¬stic of 17th century court costumes— turban, jama kamarband, pyjama and other accessories namely sword dagger and shield which became a part of official costume from 17th century. The twenty-year-struggle and great victory over Mughals by Rathores under the leadership of Veer Durga Dass was a great landmark which gave a popular subject to the local art of painting.
The scenes of battles, Durgadas riding on horse, hardship of life during struggle days, hunting, etc. were prominently painted during this phase of Marwar history. Maharaja Jaswant Singh's son Maharaja Ajit Singh who was born after his father's death, came to the throne in 1679 A.D., and grew up to be an able ruler. Painting in Jodhpur got a new input during the reigns of Ajit Singh and his successors Abhai Singh and Ram Singh, when the usual literary works Gita-Govinda, Dhola- Maru, Ragmala, Baramasa-portraits were painted in large numbers. Attractive wall-paintings were painted in the palace of Nagaur during the time of Bakhat Singh. A large sized painting in the Bharat Kala Bha¬van Collection shows him "mounted on a state elephant, surrounded by troops and accompanied by ladies of his household." The painting was exhibited in the Art of India and Pakistan exhibition, London in 1948.
A dated work of V.S 1779 (AD. 1722) is good example of 18th century workmanship. Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, Jaipur has a portrait of Ajit Singh with a morchhal bardar standing behind him. It is a partly coloured drawing on thin paper (Acc. no. AG. 520-76). A good work, showing Marwar turban and costume it could also be a product of Jaipur atelier as many such portraits of Rajasthan rulers were presented by the Jaipur royal family to the museum recently; some of these have painter's name written on the bark of the painting or on the lower or upper of it, namely Ramji, Ramjidas, Govinda and so on. Though this work does not have any painter's name, stylistically goes with others of that lot. Paintings of this age also had themes like Rasikpriya, Geet-Govind, poetical texts, royal court, festivals, processions, pictures of kings and feudal lords etc. Royal patronage in the reigns of Maharaja Abhaya Singh and Maharaja Ram Singh to artists in the Jodhpur style was generous.
Abhai Singh (1724-1750) succeeded Ajit Singh. A large number of his likenesses show that he was a man of taste. These can be seen in museums and private collections all over the world. The portraits of Abhai Singh show him engaged in day to day activities- drinking wine, worshipping, sitting in zenana and playing dice. Jodhpur chiefs can be differentiated from others by their heavy turban and heavy built. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has an inscribed portrait of Abhai Singh, perhaps the earliest likeness of his, showing him drinking; in the zenana. The picture is badly rubbed but gives an idea of Jodhpur court painting. A plain background and pleasant faces of attendants and the raja are of remarkable quality.
In a portrait from Sardar Museum, Jodhpur, Abhai Singh is depicted watching dance performance. In Indian painting, night is either suggested by starry sky or by lamps and mashals, here two women are carrying mashals and lamp. The women standing in attendance are hol¬ding swords and morchhals. They also suggest that the dance is being performed in the zanana. This type of formal scenes, rather glamorous in nature are bound to be static but these works from Jodhpur are not so hard and on the contrary have a fresh look- pleasing light tones swift movement. A hunting seen" from the above collection shows Abhai Singh on one of his hunting trip.
Though the gorgeous costumes give one a completely different idea, dogs running ahead of the raja's horse and water birds in the background suggest that the group is going for shikar". This charming picture is full of vigour and has a mughal flavour. It can be suggested here that it is quite possible that Jodhpur court in 18th century had one or two painters trained in Mughal style either at Mughal court or at Bikaner, the neighbouring state. We see a number of portraits prepared in 17-18 centuries which are nice and sophisticated works but such works were only a few, patronized by the court and prepared for rulers and may be for some of his family members. But a large number of miniatures and paintings were produced either for the wealthy merchants or for religious personages.
A folio from a folk Bhagavata set was exhi¬bited at Asia House exhibition in 1973 from Edwin Binney 3rd's Collection. It was dated about 1625-30 by S. Gary Welch, the author of the catalogue and its proven¬ance was given Marwar. It seems close to popular Marwar paintings and could have been produced for some nobleman or a wealthy merchant. A number of such mini¬atures were exhibited at Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi in 1960. Nayika conversing with an attendant ragini Bilawal and many others. These paintings have decorative elements of Jodhpur— lines are firm, colours coarse hut bright and pleasant; patterns used in dress, ornaments and in the architecture consist of simple basic motifs— circles, squares, cross-criss, brick pattern, dots and lines.
The Khajanchi Collection Catalogue also has one miniature- Nanda crossing Yamuna with Baby Krishna— an important one for the stylistic study on Marwar style of painting, as it shows some 19th century characteristics to come. For example, rain is indicated by bold white broken lines, bou¬quet like decorative trees and fishes in Yamuna for a decorative pattern, Really Jodhpur artists had wonderful sense of de¬sign and an eye for bright colours which made the sand of Marudesh full of life. Some good 18th century miniatures depicting Barahmasa and other popular subjects of that period namely ladies playing chaugan, swinging, worshipping are in the National Museum, New Delhi. Kavipriya, Illustrated, by Keshav, It was prepared at Vitakheda for Maharajadhiraj Jaskarana in V. S. 1780 (1724 A.D.). It consists of 16 prabhavas or chapters, having 180 folios in total. Its illustrations bear beautiful designs of Marwari sarees. Bhaktamal of V. S. 1789 (1733 A.D.) by Narayandas, preserves some paintings of Bhaktas like Pipa, Prithviraj, Jaipal, etc. These may have a faint resemblance of the actual persons but at least they depict the spirit of the Bhaktas.
The painting of Mira's dress is valuable. Here the identity of the person has been emphasised through forceful touches of the brush. It also preserves the teachings of the Bhaktas. Shri Ramcharitra Paintings of V.S. 18th century, consists of 244 folios. It depicts several important scenes of the ceremonies observed at birth and marriage festivals. The dresses of the warriors have been painted after the Mughal pattern. Bhagwat Dashama skandha of the 18th century, also provides the designs of ornaments and household articles.
The lay-out of villages and towns can also be conveniently studied with its help. It represents, the manner and mode of dining observed by the Brahmanas, through an illustration. The pastimes of water pranks and wrestling are well-illustrated through paintings. The manuscript gives the names of the painters which have been inscribed on the left-hand side of the picture. Some of the painters are Muslims who co-operated with the Hindu painters to complete the set. Gitagovind is a part of a bound book with folios 181 to 360. It preserves illustrations which are very useful for the study of dresses and ornaments of gents and ladies of the 18th century. Illustrations of the celebration of Holi and Vasant festivals are highly illuminating.
In 1803 A.D., the last phase of the Jodhpur style opened in the reign of Maharaja Man Singh. There are almost 2500-3000 paintings in the collection of Jodhpur Maharaja, in which Shabeehs are in big number. Some paintings are of 18th century and remaining are of Maharaja Mansingh's period. Ramayana Paintings dated V.S. 1860 (1804 A.D.), consists of 91 paintings, 4 ft. 4'' long and 2 ft. 1'' wide. They depict the life of Rama from his birth to the end of his return to Ayodhya. These paintings are very useful for the study of town-planning of Jodhpur with lanes, bazars and other aspects of town life. Suknas Charitra of the 19th century, consists of 302 paintings (size 1.8" x l.2") and is very useful for the study of the lay-out of houses of villages and towns of that period. It also depicts the common people taking bath in a river. Dholamaru-ri-Vat composed by Kallol in V.S. 1677 (1621 A.D.). Its transcript copy of V. S. 1819 (1763 A.D.) consists of 71 folios.
The poet wrote out the work at the instance of Harraj of Jaisalmer. The story has been interwoven round the figures of Dhola, the son of Nala, the king of Marwar, and Marwani, the daughter of Pingalrao, the king of Pungal, a part of Marwar. The illustrated part of this manuscript as well as a set of paintings of Dhoamaru, preserved in the Maharaja Mansingh Pustak Prakash Jodhpur, of Raja Man Singh's time (early 19th century) are highly informative as regards the use of beds of petals for princes, wearing of mod at the time of marriage, the style of moustaches, objects of toilets, practice of taking opium among the Rajputs, the toys of children, the indigenous method of sending letters, the roll of Bhats and Bhatnis, Pushkar as a place of pilgrimage, etc.
From this point of view Dholamaru-ri-Vat is one of our most reliable sources for the construction of cultural history of Rajasthan. Panchatantra Paintings of V. S. 1860 (1804 A.D.), consists of 472 paintings, each measuring 18" x 3", depicting the stories of five tantras written by Vishnu Sharma. The paintings are very important for the Study of secular life of Rajasthan of the 18th century. The dress and profession of a juggler, a washerman, a potter and a Bhil are depicted with accuracy. It also gives a model of the Persian-wheel as it was used in Marwar of those days. Several paintings throw welcome light on the lay-out of the villages and towns of that age along with the set-up of houses. The painter has brought to our notice the demerits of polygamy by painting a scene of a furious quarrel between two co-wives and a husband. For the study of prevalent pastimes and of animal-fights the manuscript is quite useful.
Shiva Purana, consists of 109 illustrations (size 4ft. x1.5 ft.) depicting the stories of the Shiva Purana. It is a joint work of various painters, like Dhira, Mahadev, Dana, Maheshdan, Satidas, etc., of the 19th century. Here the Shahjahani turban, turra and garments of gents and ladies have been typically painted. The dresses of a hunter, a Bhil, etc., are life-like. It also shows the style of house-construction of the period. A picture of a village school is highly informative.
In 19th century, the Nath sect dominated the life of Marwar. Ayas Dev Nath was the spiritual guide of Maharaja Man Singh. Nath paintings flourished in many monasteries during that time. Nath Charitra dated V. S. 1880 (1824 A.D.), consists of 63 paintings devoted to the theme of the Nath sect of Marwar. These paintings are based on the Ras-Raj of Mati Ram and were recovered from a monastery belonging to the Nath sect and preserved in the private collections of Ram Gopal Vijayavargia and Sangram Singh and in the State Museum, Jaipur.
Many paintings of this period in the Jodhpur style were not of high artistic quality. It preserves a picture of the dress worn by Nath Sadhus, and their religious observances. Some of the paintings throw light on certain aspects of the social life of the age to which they belong. The game of the Chaugan, lay-out of houses, irrigation of fields, etc., are its important aspects. Siddha Siddhant Paddhati dated V. S. 1881 (1825 A.D.) is useful for the study of town-planning and some of the features of the Nath sect of Jodhpur. It consists of 25 paintings, each measuring 4 ft. x 1.5 ft. Shiva Rahasya dated V. S. 1884 (1828 A.D.) consists of 101 paintings (size 1.5 ft. X 1.6 ft.) illustrating the life of Shiva. It illustrates the mode of the life of Hindu hermits of that age. Suraj Prakash dated V.S. 1887 (1831 A.D.), painted by Amra consists of 70 paintings (size 1 ft. 7'' X 1 ft.).
It throws sufficient light on the dresses of the warriors. One of the paintings of water sports is very interesting. From other paintings of the collection of Maharaja Mansingh Pustak Prakash, we also come across the names of some Muslim painters of that time, as Ali Raja, Ustad Qasim, Umrani, etc. In the middle of the 19 century, with the advent of photography, the Jodhpur style, like other styles of painting, started deteriorating.After Man Singh, nothing worth mentioning was produced at Jodhpur. Artists were there, doing regular court work. Portraits of Takhat Singh and other ruler are rather crude in appearance. Court scenes are just formal depictions— artists were concerned neither with portraiture of courtiers nor with creating atmosphere.