FOLK HERITAGE

GULER SCHOOL OF PAINTINGS

PAHARI MINIATURE PAINTING- PART II

As we are exploring different schools of Indian miniature Pahari paintings, we came across the two dominant schools- Basohli and Kangra. But there are others including Guler, Chamba, Garhwal and Bilaspur. They can be seen as the bridge between Basohli (first school of Pahari paintings) and Kangra (developed form of Pahari painting). During this transition period, Guler became the prime centre of miniature art which later termed as the birthplace of Kangra painting in the first half of the 18th century.

MINIATURE PAINTINGS – The word ‘miniature’ denotes to a painting minute in size adorned with intricate detailing, precisionism and delicate brushwork. Pahari miniatures paintings are basically decorative art on canvas displaying a perfect amalgamation of color schemes which are aesthetically pleasing, creating a visual treat for the viewers. They are illustrations of natural beauty and royalty featuring both Rajput and Mughal influence.

In previous post we discussed about BASOHLI PAINTINGS quite elaborately. Today in the series, we will broaden our knowledge about the new phase of Pahari paintings after Basohli as it developed at Guler.

ABOUT THE PLACE – GULER

Guler kingdom was founded by Raja Hari Chand Ji of Kangra in 1415. It was a small pre-colonial Indian hill state in the Lower Himalayas. The term Guler came out from hindi word Gwala which means cowherd. The Guler Paintings or Guler style proved as the cradle of the early phase of Kangra Kalam and that’s why Guler is popularly known as the birthplace of Kangra painting in the early 18th century.

The credit goes to the family of Kashmiri painters specialized in Mughal painting Style who found shelter at the court of Raja Dalip Singh (r. 1695–1741) of Guler. However it was during the reign of Govardhan Chand (1743–1773), a prince with a refined taste and passion for painting, that Haripur Guler developed as an active school of art and painting.

Princess in a Courtyard , Guler style, dated 1799, Honolulu Museum of Art

THE GULER STYLE OF PAINTING

Guler paintings display unique blend of Rajput and Mughal style of art. The painters under the royal Hindu patronage had been trained in Mughal miniature art. This contrast had brought out the cultural essence of India onto a canvas with the flair of delicacy and a sense of spirituality.

The galvanizing environment of the Himalayan hills, lush green terraced paddy-fields, rivulets fed with the glacial waters, snow-covered Dhauladhar ranges and the whole ambiance gave rise to the sensitive naturalism blossomed into the Guler style of painting. Flattering portraits of Rajas and their hunting scenes were largely replaced by the love themes based on poetries of Jayadeva Bihari and Keshav Das who wrote ecstatically of the bond of Radha and Krishna.

Gopis searching for Krishna, Bhagavata Purana, c1780.(digitally enhanced version)
Guler-Kangra region, India.

The sense of devotion was so high that these artists did not even mention their names on the paintings. Thus, flourished a school of painting with new spirit, where artistic works are suffused with romantic love and bhakti mysticism. In the course of time Guler painting finally get evolved into Kangra paintings.

GULER PAINTERS: The famous painter family from Guler must be mentioned whose head was Pandit Seu, during the reign of Raja Parkash Chand of Guler. He had two sons Manak and Nainsukh who became the great court painters of the hills of Kangra and Jammu. The generation of this family have been responsible for various Pahari schools of painting such as Guier, Chamba, Nurpur, Garhwal, Mandi to name a few. These painters have produced some master works and sets of Bhagvata Puran, the Ramayana, Ragamala series and Geet Govinda apart from secular and court paintings.

Two Elephants Fighting in a Courtyard Before Muhammad Shah by Nainsukh, 1725, Guler

THEMES AND INSPIRATION

Paintings of Guler carried with them natural strong strokes and grip while maintaining the sensitivity of expressions. The paintings are delicate and precise, translating the classic poetic lores of exquisite beauty in paintings in a very lyrical manner. Themes includes:

  • Jaydeva’s Sanskrit love poem, The “Gita Govinda”
  • Bihari’s Sat Sai
  • Bhagawat Purana
  • The romantic tale of Nala and Damyanti
  • Keshav Das’ Rasikapriya and Kavipriya
  • The Baramasa and
  • The Ragamala

Nala-Damayanti and the Chakravak birds, 1775-1800, Guler School, Pahari, India.

Northern India, Himachal Pradesh, Guler – Utka Nayaka – 2018.103 – Cleveland Museum of Art

Painting from Guler in Himachal Pradesh (India), 17th century. Exhibit in the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore

Gursahai (attributed to), The Court of Yama, God of Death, ca. 1800, Guler, LACMA

Hindu artists from the Mughal courts when sought the patronage of the Rajas of Guler, they brought with them the essence of delicacy and finery in their paintings. The drawing in Guler painting is marked by liquid grace and precision. The colours which emphasize cool blues and greens are handled with utmost skill.

This was the time when paintings developed delicacy of lines, brilliance of color and minuteness of decorative details. It was a transition period for pahari miniature paintings.

How beautiful it is to watch the art evolving gradually under the supreme guidance of rulers who were themselves so involved in appreciating and enhancing the folk art. Its admirable, and now it’s upon us to save and take the next step so as to elevate this heritage of pahari paintings to the more greater level.

Dhruva come to Alkapuri, city of yakshas (Charioteer at the walls of a fortress)
Object Place: Nainsukh family, Guler, India

Share your thoughts with us. What do you think about this beautiful pahari art ?

IMAGE SOURCE : https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

RELATED : BASOHLI PAINTINGS

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