Pahari miniature paintings developed over a long period of time under different Shailis or “schools of art”. These paintings evolved at different places or town of pahari region during different time interval which we have elaborately discussed in our earlier posts including Basohli, Guler, Chamba and Kangra.

Several artists due to political uncertainty or any other reason, lost the patronage of the feudal rulers and migrated to other kingdoms in the hope of new shelter and patronization.The credit to begin the Pahari style of paintings goes to Raja Kripal Pal (1678-1731) of Basohli, who was the first patron in the region. Basohli thus became the centre for pahari artists to showcase their skills and flourished as the earliest school of Pahari paintings.

Shiva create virabhadra when Narada tell about death of sati

We got a deep insight of pahari schools, let’s now talk something about the motifs, colors and tools used in fabrication of these astounding piece of art-


The colors in Pahari paintings are eco-friendly and, thus laboriously made. They are so lustrous that even after so many years these colors in paintings have retained shine and not faded at all. The colors are obtained from sources like:

  • WHITE– Khadiya chalk
  • ORANGE– Sindoor (vermillion)
  • YELLOW– Cow urine, Varki-hartal, Ramraj
  • LIGHT YELLOW– Sararevan
  • Green– Malachite
  • RED– Shingraf (a type of stone)
  • DEEP RED– Aalta, Krimidana fruit
  • BLUE– Lazward, Indigo
  • Black– Kajal created by holding a burning wick under a metal surface
  • GREY– Hazratbal
  • SILVER/GOLD– Silver/Gold foil Lac color


Seashells or SEEP:

Shells with smooth surfaces are used to keep and mix colors for pahari paintings during Mughal era. Seashells help to avoid mixing of colors and even if the color dries on the shell, it can be reused by easily adding water.


The paint brushes are hand crafted by painters themselves with great precision and delicacy. For fine detailing, soft hairs from squirrel’s tail were used. Brushes were also made up from the hairs of peacock, fox, goat, horse, donkey or calf ears. This is however unfortunate and must be discouraged.

hakik ka patthar:

The stone is used as burnishing stone and is rubbed on a handmade paper coated with a mixture of Khadiya and Gond. This helps in creating a smooth canvas and therefore the movement of brush becomes easy.

For brightness, the painting was burnished with boulder or river stone called golla.


This is used for drawing straight lines on canvas.


The painting is done either on cloth or handmade paper usually from Siyalkot. It is actually a place in Punjab (India) now in Pakistan, where handmade papers were largely produced during those times.


It is used to mix with Khadiya or white chalk to make the base color.


The Gold Leaf or Silver leaf is called Varakh in hindi. They are used in forms of foils so as to enhance the borders and jewelry of the drawn/painted characters like kings and queens, god-goddesses in the paintings.



The colors obtained from vegetable, mineral or other sources are carefully treated before their final use. Many shades, hues and tints were created by diligent combinations of different colors or pigments. Because of the passionate color making process and precise use in the pahari paintings, they became significant to the Kangra artists. For strong hold on canvas, every color is mixed up with the gum obtained from babul tree The process is interesting, have a look-


It is an important color in Pahari miniature used as a color for Krishna or Vishnu. Its plant source is THE BLUE DYE – INDIGO or Neel.

Blue is also extracted from lapis lazuli which is a mineral. This stone is effortly crushed, grounded into powder which yield rich color tone. The powdered ultramarine is also used much in Kangra style of paintings.


This is obtained from a natural process of burning terracotta lamp where the leftover residue- Kohl or Kajal became the source of black color. The lamp is burned in sesame oil with camphor in order to get smooth black residue.


When the Shingraf stone (Cinnabar) was ground into powder it yield rich vibrant red color. Only the purified form of Cinnabar is used and impurities are avoided.


Obtained from Sindoor plant, it is mixed with cow-urine to produce brilliant shine.


The mineral source for yellow is Hartal, a stone which is grounded and sieved for extracting soft yellowish color.

Another source is cow-urine or Gau-mutra which is called Gaugoli. The cow is purposely fed with mango-leaves which makes the urine dark yellow in color. It is then dried up and used in paintings showcasing the Indian-yellow. This color is more commonly seen in BASOHLI SCHOOL OF PAINTINGS.


The mineral source is Dana Farang or Malachite. This is a precious stone imparting rich green shade mostly seen in Mughal style to Pahari paintings.

Various plant source also yields green color. Mixing of yellow and blue also produces green.


It is obtained from the Lac produced by peepal tree. The Lac is soaked in water overnight and then fitkari, daruhaldi and suhaga are added. Boiling all these ingredients together yields violet color which is called kiram in local language.


The schools flourished in Basohli, Guler, Kangra, Chamba, Tehri Garhwal, Nurpur, Mankot, Mandi, Kullu, Bilaspur provide specific motifs or themes to display. Like-


Rasa Manjari, Ramayana and Gita Govinda and abstract theme like Ragamala are of main focus for Basohli styles. The paintings are characterized by Square format, a background depicting double storey building structures with elaborate shikharas, lotuses and various other decorative elements.

Dancing Bhadrakali, adored by the Gods. Basohli.


Subjects portrayed royal life and their daily chores, themes of Bhagavata Purana, the Gita Govinda, Bihari Satsai, the Baramasa and the Ragamala. The style of these paintings is naturalistic, delicate and lyrical.

The female or Nayika in Guler art is seen much delicate with specific facial features including well-modeled faces, small and slightly upturned nose and the hair done minutely.

Royal Couple Distributing Meals, Guler, 18th century


Displays fine paintings of Hindu mythology, deities and religious themes of Ramayana, Bhagavata Puranas, Baramasa Ragamala Series, Radha Krishna, Durbar of lord Rama.

The Gopis, the love scenes, Gaudhuli (the hour of cow dust, with Krishna and his cow-herd friends bringing home the cows), everyday scenes from court and royal hunts, depictions of chaupad (popular dice game), wedding processions can be found in Chamba school of paintings.

Pahari Kingdom of Chamba – Vishnu on Ananta, the Endless Serpent


Kangra Paintings focus on verdant greenery, where depiction of flora is utmost and minutely detailed by the use of multiple shades of green. Shringar rasa or feminine beauty is considered as the focal theme of Kangra paintings.

The subjects seen in Kangra painting exhibit the taste and the traits of the lifestyle of the society. Kangra art also illustrated romances like Sassi Punno, Heer Ranjha, and Sohni Mahiwal.

Utka Nayika


The ancient rulers of Nurpur patronised the Pahari painting style in this small town of Himachal Pradesh. This style is characterized by use of bright colors and flat backgrounds. However, in the later periods, the dazzling colors were replaced by muted ones. They often illustrate tall women who have long limbs particularly below the waist and are always elegantly attired.

Brahma Indian, Pahari, about 1700 Probably Nurpur, Punjab Hills, Northern India 


The paintings of Garhwal style is an offshoot of Kangra School which developed when Dara Shikoh’s son Sulaiman Shikoh sought shelter under the rule of King Prithvi Shah of Garhwal.

The style generally depicts the leafless trees, fog, tender clouds, focused on women with soft oval faces, full breasts, tiny waist and intricate jewelry. It reflects the cruder version of Kangra traditions.

Vanasura’s Sons Submit to Krishna: Scene from the Aniruddha Usha Section of Krishna Lila


Mandi, a place situated in Himachal Pradesh, witnessed a new style of pahari miniature under the rule of Raja Sidh Sen (1684-1727). In Mandi, the portraits of the ruler is illustrated as a massive figure with overstated huge heads, hands and feet.

Mandi paintings are characterized by geometric compositions and delicate naturalistic details. The style is marked by bold drawing and the use of dark and dull colors.

 Portrait of Ishwari Sen (1784-1826), Raja of Mandi in the Panjab Hills. He holds a huqqa-stem, with a Kashmir shawl draped over his left arm. 


Mankot paintings of Jammu and Kashmir flourished in 18th century, show resemblance to the Basohli type in terms of vivid colors and bold subjects. Characteristic work emphasis on naturalism, monochromatic backgrounds — mainly olive-green and yellow-orange — the reduction of pictorial detail to only what is absolutely necessary for the narrative.

“The Goddess Chinnamasta, Pahari, Mankot,
circa 1750″


This style flourished in the Kullu-Mandi area, mainly inspired by the local tradition in dark and dull color schemes. Mostly the background is dull usually dark blue. The painters have prepared an album of Rama which is famous as ‘Shangari Ramayana’. Various sections of Ramayana have been portrayed like Bal Kanda, Ayodhya Kanda, Uttar Kanda etc.

Shyamala Shiva. Kullu School, Pahari. 
Vali and Sugriva Fighting, Folio from the Dispersed ‘Shangri Ramayana’


Apart from the illustrations of the Bhagavata Purana, Ramayana and Ragamala series, artists also made paintings on rumal (coverlets) for rituals and ceremonies. Hindur or Nalagarh in Bilaspur district has achieved a distinction in narrative subjects in highly evolved manner.

Well defined faces and costumes endowed with great realism, where each figure has its own distinct features and lifestyle, are specialties of Hindur art.

Dan Chand, prince of Bilaspur 


Jammu paintings of the late 18th and early 19th century bear a striking similarity to the Kangra style. Conventional hills, strained nature, stylised human figures, elegantly bejewelled and costumed Jammu men and women with sharp features are main attributes of Jammu paintings .

Light colours used in brighter tones with an influence of Sikh lifestyle– costumes, features, style of beard and moustaches are characteristic of Jammu art style.

These all places have contributed their best in the history of pahari miniature paintings. Each chapter had its part to play which ultimately lead to the upheaval of this beautiful miniature art. The paintings displayed in Himachal museums narrate the tale of their glorious past and the uniqueness that stands them out in the list of all other folk arts. Now it’s our turn to do our best to save this style of painting by contributing in all the possible ways we can. Their places are not in museums but in our homes, in our heart.

What do you think? How the art can be revived? What do you think about these paintings? Share your thoughts with us….

Mian Mukund Dev of Jasrota, (Cropped version) Pahari style, ca 1740-1745.



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