We got a deep insight of Pahari schools, their origin, their techniques of paintings, tools and equipment used for preparations in our several previous posts. Pahari miniature is quite elaborately discussed at obsidianspace. More or less the TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES OF PAHARI PAINTINGS used in fabrication of these astounding piece of art remains the same. But one thing makes every school of pahari miniature different from each other. That is- MOTIFS. The types of motifs defines the way of storytelling in each of the Pahari schools.

It’s interesting to see that despite of having same Basohli origin, each school showcase characteristic motif in its paintings. Come, explore the peculiar feature of each pahari style of painting.

We will discuss following schools or styles of pahari miniature in this post:

  • Basohli Style
  • Guler Style
  • Chamba Style
  • Kangra Style
  • Nurpur Style
  • Garhwal Style
  • Mandi Style
  • Mankot Style
  • Kullu Style
  • Bilaspur Style
  • Jammu Style.
In one of India’s major Hindu epics, the Ramayana, the god Vishnu incarnated himself as the hero Rama in order to defeat the powerful demon Ravana, who has 20 arms and 10 heads, seen in the boat at the upper right. This scene takes place on the island of Lanka, Ravana’s capital, surrounded by a golden brick wall and populated by his demon minions. Just inside the door, Ravana’s sister, the demoness with crimson hair, is demanding that her brother avenge the severing of her nose by Rama’s brother. Ravana decided then to abduct Rama’s wife, Sita, the act that propelled the climactic battle. The place where this important, extensive Ramayana series was painted remains uncertain.Scholars have argued for one or another Pahari court, but no definitive evidence has yet come to light.


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.

Basholi created a typical facial formula for its human facial features typically adorned with the fish shaped eyes, receding forehead and heavy set face and heavy gold jewellery. Deities in blue color and wearing a saffron dhoti to highlight his identity as the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The presence of three lotus buds is a typical feature of Basholi art.

Painted by Vijay Sharma, this Basohli painting is based on a couplet from Bihari satsai


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.

Royal Couple Distributing Meals, Guler, 18th century

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.

To celebrate the arrival of spring during the festival of Holi, people of India squirt colored liquids and toss powders at one another. Blue-skinned and wearing yellow garments at the left, Krishna leads the charge to the accompaniment of raucous music. https://www.clevelandart.org/art/2018.104
India, Pahari Hills, Guler School, 18th century – King Bana enjoying music in his court, from the Usha-Aniruddha section of a – 1986.62 – Cleveland Museum of Art

The colors used in Guler paintings are sophisticated; various shades of green have been used to differentiate between lower ground and upper ground as well as to highlight the ridges on cliffs. The intrinsic nature of the humans and the rakshashas has been efficiently brought out.


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
A Lady with Attendant and a Pair of Deer, from a Ragamala
Half of the heroine’s body is directed toward her handmaiden playing a stringed instrument known as a vina to her left, and the other half toward the deer at her right. She extends one hand to fondle the male under his chin. All three gaze at her in rapt devotion. Her loose hair and light muslin garment indicate that she has recently bathed outdoors, when she was interrupted by the arrival of the deer. This scene is intended to evoke feelings of awe in the viewer: the heroine’s beauty is such that even wild animals are drawn to her as a couple. This page is from a series in which each painting is meant to inspire an emotional response that correlates with feelings elicited by musical compositions played in the mode, or key, of the same name.


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.

Utka Nayika

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

Stile pahari, nal damayanti, dalla serie baramasa, kangra 1810 ca.jpg
Miniature paintings in the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya

Nature act as a storyteller as blossoming sprays indicate love in union while barren branches echo the desolation of separated lovers. The beauty of the hills is beautifully captured using perspective and atmospheric layering.


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.

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

The style generally depicts the leafless trees, fog, tender clouds, wavy hills, swirls. It reflects the cruder version of Kangra traditions.

Sudama bows at the glimpse of Krishna’s golden palace in Dwarka. ca 1775-1790 painting Place of origin:Garhwal (made) Date:ca. 1775-ca. 1790 (made)
Sudama lifts his hands as he glimpses the golden palace of Krishna in Dwarka. Green wavy hills are around him and above him swirls the sea, sheltering a fish, crocodiles and green and pink monsters. Illustration to the Krishna-Sudama story, Bhagavata Purana.


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.

India (Himachal Pradesh, Mandi); Painting

The female forms are comparatively tall and wear high cholis like seen in the Basholi school. The composition is square containing multilevel architectural structures, taking inspiration from the paintings of the Chaurapanchasika style.

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.

Mankot style– circa 1730 date 
“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.

Dan Chand, prince of Bilaspur 

Well defined faces and costumes endowed with great realism, where each figure has its own distinct features and lifestyle, are specialties of Hindur art. Sometimes the painting interestingly incorporates both architectural features and natural elements in it and embodies elements that are discernably reminiscent of the Kangra style of painting. Here is one such painting-

Hanuman in Dwarfed form Appears before Sita in the Ashoka Vatika. Bilaspur style


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….


IMAGE SOURCE: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Images


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