Rajasthan has been one of the major region and an important center of Indian paintings. The decoration of houses, courts, and other household buildings were the places to depict the creative genius of the Rajasthani paingings.

Vasant Ragini, Ragmala Paintings. Rajput, Kota, Rajasthan. Opaque watercolour with gold on paper.Art Gallery of New South Wales. Image Courtesy Wikimedia commons

The Art: Miniature paintings is perhaps the most interesting and the distinctive styles that have existed in India and in Rajasthan in particular. From the start of the sixteenth century here flourished different schools of paintings. Some of them are the Mewar School, the Bundi-Kota kalam, the Jaipur, Bikaner, Kishengarh and Marwar schools.

Indian Schools of Paintings: Each school of painting had its own features. For instance, the flowing rivers, dense forests, lush green fields of Kota-Bundi region were illustrated, painted into the paintings of these regions. Some depited hunting, where as some painted the animal fights. Women depicted in this paintings are graceful, with well proportioned bodies and sharp features. They used bright colours mainly, with red prominently appearing in the background of the art piece.

Medieval Period Paintings: The Kangra Miniatures of the Pahari School, practiced mainly during the 18th century, was influenced by the Mughals; however it had retained its distinctiveness. To make the paintings naturalistic, the artists used the colors extracted from minerals, vegetables and possessing enamel-like luster. Themes were taken from the books like, Gita Govinda and Baramasa of Keshavdas. Lord Krishna and Radha as eternal lovers were portrayed rejoicing the moments of love. The Kangra style of miniature paintings is known for portraying the famine charm with its natural grace.

These paintings tell us the story of that period; they educate us about the way of life and habits of the kings and their pursuits, their lifestyles and the court proceedings.
Ragmala, The garland of Ragas, is a set of the vocal rhythms based on classical Indian music. In this type of paintings, one raga is selected, and the painting is done to depict the soul of that raga. It represents the essence the raga is carrying with or is capable to create certain effects when such raga is sung. With the spread of the religious sect called Vaishnavism, a sect of Hinduism, in early Eighteenth Century, the tales of Hindu mythology became a major source for the artists. The books like Gita Govinda came to be regarded as a popular pictorial theme in various art centers like Rajasthan and Gujarat. During this period the Poems of Gita Govinda were extensively illustrated in minature paintings and other artworks like Pahari Painting and other illustrations.

RAJASTHAN STYLE: Miniatures, Painting Lifestyle of People

Mughal and Rajasthan style of paintings depict cultural history of medieval India

PEOPLE AND THEIR LIFESTYLE: The people shown in these paintings represent the lifestyle of the Mughal and Rajput period. Especially the female figures painted in Mughal Miniatures depict the characteristics of Indian tradition of time.
Portrait of the Mughal Empress Nur Jahan Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Their gold and silver ornaments, costumes and the colours of the clothes witness the class to which the people depicted belong. These ornaments like Necklaces, bracelets and rings form part of the set add beauty to the men and women of the medieval India, showing their choices and preferences.
The Rajasthan artists used the locally available materials and some rich princesses imported materials from the then Persia, too. Generally they used colours extracted from minerals, plants and conch shells. Some colours were derived by processing precious stones. They used precious materials like gold and silver, too.

The people shown in Mughal miniature paintings mainly came from upper class and the princely families. Princes and princesses wearing gold ornaments and jewelleries were like the mines of the subjects for the artists of miniature paintings, and they used these mines extensively. Associated almost exclusively with royalty, the jewelries were, too, the subject for miniature artists to consider before taking brushes in hand. It was an emblem of power and proof of the wealth. (Images courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Portrait of Emperor Akbar's Hindu wife Jodhabai

Paintings of Radha and Krishna

Paintings of Radha and Lord Krishan were one of the prime subjects of Rajasthan style of miniature paintings.

Rajput painting is one of the popular styles of the paintings in India. This beauty-clad style of painting and flourished in late seventeenth century and flourished in 18th century. Influenced by the Mughal paintings, the rajputana or Rajasthan paintings were the subject of the royal courts of western India.

Krishna Holding Mount Govardhan ca. 1790 Color on paper 25.3 x 17.1 cm Attributed to Mola Ram (1760-1833)
Most of the princely states in the then Rajasthan had evolved their distinct styles, but they have maintained their distinc features, too. Rajput paintings depict a number of themes: the themes are the events of great epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and the incidences of Lord Krishna’s life. Though the beautiful landscapes and painting humans were common.
Generally these were the Miniature paintings and were stored in albums. There are paintings which were done on the walls of palaces, inner chambers of the forts and havelis, the big residential houses of the Lords. Among them the palaces built by the Shekhavat Rajputs are very prominent.
These paintings tell us the story of that period; they educate us about the way of life and habits of the kings and their pursuits, their lifestyles and the court proceedings. With the spread of Vaishnavism, in early Eighteenth Century, the Gita Govinda came to be regarded as a popular pictorial theme in various art centers like Rajasthan and Gujarat. During this period the Poems of Gita Govinda were extensively illustrated in Pahari Painting and other illustrations. (Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
RAJASTHAN MINIATURES : Mirror of Indian Mythology
Mythologies as subject of paintings.

Opaque watercolor, gold, and silver on paper sheet circa 1730

Miniature Paintings are characterized by their adherence to three main visible aspects: small in size, illustrating an event narrated in a popular book, and executed meticulously with delicate brushwork. The history of miniature paintings in India could be traced up to sixth and seventh century AD. This art had evolved over centuries carrying the influences of other cultures and traditions.
The Materials: It was not the time of synthetic dyes or industrially manufactured colours. Thus all the materials these artists used were procured from the surrounding areas only. Colours were made from extracting juices from vegetables. The coloured stones available locally were grinded and pastes were made. The artists who created Indian miniatures used indigenous materials to give their artistic products a unique appearance.
The miniature painters were like other artists functioning during that time. They allowed their feelings and expressions to be revealed on available mediums. They had paper, ivory panels, wooden tablets, leather, marble, cloth and plastered walls to use as canvases. They used minerals, vegetables, precious stones, indigo, and conch shells. Precious materials like pure gold and silver were also used to detail the masterly executed drawings. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
Indian miniature artists, supported by Mughal Emperors and Rajaput Kings, had employed multiple perspectives unlike their Persian counterparts in the art of painting. The idea was to convey reality that existed beyond specific vantage point.
The Themes: The subjects they chose to paint and the themes they selected to depict were influenced by the choices of their mentors. Various themes these artists depicted in miniature paintings were rich in cultural aspect. They tended to be deep in meaning, too. Among the popular themes, there were depiction of incidents from scriptures like Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Bhagvata Purana. These are the sacred books of Hindu religion. The Muslim Emperors also respected these scriptures equally. The miniature painters also illustrated various scenes from other popular books like Rasikpriya and Rasamanjiri.

With the spread of Vaishnavism cult of Hindu religion, in early Eighteenth Century, a book named Gita Govinda became famous among the elite class. The poems and stories narrated in this book became popular pictorial themes. Gita Govinda was a popular book in various regions of north India, like Rajasthan and Gujarat so the artists exploited the subject in full. During this period the love songs written in it were extensively illustrated in mughal and other styles of paintings prevalent in north and south India. Thus the subjects chosen by artists were really secular.

Vishnu, Laksmi and Garuda

Here in this miniature painting depicting mythology, the artist has depicted Lord Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi. The materials used in these miniature paintings are the paper sheet and the opaque water colour made from local materials. As the use of Gold and silver was in vogue in those days, they are used in decoration of this miniature painting. In this painting we can see that Lord Visnu and his wife Laksmi are being carried by their beloved Garuda. According to Hindu scriptures, the Garuda is a Godly bird and it is vehicle for Lord Vishnu. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)


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