INDIAN MINIATURE PAINTINGS : PHAD, KANGRA, PAHADI AND DECCAN MINIATURES

Ragamala  On Paper 
Bharat Kala Bhavan, Banaras, India

Phad Style of Painting  India is a country of 1350 million people. Its culture is diverse and rich. About the painting, it has a long list of traditional arts. Phad, Kangra, Pahadi and Deccan styles of paintings are some of the styles of painting prevailing in India for centuries. 

It is interesting to note that India's one of the traditional arts, the phad painting is a folk painting; but its artists hardly get any sponsorship for their works. This form of art has remained attached with and popular among the mass of people. The reason behind that is simple. The subject matters of these paintings revolve around heroic acts or mythological stories. 

In the time when illiteracy was widespread in the country, such storytelling with artistic illustration became the only available tool for spreading and conveying the religion. The stories of the Hindu religion and its various sects went to the masses through these artists.

The Artists  The social culture of India is based on castism. There are sects and castes among the people in Rajasthan who practice the art of the Phad style of Paintings.  Their family profession is to entertain the people by singing folk songs about the heroes in public programs. The subject of Phad Paintings revolve around the life and events of Prince "Pabuji" who is worshipped in Rajasthan. The community known as Bhopa are priest singers for the 'Pabuji' followers. These folk singers use the artworks done by the phad painters. 

A panoramic view of the Pabhuji Ki Phad
displayed at Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam,
via Wikimedia Commons

The paintings depicting Pabuji and other Gods and Goddesses are used by these singers and worshippers as mobile temples. Keeping one painting before a crowd of people, they start singing and narrating the incidents painted on the scroll. The Phad painting, which is done on a piece of cloth, is one of the paintings styles practised from ancient times. Thematically these paintings are the depiction of Indian deities and their stories, including the legends of Rajasthani rulers.

Phad is a type of scroll painting. Artists paint these paintings on a long cloth, the piece of cloth being of generally two types in lengths, either of fifteen feet of thirty feet long. They used bright and subtle colours, mainly extracted from the vegetables and the materials locally available. The modus operandi of executing the phad painting is also unique. First, they draw outlines of the paintings drawn in several blocks. Then these blocks are filled with different colours.

Maharaja Sansar Chand, of Kangra

What is Kangra, Pahadi Painting  Kangra painting is the pictorial art of the people living in the region of Himachal Pradesh, situated in the northern part of India. This area also is well-known for its natural beauty in the Himalayan Mountains. With the help of erstwhile princely states, the style of the painting of Kangra flourished in the years of the mid-eighteenth century. 

Here is an illustration of a painting done under the style of Kangra Miniatures of the Pahari School that had made a mark in the 18th century. 

Raja Sansar Chand was the king of the small kingdom of Kangra, which is in present-day Himachal PradeshIndia. In this miniature, behind him, we can see his captain of the guard, O'Brien, an Irish deserter of British East India Company.

It is believed that a team of Kashmiri painters, trained in Mughal Miniature painting needed shelter. It was the time of the first half of the 18th century when the Mughal dynasty was declining, losing its importance as the supporter of the art of painting. The artists needed support. One team of Kashmiri artists got due support and shelter at ‘Guler’. It is a small hilly state in the Himalayan region.

The paintings done under the style and nomenclature of Kangra paintings are in fact one of the school of paintings under the schools of miniature paintings known as the Pahari style of painting. It was prevalent in northern India for centuries. But the Kangra painting got such a speedy and huge recognition among the art lovers that the whole set of Pahari paintings came to be known as Kangra paintings. 

The painting shown here is of Maharaj Sansar Chand. He was king of a state that was situated in the lower Himalayans. The Kangra School painters coming from Kashmir got proper assistance from King Sansar Chand. The art of Kangra painting reached its zenith during the time of King Sansar Chand (1765 – 1823).

Radha Celebrating Holi AnonymousUnknown author

c1788. Kangra, India.

Subjects of Kangra Paintings:  Like Phad Painting RAJASTHAN PAINTINGS, and MUGHAL MINIATURESthe painters working under the Kangra School of paintings chose traditional subjects. One of the subjects was the depiction of the local environment, which was Shringar for these artists. The word Shringar refers to the tastes for beauty among the viewers. So these painters have marvellously depicted the beauty of Indian men and women and their costumes in their miniature paintings.

The second main pool of the subjects for Kangra paintings, like the Tanjore paintingKalighat Painting came to form the religious and literary books of Indian mythology and popular literature. The depiction of the scenes described in these books became popular for the Kangra miniature artists. These scenes included the scenes of worship and the divine love between Lord Krishna and Gopis, the young girls who were in divine love with Lord Krishna

These scenes are known as Krishna-Lila. The depictions from the illustrated book Geet Govindam, a book of poems written by poet Jaidev were also occupied most of the time by the Kangra miniature painters. 

Deccan Miniatures   The school of painting that flourished under the sponsorship of kings of south India was tagged as the Deccan School of painting. The Deccan miniatures were influenced by the Mughal and Rajasthan styles of miniature paintings. Printed in Madhumalati, the painting given here is an illustration of the Sufi mystic story of Madhumalati. 

Mudumalati is a story of the romance and love of prince Manohar and his lover Madhumalati. Their story is full of love and suffering of separation and reunion. Written in poetic language, it is a story full of symbolism; the concept of Sufism is embedded in this tale of Manohar and Madhumalati, which has become the subject for many artworks.

Deccan Miniature painting school was operative in the southern part of India. It flourished during the medieval period and later years. The Miniature Paintings styles had evolved in the northern part of India. It developed under the active support of Mughal Emperors and Rajput Kings of India during the seventeenth and eighteenth century. India is a vast country, so the art travelled to the south part of the country, too. 

The art of painting carried with it the influence and flavour of the culture it represented. The art of painting prevalent in other parts of India was greatly influenced by what was going on in the north part. During the same period, the Deccan Miniature painting school was operative in the southern part of India.

Materials Used in Deccan Miniatures: Style of Painting:  The artists who practised this style lived in the cities of Ahmadnagar, Bijapur, Golconda, and Aurangabad. Deccan Miniature artists used the same materials which their counterparts in north India used. These artists depicted their art on paper, ivory articles, wooden furniture, and other pieces made from leather and marble. 

They used even cloth made from silk and cotton fibres. Some of the paintings are on the walls of temples and houses of the princes.

For conveying the reality that was beyond a specific vantage point, the Mughal miniature artists had employed the concept of multiple perspectives. The artists of Deccan miniatures also applied the same technique in their artworks. However, the stories depicted by the paintings were different.

If we observe their work with artistic eyes, we can see that the Deccan artists were influenced by the style of Persian and Turkish painters. However, they had tried creating a synthesis of foreign and indigenous styles of painting. That resulted in a great mix of charming tradition. We can see that most of the paintings done under this style were theme-based artworks.

It was not that the Deccan miniature artists copied the works done in the northern part of the country. They had refined the style that was prevalent in the seventeenth century. While maintaining the rhythmic delicacy of Mughal miniatures, Deccan painters had added the emotion of southern art into their paintings. 

The male figures painted by these artists were charming and their complexions were fair. They looked emotionally charged. The females painted were more appealing than the women painted in Mughal miniatures. These artists had also injected the elements of restraint and reality, which they had borrowed from contemporary European artists. The above Image, courtesy Of Unknown. The Rose-Garden of Love, made in Hyderabad between 1741 and 1743. Deccan School, India. Now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. [All the images are in Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons]

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