Kangra, Pahari Miniatures: Paintings of Krishna and Radha

Gopis searching for Krishna, Bhagavata Purana,
c1780. Opaque watercolour and gold on paper.

Pahari: Paintings of Krishna and Radha. Paintings of Love and devotion. Miniature Paintings, Indian Miniatures, Mughal Miniatures, Paintings from Medieval India, Paintings from Rajasthan in Rajput style. Kangra Style of Painting.

Here in this painting, Gopis are searching for Krishna. It is depicted in the sacred book of Hindu mythology named, Bhagavata Purana, c1780. The materials used in this painting are the opaque watercolour and gold on paper. The painting is done during the late eighteenth century. During this period the Mughal Emperors have reduced the support to the artists. But the Hindu Rajput kings were supporting these local artists. During this period, the Rajputana region, the northern part of India, flourished with several schools of the painting depicting religious events and stories.

Indian miniature paintings present before us a sweeping introduction to a recognized genre of art. Here the range of subjects is strikingly rich. The artists got sponsorship from the emperors and sultans ruling in Muslim kingdoms and the rajas and princes ruling in Hindu areas.

The Kangra Miniature paintings affiliated with the Pahari School had made a notable contribution to the 18th-century art of India. These small-sized Miniature paintings are complex and colourful illuminations or paintings, executed meticulously with delicate brushwork. The history of Indian Miniature Paintings can be traced to the sixth and seventh century AD. But it flourished mainly in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Miniature Paintings had evolved over centuries carrying the influence of local and other cultures.

Krishna welcomes Sudama, Bhagavata Purana,
17th century, India. Colour and gold on paper

Miniatures are intricate colourful paintings done precisely with delicate brushwork. The miniature artists gave self-expression on paper, ivory panels, wooden tablets, leather, marble, cloth and walls. Unlike their European counterparts in their paintings, the Indian artists employed varied and diverse perspectives.  The idea was to convey the reality that existed beyond a specific point of view.

The artists who created Indian miniatures used various materials to give their products a unique appearance. They used, minerals, vegetables, precious stones, indigo, conch shells, pure gold and silver. These materials were used to detail the masterly executed drawings and paintings. The themes they depicted were rich in culture and deep in meaning. Among the popular themes, there was the depiction of incidences from the scriptures like Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Bhagavata Purana. The poem book like Gieet Govinda also helped to provide subjects to the artists.

These artists illustrated the scenes from books like Rasikpriya and Rasamanjiri, telling us the story of that period. In the present time, these paintings educate us about the life and habits of the kings and their pursuits, their lifestyles and court proceedings.

Miniatures: The Miniature Paintings style is believed to be evolved in the period of the Mughal Dynasty. Due to that, it is called Mughal Miniature Paintings, too. However, with the passing of time, this art of miniature paintings had become inclusive. All other cultures prevailing in the medieval of India had been represented in the art. The paintings given here are the nicest illustrations of the paintings of Lord Krishna done in the miniature style. these themes are repeated in the painting done on a bigger canvas, too. The artist also tried to depict the essence of certain classical Raga in their artworks. Those paintings are examples of the depiction of Raga, and they are called Ragamala paintings. Indian Miniature painting had adorned the beauty of vocal of music, the raga,  in Rajasthan style of paintings. Ragmala Painting.

Holi Festival-Krishna, Radha and Gopis
Unknown authorUnknown author

Miniature Paintings Of Radha and Krishna Whenever the Indian artists searched for the subjects, they had found a rich treasure in the form of the incidents narrated in mythology. Religion has played a great role in providing the subject matter for paintings. The Miniature artists, including those working under the patronage of Mughal Emperors were also not an exception to this trend of selecting mythological subjects

MYTHOLOGY: The scriptures and religions books written by Hindu saints were a great source for the subjects to paint. They had chosen for the purpose of miniature paintings were mainly Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavata Purana, Rasikpriya, Rasamanjiri and the books narrating the classical music of Indian tradition. Many painters and their sponsor kings had selected books of other cults and religions, too. They had painted many miniatures depicting the subjects narrated in the books of Jainism and Buddhism. 

Schools of Painting: There were several schools of painting in medieval India; some of them were Kangra, Phad, Deccan, Tanjore, Rajasthan, and Kalighat painting schools. The region of Rajasthan, the then Rajputana, was the main area wherein the art of miniature painting had flourished. There were sub-regions in Rajasthan, like Jaipur, Jodhpur, Kangra and Mewar. But all the artists painting under these schools had preferred the miniature style of painting. However, based on Persian miniature paintings, the Mughal miniature paintings had undergone several modifications in India. Artists had started painting on bigger scales, too. they used cloth and other mediums to paint on.

Among the mythological subjects, the love scenes of Lord Krishna and his divine lover Radha claims a major portion. The artistic depiction of the playfulness of the life of Krishna and Radha would occupy an artist on one hand; and on another, it would rivet the attention and claim devotion from the viewers, too. After the spread of the Hindu religious cult known as ‘Vaishnavism’, the paintings of Radha and Krishna have remained a source of entertainment and worship for the people of India.

In the above painting of Radha and Lord Krishna, we can see the divine couple playing with colours. According to Indian custom, the festival of Holi is the festival of colours. This festival is observed for one week in the northern parts of India. People spray solid and liquid colours on each other and play. Friends and relatives play together and enjoy their life with colours. 

Git Govind  Radh and Krishna   
Meister des Gîtâ-Govinda-Manuskripts

The Painting given here is a depiction of a poem written in the book named Git Govind. These poems are written by poet Jaidev. This book contains poems narrating the love and worship relationship between Lord Krishna and his divine beloved Radha and the other village girls of the Vrindavan area where Lord Krishna lived during his childhood. 

Painting Materials: The materials miniature artists used came from the local markets. These artists used surfaces like paper, ivory articles and wooden panels, including the furniture made from wood. The use of cloth was also in practice in certain regions of the central and southern parts of India. Other surfaces like leather and marble were also used for the art pieces commissioned by Mughal Emperors and the Rajput princes. These miniature artists tried conveying the reality that remained beyond a specific vantage point; they used various panoramas while doing their work on multiple mediums.

The Art: In order to make the paintings more natural, the Kangra artists used only the colours which were extracted from natural materials like minerals and vegetables. In these paintings, the Kangra style of painting, the subjects were generally taken from the Hindu scriptures and the books of mythologies. Many paintings depicted the events narrated in the books Gita Govinda by Jaydev and Baramasa written by Keshavdas. Religious figures like Krishna and Radha were the major source for the Kangra style artists, too. They painted this divine couple as eternal lovers, rejoicing the moments of love along with other devotees. The Kangra style of paintings is known for beautifully portraying the famine charm of Indian women. 

Schools of Painting: The miniature paintings are perhaps the most interesting and 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 Kangra painting, PHAD PAINTING, Deccan Miniature, Tanjore paintingMUGHAL MINIATURES, RAJASTHAN PAINTINGSthe Mewar School, the Bundi-Kota kalam, the Jaipur, Bikaner, Kishangarh and Marwar schools. The paintings done in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are exhibited in museums all over the world. Many artworks are owned by private parties and the heirs of the erstwhile kings in India. Some of the Mughal Miniature paintings are exhibited in the Lahore Museum in Pakistan, too. Pakistan and Bangladesh were the parts of undivided India before the partition in the year 1947.

There were many schools of miniature paintings that flourished with the assistance of the local kings. The paintings styles like Kangra Miniatures of the Pahari School was one of such school of art. It was practised mainly during the eighteenth century. Though influenced by the Mughal style, the Kangra style had retained its distinctiveness in respect of the subject matters and the use of unusual settings.

The themes of the paintings made in the area of Rajasthan, India depicted a variety of themes and subjects. Their themes included the Ragas or musical codes of Indian Classical music. There were three primary schools of Indian Miniature Paintings - one the Rajput School that flourished in Rajasthan, the western part of India. The second was the school of the painter who lived under the region of Mughal Emperors. And the third school was the Deccan school, in the southern part of India. [All the images are in Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons]

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