A group of Kashmiri artists trained in making Mughal style paintings sought shelter at the court of a Rajput King, unaware of the fact that they will be giving birth to one of the most popular art forms of the world.
The Kangra painting is a form of pictorial art, originated in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, the land of God. It is popular for its lyrical and naturalistic beauty and is also known as Pahari or Basohli painting. The roots of this art form trace back to the first half of the 18th century.
The Kangra painting flourished in the hilly region of the Sub-Himalayan state under the patronage of Maharaja Sansar Chand of Kangra. Kangra is a former princely state and this art form prospered completely under the Rajput rulers. Maharaja Sansar Chand Museum, adjoining the Kangra fort homes some of the most beautiful Kangra paintings of all time.
This art form is a result of a smooth amalgamation of several different cultures. When Kashmiri painters, the Mughal painting artists sought asylum at the court Rajput King, they mingled with the local artist community of Kangra. Thus, the Kangra paintings are made in the same style as that of Mughal paintings, however, the stories or incidents depicted in the paintings are inspired by the ancient stories of the Hindu Gods, epics and Purans. Another notable aspect of this art form is there is a detailed portrayal of the natural surroundings along with the subject of the painting.
The pleasant and sublime atmosphere of the sub-Himalayas, the Pahari flora and fauna, the color themes styled as per the seasons, the elaborate landscapes and environment depicting the events of the stories are some of the important features of the Kangra paintings. Multiple shades of the same color are also used to depict the distance and the time of the day. There is a prime focus on the best-suited color combination for rivulets, lush green farms, dense forests and the various seasons. The cool and fresh colors make paintings attractive and eye-soothing.
Traditionally, the colors used were natural, usually extracted from vegetables and minerals and were naturally processed to impart an enamel-like luster to make them appear as delicate as porcelain. However, these days the suitable colors and respective shades are easily available.
The great patron of Kangra art, Maharaja Sansar Chand Katoch was a liberal ruler and an ardent devotee of Krishna. Thus, most popular Kangra paintings are inspired by the life of Krishna. The life incidents of the Blue God are the most sought-after subject of the Kangra painting. The lifestyle of the society of that period, the traditions of the Bhakti cult, divine beauty of nature, soulful and spiritual experiences are some of the most common contents of these paintings.
Shringar being the central theme of Kangra paintings, the main emphasis is given to erotic sentiment. In a painting depicting the love story of Radha Krishna, one can clearly see the sentiment of love, the surroundings full of ecstasy, the warm and passionate expressions of Radha and Krishna and their fondness and adoration for each other. Radha will be shown with soft and refined features with notable feminine charm and grace.
Coming in line with the contemporary arts, one can also find the legendary lovers accompanied by beautiful architectural backgrounds like walls, windows, gardens, fountains and flower-laden balconies.
The Kangra painting figures are well modeled with sharp and subtle strokes to indicate various expressions and feelings. The paintings are enriched with very fine and ornate details about the characters and the incidents. The intricacies will surely leave us admiring the sensibility and judicious skill of the painters.
Every Kangra painting is a glimpse of the place where it is born and brought up.
A brief experience of how it feels in the land of God…