Vedic Art: Indian Miniature Painting, Part 26


Krishna Bringing the Parijata from Indra's Heaven
Bhagavata Purana
Tira-Sujanpur, Basohli, c. 1780

Jan 18, 2012 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of India's artistic legacy in paintings, sculpture and temple architecture.

17th to 19th Centuries


Generally, the Basohli style shows a use of strong and contrasting colours, even in the pastel range. Monochrome backgrounds often set the stage for finely chiseled figures with large eyes and very detailed attributes. The more highly decorative examples were sometimes enhanced by the artists, applying the wings of beetles to the paint to create a diamond sparkle in clothing and ornamentation.

Balarama Commands Jamuna Devi
Bhagavata Purana
Basohli, c. 1730

Particularly in the Bhagavat Purana illustrations, we find many scenes that are banded above by a narrow strip of sky, often with a bold red or mustard yellow border. Sometimes a small area of the scene is allowed to extend outside of the interior border, lending movement and wonderful character to the paintings.

While Basohli artists were fond of painting scenes from the Gita-govinda, Ragamala and Rasamanjari texts, they also produced a great many Bhagavat Purana illustrations, like the examples featured today.

Birth of the Demons
Bhagavata Purana
Basohli, c. 1740

Among the Bhagavat miniatures, we find the same range of variety in style and decorative design that has been pointed out overall in this study of Basohli paintings. For example, among the miniatures featured here we have action scenes that are quite composed, like Visnu on Garuda, and Balarama with Jamuna Devi. In contrast, the Birth of the Demons and the scene of the Pandava's fire are fluidly active. And in a completely different mood, the Birth of Krsna is very composed and compartmentalized.

The wonderful painting of the Pandava palace fire is a first generation miniature after the famed Basohli artists, Manaku and Nainsukh. Painted c. 1760 in Guler, Himachal Pradesh, the artist is Manaku's son, Fattu. This progeny was one of six children of Manaku and Nainsukh who continued to paint in the Pahari tradition.

The Palace of the Pandava Brothers Set Ablaze
Bhagavata Purana
Fattu, Guler, Himachal Pradesh
Basohli School, c. 1760

The legacy of these two prominent Basohli School families are described below by curators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While they offer little insight into the philosophical elements of the painting, the historical importance of these Bhagavat miniatures is nicely recognized:

"The four sons of Nainsukh and two sons of Manaku are known collectively as the first generation after Nainsukh and Manaku. Building on the artistic legacy of their grandfather Pandit Seu and their fathers, the six younger artists left behind an extensive oeuvre that attests to the family's consistent artistic vision and uniformly impressive output.

A relatively small court like Guler, the family's home in Himachal Pradesh, could not provide a living for so many talented artists. Nainsukh left the atelier around 1740; he first worked in Jasrota, then in Basohli, and was ultimately joined there by his nephew Fattu and his youngest son, Ranjha. There were numerous small courts in the region, and they offered opportunities for talented painters seeking new opportunities. Surprisingly little is known about the authorship of individual series of paintings, and works cannot be assigned confidently to specific artists.

The Birth of Krishna
Bhagavata Purana
Mankor, Basohli, early 18th c.

The influence of a large-format Bhagavata Purana series produced by Manaku can be seen in a less accomplished series depicting the same subject attributed to his son Fattu. The faces are more angular, and the scenes are routinely placed in front of a monochrome background. The atmosphere evoked in the texts is not realized nearly as clearly as it is in the works by Manaku.

It appears that the family style gradually shifted from the transitional Seu-Manaku phase toward the refined vocabulary of Nainsukh, characterized by a gift for precise observation, an absolutely assured hand, and an exceptional ability to convey human emotions. The Gita Govinda series of around 1775, Bhagavata Purana series of around 1780, Ramayana series of around 1780 and later additions and other works attributed to the artists of the first generation, document these changes most impressively. They represent the culmination of Pahari painting, and thanks to their startling combination of dreamlike lyricism and realism, they are among the most alluring of Indian paintings."


The Sun News Editorials Features Sun Blogs Classifieds Events Recipes PodCasts

About Submit an Article Contact Us Advertise

Copyright 2005, 2012, All rights reserved.