Vedic Art: Indian Miniature Painting, Part 16


Krsna Watches the Gopis in Garden Pool
Bijapur, Deccan School, c. 1650
[ Click for large version ]

Dec 28, 2011 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of India's artistic legacy in paintings, sculpture and temple architecture.

16th to 18th Centuries


The state of Bijapur is generally recognized as having produced the lion's share of Deccan paintings, thanks in large part to two Mughal patrons of the arts -- Ali I and his nephew, Ibrahim II, in the late 16th to early 17th Centuries.

As in Golconda, the great majority of Bijapur School paintings of the period show great influence from the Islamic style. But like all the Deccan schools, the Bijapur artists also produced many wonderful Vaisnava themed paintings, like the scene above of Krsna observing the Gopis' watersport. Radha, fully dressed and standing at the top of the tank, watches Her associates play while Krsna hides in a nearby bower.

Keeping to Vaisnava tradition rather than succumbing to the Persian style, which is often surcharged with sexual overtones, the artist shows the Gopis swimming in slips and cholis.

In the painting below, we find a blend of Persian and Indian style. The scene features three court ladies, who are engaged in a famous pastime scene depicting Srimati Radharani, looking in a mirror as she prepares Herself to meet Krsna. In this case, the mirror is held for a princess by her friend, while her attendant looks on.

Lady Admiring Herself in a Mirror
Bijapur, Deccan School, c. 1720

The outfits they wear are something of a cross between the traditional north Indian sari, and the Persian suit. The central figure, seated, wears a choli that extends down to a diaphanous length of cloth, reminiscent of a four-point tunic. Likewise, the attendant's hat is more Persian than India.

In the next painting, of the Raga player and her attendant, we see a familiar North Indian garment worn by the attendant, while the ragini is dressed in Persian style, with both wearing Persian hats.

Ragini and Attendant
Bijapur, Deccan School

With Akbar's rise to power, the Deccan region was eventually conquered and subjugated as one of Delhi's feudatories. The Mughal influence was felt strongly throughout northern India, far more than in southern India through the 16th Century. Ahmadnagar, a city due east of Bombay, fell to the Mughals in 1600 A.D., during the final years of Akbar's reign. Much of the Deccani plains of southern India, however, remained under Hindu rule. Under Emperor Aurangzeb, the Muslim empire extended its presence into some of the southern regions, but Bijapur and Golcunda remained under Hindu control until 1686.

The painting above of the Gopis swimming was produced 30 years before "The House of Bijapur", below. Although the latter Miniature was painted six years before Bijapur was overtaken by the Muslims, it was nonetheless painted in a purely Islamic style. The nine Adil Shahi rulers, who came to rule Bijapur, are assembled here in a brilliant array.

The House of Bijapur
Bijapur, Deccan School, c. 1680

While appreciation for art is a matter of personal taste, Krsna devotees will no doubt favour paintings that embody Indian style, as opposed to the classic Persian mood of "House of Bijapur". The Deccani paintings, and particularly those coming from the Bijapur School, are exquisite examples of 17th–18th Century art. It is not surprising that Rembrandt himself owned a collection of Indian Miniatures.

Painting of the Deccan by Douglas Barret
The Indian Heritage, Victoria & Albert Museum catalogue


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