Vedic Art: Indian Miniature Painting, Part 18


Earliest Gita-govinda
Mewar, c. 1590

Dec 30, 2011 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of India's artistic legacy in paintings, sculpture and temple architecture.

17th – 19th Centuries

The art of painting in Central India, Rajasthan and the Pahari region is deeply rooted in Vedic tradition. Unlike Mughal paintings, which are primarily secular, the Central Indian schools were inspired by Vedic epics like the Puranas, Upanishads and other Sanskrit works.

Krishna Fluting in the Forest
Malwa, Rajasthan, c. 1720
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Vaishnavism, Saivism and Saktism all exercised a great deal of influence on the Central Indian arts but among these, the Krishna cult was most beloved, inspiring the greatest number of artistic works. Themes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, the Bhagavata, the Puranas, the Naishadacarita, the Usha Aniruddha, the Gita-govinda, Rasamanjari, Rasikapriya and Ragamala all provided a rich field of content for painters who wished to employ their artistic skills and bhakti in contributing to devotional arts for the society's benefit and enjoyment.

Earlier in this series, we looked at a number of schools of art existing in Central India and Rajasthan during the 16th Century. Included among them were the Western Indian and Chaurapanchasika styles, which served as a foundation for the origin and growth of various schools of painting emerging in the 17th Century.

Peaceful conditions prevailed in Rajasthan in the later half of the 16th and 17th Centuries. The Rajput rulers gradually found a point of balance with the Mughal invaders, and many Rajputs took up important positions in the Mughal administration. They often employed artists to work in their courts, and patronized both Hindu and Mughal artists.

Some of the Mughal artists of inferior merit who were no longer patronized by the Mughal Emperors migrated to Rajasthan and other places, finding employment in the local courts. The popular Mughal style these painters carried with them influenced existing indigenous styles of paintings and as a result, a number of new schools of painting emerged in Rajasthan and Central India during the 17th and 18th Centuries. Among the most important schools in this category are the Malwa, Mewar, Bundi-Kotah, Amber, Jaipur, Bikaner, Marwar and Kishengarh Schools.

Gopas and Gopis Approaching Krishna
Malwa, late 17th c.
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The Rajasthani School of painting, a stylistic umbrella that includes both the Mewar and the Malwa Schools, is famous for its bold drawings and strong, contrasting colors. Each school of painting has its distinct facial types, costumes, landscape arrangements and colour schemes. In Malwa paintings, the treatment of figures is generally flat, with little attempt to employ perspective in a naturalistic way.

Malwa artists often compartmentalized drawings, dividing the paper or cloth into several compartments. Multiple scenes were further set apart by use of different background colors, as we see in the image directly above.

Still, there is a great deal of variation between the various Rajasthani schools and even within the individual schools, as seen in the various paintings shown here.


Excerpted and paraphrased in part from art histories by Ministry of Culture, Government of India


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