“I feel reviving a dying art is much better than continuing the existing art forms. Hence, I have dedicated over 20 years of my life, in breathing life to ‘Basoli,’ a unique miniature painting style, ruined due to earthquake,” said Eminent Artist Kamal Ahmed M from Gadag


Basoli paintings

Basoli paintings derive their name from the village named Basoli, in Himachal Pradesh in India, where they originated. These evolved in the 17th and 18th centuries as a distinctive style of painting by fusion of Hindu mythology, Mughal miniature techniques, and folk art of the local hills.

https://www.indiamart.com/harmonyarts-vadodara/basohli-painting.html

HISTORY

The roots of the art form can be traced to the 14th century. The Basoli school of painting developed with the decline of the Mughal empire, after the death of Emperor Aurangzeb. During his reign, master artists and painters began leaving the royal court and started seeking patronage at the courts which flourished far away from the center of the empire, as Emperor Aurangzeb did not pay them much patronage. One of the biggest such centers was the village Basoli. Two types of miniature art developed in Basoli. One was the regular miniatures which may be called classic painting. The second was eroticism in miniature.

The entire village was destroyed by an earthquake and so, very few paintings have been discovered among the ruins.

The discovered Basoli paintings were first introduced to the world in the Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey of India published in 1921. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy believed them to be the Jammu style of painting, which also contributed to their style. Coomaraswamy observed them to be “designed with a decorative simplicity very suggestive of large scale mural art.” They had not been categorized as Basoli paintings yet, and thus, there were certain errors in classification and they were often confused with other art forms with similar roots.

THEMES

The most popular themes depicted in Basoli paintings derive from the Shringara literature like Rasamanjari, Gita Govinda, and Ragaamala. Painters involved in the art form also painted portraits of local rulers, who provided them patronage. One of the important royal families most closely linked with the history of the painting during and after the Mughal period is of the Padhas of Basoli. The Raja also got his portrait made by the court artists.

[insert portrait of abovementioned king]

Portrait of Raja Dhiraj Pal, Basohli, c. 1720–25

One of the most popular themes in Basoli painting particularly during the reign of Raja Kripal Pal was the Rasamanjari written by the poet Bhanudutta. A Basohli Rasamanjari series was illustrated by Devidas, a local painter of Basoli belonging to the Tarkhan community, which produced many skilled artists.

The Basoli school of painting draws inspiration from the Mughal School as well as the Rajasthani School of painting and they have sometimes been confused with each other.

CHARACTERISTICS

Bright colors like red, blue, and yellow, bold lines, red borders, lustrous enamel like colors, and rich symbols are characteristic of this style of painting. The faces of the figures have receding foreheads and large bulging eyes shaped like lotus petals. Their rich costumes, stylized faces, and expressive eyes gave individuality to the Basoli paintings.

[insert vibrant pictures]

On the threshold of youthOn the Threshold of Youth, illustration to the Rasamanjari, Basohli, c. 1695

 

The Churning of the Ocean of Milk, Basohli, c. 1730

 

Krishna Stealing the Clothes of Cowherdesses, from the Bhagavata Puran

Nayikas in Rasamanjari. Basohli Painting (18th Century)

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-BvuIMiCbnrs/UjIt7iYQbUI/AAAAAAAAPxQ/goOBfqyFIHk/s1600/Rasamanjari_Nayika.jpg

These paintings resemble the Rajasthani and Malwa school of paintings. The Dogra Art Museum in Jammu has an exquisite collection of Basoli paintings.


Author: Seemab Alam

To the ups and downs of numerous Ghats, to the survival of the crowd and passing by the majestic cows around the streets, comes the beautiful haveli’s, temples and houses who amidst the chattering women and wandering local vendors stand with their walls being canvases to the bright coloured parrots, elephants, gods and goddesses, all adding up a supreme uniqueness and charm to the lanes of Varanasi.

These wall painting art is known as “Bhitti Chitrakala”, a folk art of Varanasi. However with the growing modernisation this folk art is finding itself difficult to breathe. The paintings showcasing mythological and colonial stories, Rajasthani and Mughal art at Jangambadi Muth, Bhonslaghat, Bageshwari Temple have already lost their gleaming look while others are on the way to extinction.

The main reason for the dying of this art is ignorance and unawareness. However the existence of this art goes back to the 16th century. Today most of the people around the houses who hold these fine wall paintings do not know about them at all. While there once was a time when the same art was valued and people took pride in expressing them on their houses. While today people find doing the same a waste of time and money.

Dr. Sudhir Keshri, assistant professor from the faculty of visual art, Banaras Hindu University (BHU) says that “The paintings in the city are now hardly visible, main reason being the witlessness of the people and no willingness to take any action against it by the authority.”

The paintings however can still be seen by a hair’s breadth around the old houses at Assi, Bageshwari Temple in Jaitpura, Laxmi Narayan Temple, Dasaswamedh Ghat, Devki Nandan Ki Haveli, Sankat Mochan Mandir and few more places.

Dr. Keshri adds, “The paintings depicts mythological stories from Durga Saptashati, Ramayan, Samudra manthan and Dashavtar on the walls of ashrams and temples. Also the elite class families used to paint their Havelis with certain designs. During marriages etc. people used to make paintings of Lord Ganesha, traditional sainiks, elephants, horses, parrots and peacocks. However today the ones who do paint their houses are all confined to the paintings of Lord Ganesha. ”

Concluding up Dr. Keshri says that “With the basic idea of considering wall paintings a waste of time and money and also with other advancements this art is hardly surviving. Topped with negligence, there rarely aren’t any artists into this profession anymore as most of them have shifted to other jobs due to no work availability.”

Around 2 years ago the students of Banaras Hindu University took the initiative to revive this art by painting the house walls of people who were willing to, for free. It was an excellent step to connect this intangible art with tangibility. Also a non-profit organisation- Jnana Pravaha, has put in efforts and collected the drawings of all the paintings that were made on temples, ashrams and other haveli’s and houses of the city as these drawings will be stored in museums.

Thus, a city like Varanasi which portrays a beautiful picture for people all around the world to know what gold this old city holds, would start losing something like Bhitti Chitrakala, it may somehow lead to start loosing up our traditions and folk art gradually.

I remember an old man talking at the ghats that “civilisation have come and gone, people have lived here and have been cremated here, days and years have passed but our benaras and it’s magic is still the same.”

I wonder if he would ever realize that things are not the same. I wonder if we, the young generations can uphold these traditions for the coming many generations to see all the gold this old city has been holding since forever.

All Picture Courtesy Belongs to Mohit Khetrapal (Student, Sunbeam School, Varanasi)


Author: Seemab Alam

Image Source: http://www.desipaintings.com/images/Chamba-miniature-painting.jpg

The romantic ambience of the monsoon season in the heart of Himalayan Mountains was once loved by a princess named Champavati, daughter of Raja Sahila Varman around 920 A.D. While Raja’s daughter took fancy to the site and asked her father to build a town upon it. As the Raja agreed with his beloved daughter and the town was given its name Chamba from the princess’s name Champavati.

Ravi River

Image Source: http://www.indiamike.com/files/images/07/95/31/chamba-1.jpg

The Chamba district is in the state of Himachal Pradesh in northern India. Located at the altitude of 996 meters (3.268 ft) above mean sea level, situated beside the bank of Ravi river and has the population of 20,312 people.

While Chamba is noted for its miniature Pahari Paintings  where Basohli style of paintings took roots with Nikku, the artist of Basohli migrating from Guler to Chamba in the 18th century. However Basohli paintings are considered the first school of Pahari paintings and during the reign of Raja Udai Singh and Raja Jai Singh, patronizing of this art form was conducted. In its continuation Raja Charhat Singh developed this folk art at another huge scale which had a long lasting effect on the local artists.

Image Source:                                http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_sFCue8XC5cI/TP4RcZPg5ZI/AAAAAAAAAl0/TBHMXxSAP2M/s1600/PACF016.JPG                                  http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_sFCue8XC5cI/TP4RAAio8wI/AAAAAAAAAlk/FBURg_0DCSE/s1600/PACF019.JPG                                        http://www.indiamike.com/files/images/17/95/31/chamba-2.jpg                             http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_sFCue8XC5cI/TP4RQtZZemI/AAAAAAAAAls/GbcQAMRgABQ/s1600/PACF008.JPG

Chamba paintings bear a resemblance to Mughal style of paintings including strong influences of Deccan and Gujarat style of paintings. Chamba paintings being very realistic and revealing social documents of history of those times also inspire from the natural surroundings and combine in the depictions of Hindu Mythology particularly the legends of Radha Krishna, Shiva-Parvati, Rama Darbar, Yashoda and Krishna, Gopis Love scenes, deer, birds and women.

Art has two different aspects of presentations, traditional and innovative. The art of Chamba, presented via Pahari painting school is basically traditional. The composition of this art is based on the old form. The main reason for this is the arcade for traditional style paintings. As very few artists have strength and courage to create their own idioms and independent styles that are really different from old forms. Many artists create copies from other paintings in a general manner, however they may enlarge and change the figures but the set form has a very hard grip on their psyche.

The major reason for the extinction of this art form is that it failed to evolve itself with the changing time and adapt itself into the contemporary world. There has been a visible stagnation in Chamba painting in creative demeanour when compared to the work of other artists with vibrant innovations we find in Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and other cities in the world of contemporary artists.

Tradition needs to be preserved but the same preservation would cause the loss of any other substantial tradition is not appreciated. Therefore similar is the case with Chamba Painting. Chamba is a town with rich cultural tradition with many national award winners but altogether the town lacks the “art-world” coordination. The basic synchronization between the artists and politics either narrow or wide, demand of the market and changing perspective due to modernisation lacks in Chamba which somehow is responsible for the crumbling position of this wonderful art form. Also this has also prevented the artists of Chamba from a pure and delightful experience of interaction and sharing.

However the tangible connection to this intangible heritage survives with the preservation of many traditional paintings being showcased in many museums at Chamba, Shimla and Dharamshala and these museums also hold the distinguished work of artists like Lehru, Durga and Miyan Jara Singh.

Also with proper attention to this art form and by covering missing coordination of the art and changing world and fixing any other remaining loopholes we may preserve this art form from dying forever.

Its important for us to uphold what our ancestors have left us behind. Be it the beautiful stories, the massive mahals or the eye-catching art like the Chamba Painting. Our roots lie in them and binding our roots with such tempting traditions defines who we are.     


Author: Seemab Alam

Image Sources: 

http://i1.tribune.com.pk/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/481629-DastangoiPhotoPublicity- 1355931408-393-640×480.JPG                       http://ste.india.com/sites/default/files/2015/12/18/442871-d1.jpg

“Woh Dastan aisi thi ki na palke chapke na kadam dagmagate,

Woh Dastan aisi thi ki hum wahi tham se gaye the..

Us Dastango ki awaaz aur uske andaaz me thi kuch aisi baat ki jaha jaha woh hume lete gaya.. waha waha hum bas chalte gaye aur khote gaye..”

The medieval romances, the tales of travails and lovers, stories of adventure, magic and warfare. All of these epics narrated orally in nature, The Dastan and the adjoin art we scarcely know about is Dastangoi: The lost art form of Urdu storytelling. Coming all the way from 16th century, Iran, dastangoi is the compound of two Persian words Dastan meaning story and Goi which means to tell a Dastan.

The origin of dastangoi goes back to the pre-islamic Arabia and with it the spread of Islam dastangoi came all the way to Iran and to Delhi in India. From Delhi dastangoi toured its way to Lucknow by the 18th century. All this happened during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 when many artists, writers and dastangos moved from Delhi to Lucknow.

When dastangoi gained popularity and started its regular performances at various locations of the cities, there was a time when it became very popular among the opium addicts and it became one the most vital part of their gatherings at opium houses. The early dastangos told the tales of magic, war and adventure and borrowed spontaneously from other stories like the Arabian nights, stories written by Rumi and in India, they also narrated the stories from Panchatantra and later own the tales of freedom fighters and other major events.

By all this time dastangoi was attaining its fame but during 1920’s era of sound and cinema’s revolution in India things started getting different as in 1928 Mir Baqar Ali died, who was the last famous dastango of India. With that this classic art form started losing its charm.

By now people started seeing dastangoi as a dying art form but Ankit Chadha, the very young and among the only 12 professional dastango of India and the founder of Heptullha a ‘heptular’ company that conducts storytelling sessions for adults and children alike has a very different opinion regarding the same. When asked if he considers dastangoi as a dying art form? He says, “I do not. But, my opinion does not make it alive or dying. Also, the question is whether we see Dastangoi as simply a performance art form, or as a living culture of storytelling which it once was. As a performing arts form, in May 2016, we complete 11 years of Dastangoi as it was reinvented by Mahmood Farooqui. He has led this journey with great success – from no traditional proponents to more than a thousand shows by 25 performers trained by him. We have created dozens of modern dastans – as varied as biographies of Manto and Kabir to Dastan-e-Sedition on the trial of Dr. Binayak Sen to Dastan Alice Ki, the adaptation of Carroll’s children’s classic. All this, however, its still the beginning. While our audience is growing (and not dying at all), Dastangoi is still seen as something exotic by many of them. I want to see these listeners perceive Dastangoi as a part of their everyday culture as much as I see it as my way of life.”

Image Source: http://d152j5tfobgaot.cloudfront.net/wpcontent/uploads/2015/05/Yourstory_ankit_chadha_dastangoi.jpg

There seems to be a tangible connection to this intangible heritage. Intangible as the very existence of this art form has got a vague approach of people. But noticing the encounter of Ankit with this classic art form which shares a very low limelight these days proves that yet being immaterial, dastangoi has got a very solid connection to the people of India with the efforts of artists like Ankit making it possible. Upon this Ankit says, “While Dastangoi is a classic art form, it has still not become established in the eyes of state or society like music, theatre and dance are. We are still building the ground and I feel fortunate to be a key player in this process. And as far as the limelight is concerned, the inner journey means much more to me personally than the perception of the media and others.”

Passion plays a key role in upholding the art forms that tend to be dying. Also the responsibility of not letting go of what was ours is another thing. Apart from Dastangoi being performed around festivals like Jashan e Rekhta and others, Jamia Millia Islamia – a central university in New Delhi inculcates among its students to uphold these art forms. Through this the youngsters of the nation are connecting to this art form and appreciating their inclination towards the same.

It’s said that when Dastangos perform a Dastan they present it very lively. Like moving pictures and sometimes they themselves became pictures. Sometimes they speak like old women sometimes like kids and sometimes like ghosts or whatever the Dastan demands them to be. Although considered a fading art form of Urdu storytelling, Dastangoi is being recognised more and more among people of all ages. It emerges as a phoenix and is ready for all the pleasure of being born again and being loved again.


Author: Seemab Alam

The art of stories, the art of spirituality and an art believed to bring good luck, Gond Art is the reflection of India’s largest adivasi community called Gonds who are of Dravidian origin and can be traced to the pre-Aryan era. The word Gond is derived from the word kond which means green mountains. The Gonds are a diverse group spreading over large areas from the Godavari valleys in the south to the Vindhya Mountains in the north. Also in Madhya Pradesh, they are settled in the dense forests of the Vindhyas, Satpura and Mandla in the Narmada region of the Amarkantak range for centuries.

The Gonds are traditionally believed to be storytellers, the Pradhan Gonds used to narrate the stories glorifying the king and this was mainly the source of their livelihood. While with the emergence of British, their downfall began. But it was during early 1980’s when Gond Art found its way back.

The Gond cultural tradition captures different aspects of Gond life- their deities, dance customs, bond with nature, myths, sagas and wisdom. In the early days the Gonds painted their walls with lively portrayals of local flora and fauna and gods. The mystical art form is created by putting together dots and lines and the artists used colours developed by charcoal, plants sap, cow dung and leaves in the early days, today mostly acrylic are used. Most of the paintings when perceived carefully impart a sense of movement to the still images.

While all these paintings are a tribute to nature, the Gonds belief upon the supernatural power is rather interesting. When interviewed Padmaja Srivastava (founder of the organisation-Gond Tribal Art) she says “It’s interesting to know that the Gonds do not believe in idol worship. While they stongly believe in Ramaini which is the mixture of Ramayan and Mahabharat.”

Also she talks about the same very passionately, quoting “I believe that Gond Art is a contemporary art. From paintings on the mud walls to paintings on the canvases, this art relates to many superstitions and belief. Every piece of art they paint portrays a story or a belief. They say these paintings bring good luck for them and protect them from evil spirits.”


BANA PAINTING

Image Source:- http://folkpaintingsindia.com/all-art/gond-art/bana.html

The above Gond Art is a creation by Mansingh Vyam, a Gond artist. This is a painting of the Bana which is also regarded as Bada Dev by the Gondi. Bada Dev (Great God) is invoked under a Saja tree by a Gond Pardhan.The Pardhans being the musicians, story-tellers, and genealogists of the Gonds, invokes Bada Dev by sitting under a Saja tree and playing a musical instrument called Bana. On listening to the melodious sound of the Bana, and the song sung by the Pardhan, Bada Dev awakens from his slumber and comes down the Saja tree. As very well illustrated in the painting.

Isn’t it beautiful to fancy how Gond art from paintings on the mud walls became so alluring on the canvases? Well, it was Jangarh Singh Shyam who first offered this art on the canvases using poster colours in the 1980’s and since then Gond Art has never looked back but only developed.

The entire concept of being rooted to the culture of their ancestors and believing in the ideology their forefathers believed, strengthens the Gond culture in an incredible way.

The exquisiteness of their culture and tales shall forever be cherished. The illusions of their art shall forever be hailed.