“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)

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


Content Research by Shivanki

The historical blend of both modern and ancient is creative best is best identified with Togalu Gombeyaata,  a puppet show unique to the state of Karnataka, India. ‘ Togalu Gombeyaata’ translates to ‘a play of leather dolls’ in the ancient language of Kannada.

This leather art form has an interesting blend of shadows and music which makes it livable in theatres.  The puppets used in Togalu Gombeyaata are goat hide and deer skin.

It has unique characteristic of transparency that absorbs colours , such as vegetable dyes of red, blue, green and black adding life to this art of storytelling. For puppets representing human and animal figures, the head and limbs are joined in such a way that they can be moved easily.The maximum size of the puppet is 4 x 3 feet and the minimum is 6 x 3 inches.

The puppeteers of the small leather puppet theatre performers use Kannada language and in a box stage manipulator sits behind the screen, raise the puppets held in their hands. During the performance men, women, children, the whole community of the artiste, take part. The puppet shows in this particular art form traces it’s origin to Rashtrakutas, Pallavas, Kadambas, Chalukyas, Hoysalas and Kothapur kingdoms in south.

In Karnataka there are two major varieties in the leather puppet shows, depending on the size of the puppets.

Chikka Togalu Gombeyaata

The small puppets players have their own mobile stage measures 9 feet and 5 feet.

Leather puppets demonstrating the war between the PandavaArjuna and his son Babruvahana                              

Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Leather_puppets_of_Karnataka.jpg

Dodda Togalu Gombeyaata

The average dimensions of the leather puppet stage 12 feet in length, 6 feet in width.

An Elephant Puppet

Image Source: http://seltmann.manasvi.eu/images/25300_201007140356b.jpg

A Boar Puppet

Image Source: http://seltmann.manasvi.eu/images/25300_201007140379.jpg

Each variety shows several regional variations in the style of music, craftsmanship, stage technique and manipulation.

The visible portion in front where a white screen tied up. Behind the screen the manipulator sits and manipulates the epic characters from behind the screen. Behind the curtain the hands of the manipulators remain unseen. On front of the stage the puppeteers’ family or associate sits and give chorus and exchange dialogue with drum beater. In the projected light sources the leather puppets shadow appears with beautiful colour.

 

Related image

A still from Ramayana in Togalu Gombeyaata

Image Source: http://indulge.newindianexpress.com/shadow-play-3/section/51889

Even as television, radio and movies remain our first choice to entertainment , this sheer execution of creativity and hard work by puppeteers fulfils one’s connect roots in easiest way possible.

Here is a sample video of spectacular art form :

YouTube Videos:

Togalu Gombeyaata Part 1

Togalu Gombeyaata Part 2

Now that this ancient art form is no longer restricted to Dravidian states alone, do find time to catch hold of amazing performances in nearest festival near you. Follow Nazariya to know about the upcoming performances.


Author: Noah Unathraj

Image Source: http://www.thehindu.com/multimedia/dynamic/02510/14TH_KINNERA_2510681e.jpg

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see”, quoted the famous French artist Edgar Degas. Yes indeed in my perspective art is something more imaginative, profound and absorbing to the human soul. It frees out mind and body from the busy mauhauul of everyday life and looking up to something which is delightful and engrossing in a heartfelt manner. Art is the involuntary susceptibility that an insaan feels in a warm way. India is “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” unity in diversity hence has engulfed emulsions of many art forms and has become the hunting ground for souls of peoples engrossed in art. Today I am to present you something of an art which has lost its prominence 4 centuries ago. Though it has not totally died down precisely, it has almost been on the verge of extinct but has some time ago resurged back to life by none other than Mister Darshanam Mogilaiah the one of the very few survivors of this extricated instrument titled “The Kinnera” (a string instrument).

A  re-known artiste of the Telangana state, in fact the one person in the country playing the 12-step kinnera, hailing from Ayusaolni kunta village of the Mahabubnagar district in Telangana state. He belongs to a low esteemed family where his forefathers have dedicated their lives in an urge to empower and boost up the spirits of the people to take part in freedom struggle against the British by playing the instrument and singing patriot songs in synch. The “Dakkali” tribe has put in their flesh and soul for design and working of the instrument, has actively participated in the freedom movement. “Dakkali” have been a Chenchu race breed and brought up through odds and slavery right from the start by the landlords and the upper caste people in the society and hence in order to revolt against them have invented the device to unite the people of all the lower caste in their society and have struggled for their freedom and fought their way out.   

Kinnera is a stringed instrument like Desi Veena, has 12 steps which is able to produce 12 different tunes with the 2 strings that are mounted on them. The instrument uses bamboo for the neck, dried and hollowed gourds for resonators, human hair or animal nerves for strings and pangolin scales for frets which are fixed using honey-wax. According to Adivasi studies state that the Chenchus have lost the instrument half century ago when the gourd used for resonator became extinct in this region. This has come into lime light while researching about Panduga Sayanna a Telangana fighter. The dakkali singers sang in his praise using “Kinnera”.  It has almost taken 3 years to trail out and explore this history through the help of Dakkali Pochaiah.

Darshanam Mogilaiah

Image Source: http://cdn.deccanchronicle.com/sites/default/files/Moghulayya_0.jpg

Darshanam Mogilaiah aged 65 has been the forerunner of this instrument now. He belongs to “Madiga Mastin” tribe which is a sub-caste of community. He has been a master of this art and 5th generation artiste in the family which has been playing the “Kinnera”. He is skilled at frolicking the 12 step music singing mostly in praise of Meera Saab who according to a legend, lived during the Wanaparthy Samsthan 400 years ago in Mahabubnagar. Meera Saab, a Robinhood-type do-gooder, used to rob the rich and feed the poor. His ancestors constructed the kinnera with 8 steps or more, Mogilaiah is the only one to build up to 12 steps to produce different tunes with the 2 strings. He uses dried fruit, coconuts or dried horns positioned at 12 places on the instrument, helping generate a different type of music. The ‘twelve frets’ of the Kinnera are made of ‘bull horn’, who have been his treasure which are permanent while the others when worn out can be replaced. He speaks “The Chiluka (parrot) is also a very important element of my Kinnera as it starts dancing along with me in many of my rhythmic songs.” He says people must recognize the sacrifice being made to protect the heritage of the local songs and rising voice on social issues through his family tradition.

With times and advent of electronic instruments, it’s on the wane- perhaps extinct. He is perhaps among the few living bards who can play the instrument and perform. This enthralling singing in hand with the instrument is an experience to live up. He just doesn’t want to be recognized as a performer of this wonderful instrument, but preserve the art of it. Through his endeavors he has received a fillip in the form of Dasari Ranga, a research scholar of Osmania University, who is doing a thesis on “Karshaka Geetalu” (folk songs of agricultural workers) has arranged a program to showcase the art resulting in authorities of Telugu University and University oh Hyderabad (UoH) for introducing a course on kinnera folk art for which Mogilaiah could be an instructor.    

Music is the entity which binds a person together irrespective of his caste, creed and color. Even though its origin is from the flock flare it has found out its way through and has been an important criterion in enhancing and encouraging the morale of the people even at hardships, thought dead has risen out now in order to re-mesmerize back the people and showcase its versatility on the world stage and give the while a wider perspective of so many such art forms which are there lying underneath waiting for an opportunity for them to be resurged back to life.    


This article was originally created for, and published on www.gounesco.com, a UNESCO supported umbrella of initiatives that makes heritage fun.
By Somok Roy

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Bhaskar Chitrakar painting a traditional theme. Photo credit: Somok Roy Heritage

Characterized by fluid curves and flat bright colours, Kalighat painting occupies an important place in the history of Indian art. It was the urban and reformed version of the Midnapore school of Patachitra, a scroll painting tradition of Bengal.  Liberating itself from the confines of religious narratives, it went on to comment on the contemporary socio-political phenomena. The rustic folk simplicity was replaced by the emerging complexities of city life.

In the early 19th Century, rural patuas (the community of Patachitra painters traditionally carried the surnames ‘Patua’ and ‘Chitrakar’) from Midnapore migrated and settled around the Kalighat temple, on the banks of Adi Ganga. Kalighat being a major pilgrimage center attracted thousands of devotees round the year.

The devotees wanted to carry something as souvenirs on their way back from this sacred place, and the locally available, cheap paper painting was the only affordable option. In the memoirs and travelogues of the European travelers, these paintings have been called ‘Bazaar paintings,’ a description that carries a sense of inferiority when compared with the Occidental standards of art.

This is primarily because the painters lacked the sense of perspective, and the linear rhythm of human figures miserably failed to impress the lovers of realism. Kalighat painters faced draconian competition from the ever-expanding market of lithographs and cheap oleographs and gradually disappeared by the 1930s.

The Midnapore roots

The medium of scroll painting has a vibrant history in this part of the continent. In an age when the society and economy were primarily agrarian, bards toured from village to village with their painted scrolls, unfolding the world of Puranic epics and folk myths to the curious audience.

These demonstrations were accompanied by narrative songs. The Cherial paintings of Andhra Pradesh, Phadpaintings of Rajasthan, and Patachitras of Bengal and Orissa are part of this vivid and arresting storytelling tradition. Patuas of Midnapore used scrolls known as ‘jorano pat,’ which were executed on cloth and could be rolled easily.

There were divisions within the patua community on the basis of the duration of tours. The ‘Duari patuas’ travelled from door to door throughout the day in nearby villages and returned home by night. The ‘Doori patuas’ travelled long distances, exhibiting their works and narrating stories.  The themes were from folk literature. Episodes from the ‘Mangal kavyas,’ creation myths, magic and cult-rituals, agrarian lives, pantheistic practices such as ‘pahar puja,’ and Hindu epics were painted and sung.

Changing times- Stylised Midnapore paintings, quite different from the traditional style. (Unfolding a Painted World: Revisiting Kalighat Paintings)

Changing times- Stylised Midnapore paintings, quite different from the traditional style.

From Midnapore to the Mecca of arts

Initially, the Kalighat school produced images of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, keeping in mind the target audience. The rolling scrolls were replaced by rectangular sheets. Cheap mill made paper was used for painting, but the painters retained the tradition of using natural colours.

The outlines were painted in black using lampblack, which was later filled in with bright flat colours. Turmeric was used for yellow, red chilies for red, indigo for blue and so on… The paintings acquired a semi-classical finesse due to the application of colloidal tin for the purpose of depicting jewellery.

Secular themes entered the painters’ world soon and Kalighat school emerged as a satirical genre, highlighting the inherent hypocrisy of the society. Their detailed observation of an evolving social class helped them to produce symbolisms in art, which could be interpreted as important sources of modern Indian history.

The flamboyant Bengali nouveau riche or the urban elite has been the favorite theme of the Kalighat painters for their ostentatious display and extravagant lifestyle. These paintings unveil the pretentious mannerisms of the nouveau riche by the use of subtle metaphors and visual allegories, which have become an integral part of the Kalighat iconography over time.

Kalighat painting is perhaps one of the best primary sources to reconstruct the social history of the19th Century ‘Babu culture’ which flourished in Calcutta. ‘Babu indulging in sensuous pleasures with courtesans’, ‘Babu sitting on a chair and piping the hookah,’ ‘cat with the marks of a saint eating fish,’ ‘horse-race,’ ‘Elokeshi-Mohanto crime case’ were some popular themes.

kalighatpainting1

Babu with a concubine. Photo credit: banglapedia.org

The painting of a young attractive lady sitting in voluptuous posture with her right hand raised above her head, holding a rose in each hand, titled ‘Golapsundari’ is an evidence of the eternal fact that the essence of Indian aesthetics flows down the ages evermore.

Gopalsundari, or the 'rose beauty'. Photo credit: Nibaran Chandra Ghosh/banglapedia.org Drawing Woman with roses; Kalighat painting by Nibaran Chandra Ghosh of a seated courtesan with roses. Calcutta, ca. 1900. Nibaran Chandra Ghosh Calcutta Ca. 1900 Watercolour on paper

Gopalsundari, or the ‘rose beauty’. Photo credit: banglapedia.org

Similar ‘nayikas’ have been painted earlier by miniature painters of North India. The patuas also painted nationalist heroes like Rani Lakshmi Bai, and scenes from everyday life.

The Ultimate Autumn

The legendary painter, art critic and scholar, Mukul Dey, who collected some priceless works of the Kalighat school ( a major part of it was acquired by art historian W.G Archer during 1930s, and many of these paintings are exhibited in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London) wrote in 1932 :

These pictures have now entirely vanished. The artist craftsmen are nearly all dead, and their children have taken up other business. In the place of these hand-drawn and hand-painted pictures selling at two or four pice each, garish and evil-smelling lithographs and oleographs – quite appalling in their hideousness – have come. The old art is gone forever – the pictures are now finding their last asylum in museums and art collections as things of beauty which we cannot let die.

Kalighat paintings

A contemporary take on traditional icons. Photo credit: Somok Roy Heritage

One of the last practitioners of this art to have received international recognition and critical acclaim is Kalam Patua. He reinvented the Kalighat style by painting contemporary themes and yet retaining the stylized pattern of the traditional works. His paintings are housed in galleries and museums such as the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, The Museum of Sacred Art, Belgium, etc..

The alleys and by-lanes of Kalighat buzz with life from the dawn-break. But practically none of the residents and shop-owners are aware of the rich painting tradition which once flourished here. I accidentally met the only custodian of this great tradition, residing in the vicinity of the temple, Bhaskar Chitrakar, who is arduously trying to revive the art form. His unflagging efforts do not seek beneficial opportunities, but the admiration and appreciation of a true ‘rasik’.


Image 1: the canal harbor of Terracina, photo by Latina Corriere

The canal harbor of Terracina? Photo credit: Latina Corriere

It is no mystery that in today’s consuming society, the act of repairing is becoming a forgotten activity: if something breaks, we replace it.

My grandfather used to say, “We used to build things to make them last as long as possible in my day; today, everything is made for a maximum of two or three years of use.”

And he is right: I can’t remember of something that lasted longer than three years, be it cellphones, appliances, cars, computers, clothing or tools.

So I asked myself: is it the same for traditional craftsmanship and skills?

How do they fit in a society where people do not repair things any longer?

My reflection started when I was walking near the banks of the canal in Terracina, my beloved hometown. The said canal is no longer in use as a transportation link; but is mostly used as a ‘parking’ for small boats and shapes the connection between the areas of the town with modern facilities, and the harbour area.

 

Abandoned-nets

Abandoned storage spaces. Photo credit: Giulia Falovo

In the historic harbour area of ‘la Marina’ (the maritime), the city is split in two: one side has a vibrant nightlife with restaurants, bars and clubs, while the other side has remains of old structures related to the harbor life — storage spaces, canal banks, fishermen’s shops, and a vast area where the repairing material for boats is stored, like the memory of an abandoned past.

Another abandoned space. Photo credit: Guilia

Abandoned nets in the harbour area. Photo credit: Guilia Falovo

For some, the canal banks work as a point of aggregation, where to observe the daily unrolling of the city life, while being connected to its past.

One one can found groups of retired fishermen Enjoying the view while taking advantage of the warm Italian October; selling fish, gossiping or (what attracted me there) repairing nets.

Nets are an important component of a fisherman’s activity: There could be as many as 80 different types, according to the shape, use and type of fish, and they can go up to hundreds of meters. Before mass industrialization, fishing nets were normally made up by the fishermen or their wives.

Fishing nets require constant care and maintenance; so, when I observed Arturo repairing a net in a storage space nearby the harbor, I couldn’t pass up the chance to interview him.

Arturo at work.

Arturo repairs his nets. Photo credit: Sara Ceci

Arturo is a retired fishermen who just can’t put aside the need to work. Fishing has been the way of life for him for over 40 years, he has passed the baton to his son.

“I was lucky that my son wanted to continue the family tradition,” he says. “Not many youths want this profession these days. Everyone is moving to bigger cities so this sector is slowly dying.”

The pride shines through his eyes when he talks to me about his son. He says he is trying to teach him how to repair the nets, alegit with poor results. “He doesn’t like to work in his free time: he prefers to go out with his friends,” he rues.

Fishing nets require high standards of care and maintenance, and not many are willing to learn. But when an undeterred Arturo sits by his storage room, repairing the nets of his boats, a lot of people to observe this priceless craftsmanship.

Arturo doesn’t produce any art, tool, or gastronomic masterpiece. But he is one of the custodians of a timeless activity that has contributed to enrich the city as we see it today.


NAZARIYA