“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

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

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.