Mewar Painting



The former state of Mewar is distinguished not only for its lovely landscape and romantic architecture but also for a series of distinguished rulers who not only valiant warriors but also patrons of art and culture. Rana Kumbha (1433 1468) was a scholar and musician. Rana Pratap (1572 1597) refused to offer submission to the mighty forces of Akbar and transferred his capital to Chavand. Fom the time of Amar Singh (1597 1620) cultural and political contacts with the Mughals grew and became even stronger in the time of Karna Singh (1620 1628) and Bhagat Singh (1628 1652). Raj Singh (1652 1680), however, became a symbol of resistance against the religious bigotry of Aurangzeb. The outstanding event of his reign was the sanctuary given to the image of Srinathji at Sihada, renamed as Nathadwara which in times to come was to become an important center of Vallabhacharya Vaishnavism, and continues so even today. 

It is difficult to ascertain the development of the Mewar school of in the sixteenth century, though there is even reason to believe that it followed the Western Indian tradition closely. By the middle of the seventeenth century Udaipur became the chief centre of Mewar style. Perhaps the ancient Chittor followed suit. The style of Mewar was not confined only to the geographical bounds of Mewar, it developed mutual contacts with the pictorial styles of neighbouring states. It had also reached Gujarat, and had probably helped in the formation of Basohli school in Jammu. With the Rajput princes in the employ of Aurangzeb, it had travelled to the far off Aurangabad in Maharashtra where coalescing with the local mode of expression it helped in the formation of a charming local style. The penetration of Mewar style as far flung Aurangabad is evidenced by the illustrations of the Rasamanjari dated 1650 which was made for Sisodiya Mohan singh Saktawat who apparently hailed from Mewar. Style of Western Indian school or the Chaurapanchasika  style whose existence in Rajasthan, U.P.  and Malwa. 

The Mewar style reached its culminating point during the period of Jagat Singh I (1628 1652). In this period the Mewar style becomes more sophisticated and while maintaining its early individuality leans towards the Mughal style which then become widely effused. 

With the spread of the Valabhacharya sect, Krishna became Supreme God and the Bhagavata purana  became the gospel of the Vaishnavas. Several illustrated copies of the Bhagavata are known of which more notable are the copies painted at Udaipur by Sahabadi in 1648 and another in the collection of Kotah Library. The Valmiki Ramayana was also illustrated. The illustrastions of the Balakanda in the Prince of Wales Museum were painted at Udaipur in 1649 by Manohar; another Kanda (folio) is in the Sarasvati Bhandar, Udaipur and some other Kandas  are in the collection of the British Museum. Nor was Ragamala neglected. The Rasikapriya of Kesavadasa, which deals with the classification of the Heroes and Heroines, their mutual fascination, attachments, indignations and reunion, was much in favour. The lilting songs of the Gita Govinda provided equally fascinating themes for illustrations. The songs from the Sur-Sagar, by the blind poet Surdas too, were illustrated.


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Arts Indian Atelier 1999-2000