work on the Ramayana series may have been suspended when the paintings of
the Ayodhyakanda were being executed. Most probably the death of
Raja Umed Singh in A.D. 1764 was responsible for this discontinuation.
Guler-Kangra style had started influencing several centres of Pahari
paintings and was adopted as a model of pictorial expression at many
places including Chamba. About thirty paintings and Kangra style related
to the Ayodhyakanda and the Aranyakanda were painted.
style and a predominant feature in them is the landscape setting. The
treatment of trees in these paintings is naturalistic and even minute
details are drawn carefully. A variety of trees appear whereas in the
paintings of the first phase (Balakanda
and Ayodhyakanda) only the mango tree was painted. The depiction of
trees in any schematic order is also avoided. Different tones of green are
used for painting the trees a device enabling the differentiation of
plants. A common feature of the landscape is the presence of flowering
plants and creepers seen in Kangra paintings and no doubt derived from
them. Bushes are drawn summarily and introduced to fill the vacant slopes
of hills or for separating their ridges a method also borrowed from Kangra
paintings. Small leafless trees also appear in several paintings,
introduced as a motif to aid design. This motif was not introduced only in
the late eighteenth century and is seen even in earlier work. The use of a
light pink colour at the upper slopes of the hills creates an illusion of
distance and was favoured by the Guler-Kangra artists. In overall design
and in composition in particular, these paintings are again close to the
paintings of the Guler-Kangra kalam
although the palette is more rich and varied in the latter. The paintings
of Ramayana follow several
idioms of the Kangra kalam
though in a limited manner. The artistic excellence of these Ramayana
paintings, however, cannot be judged only by comparisons. The landscape
and the general treatment in the Ramayana
paintings convey a feeling of restrained elegance suitable to the
requirements of the theme. This group of paintings of the Aranyakanda
illustrate episodes of the story of the exiled princes living as ascetics
in the forest. Nothing is thus overdone in these paintings.
use of the colours in these paintings is both imaginative and pleasing.
Colour contrasts are woven into beautiful patterns but are never harsh.
The sky is generally shown as light blue and at times as a greyish blue
lending depth to the landscape. An art historian has remarked, that the
Pahari painters rose to considerable heights in some of their Ramayana
paintings, particularly in their rendering of the various aspects of the
exile in the forest. The
artists living in the Hills inspired by the local landscape transformed
the forests of the Ramayana
story into those of their own homeland.
© Arts Indian Atelier 1999-2000