Pahari Painting(Kangra)



 The 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. 

Kangra 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. 

The 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. 


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Arts Indian Atelier 1999-2000