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Art & Painting of Garhwal & Kumaon


Garhwal School of Painting

The silver mountains, the sparkling streams, vivid green valleys and the cool climate have attracted many into the hills of Garhwal for peace, tranquility and meditation. It is this beautiful land, which inspired the great writers Maharishi Balmiki and Kalidas. All this laid the ultimate foundation for the literary treasures of Garhwal, including painting and art.



The original art of stone carving gradually died out but woodcarving has continued. Woodcarving could be seen on every door of the house until only half a century ago. In addition, woodcarving can be seen in hundreds of temples all over Garhwal. The remains of architectural work have been found at the following places in Garhwal:



The Chandpur fort, Temple of Srinagar, Padukeshwar near Badrinath, Devi Madin near Joshimath, and the Devalgarh temple, all in Garhwal and Chandi district.



Garhwal was always considered a safe haven for wanderers, adventurers, political exiles, philosophical thinkers and nature lovers. About the middle of the 17th century A.D. Suleman Shikoh, a Mughal Prince,took refuge in Garhwal. The Prince brought along with him an artist and his son who were his court painters and well versed in the Mughal style of Miniature Painting. After nineteen months, the Prince left Garhwal but his court painters, enchanted by the environs, stayed behind.



These painters settled in Srinagar (Garhwal), the then capital of the Pawar dynasty and introduced the Mughal style of painting in Garhwal. With the passage of time, the successors of these original masters became expert painters and also developed an original style of their own. This style later, on came to be known as the Garhwal School of Painting.



About a century later, a famous painter, Mola Ram, developed a style of painting equaled in romantic charm only by few other styles of painting. He was not only a great master of the Garhwal School but also a great poet of his time. We find beautiful poems in some of Mola Ram’s paintings. There are definite influences of other Pahari Schools reflected in these paintings, but the overall originality of the Garhwal School is maintained. Special features of the Garhwal School include beautiful women with fully developed breasts, thin waist line, soft oval shaped face, delicate brow and thin nose with defined nose bridge. A poet cum artist Mola Ram was undoubtedly an exceptional personality of his age, for, he wrote poems, made notes on natural history, collected data and painted a diverse range of subjects.



The matrimonial alliance of King Pradhyuman Shah (1797-1804 AD) with a Guler Princess of Kangra induced many Guler artists to come and reside in Garhwal. Their technique greatly influenced the Garhwal style of painting. With the conceptualisation of ideal beauty, its fusion of religion and romance, it’s blending of poetry and passion, the paintings of Garhwal are an embodiment of the Indian attitude towards love.



From painstaking research work undertaken by eminent scholars and art historians, we know the names of various painters of that period.



Shyam Das and Har Das were first in the family tree, probably being the first to come to Garhwal with Prince Suleman. Hiralal, Mangat Ram, Molaram, Jwalaram, Tejram, Brijnath were some of the great masters of this school of art. The masterpieces of the Garhwal School of Painting include the following :



Illustrations of Ramayana (1780 AD) Celebrations of Balarama’s birthday (1780 AD) Series of Raginis Shiva and Parvati Utkat Nayika Abhisarika Nayika Krishna painting the feet of Radha Radha looking into a mirror Varsha Vihar Kaliya Daman Illustrations of Gita Govinda.



A rich collection of these paintings are displayed at the University Museum in Srinagar, Garhwal, along with many sculptures and finds from archaeological excavations.



Dekara Special images of Gods and Goddesses were made, since idol worship played an important role in the lives of the inhabitants of Garhwal. Dekaras are the clay images of Gods and Goddesses either in relief or in three-dimensional form and are meant solely for worship.



They are prepared out of fine clay mixed with colour. Then they are coloured with different hues to make them attractive. The festival of Makar Sankranti is an occasion for making garlands depicting the wild pigeon or Ghugta (which figures prominently in the romantic folk songs of Kumaon) from sweetened wheat flour. The children feed crows with these Ghugta models. On Kark Sankranti, the images made of Lord Shiva are known as Dekara, which depict the marriage of Shiva with Parvati, the daughter of Himalaya.



Ornaments

In every part of Garhwal and Kumaon,traditional Swarnakaras or goldsmiths used to make traditional ornaments using designs and patterns which are thousands of years old . The ornaments were made in gold, silver & often copper was overlaid in brass.



Garhwal was always considered a safe haven for wanderers, adventurers, political exiles, philosophical thinkers and nature lovers. About the middle of the 17th century A.D. Suleman Shikoh, a Mughal Prince, took refuge in Garhwal. The Prince brought along with him an artist and his son who were his court painters and well versed in the Mughal style of Miniature Painting. After nineteen months, the Prince left Garhwal but his court painters, enchanted by the environs, stayed behind.



These painters settled in Srinagar (Garhwal), the then capital of the Pawar dynasty and introduced the Mughal style of painting in Garhwal. With the passage of time, the successors of these original masters became expert painters and also developed an original style of their own. This style later, on came to be known as the Garhwal School of Painting.



About a century later, a famous painter, Mola Ram, developed a style of painting equaled in romantic charm only by few other styles of painting. He was not only a great master of the Garhwal School but also a great poet of his time. We find beautiful poems in some of Mola Ram’s paintings. There are definite influences of other Pahari Schools reflected in these paintings, but the overall originality of the Garhwal School is maintained. Special features of the Garhwal School include beautiful women with fully developed breasts, thin waistline, soft oval shaped face, delicate brow and thin nose with defined nose bridge. A poet cum artist Mola Ram was undoubtedly an exceptional personality of his age, for, he wrote poems, made notes on natural history, collected data and painted a diverse range of subjects.



The matrimonial alliance of King Pradhyuman Shah (1797-1804 AD) with a Guler Princess of Kangra induced many Guler artists to come and reside in Garhwal. Their technique greatly influenced the Garhwal style of painting. With the conceptualisation of ideal beauty, its fusion of religion and romance, its blending of poetry and passion, the paintings of Garhwal are an embodiment of the Indian attitude towards love.



From painstaking research work undertaken by eminent scholars and art historians, we know the names of various painters of that period.



Shyam Das and Har Das were first in the family tree, probably being the first to come to Garhwal with Prince Suleman. Hiralal, Mangat Ram, Molaram, Jwalaram, Tejram, Brijnath were some of the great masters of this school of art.



The masterpieces of the Garhwal School of Painting include the following:

Illustrations of Ramayana (1780 AD)

Celebrations of Balarama’s birthday (1780 AD)

Series of Raginis Shiva and Parvati Utkat Nayika Abhisarika Nayika Krishna painting the feet of Radha Radha looking into a mirror Varsha Vihar Kaliya Daman Illustrations of Gita Govinda.



A rich collection of these paintings, are displayed at the University Museum in Srinagar, Garhwal, along with many sculptures and finds from archaeological excavations.



Dekara

Special images of Gods and Goddesses were made, since idol worship played an important role in the lives of the inhabitants of Garhwal. Dekaras are the clay images of Gods and Goddesses either in relief or in three-dimensional form and are meant solely for worship.



They are prepared out of fine clay mixed with colour. Then they are coloured with different hues to make them attractive. The festival of Makar Sankranti is an occasion for making garlands depicting the wild pigeon or Ghugta (which figures prominently in the romantic folk songs of Kumaon) from sweetened wheat flour. The children feed crows with these Ghugta models. On Kark Sankranti, the images made of Lord Shiva are known as Dekara, which depict the marriage of Shiva with Parvati, the daughter of Himalaya.



Paintings, the art of 'aipan' and other art form:
During the last two decades many rock paintings belonging to the protohistoric period have been discovered in Kumaon. Among them Lakhu Udiyar and Lwethaap are well known. The Pahari kalam (style of painting) probably also developed in Kumaon, when it was being practiced in some of the Himalayan regions. Unfortunately very few examples of this style are available today.



The Aipan ( Alpana) is a popular art form of Kumaon, and walls, papers and pieces of cloth are decorated by the drawing of various geometric and other figures belonging to gods, goddesses and objects of nature. Pichhauras or dupattas are also decorated in this manner. At the time of Harela there is a tradition of making clay idols (Dikaras).


The Shaukas use their own Tibetan knitting art form to decorate mattresses known as Dans. In these woollen goods we find the mixed influence of the Kumaoni and Tibetan styles. Kumaon also has a distinctive style of making different baskets (Doka, Dala, Tokri); wooden casks (Theki, Harpia, Naliya) for keeping curd, butter and ghee; mattresses (mosta) and ropes etc. The art of hilljatra mukhotas (masks) is also worth mentioning.





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