Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pahari paintings from the Himalayan foothills, 17th and 18th Century paintings from North Western India

Devi on the lotus
Illustration from the Tantric Devi Series
Basohli or Nurpur, Punjab Hills, ca. 1660-70

In the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains of North West India there developed in the 17th and 18th centuries a distinctive and beautiful type of painting that came to be known as "Pahari", which means of the hills.

There were a number of styles that evolved in the different areas of these foothills, usually named after specific towns or provinces, such as Kangra, Jammu, Nurpur, ChambaBasohli and Punjab.

There were many themes depicted in the Pahari paintings, ordinary life, gods and goddesses, festivals, portraits and court life.

One of the most popular themes was that of Krishnaportrayed in various perspectives: a god-child, a prankster, a model lover, a divine hero and the Supreme Being.

Krishna is often depicted in vignettes from the Gita Govinda or the Rasa Lila

"The rasa lila takes place one night when the gopis of Vrindavan, upon hearing the sound of Krishna's flute, sneak away from their households and families to the forest to dance with Krishna throughout the night, which Krishna supernaturally stretches to the length of one Night of Brahma, a Hindu unit of time lasting approximately 4.32 billion years. In the Krishna Bhakti traditions, the rasa-lila is considered to be one of the highest and most esoteric of Krishna's pastimes. In these traditions, romantic love between human beings in the material world is seen as merely a diminished, illusionary reflection of the soul’s original, ecstatic spiritual love for Krishna, God, in the spiritual world."

Early Master at the Court of Mandi (Attributed). The gopis pleading with Krishna to return their clothes: folio from a Bhagavata Purana series. Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, ca. 1635–50. The Kronos Collections

The Holy Family India
Pahari, Kangra or Garhwahl 1780-1800.
This is a family portrait of the Hindu god Shiva on Mount Kailasha. Shiva sits on a leopard skin with dishevelled hair, a sign of his ascetic practices. He is surrounded by his wife Parvati, his elephant-headed son, Ganesha, and multi-headed son, Karttikeya, who play the musical instruments vina and drums. Shiva’s bull mount, Nandi, Ganesha's rat mount and Karttikeya's peacock mount relax around the group.

Lotus-clad Radha and Krishna. Mankot, Punjab Hills, India circa 1700-1710

Rama and Sita in the forest, 1780

Krishna and Radha. Kangra

Krishna and Radha, arranging the tresses of his love. Kangra

Krishna and Radha, hang on my ears the jewelled earrings O accomplished youth. 

Krishna adorns Radha after their love-making
Illustration to the Gita Govinda Book XII. Kangra, Punjab Hills, ca. 1775-8015.

Krishna and attendants visiting Radha Kangra, Punjab HillsIndia late 18th century-early 19th century

Krishna playing a flute, ca. 1790-1800 Rajput period.

Manaku, Krishna playing blindman's bluff. Guler, Himachal Pradesh, ca. 1750–1755.The Kronos Collections

Krishna Flirting with the Gopis, to Radha's sorrow, ca. 1760

Page from Bhanudatta's 'Rasamanjari' illustrating Rama's concerns for Sita. Punjab, India ca.1720 

Nainsukh (Attributed), Raja Balwant Singh of Jasrota worships Krishna and Radha. Jasrota, Himachal Pradesh ca. 1745 – 1750. Opaque watercolor, ink, silver and gold on paper,The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Krishna-Abhisarika Nayika meets a witch and snakes on the way to meeting her lover, Detail from an early 19th century Indian miniature painting (Period - Rajput, Pahari, Kangra school), ink and color on paper. 

First generation after Manaku and Nainsukh. Krishna with Radha in a forest glade: folio from the second Guler Gita Govinda series. Guler, Himachal Pradesh, ca. 1775. Collection of Barbara and Eberhard Fischer, on permanent loan to the Museum Rietberg Zรผrich

Shiva watches Parvati Sleep
Indian, Pahari, about 1780–90    Garhwal or Kangra, Punjab Hills, Northern India. Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Bahu Masters. Raga Madhava: folio from a Ragamala series. Bahu, Jammu, ca. 1720. Museum Rietberg Zรผrich, Collection of Alice Boner

Via Art Fund: 'Radha and Krishna in the Grove' illustrated here dated circa 1780, opaque watercolour on paper, 13 x 17.5cm. This work is no.16 in one of the albums executed around 1870 by an artist from Kangra in in the Pahari Hills of Punjab, India, during the reign of Raja Sansar Chand (1775-1823). It is among the finest Indian miniatures and features Radha and Krishna, the eighth and most popular incarnation of the Hindu god, Vishnu, embracing in an idyllic landscape. The graceful, intertwining poses of the couple in this elegant watercolour meet with an ecstatic response from the natural world, where egrets graze, lotuses flower and the trees suddenly spring into bloom around them. 

Via: An Illustration from the Gita Govinda: Krishna and Radha in a Bower, India, Kangra or Guler, circa 1780. Opaque watercolor heightened with gold on paper. 

Krishna steals the clothes of the gopies Kangra, Pahari, circa A.D. 1800

The Birth of Evil An illustration to the Bhagavata Purana, Basohli, circa 1730-40 A.D.

The Dilemma of the Heroine Illustration to the Rasamanjari. Basohli, circa 1695 A.D

On the threshold of Youth, An illustration to the Rasamanjari. Basohli, circa 1695 A.D.

Enter the bower of Love, O Beautiful, An illustration to the Gita Govinda. Basohli, 1730 A.D.
From the excellent Navin Kumar website, Court Paintings of India from the 16th to the 19th Centuries

Ganesh, Basohli c. 1730
Varaha and Hiranyaksha: Folio from a Bhagavata Purana Series
Varaha and Hiranyaksha: Folio from a Bhagavata Purana Series
Attributed to Manaku (active ca. 1725–60)
The Demon Hiranyaksha Departs the Demon Palace: Folio from a   Bhagavata Purana Series
Attributed to Manaku (active ca. 1725–60)
Bhairavi Ragini: Folio from a Ragamala Series
Early Master at the Mandi CourtDate: ca. 1640–50
Radha and Krishna in Discussion, (An illustration from Gita Govinda) Gouache on paper 

How the Himalayan foothills look these days
Photo: Flickr Copyright east med wanderer
Here, you can see the Himalayan region of Northern India

The Geometry of Kangra Paintings by Michael Schneider


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