Saturday, December 13, 2008

Basohli Paintings and Calendar Art

Basohli Paintings evolved in the 17th and 18th centuries as a distinctive style of painting by fusion of Hindu mythology, Mughal miniature techniques and folk art of the local hills. The painting style derives its name from the place of its origin - hill town of Basohli about 80 Km. from the centre of district Kathua in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.

This style of painting was first introduced to the world in the annual report (1918-19) of the Archaeological  Survey of India published in 1921. At that time this style was yet to be properly categorized and studied.
Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, who was first to publish them, in Rajput Paintings in 1916, wrote about this style of painting believing it to be Jammu style. Discussing these Jammu paintings, Coomaraswamy observed:
The Jammu are well and vigorously designed often with a decorative simplicity very suggestive of large scale mural art. In several examples there reappears that savage vitality which has been already remarked in the early Rajasthani raginis, but it is here associated with more exaggeration and with a strange physical type, the peculiar sloping forehead and very large eyes are especially characteristics of some of the portraits..the coloring is hot. Silver is used as well as gold. A remarkable feature is the occasional use of fragments of beetle's wings to represent jewelery, and by the peculiar character of the architecture, with turrets, paneled doors, latticed windows and plinths ending in grotesque heads...Krsna and Radha or Mahadeva and Uma play the parts of hero and heroine. 
The most popular themes of Basohli Paintings come from Shringara literature like  Rasamanjari or Bouquet of Delight ( a long love poem written in 15th century by Bhanudatta of Tirhut Bihar ), Gita Govinda and Ragamala. These paintings are marked by striking blazing colors, red borders, bold lines and rich symbols. The faces of the figures painted are characterized by the receding foreheads and large expressive eyes, shaped like lotus petals. The painting themselves are mostly painted in the primary colors of Red, Blue and Yellow.

Collected the following beautiful images from The J&K Bank 2008 Annual Calendar*


Basohli PaintingBasohli Painting

Radha giving butter-milk to Krishna                                                 Krishna lifting the mountain Govardhana

Basohli PaintingBasohli Painting

Radha and Krishna rejoicing the moments of togetherness            The holy family of Parvati and Shiva

Basohli PaintingBasohli Painting

The vigil of the Expectant heroine Utkanthita              Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh paying homage to Trimurti

Basohli PaintingBasohli Painting

Naiyka of Ragamala awakening the Nayak                                Radha listening to the music of Krishna's flute

Basohli PaintingBasohli Painting

Krishna swallowing the forest fire of Vrindavan     Radha holds the restless calf while Krishna is milking a cow

Basohli PaintingBasohli Painting

Krishna bringing the Parijata tree from Indra's Heaven                             View from the window

(Name of artists(not in any order): Lalit Kumar Dogra, Surinder Singh Billawaria, Sohan Singh Billawaria, Dharam Pal, Dheeraj Kapoor, Sona upadhaya, Shakeel Ahmed Raza, Arun Dogra, M.K. Wadhera and Sushil Padha)

You can check out these links if you are interested in knowing more about the art and history of Basohli Paintings:
Recommended Read and Acknowledgment:
Centres of Pahari Painting By Chandramani Singh

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Earlier cross posted at my other blog
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*Every year J&K Bank comes out with beautiful Calendars. Since this year they featured "Hindu paintings", even though one of the painters is muslim,  it could have been a cause of concern for the muslims of the state(valley). So another calender circulated by them this year had the theme of "Kashmiris Everywhere". It carried photographs if Kashmiris working in various towns and citites of India.

2 comments:

  1. Dear.
    The writeup in Basohli pasintings was quite good. But I was quite shocked to notice the cynicism in the last remark. The remark about jk banki coming with two calendars.
    Since I was one of the people who was associated with the calendar project, i was appalled to see how opinionated our people are. Let me tell you that for year 2008 J&K bank came up actually with three calendars. One depicting the people of kashmir working everywhere---and not depict just the picturesque mountains and lakes, as if nobody lived in the valley.The basholi paintings from jammu and the Thangka paintings from ladakh. This was intended to give a proper representation to all the three equally important regions of the state.

    I gnorance may be bliss but in your case it smacks of opinionated arrogance.Kindly shun it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Zamir,
    I remember the last time you commented here. That time also you were offended because you thought I was somehow insulting your bank.
    Do you have some kind of J&K Bank radar working for you?
    You may call me cynical but i am convinced that you would not have left a comment here had it not been for my supposed slight of the bank.

    Anyway, i had no intention of maligning J&K Bank's act of coming up with multiple calendars.
    Why would I do that? I was actually very happy with the theme that did "not depict just the picturesque mountains and lakes, as if nobody lived in the valley." I have already framed the beautiful older calenders depicting those :)
    What I meant was that "it could have been a cause of concern for the muslims of the state(valley)" since no one in his right mind would have expected them to hang the calender with "Hindu painting having hindu gods" on their walls. Had some folks in valley received this calender by mistake, they would have been grossly offended ( at the start of the year i already heard a few kashmiris mumble about it) and the fact that one of the painters is also muslim would have been lost on most. J&K bank did at great job at using his painting and showcasing the plurality of the state. I was trying to highlight that fact.

    Maybe i could have framed my sentence better. But maybe you could have realized i wasn't actually saying some thing controversial - i wasn't writing a post about the fact that the finance minister of the state at its launch had talked about separate currency for J&K.

    Anyway thanks for the comment and (i hope) well intentioned advice. Hope you people come up with a great calender for 2009.

    ReplyDelete

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