Rajput Painting

Rajasthan’s role in the development of Indian art has been very important. The decoration of dwellings and other household objects was but one aspect of the creative genius of the Rajasthani – the world of miniature paintings is perhaps the most fascinating and the distinctive styles that have existed here are renowned the world over. From the 16th century onwards there flourished different schools of paintings like the Mewar School, the Bundi-Kota Kalam, the Jaipur, Bikaner, Kishengarh and Marwar schools.

Rajput paintingInfluenced by the surroundings, these medieval paintings have their own unique styles -  the hills and valleys, deserts, places and forts, gardens, court scenes, religious processions and those highlighting scenes from the life of Lord Krishna were the recurrent themes of these paintings. The Raagamala paintings and those based on Geeta Govinda are treasures of Rajasthan. It is widely believed that the miniature artists of Rajasthan were practicing and perfecting their are as early as the beginning of the 16th century and were later employed by the Mughal courts, specially by the Great Mughal emperor Akbar.

Each school of painting had its distinctive features. For instance, the flowing rivers dense forests, lush green fields of Kota-Bundi region were transferred to the paintings of that region. In palaces of Kota-Bundi are displayed the paintings depicting hunting scenes and animal fights. Other than Nature, the figures of women here are graceful, with well-proportioned bodies and sharp features. Colours used are mainly bright, with red prominently appearing in the background. Areas in the vicinity of this region, like uniara, Indergarh and Sarola were aslo influenced by the Kota and Bundi kalam.

The rulers of Amer-Jaipur were closest to the Mughals and had maintained political and social links with them. Therefore, it was only natural to find a strong Mughal influence in the paintings here. Examples of this can be understood in the paintings in the palaces of Amer, Bairat and Toda Rai Singh and much later Samod, Achrol, Shahapura, Alwar and Tonk.

The Kishengarh School is best known for its Bani Thani painiltings. A totally different style with higly exaggerated features – long necks, large , almond shaped eyes, long fingers and the use of subdued colours. The originalty of  style can be credited to its royal patron – Raja Sawant Singh, better known as Nagari Das. The usual court scenes have also been painted here  but it was Nagari Das and his love for the singer-poet Bani Thani which gave this tiny state the most refined and delicate paintings.

rajasthan paintingJodhpur has a very strong folk tradition and here the figures are mainly robust warriors and dainty women. Paintings of the legendary lovers like Dhola-Maru on camel back, hunting scenes which included innumerable horses and elephants dominate the paintings of the Marwar region. Similarly, Bikaner too had strong Mughal influences and developed a style which was a combination of both the local as well as borrowed styles .

The Colors used by the miniature artists were made from minerals, vegetables, precious stones, indigo, conch shells, pure gold and silver. The preparing and mixing of colour was an elaborate process and it took weeks, sometimes months, to get the desired results. Very fine, specially created bruches were made for different kinds of paintings.

The landscape changed, the colours used were varied, paintings were done on paper and palm leaf to illustrate manuscripts, and on walls of palaces and the inner chambers of forts, havelies (the painted havelies of Shekhawati are well-known), and painting were done on cloth. But the importance of miniatures has never diminished – even after all these years. Pure Rajput paintings and those influenced by the Mughal court provide an interesting insight into the lifestyle on the centuries and continue to fascinate the scholars to this day. Artists in Jaipur, Nathdwara and Kishengarh still work on miniatures and some of them produce excellent work. There have been several new developments but on the whole, the magical quality of the miniature continuous to live on.