A colourful realm
A region dotted with magnificent forts and palaces amid a desert realm, with a rich and colourful history, painting styles, ballads and folklore, Rajputana is now mostly in the state called Rajasthan formed after the Indian Republic was formed in 1950. The school of painting which originated here is considered a classic artform of India. The biggest states were Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Jaipur and Udaipur.
A Maharajah's legacy
Many rulers were vassals of the Mughal Empire, but every Maharaja or ruler had his own atelier. The Rajasthani paintings have always had a regal ambience, a sense of pride and the characterisation is heroic and epic. The paintings illustrate the splendour of a kingdom and its legacy. The term Rajput painting was coined by Art Historian, Ananda Coomaraswamy which included Pahari paintings too as those princely states were also ruled by the Rajputs.
The art and content
There were a variety of subjects for the content, but portraits of the ruling family, engaged in hunting or their daily activities, were well depicted, as were narrative scenes from the epics or from Hindu mythology, like the Bhagavata Purana, as well as some general scenes from people’s lives.
The colours were extracted from certain minerals, plant sources, conch shells and precious stones. Gold and silver were used as well. The preparation of colours was a tedious process, sometimes taking upto two weeks. Paintings were made using very fine brushes made of squirrel or camel hair.
By the late 16th Century, the Rajput art schools under princely states, ruled by Rajput rulers began to develop clear styles, combining indigenous as well as external influences such as Persian, Mughal, Chinese and European. The Mewar School contains the Chavand, Nathdwara, Deogadh Udaipur and Sawar styles of painting.
The Marwar School has the Kishangarh, Nagaur, Pali and Ghanera styles, The Hadoti School has Kota, Bundi and Jhalawar styles, the Dhundar School has Amber, Jaipur, Shekhawati and Uniara styles of painting. The Malwa paintings from Central India are also a part of Rajasthani School.
Power, glory and splendour
The themes of the paintings were varied and interesting. The princely rulers and their life, Krishna Lila, shringara and its various aspects, Shiva and Parvati, the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, the Bhagavata Purana, ballads and romances of of yore, Ragamalas, seasons, landscape and animals all find a place in the repertoire of Rajasthani painting. A sense of pomp and ceremony are typical of many Rajasthani paintings.
The Salar Jung Museum's collection
The museum contains a good variety of Rajasthani paintings. Many of the schools and sub schools are well represented. There are paintings from Amber-Jaipur, Udaipur, Kota, Bundi, Mewar, and Bikaner among few others. The themes are mostly to do with courtly culture, lifestyle and portraiture of the rulers. Also scenes from the Hindu epics and ancient texts.
These images take us on a journey of a fascinating land, the Rajasthan of yore with its rich history, proud rulers, resonant legends and romantic folklore.
RAJA BHIM SINGH (1700/1799)Salar Jung Museum
Raja Bhim Singh
Seen here is a miniature painting depicting Raja Bhim Singh, who was the Maharaja of Marwar Kingdom (ruled 1793 – 1803). He is depicted seated on horse back with two attendants marching in front of the horse, Deogadh, circa 1794.
LORD VISHNU AND LAXMI (1600/1699)Salar Jung Museum
Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi
Seen here is a miniature painting showing four-armed Lord Vishnu and his consort, Goddess Lakshmi seated on a lotus, from Bundi. This painting is dated to late 17th century.
Illustration from Bhagavata (1700/1725)Salar Jung Museum
Illustration from Bhagavata Purana
Seen here is an illustration depicting a theme from Bhagavata Purana. The illustration is showing Krishna killing the snake Kaliya and releasing people and cows, from Malwa dated to early 18th century.
DURGA FIGHTING WITH DEMONS (1800/1899)Salar Jung Museum
Goddess Durga fighting with demons
Seen here is a miniature depicting a multi-armed Goddess Durga on tiger's back shooting towards the horned demon Shumbha in two-horse driven chariot who is also shooting arrows. In the second register multi-armed Goddess Durga riding on tiger and in front of her a horned demon Nishumbha standing with spear in two-horse driven chariot, from Jaipur, dated to 19th century.
LADY PLAYING VEENA (1600/1699)Salar Jung Museum
Lady playing the Veena
Seen here is a miniature painting showing a noble lady seated on a yellow carpet, on a terrace holding and playing a stringed musical instrument, she wears interesting headgear and mahawar on her dainty feet painted in Uniara style and dated to 17th century.
RAJA STANDING BESIDE HORSE IN FORT (1800/1899)Salar Jung Museum
Raja standing beside horse in a fort
Seen here is a painting depicting a Raja standing beside a horse, standing alone and then on horse back in the fort. The same Raja has been shown outside the fort at five places giving a sense of movement. Hindi inscriptions at places on the painting. This painting is from Jaipur and dated to 19th century.
PORTRAIT OF A KING (1800/1899)Salar Jung Museum
Portrait of a king with a saint
Seen here is a king standing before a saint seated in a mandapa and another nobleman, probably his minister, standing behind the king. This miniature painting is from Jaipur, and dated to early 19th century.
Worship of Sri Nathji (1700/1799)Salar Jung Museum
Worship of Sri Nathji
Seen here is a miniature painting to represent a scene of the worship of Sri Nathji in four panels attended by ladies, men and cows. This painting is from Nathdwara dated to 18th century.
Krishna and Radha on a swing (1800/1899)Salar Jung Museum
Krishna and Radha on a swing
Seen here is a miniature painting with Lord Krishna and Radha on a swing, six gopis or cowherd maidens playing music, a depiction of Raga Hindola. This miniature is from Kishangarh, and dated to circa 1800.
ROOPMATI AND BAZBAHADUR (1800/1899)Salar Jung Museum
Roopmati and Baz Bahadur
Baz Bahadur Khan was the last Sultan of Malwa Sultanate, who reigned from 1555 to 1562. He is known for his romantic liaison with Roopmati. This painting depicts Rani Roopmati and Baz Bahadur on horseback hunting and followers standing at a distance under a tree, witnessing the scene. Floral design on all sides of the painting dated to 19th century.
PORTRAIT OF PRITHVIRAJ AND SAMYUKTA (1800/1899)Salar Jung Museum
Portrait of Prithviraj and Samyukta
Prithviraj Chauhan was a great Rajput emperor (ruled c. 1178–1192 CE). He controlled much of the present-day Rajasthan, Haryana, and Delhi; and some parts of Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. His capital was Ajmer. The love between Prithviraj and Samyukta is one of India's most popular medieval romances, this painting depicts Prithviraj and Samyukta on a horse, 19th century.
Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana going to the forest (1800/1899)Salar Jung Museum
Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana going to the forest
A scene from the epic Ramayana; Lord Rama going to the forest with wife Sita and brother Lakshmana, trees, mountains and birds seen in the background. This painting is dated to 19th century.
THAKUR SRI JAGATH SINGHJI (1900/1999)Salar Jung Museum
Thakur Sri Jagath Singhji
Thakur Sri Jagath Singhji or Raja Jagat Singh of Nurpur (reigned 1618-46) with his two attendants, holding a sword in his right hand. One attendant holds a chowrie or fly-whisk and another holds a long staff. This miniature is from Jodhpur and dated to 20th century.
Painting of Sri Nathji, a form of Lord Krishna, worshipped by the Vallabha sect, Nathdwara, dated to late 19th century.
KRISHNA PLAYING FLUTE (1600/1699)Salar Jung Museum
Krishna playing the flute
Lord Krishna playing the flute, seen here with two cows on his right and a gopi or cowherd maiden on the left. The cows seem mesmerised with the music. This miniature is from Mewar and dated to circa 1640.
Raja Bakhtawar Singh sitting on a chair (1800/1899)Salar Jung Museum
Raja Bakhtawar Singh sitting on a chair
Raja Bakhtawar Singh who ruled Alwar 1791–1815 is seen sitting on a chair and listening to music, an attendant standing behind him. One minister, one priest sitting on a carpet and two musicians playing music. A grand palace among trees is seen in the backdrop. This miniature is from Jaipur and dated to circa 1825.
Text and Curation: Soma Ghosh
Photography: M. Krishnamurthy and Bahadur Ali
Research Assistance: Dinesh Singh and E. Rajesh
Special thanks to Dr. A Nagender Reddy, Director, Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad, India.
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