art of miniature painting in one of the finest gifts of India to
the art world. ‘Pahari’ is the popular term coined for the
paintings done in the various sub – Himalayan states. Most of
the schools of the Pahari Paintings developed and flourished
from about 17th to 19th centuries in the present state of
Himachal Pradesh. This hilly region, then divided into twenty two
small principalities, was ruled by Rajput Kings of chieftains who
were all great connoisseurs of art, with and most of them
The Pahari rulers were tributary to the Mughals and
they often visited the Imperial court and were familiar with
Mughal traditions and tastes . with the painters trained in the
refined Mughal style migrated to the Hills. The landscape of the sub
Himalayan mountain ranges Fascinated poets and painters who enjoyed
the patronage of the Pahari princes. The ultimate flowering of
miniature painting took place in Nurpur, Chamba, basohli, Guler,
Kangra, Mandi, Kullu and Bilaspur .
Pahari painting had two principal phases of
development . The earlier phase that started from the mid 17th
century is extraordinarily Colorful with its primitive expressions
charged with vitality and emotional intensity.
These early pahari paintings can be distinguished by fish –
shaped elongated eyes, oval faces , receding foreheads ,round chins
and prominent noses. Bold figures are carefully laid against
monochrome backgrounds of red ,yellow, green or brown colours.
Decorative pigmy trees suggest the feeling of perspective while the
sky is indicated only by a narrow strip on the horizon.
The style underwent a change in the second quarter of the
18th century and a new phase developed in the Guler area. The
paintings of this phase are done in a somewhat naturalistic manner.
The vitality of the line toned down and acquires a lyrical
character ; The line now seem to be flowing in a rhythmic way. The
colour scheme also became slightly cooler and freshness in colour
and delicacy in execution particularly in case of Guler-kangra
schools is remarkable . The new style of eighteenth century
dominated almost all the Guler – Kangra style exhibit more
vegetation and green expanses . Besides , the brooks and the
rivulets became common elements of printings done in Kangra valley.
The refined style of Guler Kangra is distinguished by its
graceful female facial types . The round sharp- featured female
faces are rendered with great care by the accomplished Pahari
Artists.The feminine beauty is highly idealized in the Guler –
Kangra style. Young female figures seen in these pictures are at
once coy and endowed with exceptional beauty.
Apart from the remarkable finesse and intricate brush
work , the Kangra miniatures are characterized by the skillful of
brilliant mineral and vegetable extract colours which possess
enamel - like luster.
The subjects seen in pahari paintings exhibit the lifestyle of
society of the period. However, the most popular subjects were the
legends of the God Krishna . The basic reason for Pahari paintings
becoming a great art is its inspiration drawn from the Vaishnava
cult which influenced the Sanskrit and Hindi poets of the 11th to
the 16th century.
The activity of the Pahari painting continued till the
close of the 19th century . The changes in this period reflect
degenerating standards because of the prevailing political
The last phase of Pahari painting is generally
Known as the ‘sikh School’ . This style lacks the real refinement
and the aesthetic merit of Kangra Kalam , However , it is
considered as the last destination of the art of Pahari
miniatures . The Bhuri Singh Musuem in Chamba is one of the best
–Known Museums famous for its exquisite collection of Pahari