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The World of Pahari Miniature Painting   Vijay Sharma                         

The 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 maintaining ateliers.
               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 conditions .
                    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 miniatures.