Pahari Paintings are literally, paintings from the hills of India.
In the sub-Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh, ruled the Rajput kings. They were great art-lovers. It is under their patronage that the Pahari painting flourished from the 17th to the 19th century.
The breathtaking landscapes of the mountain ranges inspired artists. And they made these the backdrop of their paintings. These paintings are mainly in the miniature style.
The Pahari painting underwent a lot of modification during its lifetime.Itís development can broadly be classified into three distinct schools: Basohli,Guler-Kangra and Sikh.
The early stage of development of the Pahari painting started in the mid 17th century. It is in the style of the Basohli school. Pahari paintings in this style are characterized by:
- Brilliant colours. The background is bright red, yellow, green or brown usually.
- A sense of perspective is achieved by the pigmy trees.
- The sky is merely indicated. It is usually a narrow strip in the horizon.
- Figures with distinct facial features such as fish-shaped elongated eyes or large expressive lotus-shaped eyes, round chins, prominent noses, oval faces, receding foreheads
- Two-dimensional architectural constructions, crowned with pavilions or domes.
- Popular themes are: portraits of local rulers and the Hindu gods and figures from Hindu mythology. Radha-Krishna and Madhava-Malati love themes and themes from the Bhagavata Purana abound.
The Pahari rulers often visited the courts of the Mughal rulers. They were influenced by their traditions and tastes. And this Mughal influence is visible in their paintings. For instance, the translucent clothing of the women and men depicted in the paintings is a Mughlai feature. The paintings are also marked by features characteristic of Rajasthani and Malwa paintings.
In the second quarter of the 18th century, the Basohli style underwent a significant change. A new school of Pahari painting developed in the Guler and Kangra area, and increasingly gained popularity. This style was characterized by:
- A certain toning down of the former exuberance. The paintings acquired a lyrical nature.
- An expansion of the color palette. Artists in this style did not use the smoldering colors of the Basohli school. They adopted various shades of the primary colors and used delicate and fresher hues. For instance, the a light pink color was used on the upper hills to indicate distance.
- The foliage depicted was now more vast and varied. This was made noticeable by the multiple shades of green used to signify vegetation.
- Flowering plants and creepers, leafless trees, rivulets and brooks also feature in these paintings.
- Feminine facial features were softened and refined. The female figures seen now were exceptionally beautiful.
- These paintings were often large and complex compositions of many figures and elaborate landscapes.
- Painters used colors made of vegetable and mineral extracts.
- The most popular themes were the stories and antics of Krishna.
This was the last phase in the development of the Pahari painting. It was not as refined as the former schools. It was apparent that this painting from the hills of India was quietly withdrawing from the stage of Indian Art.