Rajput Painting - 1

The Icon of India

rajput painting


 In the past, I discussed several characteristics of Indian painting in this blog. But one of the most significant parts of Indian painting was recognized as Rajput Kalam, which got missed here. So, I decided to start a new discussion on this ever-glorious Indian style presented in the form of Rajput Painting. 

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Chauhan Rajput Shephard.

 In starting, I want to preamble a succinct commendation about the community of Rajput. According to the Hindu Puranas and two great Indian epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, Rajputs are descended from thirty-six Kshatriya clans. They are divided into three basic lineages; One is Suryavanshi, second, Chandravanshi, and third, Agnivanshi. Suryavanshi indicates someone who was born from the power of the sun. Chandravanshi is who was born from the power of the moon. Agnivanshi was considered as who was born from the power of fire. India's Rajput population and former Rajput states are spread throughout most of the subcontinent, primarily in North, West, and Central India. The population of Rajputs can be found in Rajasthan, Saurashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Jammu, Punjab, Uttarakhand, and Madhya Pradesh.


The main importance of this Rajput community is, it has been considered an icon of heroism on the battlefield with a strong presence that never gets back until death. In India, such a remarkable community has been showing their notable performance in the role of defense from an ancient historic period. It is astounding how such a battle-loved community also has shown its passion and expertness in the field of art!

 In our earlier discussion related to the Jain manuscript, we have seen how the Persian influence worked on the painting before the arrival of the Mughal emperor in Mandu. Also, we experienced how two separate styles of the stream got assorted in a single practice of Mughal painting. We got introduced to how the framework of Jain manuscript art got matched with the Vaishnava[1] approach and performed in the Mughal royal court. It also functioned in several areas of Rajasthan as well. As evidence, we can take a look at the painting containing the tale of princess Rupmati which was depicted in the 17th century. 


See the image of right side, - 

The Rajput painting about a romantic tale of princess Rupmati

From my approach, the Mughal painting originated from a thoughtful perspective based on education, and hence, it was not for the common individual. Whereas the Rajput painting was born by the Royal folk art that served endless joy and pleasure; beyond of usual lifespan, though humanitarian. I visited Rajasthan several times. When you are there, also will experience the same. Elsewhere, you will find beautiful artwork conveying the looks of its Royal heritage of artistry. It's even from the house of the individual to the Royal palace. It means the nature of the Rajput painting makes itself a part of the life of the inhabitants of Rajasthan. But the Mughal painting was incompetent to do the same. Though the Rajput painting got influenced by the Mughal painting, nevertheless, it has a separate approach that makes it stand out.  


After evaluating all the Rajput paintings, we have found some specialties based on the style and aspect. Those are based on regional locations, such as Ajmer (Now Jaipur), Amber, Bikaner, Bundi, Kishangarh, Kota, Mewar, and Jodhpur. Among those, which are the biggest region, also had some tiny sub-regions known as ‘Thikana’. Those Thikana were famous for their very own style.  


In comparison, the primordial technique of the Rajput miniature painting is more stable and antiquated than the Mughal miniature. Hence, it's longstanding too. On the other hand, the Mughal miniature was a kind of imported graft in India's conventional painting. It improved with the style of Indian traditional art, and thus it grew up with the compassion of Indian fundamental style. It's just like a grafted mango. The style of Rajput painting is the traditional lineage of Indian art, and it could enhance any style with its potential. With the Persian style, it resulted in a new form that we consider as Mughal Painting. Mughal Emperors accumulated Indian artists from several places in Rajasthan as a helper of Irani artists of the royal court. Foreign techniques and knowledge got combined with the native Indian formation. As an outcome, a new approach was assumed in the Persian style in the color, line drawing, composition, and decorative formation, which we recognized as Mughal painting. Meanwhile, native Indian artists started working with the royal court artists and in the court of the regional kings who were obedient to the Mughal emperor. Primarily, they started working on the illustrated manuscripts and wall paintings ( In the modern era, we know them as street art )of several areas of Rajasthan.

Godhuli (Twilight) Mewar, Rajasthan, 1813

 After the decadence of the Mughal reign, Rajput painting got unbelievable prosperity that is sometimes considered the creation of God, not the human. At the time of decay of the Mughal reign in the 18th century, when the flow of work got dimming away in the studio of royal court artists of the Mughal emperor, then most of them were scattered elsewhere in Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, and the provincial areas of the Mughal reign, to start their work in a new way. They produced the highest penchant in their wisdom, thought, and feelings, which represent a poetic philosophy inside of their refreshed style of painting. The experience of working in the Mughal royal court gave them prosperity, which they used in native Indian style with artistic intuition and produced such a heavenly style that got unapproachable in each era. Such paintings created a new horizon of humanity, spiritual approach, and cognition of nobility that was far beyond Mughal culture, and artistic approach. It pulls us to a new sensitivity we experience for the first time. It is regrettable that in India, successor artists ignored such an exceptional Kalam; however, If they would have a deep study, then I could say Indian art would have new prosperity.

The ancestor of Rajput painting was the ancient art on the street wall and also the illustration of several ancient manuscripts, including the style of Jain and Vaishnava manuscript art. Those styles flourished from the Irani perspective and got incorporated with traditional ancient wall art. Finally, it produced a new horizon in Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, which we consider Rajput Painting. We can see the highest level of prosperity in Rajput painting in Kangra, Gadwal, and a few other places in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. 

Lalit Kala Academy has been publishing beautiful albums on Rajput Painting for the last 30 years, where we experienced; how it got modified and improved step by step by keeping up the regional value of the characteristic, modifying the composition, and color. As far as we are aware of Mughal-Rajput-Pahari Gharana, those paintings are the branches of a vast joint family. Hence, the hereditary characteristics of those paintings should need to have a taxonomic discussion. It will reveal the value of the insides of spirituality, humanism, sensation through deep feelings, besides the Characteristic revolution of the outer part of paintings.  


It is too complex to discuss however, I'll try to the best of my ability to reveal the pulse of Rajput painting. Please feel free to advise me if I make any mistakes during the discussion. Besides that, share your experience of reading, or you can subscribe to the blog to stay in tune with upcoming posts. Thank you


Will be continuing

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[1] Vaishnavism (Sanskrit: वैष्णवसम्प्रदायः, romanized: Vaiṣṇavasampradāyaḥ) is one of the major Hindu denominations along with Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism. According to a 2010 estimate by Johnson and Grim, Vaishnavites are the largest Hindu sect, constituting about 641 million or 67.6% of Hindus. It is also called Vishnuism since it considers Vishnu as the sole supreme being leading all other Hindu deities, ie Mahavishnu. Its followers are called Vaishnavites or Vaishnavas (IAST: Vaiṣṇava), and it includes sub-sects like Krishnaism and Ramaism, which consider Krishna and Rama as the supreme beings respectively.

(Resource - Wikipedia)

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Last updated on - 07.12.2023