The tradition of Indian miniature painting can be traced from the 9th-10th century in the Buddhist Pala period palm leaf manuscript of eastern India and in the western India in the Jaina palm leaf manuscript. With the introduction of paper in 12th century in India, illustrations on paper manuscript of larger format than the narrow palm leaf, began to come into vogue. But apart from such manuscripts still there were no schools of miniature Paintings in India. There came into existence in the Lodi period (1451-1526 AD) a Sultanate bourgeois school of manuscript. The Sultanate illustrated manuscript represented the court style. The full flowering of miniature painting began when India came into direct contact with the civilization of Islam. With Mughal Empire, (1526-1757 AD) the studios were established at the Imperial court and Indian painting began a new phase in its evolution. It was from there that illustrated manuscripts, album miniatures, portraits, celebratory or genre scenes and various other paintings made their way all over India. Indian miniature painting was subjected to a strong initial Persian influence, but it was short lived since the Indian artists soon recovered their own independence and originality.
Jain and Pala Paintings
Both Jain and Pala paintings were narrative in their form. Palm leaves and pieces of cloth were cut into page-size strips and were arranged in book form. The pages contained borders and windows for illustrations.
The Jain School of Miniature paintings laid great emphasis on style. The unique features of this school include strong pure colors, stylish figures of ladies, heavy gold outlines, diminution of dress to angular segments, enlarged eyes and square-shaped hands. One can see the influence of Jain miniature paintings on Rajasthani and Mughal paintings also When it was a larger cloth-piece, the space was usually compartmentalized. Extra-protruding eyes, short stature, angular faces, pointed noises, rich costumes, fine ornaments worthy of a goldsmith’s hand, profusion of gold, ornamentation, bright colors, are the cardinal features of Jain and Pala paintings. .
All Indian artists could not make the required grade in the Mughal Imperial atelier and shifted to their respective family homes. While returning they had carried some Mughal painting traits. The influence of Mughal style is obvious in the early Rajasthani and Pahari paintings. The formative style of Rajasthani School of painting towards the end of the 16th century for the first time is seen in early Mewar paintings. Later several states of Rajasthan had developed their own individual styles of painting, the most prominent amongst them were Kota, Bundi, Bikaner, Kishangarh and Mewar and Jaipur. Once Rajasthani Miniature painting came into being, it progressed rapidly under local painters and the obvious feature in them was the Mughal style influence, but their art was very different in temperament and outlook. Part of this difference lay in the more lyrical approach of Rajasthani artists and the pleasure they derived from pure lines and colours. The variety and importance of Hindu deities as the subject matter of Rajput painting marked another departure from Mughal art. There are a few examples of Rajasthani Miniature painting in this collection. Folios from Rasikapriya in the collection exemplify the lyrical nature of these paintings extolling the romantic love of Radha and Krishna. Few paintings of the Nathdwara School depicting the cult of Srinath Ji also enhance the pride of the collection.
Mughal paintings are endowed with a classical touch, a rich style and poetic imagination. The Mughal art flourished under Mughal emperors like Akbar, Jahangir, and Shahjahan. In Akbar’s court, some 100 artists worked, during his reign the Miniature Art was an amalgamation of Hindu aesthetics, Islamic cult, and the elements of Safavid Iran. General finish, fine mixing of colors and bold execution mark Akbar’s art style.
Miniatures from the era of Jahangir have a sharp and sensitive eye to beauty of both men and nature, fine imagination and superb visual precision. Under his queen “Nurjahan’s” influence the Mughal Art was more liberal towards women-folk.
The artist of Shahjahan’s court tended to paint unconnected non-narrational themes, romantic serializations like Laila-Majnun. A kind of delicacy, romantic flavor, enormous use of gold, and absence of violence of any kind characterize his style of art.
These rulers flourished the Mughal Art style across the country and popularized them.
The Deccan Miniatures were a fusion of Islamic idiom and Deccani tradition. In it, great harmony of color schemes and use of indigenous decorative patterns attain great distinction and height. A Persian and Turkish touch could be felt in the paintings of this region due to the presence of multiple influences.
Later, in the 18th century, these paintings were blended with stylistic elements and refinement of Mughal art, by artist who had migrated to Deccan from Mughal Court. This Mughal character and the romantic fervor of the former Golkonda school created some great masterpieces of art known as Hyderabad paintings.
This art style developed around the lower hills of the Himalayn Ranges. Having four centers namely- Basohli, Guler, Chamba, and Kangra, it also had sub centers like Mandi, Hindur, Jammu and the plains of Punjab.
These paintings are endowed with a sense of serenity, picturesqueness, a kind of spontaneous symbolism, a superb sense of composition, a deep feeling for human emotions and a keenness for minutest details. Alike Pahari paintings have short statured men and women with round faces and deep eyes of moderate size set belowe a semi circular forehead. The human figures are extremely charming.
Basohli is known for its illustrated works. Various decorative patterns, extraordinarily delicate colors, fine and delicate draftsmanship .
Kangra paintings on the other hand represent the most glorious phase of Pahari paintings. These are endowed with a unique sense of freedom, are vibrant with realism and natural emotions, and their colors seem to echo with the softness of music. These portraits are of high quality. Use of primitive colors, fine borders, graceful jewelry, richly relieved naturalistic background perfectly balanced with contrasting colors and the superb treatment of trees, birds, , leaves and flowers are exclusive to Kangra Art. Basically love is the principal theme and beauty prime concern of Kangra Art.
As we saw in the above article, these different schools of art had their salient features and each one is unique in its form and composition.