A large bulk of Indian miniature paintings comes from Rajasthan, these miniatures are endowed with warm colours, primitive vigour, directions of expresion and all that corresponds to the unique land of Rajasthan. They encompass its fun and festives, the charming women and heroic men who fought with valour, loved with great zeal and warmth, celebrated each moment of life and and died like great heores. The major schools of miniatures of Rajasthan are Mewar, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Nagpur, Jaipur, Alwar, Bundi, Kotah, Kishangarh and Nathdwara.
The Rajasthani painter saw hardly any contradiction in combining romance with religion, or the mundane with the transcendental. Rajasthani Miniatures: The Magic of Strokes and Colours presents, through a detialed narrative and exquisite photographs, a glimpse into this art that has spanned several millenia. It traces the stylistic sources of Rajasthani miniatures, discovering elements that go beyond geography and time to reveal Rajasthani art's generic growth. The miniatures have varying styles, belong to different schools and have been painted under many succeeding patrons with different tastes and preferences.
This book reflects the uniqueness of Rajasthani art, where shades and strokes come together in what almost appears as a divine interplay to create magic.
This book on the miniature paintings of Rajasthan is the result of my lifelong ambition and effort. I have always wondered how a painting style can flourish across many centuries, generation after generation, practices over a widespread geography with dozens of centres, many dynasties and courts. These paintings are so characteristic of their land, colorful cultures, festivals, people, their nature, faith, traditions, and unique distinction. A study centering on a particular style, Mewar, Bundi, or any other, does not represent Rajasthan, the great land that combined romance with chivalry or even devotion and spiritualism. I always believed, like the miniaturities of Rajasthan, that some common thread bound them together and gave them their inherent character. Though I appreciate the distinctiveness of each paintings form –its stylistic distinction practiced at different ruling seats or even under different patrons –I wished to unreath the magic which defined Rajasthan, its creative mind and all that makes it different from any land in the world. Thus, with a twoforld objective, covering each individual style, even the minor ones, and the distinctiveness of every aritist –the known or the unknown masters, I planned a study focusing on what defined Rajasthan in its totality and this volume is its outcome.
The book begins with tracing the stylistic sources of Rajasthani minatures and, in due course, discovers elelments that go beyond geography and time to reveal Rajasthani art's generic growth, that is, all that which gave it its unity –the thread that defined its oneess, unique distinction and charcter. With a large part of its land a desert, the people of this western part of India had a special passion for nature, which is reflected in their paintings across centuries. The miniatures have varying styles, belong to different schools and have been painted under many succeeding patrons with different tastes and preferences.
The study devotes a part to nature as well. People celeberated life with colours; they had a rare eye for aestheticism and, at the same time, were deeply devotional. A child or a mother, a soldier or a king, a heroic man or woman, a man passed into legneds, or child Ganesha, robust Hanuman, romantically poised Krishna, or expendient Vishnu, an image in the shrine or embellishing a court's corner, every figure has been modelled using romantic vocabulary. There is emotional bearing on face, colourful apparel on body, and , on heads, a gorgeous turban, each differently styled.
Rajasthani miniatures illustrate various traditions. They also present with the same fervour texts such as raikapriya, Geet –Gobind, Sur Sagara, Bihari Satsai, Prathviraj Raso, Dhola Maru... The focus of the study was on some of the known masters who led Rajasthani art to great heights and on many thikanas, which were not widely known as seats of miniature art but made a rare contribution in giving Rajasthani miniatures the special position that they now have.
Shimmering snads and magnificient sanctuaries add to the splendour. So whether it is the Dhunder area, that includes the capital city, Jaipur; or the Mewat area, which has important places such as Alwar, Deeg and Bharatpur or the Mewar region (includes Udaipur), known in Indian History for its valour and chivalry, Rajasthan is one of the most attractive places to visit in India. The exquisite marble sculptures of Mount Abu; the Jain temples in Ranakpur; the havelis of Jaisalmer; the pilgrim cities of Ajmer, Pushkar, Merta and Nagaur beckon the eager tourist. And then there is Shekhawati (includes Sikar, Nawalgarh, Mandawa, Fatehpur and Jhunjhunu), whose wall paintings hold a special charm.
Rajasthan is also known for its colourful fairs and festivals such as the camel festivals in Bikaner; Jaisalmer's desert festival; Gangaur in Jaipur; the Pushkar cattle fair; the winter festival in Mount Abu and the Mewar festival in Udaipur, Rajasthani cuisine is as diverse as the culture of the different regions of the state itself.
A large bulk of Indian miniature paintings comes from Rajasthan. These miniatures are endowed with warm colours, primitive vigour, directioness of expression and all that corresponds to the unique land of Rajasthan. They encompass its fun and festivities, the charming women and heroic men who fought with valour, loved with great zeal and warmth, celeberated each inch of life and died like great heroes. The major schools of miniatures of Rajasthan are Mewar, Bikarner, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Alwar, Bundi, Kotah, Kishangarh and Nathdwara.
The Rajasthani painter saw hardly any contradiction in combining romance with religion, or the mundane with the transcendental. For accomplishing such a wide objective he used the divine models of Radha and Krishna, whose legend allowed enormous opportunity for depicting various romantic moods and situations and, at the same time, going beyond the temporal to reach spiritual heights. It is Krishna and his lilas (playful activities) that dominate Rajasthani miniatures. Other popular themes of Rajasthani miniatures relate to its feudal lifestyle. After the decline of the mughal empire, many immigiarated to Rajput courts where they were liberally received and patronised.
They found that the painitngs were deeply endowed with culture of the land, which imparted to them a sort of spiritual unity, characterising them all as Rajasthani. At the same time, the paintings executed under one patron were easily distingushed from those created under another; each had its distinctive stylistic features and a school of its own, usually named after and associated with the place of its origin.
From the seventh century onwards, patronage, especially which the Rajput kings and courts extended to artists, showed signs of atttitudinal change and was more assertive in determining the character of the painting. Spiritualism was still one of its concerns but it now demanded food for the sense as well. The sensuous or, rather eroticism, was the focal point of both, court life and court art, and spiritualism was reduced to mere formal ritualims. It was indeed a difficult situation for the artist.
He had behind him the age –long tradition of spiritualism and the divine or at least celestial imagery and, before him, a present so different in character. He was required to portray his patron's religious mind, but also to take care of his other interests, obviously sensuous. He looked for a theme capable of blending the two and in Krishna he found it. The divine models of Radha and Krishna gave him a chance to portray various romantic moods and situations, even sensuous and erotic, and elevate at the same time the temporal to transcendental and mundane to spiritual by revealing the divine dimensions of their lila. In their lila he discovered the depth of an epic and the catastrophism of a drama, senuous infatuations and absolute detachment, a child's tricks and a philospher's sanity, the man and the Divine. Vaishnavism, of which Krishna was the pivot, had already flooded the religious and creative consciousness across the land and the artist had a sensitive spectator ready to take his point.
The Rajput states seem to have been treating the art of painting as a status symbol. Mewar, Jodhpur, Kishangarh ,Jaipur, Bundi, Kotah, Bikaner and Sirohi had larger teams of painters and are known to have developed their own stylistic specialties and thus each state has its own school of paintings, Uniara, Nathdwara and Alwar rank second whereas Shahpura, Deogarh, Pratapgarh, Jaisalmer and Jalor are considered as minor schools of Rajasthani paintings, though they all have their styles and peculiarties and each a distinctiveness of its own.
Famous art historian Anand K Coomarswamy rightly emphasised that 'Rajput art creates a magic world where all men are heroic, all women are beautiful and passionate and shy, beats both wild and tame are the friends of man, and trees flowers are conscious of the footsteps of the bridegroom as he passes by... the magic world is not unreal or fanciful, but a world of imagination and eternity, visible to all who do not refuse to see with the trasfiguring eyes of love.'
It is in Rajasthani art that shades and strokes come together in what almost appears as a divine interplay to create magic.
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