The art of Miniature painting was introduced to the land of India first by the Mughal invaders, who brought the much-revealed art form from Persia. In the sixteenth century, the Mughal ruler Humayun had brought artists from Persia, who specialized in the art form of miniature painting. The succeeding Mughal Emperor, Akbar built an atelier for them to promote the rich art form in India. These artists, on their part, used to train Indian artists who produced paintings in a new distinctive style, inspired by the royal and romantic lives of the Mughal people. The particular miniature produced by Indian Rajasthani artists in their own style is known as Rajput or Rajasthani miniature. A small example of which can be seen at our luxury desert camp in Jodhpur.
During this time, several schools of miniature painting evolved, such as Mewar (Udaipur), Bundi, Kotah, Marwar (Jodhpur), Bikaner, Jaipur, and Kishangarh schools of miniature painting. These paintings are created with utmost care and in minute details, with strong lines and bold colours set in harmonious patterns and textures. The miniature painting artists use paper, ivory panels, wooden tablets, leather, marble, cloth and walls for their paintings. The Indian artists employed multiple perspectives unlike their European counterparts in their paintings. The colours are made from plenty of minerals and vegetables,some precious stones, including pure silver and gold.
The preparing and mixing of the colours is an elaborate process. It would take weeks, sometimes months, to get the desired results. The brushes are required to be extremely fine, and to get high-quality results, brushes even to this very day are made from hair of squirrels. Traditionally, the Rajput miniature paintings are aristocratic, individualistic and strong in portraiture, where the plush court scenes and hunting expedition of royalty are depicted. Flowers and animals are also recurring images in the paintings. You can experience Rajasthani miniature paintings in and around our luxury desert camp in Jodhpur.
Mewar school of Painting - By the time Akbar's peace had been generally accepted by the Rajasthan state the Sisodiya clan presented a singular front to the foreigners. It finally succumbed in the year 1614 but their defence gained the esteem and sympathy of emperor Shah Jahan, who allowed the Sisodiya to recover from the defeat without losing their precious pride. During the beginning of the 16th century, the Mewar school had known a precocious but short-lived brilliance which was ended by the severe defeats inflicted by the huge Mughal empire. However, with their submission to the Mughals the Sisodiya forsook the clash of arms for the delights of pleasure-making and a more pleasure oriented life.
From this first half of the 17th century appeared a series of miniature paintings which - keeping in mind the historical context - remained practically untouched by Mughal influence, although they are closely linked to the contemporary work of their neighbours in the Malwa region. The coloured pigments are extremely brilliant and are used in their pure state which are red, saffron-yellow, blue and green. Each scene stands out with wonderful luminosity against the monochrome background of the painting. Linear perspective is not employed at all, the effect of different places being achieved by the juxtaposition of colours. Elegant, stylised buildings provide levels for the different scenes, as in Malwa, but here they have the added embellishment of luxurious plant ornamentation, treated fully and vigorously, and later copied by other schools of Rajasthani miniature painting. Countless details of the rural folk life and the courtly, chivalrous atmosphere of the palace are introduced into the mythical subjects of the Bhagavata-Purana and the Ramayana. With the second half of the 17th century approaching, we have the beginning of a new period in the development of the Rajput style of miniature paintings. The new-found peace encouraged a revival of the arts as Udaipur was extended, marvellous palaces being built on the outskirts of the city.
Painting became extremely popular and even began to suffer from over-production. The compositions grew more complex and more subtle, but at the same time the paintings lost their charm and their strength and appeal. In the beginning of the 18th century the summer palace, at some distance from the capital, was decorated with mural- miniature paintings which still exhibited a sureness and nobility. The general lines are cleaner and the scenes are bathed in an aura of sweet serenity from which all superfluous detail is banished completely. The Galta temple has some remarkable frescoes painted, with scenes of religious and local interest. One depicts an extraordinary young man playing the flute and seated by a lake; it is a harmony of greys and blues, of inexpressible purity and magical charm extraordinaire. It is as if Mewar, on the eve of a permanent artistic decadence, had suddenly returned to the poetic simplicity of its first paintings from back in the day.
The Moslem sultanate of Malva, in the 15th and 16th centuries, encouraged local artists to produce works of great originality, and, in the case of the Nimat-Nameh, to fuse both Persian and Indian traditions together. At the beginning of the 17th century, Malva, which is included here not as a state but as a region comprising both Bundelkhand and south-eastern Rajasthan, continued to produce miniature paintings which shared the same inspiration as Mewar but which retained traces of the style of the illuminated works painted in the preceding century. A series of ragmalas (paintings inspired by music), among many qualities, show a command of technique and a remarkably astonishing inventiveness.
The forceful drawing, the clarity of the figure painting, the absolute simplicity of the composition, detract in no way from the ardent expressiveness of the incredibly beautiful painting. With this total starkness the artist obtains maximum dramatic tension in the painting. This style provided inspiration for painters until the end of the century, with illustrations for the Ramayana and the Bhagavata Purana, and, while they may have lost something of their emotional shock, they still remain very much alive and seductive.
One of the greatest dynasties of the numerous Rajput dynasties, the Hara, ruled over Bundi. They were at first vassals of the Sisodiyas, but they obtained their independence in 1554 and hastily made a separate peace with the Mughal rulers. From this alliance a school of miniature painting grew up which merged harmoniously the realistic and elaborate styles of the Mughal with the intense expression and luxuriant plant life of the Mewar school of painting. A series of ragmalas, dating from the first decades of the 17th century, perfectly demonstrates the assimilation of these two unique styles. Figures, of a Mewar type, disport themselves in buildings which are entirely Mughal in spirit, surrounded by animal and plant life which are essentially Indian in substance and spirit. Colour in painting is intense like Mewar paintings but was used very subtly like the Mughals. The works reveal a nervous charm and an austerity which seems quite foreign to Bundi painters.
In about 1640 AD, the school developed a greater freedom of expression, as if the artists had made a conscious effort to free themselves from their traditional models. The colours became clearer, more brilliant and the classical themes of the Bhagavata-Purana are treated in a new and original manner, with the addition of humorous episodes inside them. The women are all of the same curious type, with small, rounded faces, plump cheeks and pouting lips. At the end of the 17th century intimate scenes in dwellings surrounded by gardens were composed in a nearly geometrical style. Here we have signs of a growing aridity, but, right till the end, the paintings retain their highly unique nobility.
The town of Bundi is hidden in a narrow, picturesque gorge and has a palace with 18th-century fresco-paintings till today. The designs are unimaginative but they are very beautifully executed. Episodes taken from the life of Krishna have a humour and vivacity which recall the early Bundi paintings but they have a more formal structure and a hint of staunch academicism. A procession leaving the palace calls to mind the Ajanta frescoes, and there is a marvellously lyrical scene of courtly love executed with a masterly touch in the frescoes. These paintings are all in a huge first-storey patio. In an interior room of the palace, inside a deep niche, there is a wonderful portrait of the divine couple, Krishna and Radha, being carried off by a whirlwind, literally submerged in the ubiquitous vegetation of the Brindaban forest, made by artists of Bundi. This example of portrait art is possibly the most intense surviving example of mystical Krishnaism in the Bundi school of painting.
Kishangarh School of Painting - Kishangarh, a small state to the north of Rajasthan, produced one of the most attractive of the many Indian schools of painting during the first half of the 18th century. The state was founded with the support of the Mughal empire in the 17th century. It had close links with the capital and might easily have remained a provincial branch of the Delhi school had it not been for the existence of three interconnected factors which were a great king, Singh; a great painter, whose name, Nihal Chand, is known to us this once; and a great love affair. In the years between 1730 and 1760 these factors produced a style of remarkable painting known widely for its grave beauty and extreme stylisation.
Kotah School of Painting - Kotah, to the south-east of Bundi, once formed an integral part of the latter state but gained its independence from Bundi at the beginning of the 17th century. The two principalities even fought an immense war a hundred years later. In the second half of the 18th century, at a time when the schools of Rajasthan were undergoing a decline, Kotah had two sovereigns whose passion for hunting resulted in a series of paintings primarily depicting hunting scenes which were of a style all of their own in its unique nature and appeal. There is a clear Mughal influence in the fine detail and the sure use of perspective, but the initial inspiration must be sought from somewhere else. In these works nature takes pride of place, even enveloping the hunter, who sometimes disappears almost completely from view behind a clump of bushes rather extraordinarily and wild animals slink through the landscape with great ease, supple and powerful.
Marwar School of Painting - The earliest example of the Rajasthani paintings of Marwar is that of Ragamala, also known as musical paintings, which was painted in Pali in the year 1623. In the 18th century, the most common themes included, the portraits of noblemen on horses and darbar scenes. With the arrival of artists like Dalchand, Marwar paintings also started reflecting Mughal influence on their culture and tradition. There is a luxury desert camp in Jodhpur which is the incredible Manvar Desert Experience where you can experience Rajasthani miniature paintings in the city of Jodhpur during an excursion to the city.
Bikaner School of Painting - Rajasthani paintings of Bikaner were also based on the Mughal tradition and influence. Apart from the Mughal style, the paintings of Bikaner also reflect the marked influence of Deccan paintings. During the late 18th century, the city started showing conservative Rajput styles with smoothness and different abstractions. However, they were devoid of any pomposity and flamboyance compared to the other schools of paintings in Rajasthan.