Sunday, January 20, 2019
Himachal Pradesh

The Traditional Folk Crafts

The Pahari  or Pahadi Paintings

The growth of Pahari painting can be said to have begun in Gulerkam. This is the place that gave birth to the Chamba, Mandi, Kulu and Bilaspur styles.

The origins of the Kangra style are connected with the name of King Sansarchand (1775-1823). The Chamba style originated during the reign of King Raj Singh (1765-1794) of Chamba, a contemporary of king Sansarchand of Kangra. The paintings of an artist called 'Nikka' are supposed to depict the high watermark of this style.

The earlier painting in the Mandi style dates back to the year 1595 and depicts king Keshav Sen of Mandi. The style reached its apex during the reign of king Samar Sen. The Mandi style of painting has been connected with the Basohli style and the Kulu style has been affected by the Kangra style.

Kangra paintingAll these styles came to be known as the Kangra school of painting praised lavishly by art historians like Havan and Smith. This school grew up in the palaces of Kangra, Sujanpur and Alampur areas along the banks of the river Beas. It deals with the subjects like scenes from  the Bhagvat Puran, Geet Govind, Ras leela, Ram leela, Shiva leela, Durga-Shakti leela, Biharis Satsai, Rasik-Priya, Kavi-Priya, Nala-Damyanti Pranaya, the Rajmalas and portraits of the local rulers and their families. Some of the paintings depict the natural scenery and flora and fauna of the state. Nature usually forms a backdrop to human figures. The paper used for these is a special variety of hand made paper used in traditional account books (Bahi-Khata) and is also known as the Sialkot paper. This is first covered with a layer of a thick white liquid and then smoothed over with a conch shell. This imparts the paper a firmness and delicacy of texture. The paints are all made out of natural ingredients like flowers, leaves, roots, clay of various hues, herbs and seeds. The paint is stored in clay cups or large seashells.

The original sketches are drawn over deer skin. Later these drawings are handed down in the family as a sort of a worship material to draw from. Figures such as elephants, swans, bulls, cows, the papiha bird, parrots, the mynah bird, chakor-chakori, peacocks and peahens, trees and shrubs like the Banana tree, the jamun tree, the banyan tree, the saru tree, the sambal tree, clouds, lightening and clay pots are common to most of these paintings. All these are employed as symbols. Creepers clinging to trees symbolise Radha and Krishna embracing , the Papiha their love for each other, the elephant symbolises prosperity and the pot, wisdom and peace, while the thundering clouds and lightening symbolise the great passion of lovers. The plantain tree symbolises the sensual beauty of the human figure and a pair of birds, lovers (usually Radha and Krishna). The postures, expression, dresses and altitudes depicted in these paintings are stylized and deeply rooted in local tradition.

Wood Carving

Chamba Inlay work The tribal areas like Minghal, Chhatrahadi, Bharmaur, Manali, Parasher, Karsog, Saranh, Moorang, Sarahan, Vilba etc are full of beautiful temples carved out of wood. Some of the memorable carvings are Shiva and Parvati sitting on the back of the Nandi Bull with the holy Ganges flowing out of Shiva's tresses on the entrance door of the sun temple at Beerath near Shimla. A panel depicting soldiers firing guns and wrestlers wrestling and warriors dancing with daggers can be seen at the entrance of the Beejat temple at Chaupal. In the Malana village in Kulu a pillar depicts human figures in the act of love making.

Houses all over Himachal display intricate wooden carvings at the entrance gates, at the edge of the roof, rooftops, verandahs and pillars. These are especially in evidence in Kangra, Garli-Paraypur, Kulu, Simla, Chamba and Bharmaur areas. The door ways has a carved statue of lord Ganesh adorning it and flanked on either side by animal and bird figures. Carving upon the pillars depict flowering creepers, kings settling out on expeditions, wrestlers and family deities. The margins are usually adorned with ornamental designs.

The locally produced wooden objects like book-rests (Dargail), racks, stools, walking sticks, vases, photo frames, cupboards toys and articles of personal adornment are good examples of the proficiency of the local artisans in the art of wood carving. Most of the figures are basically religious and reflect the religious devotion of the artist.

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