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The dying miniature art of Kota

By 27.3.2018         Phone:-       Mail Now Send Mail   Post Comments

Sambhu Singh Chobdar is the fourth generation of his family who is continuing the age-old legacy of Kota miniature art. He claims to have learnt nothing but painting. But what bothers him is the fact that his son Ravindra Singh Chobdar, unlike him, didn't follow his footsteps. Instead, he decided to study and become an engineer.

"Kota miniature is almost a dying art now. Surviving as an artist solely by doing paintings is very difficult now. So I opted for engineering as profession," Ravindra told IANS.

Ravindra, however, didn't completely detach himself from his family tradition. Even now, he devotes at least three hours every morning on miniature art practice.

"I cannot afford to lose this tradition of our family -- miniature art is our identity. Though not an expert like my father is, I will continue to make paintings," he added.

The Chobdars said they are amongst the few surviving families in Kota, Rajasthan, who are continuing the tradition of miniature art. Sambhu himself inherited the knowledge from his father and grandfather, who were earlier worked for the Kota royal family.

"At that time, there was a demand. But modern art has almost killed our business. Even the people of Rajasthan do not care to preserve this form of art. The families who were earlier involved in miniature paintings have moved into other professions," Sambhu lamented.

Kota Kalam, as the miniature art form is called locally, is mostly based on royal lives and lifestyles, hunting scenes, Hindu mythology and local folklore. The brushes are especially crafted "zero point" ones and are made from squirrels' tails; and the colours are natural, obtained from colour stones.

"It is a fine art, every stroke requires perfection -- from the eyes of a character to the veins of a leaf. Each work is magnificent and different... and the colours never fade," Sambhu explained.

Kota court painters received royal patronage, apparently as a counter to Mughal miniature art. And as time passed, they evolved their own district style. However, the end of royal patronage meant trouble for those continuing with the art form.

"Slowly, people started losing interest in the art, even those who belong to the region. And the present generation doesn't understand Kota Kalam. Keeping alive the art is turning into a challenge now and the artists are also struggling to survive," said Sheikh Mohammad Luqman, a fifth-generation miniature artist from Kota.

"This art calls for a lot of patience, newcomers don't have it. Kota is a work of fine art which one cannot learn in just four-five months. One needs to devote a lot of time. Also, it is something which is done best by the families who have been doing it for generations now," he added.

Apart from financial instability, the Kota artists are also suffering from lack of exposure.

"There is no scope for making money in the profession. Firstly, there are few buyers of the paintings. And secondly, we hardly get any chance to directly showcase our art in galleries," Sambhu regretted.

According to the artists, most of their works are sold to customers or presented in art galleries through middle-men who take away much of the profit.

"So, the amount that we receive after selling our work is very minimal. But we have no other option than to rely on mediators for the sale of paintings as we don't have direct buyers," Luqman stated.

The artists lamented that the government shows no concern -- neither for the art, nor for the artists.

"The government is not bothered about our status. We do not have pension schemes or any other schemes which can help to secure our future financially," Luqman said.

Recently, INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) organised an exclusive exhibition of the Kota miniature art in the capital and gave a platform to the artists hailing from the region to showcase their talent.

"Kota painting is the expression of their culture, it is a presentation of imagination and emotion. And INTACH aims to preserve this dying art and cultivate the artists who are continuing this tradition," Thakur Ranvir Singh, one of the founding member of INTACH and organiser of the exhibition, told IANS.

Singh, who has been closely associated with the art form, said that INTACH is taking all necessary steps to save it from vanishing.

"The state government needs to take steps immediately to protect miniature art. We have asked the state departments to decorate the walls with miniature art. Kota is an educational hub and we have approached academic and coaching institutes to come forward and put up the paintings and promote them," Singh stated.

"Even small steps will contribute a lot toward preserving Kota miniature art," he noted.

TAGS: kota painting,   kota miniature art,   rajasthan painting,   rajput painting,   Kota kalam,   ,  

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