Mini-1Any painting whose area doessn't exceed 25 square inches and whose subject area size is not more than One sixth of its actual size can be defined as a Miniature painting. But don't be mistaken, a miniature is not all about size. Along with size the most important factor to be taken into consideraration is its "Degree" of details in the painting. The details can be seen vividly through a magnifying glass. We can't miss the unmistakable brush strokes 

What are the techniques used

The techniques used in Miniature paintings are not quite different from general painting techniques, But they are reduced to  quite small strokes. Like in large paintings composition and perspective are mandatory.

These are the techniques used :

  • Hatching
  • Stippling
  • Glazing

How the term 'Miniature' came in to use


Many have the wrong belief that the word 'Miniature has come into existence because of the size of the painting. It is far from truth, During the renaissance period, a red lead paint that  was used in the illuminated manuscripts, The process of coloring using red lead is known as "Miniare" in Latin. Hence the term 'Miniature' has link with 'Miniare' rather than the term 'Miniare' that indicates size. Originally paintings made on Vellum, made from plasticized cotton only were treated as Miniature Paintings.. But now any painting made on any ground medium are treated as Miniatures. Of course the size criteria will be in tact.

Historical origin of Indian  miniatures.

 It were the Moguls who introduced miniature painting to India. But after deriving inspiration from the Moguls several schools in Miniatures came up with their own stamp of speciality and individuality. Out of all the schools of Miniature paintings Basohli schoolo and Kangra scools are prominent. LOet's see in detail the highlights of these two9 schools, thteir differences and similarities in the ensuing lines.

The Pahari Kingdoms

Before the birth of the state Himachal Pradesh. there were many Rajput Kingdoms. with each having its own king, Rana  or Thakurs with its own perphery of kingdom. These Rajput Kingdoms are well known as Pahari or Hill kingdoms. And the most striking feature of all these kingdoms is, their love towards arts. And most of them are connoisseurs of Art and other  fine arts.  And all the states shown their penchant towards the rare art of " miniature Paintings. Though their love towards Miniature paintings are a common binding factor. each had maintained a  special characteristic unique only to a particular  kingdom.

Owing to this reason different schools of Painting emerged out each with a speciality of its own. The Chamba School,The Kangra school, the Basohli school, the Kulu school, The guler school, the Mandi school etc. All these schools , though are different in many ways, themewise and execution wise are known as The Pahari Schools.

The Basohli Kalam.

The trend in naming the schools is that, all of them are identified from the  place or kingdom where they were born. And the word Kalam will be suffix of every school which means Brush. Hence, the Basohli Scchool means, it's the school born at the kingdom of Basohli.

The Basohli Kalam was the first and the oldest of all the Kalams. Its origin is dated back to the fag-end of the sixteenth century, They are oblong in the format. Miniature artists like Bhanudatta's Rasamanjari  and Kesavadas Rasikapriya are the main names who brought a worldwide recognition to Basohli Miniatures with their mind boggling compositions, elegant and rhythmic line handling. Art lovers in general and Miniature art lovers in particular can reach to the Dogra Art Gallery in Jammu to feast their eyes.

The viewer will not miss an altogether different treatment of human faces in Basohli miniatures. Abnormally long faces, that makes the viewers think for a moment, they are out of proportion, sharp noses and pointed chins are some of the characteristics that make them stand out from the other Kalams. 

 Experts are of the opinion that the faces and expressions painted in Basohli Kalam are not exactly the viewers delight, but their off beat depiction of the characters made them unique in their own right. They speak loudly and clearly without mincing words, that their intention is to be bold in every aspect.

The other aspect of Basohli miniatures is that both the male and female figures are profusely adorned woth exquisite jewellery.

They use extensively Primary colours Red, Yellow and blue. Owing to this reason  Basohli miniatures look vivid and vibrant. In tune with the long faces,Basohli artists maintain the same  slimness and elongation in human figures. Earlier the costume of a female figure was a long flowing skirt. In contrast to this the choli used to be tight. But in the later periods this skirt gave way to tight fitting Pyjamas. Of  course the choli or bodice remained unchanged.  But an addition has appeared in the miniatures in the form of 'A long skirted over garment,' additionally head is covered with a veil or Odhini. In the Basohli paintings the costumes shown on a god and a human are different. If a God is depicted in the painting, he will be shown as wearing a Dhoti with a long scarf worn across the shoulders. The common feature that appears in both male (God) and female are a Tiara adorned with stings of pearls.

If an other than god figure is painted in the miniature, he will be made to dress with a Chakdar or Gherdar witha Patka around the waist. A turban is a must, We can see the painters shown their characters wearing all the then costumes worn by all Rajput Kings in Rajastan and all the Pahadi kingdoms.

Now coming to the landscape or the location where the scene of action is shown are impeccably painted. Especially the architectural part like mansions. gateways, Pillars, halls, arches etc. is simply superb. One should see to believe the artist's mastery in every nook and corner of the painting.

The Basohli painters while painting ornaments especially pearls have a a separate style of their own.The artist places blobs of white paint with a fine brush which gives such a natural look , the viewer feels like touching them.

The Kangra Kalam.

Of all the Pahari schools of Miniature, Kangra Kalam that flourished during 18 th and 19th centuries.During the regime of Raja Sansar Chand. Unlike Bosohli miniatures, the artistic finesse of the artist especially the faces of females and males are not only well formed but they are pleasing to the eye. Their hair is painted that resembles real life glistening hair showing every strand of the hair vividly. In addition to this, the landscapes are full of life with lively hills and hillocks, herbs, shrubs and seasoned  trees portrayed in their the best of lush greenery.

As pointed out earlier the main theme around which Kngra Kalam revolves is Krishna, the divine lover.. The scene of action for Krishna's amorous adventures with  Radha and other milkmaids was Braja. Along with the romantic activities of Krishna, We come across with stunning miniatures depicting the Raja Sansar Chand,  his son Anirudha Chand and many a kinfolk of royalty set in beautiful locations of natural as well as architectural splendours of Royalty like pavilions, courts and palaces.

A strikingly visible characteristic of a Kangra pinting is that all structures are shown in chalky white colour. This gives a good contrast to the other characters in the painting who wear apparel in any colour.. In addition to this, another feature o Kangra Miniatures cannot escape from the view of any viewer. Invariably all the faces of the people are painted in Profile.

The Kangra Kalam, though it deals with miniature paintings,it differs with Basohli Kalam in the way the paintings are executed with regards to composition, layout, hues and colours. There is a marked difference in executing the human and other in animated subjects like the surroundings and living abodes.

 What's the common binding factor ? 

The common binding factor  to both the genres of Miniature paintings is , both revolve around the Divine lover Krishna, when it comes to 'Theme'.

Other important miniature schools

In the Shivalik hills, the oldest miniature school is Kullu, that was active in 18th and 19th centuries. Kullu Kalam iis relatively crude. The female figures are more rustic with manly features.. Critics are of the opinion that both  male and female figures in Kullu Kalam are devoid of any attraction. Chamba miniatures are well characterized by their excellently delineated Mango trees,exquisitely painted Royal splendour. These paintings are well marked by their arresting palaces and Gardens which clearly indicate the luxurious life lead by the Royal families.

Jammu Kalam owes its origin to the well known painter Nainsukh of Jasrota believed to be  a descendant of  Pandit  Seu, a luminary of Guler Kalam. 

The Garhwal Kalam  is well known to the world for its poetic rendition on Paper. It too originated in 18th century. Perhaps in the last quarter of the 18th century. The reason for its reputation  for its poetic format is the personality who played an important role in elevating Garhwal kalam to a hgh pedestal, Mola Ram, a poet (1750-1833).

We owe our gratitude to the Pahari Painters.

The artistic quintessence of Pahari Painters carved a niche for themselves and made the entire country proud with their legacy which lasts forever.

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