Paintings of Himachal Pradesh

#DMPQ #Mains #Prelims #CurrentAffairs #StateGK

Paintings of Himachal Pradesh

Himachal Pradesh possesses a rich cultural heritage and one of the famous of the arts is paintings which show a diversity in the area due to the presence of Tibet as one of its borders as well as Kashmir which has influenced and blessed the state with a beautiful fusion of the two art styles and which comes alive in the form of paintings of Himachal Pradesh.

Painting heritage of Himachal Pradesh

The glimpse of the rich painting heritage of Himachal Pradesh is found in the museums and art galleries for tourists while in almost every house in the villages, the miniature paintings are showcased in different forms. The women there are very skilled with drawing magnificent art and diagrammatic designs. These designs are called yantras and are displayed mostly on special occasions and ceremonies.

Some towns showcase the painting legacy of Himachal Pradesh in form of magnificent bright wall paintings in the rooms of couples who are to spend their honeymoon and the rooms are specially prepared for them called ‘torana griha’. The paintings in the walls of such rooms are known as kamdeo and they depict the theme of togetherness after marriage.


Himachal houses the Chamba and Kangra schools of painting which are both looked up to in the nexus of art. Basically famed for their admirable depiction of the court and passionate scenes, these schools of art thrives by the amalgamation of colors and tiny information of the drawn figures. Apart from these, Himachal is also a house for another famous school of Art which is known as the Gompa School. Once limited to Buddhist monasteries, This school not surprisingly is a result of Buddhist advances in art. Steadily though, a quantity of the quixotic influences of the Chamba and Kangra schools have leaked into the Gompa School and has evolved it. Recent neighboring artists have absorbed the Gompa style of art into modern mélange pictures.

The erstwhile ruler of the region Shri Raja Goverdhan Singh was an admirer of art and hence invited and patronized a huge number of artists and painters from Delhi to his court. Perhaps as an influence of that the sprinkled kingdoms of Rajputs of Kangra experienced the evolution of a unique, one of its kind style of painting in the 18th Century. The promising miniature paintings further gushed to the forefront in the petite Regions of Nurpur, Kangra and Kullu, Chamba and in the end at Sujanpurtira which was already the epitome of Kangra Painting. Jayadeva and Keshava Das inspired the themes of love and beauty in these art works. The very look of the paintings oh hills were revolutionized by the skills of these craftsmen who ushered Himachal into a new venture of art.

The painting style of Himachal Pradesh

In those times when the painting culture was in flourish, the painters focused on the lives of the princes, war, hunting etc. they also portrayed love themes like the Radha and the Krishna and the queens of Rajputs. The earlier paintings included one major art style called the Basholi style of painting in Himachal Pradesh which was named from the area from where it originated. This style became one of the signature styles of the state and contributed a new dimension to the legacy of painting of Himachal Pradesh since the early 17th century. The major characteristics of the Basholi style of paintings were its brightly vibrant coloring which portrayed vital emotions. The paintings were mostly portraits of the local maharajas or of Hindu gods which were the center of themes. Due to the influence of Rajputs, the painting style has a distinctive Rajasthani art style and also bears a touch of the Malwa styles of paintings which formed a sweet recipe.

Influence of Mughal art and Buddhist art in paintings of Himachal Pradesh

With the coming of Mughals in the early 18th century, the Basholi style of paintings were introduced with a new dimension which led to a new art style called the Guler-Kangra style of paintings in Himachal Pradesh. These paintings showed characteristics of the traditional Mughal architecture and paintings, the mesmerizing use of colors and the quasi-realistic landscapes were introduced into the style fusing into an entirely different form and style. Being close to Tibet, the area also was influenced by the arts which were the signatures of the Buddhist monks which they used to paint their clothing and tapestries. The art style revolved around the various festivals celebrated in Tibet in the Buddhist monasteries.

Various paintings in detail

Floor Paintings

An integral part of the Indian Culture, Floor Painting and its several other forms have been used to decorate Indian Homes on occasions since eternity. Usually considered to be a sign of welcome in the context of Indian Hospitality, Floor Paintings are also known as ‘Rangolis’ in the state of Gujarat. Its popularity has also trickled down to the state of Maharashtra. Although traditionally reserved for the women in a household, more and more men are taking an active interest in the same and are making their presence noteworthy.  It is considered as a good omen to decorate the house with these painting. The designs are made using the most basic materials that are usually available in the house. Apart from colors, Households also use Solid Red Brick Powder mixed into rice paste to form a lotion. Although Urban Cities are leaving the tradition behind, Major households still uphold the tradition across the nation.

The famous miniature painting of the state have been preserved in security be the museums and art galleries while in houses in the village, One can still see the traditional style of painting in its purest form. The females in the households, on various auspicious occasions draw ‘Yantra’ on the floor. Yantra is a magical diagrammatical representation of art. With colors on the wall, Traditional floor paintings are white and are done with rice paste. The colors too find their existence in the everyday need of an ordinary woman. The Red color comes from the Kumkum, while turmeric offers the color Yellow.

Pahari Paintings

It is important to understand one fact that, like any other state in India Himachal Pradesh too is unique in its cultural aspects; the different forms of self-expression like the arts and crafts that have been coming out of these lands for centuries define the people of the state. The close-to-nature aspect of the state is one of the chief influences that define Himachal’s art forms.

Besides the different forms of paintings that originated in Himachal Pradesh, the region is also known for the exquisite work on wood that are visible in several old temples that adorn the wall and ceiling decorations. Wood from pine, mulberry as well as walnut are the chief bases to work on. Another important base material for artwork is stone, which is still practiced today. Stone memorial tablets and commemoratives are seen to be used in temples and doorways even today.

Paintings in Himachal

Now coming down to the category of paintings in Himachal Pradesh; the people here have been practicing several different forms of paintings for centuries, but one a few of them are at their prime and are still practiced today. One of the most common styles is the one used to decorate the floors of houses; this is a style which mostly uses all white colours to create the artwork.

Another kind used within the house is the one which uses natural colours like Kumkum, Turmeric and red clay to decorate the walls. One other important painting style much known today is the Kamdeo Style of Painting; generally used to decorate the rooms of newlyweds or seen in many old temples in the region, this form of painting depicts the amorous activities of Kamdev and Rati (The Hindu for of Cupid and his consort). Today, Kamdeo paintings are still done by the people of Himachal depicting figures of husband and wife in acts to make them aware of the post-marital duties.

Pahari Form of Painting

This form of painting is abundantly found in the state of Himachal Pradesh. A form which had its birth back during the time of the Rajput rule, Pahari paintings are generally miniature forms of art and it dates back to 17th Century till the 19th Century.

The Pahari paintings that were done during the mentioned period are seen to have strong influence from Rajasthan, as well as Gujrati & Deccan forms of paintings. The reasons for the influences are the strong ties of the Rajput kings with the court of Rajasthan back in 17th Century.Paintings of Himachal Pradesh

Regarding the theme or the subject matter of the paintings, most of the paintings depict figures from argot poetry and folk songs of Lord Krishna and Lord Rama. Love and devotion were the chief themes for the works of Pahari painters. One of the most renowned pieces is the depiction of ‘Devi Mahatmya manuscript’ found in Kangra. Scenes from the epics and the Puranas are some of the most widely seen images in the Pahari form of paintings.

The beginning of the Pahari Paintings were with primitive expressions and with the use of vibrant colours; it was charged with a lot of intensity in emotions and was enrobed with vitality. Towards the later phase nearing 18th century, the paintings started to look more naturalistic. The subject also started depicting the lifestyle of the people of the region and the use of green was at an outrage to depict the green sceneries of the area.

The paintings started to degrade towards the closing of 19th century and the reasons behind the same were the political instability of the failing dynasties. One of the most basic reasons that Pahari paintings received worldwide fame was the fact that the values were derived from the works of the Sanskrit and Hindu poets.

One other peculiarity of the Pahari paintings is that when we talk of their types, we need to consider different region of Himachal& Arunachal; as every region practiced this way of painting but with different subjects and way of depicting them. For instance we have Basohli, Bilaspur, Chamba, Garhwal, Kulu and Mandi as some of the major types of Pahari paintings.

Pahari paintings are considered one of the most important forms of Indian paintings and this miniature form of painting has been receiving worldwide importance for the styles of using symbols and working on themes of Hindu mythology that represent the society of the past with elegance.

Kangra Paintings

Himachal Pradesh is one of the most visited destinations for tourists in India. With the beauty of nature in bountiful for the eyes to feast upon as well as the cultural aspects of the region that remind one of the history gone by as well as the teach one about the mythology seen in various temples in the region.

Himachal Pradesh is indeed rich in cultural aspects. Tourists have been fascinated by the beautiful works of art and crafts; wood work as well as stone work is done in all the regions of Himachal but with different approach and themes, which gives a variety in taste and makes it even more exciting. Some of the most commonly used wood are the pine, deodar, mulberry as well as walnut. Whereas we still see the use of stone works in temples and in memorial stones. People have also started making up household instruments from stones which are also considered a piece of art.

Now to the theme of the article, paintings have been a part of people’s lives in this region since time immemorial. Since ancient times, paintings were used to spread the messages in holy books as well as the wisdom of great priests and poets. As different in regions, people started painting in different ways, different families of Paintings started growing. Most of the painting families and styles flourished during the peak Rajput rule in 17th – 19th Century. Although not many styles are still practiced today, but almost all of the styles have their marks on ancient temples in the regions or in different forms of books and other materials. Among the painting styles still in practice today are the ones used in household decoration; one form is for floors which are solely based on the use of white colours, whereas the other part of this family is for the walls of the house using vibrant colours made from natural derivatives like turmeric, kumkum and red clay.

Another important art form is known as the Kamdeo Paintings of Himachal. These paintings are known for their subject matter which depicts the amorous acts of God Kamdev and Rati (his consort). This style is still used and practiced today and they adorn the walls of the rooms of newlyweds to make them aware of the post-marital duties towards a happy and healthy family life ahead.

Kangra Paintings

Belonging to the family and class of the Pahari paintings, the Kangra form of painting also developed and was excessively practiced during the period of 17th – 18th Century. The rise of this form of painting is known to be in associating with a family of Kashmiri painters who sought refuge in the court of Raja Dilip Singh. Now over time these painters getting influenced with local styles and the vibrant natural beauty started painting scenes of eternal love of Radha and Krishna. The use of fresh and cool colours made the painting not only vibrant but also naturalistic. The colours were extracted from natural derivatives in this case.

These paintings depict the mindset and show the lifestyle of that era; worship of Krishna and Radha’s eternal relationship was one of the main inspirations and this is the reason most Kangra style of paintings have the two characters in their works. Bhagavata Purana and Gita Govinda were also important themes for the painters and they painted scenes from the books time to time. The later part of the Kangra Paintings also saw the depiction of the amorous acts of Krishna and Radha.

Some paintings show Krishna in his blue form and the maiden’s eyes being drawn towards him. The chief sentiment behind the entire family of Pahari Paintings including Kangra style of paintings is that of eternal love. Other stories that were painted include the young life of Krishna, stories of Nala and Damayanti as well as the stories of Keshavdas’s Baramasa.

One chief feature of the Kangra style of paintings is that great emphasis is given to the details and the paintings generally have a lot of greenery painted in them. The Kangra paintings show different shades of green depicting different plant forms like bushes, creepers, as well as big trees.

Female figures are seen to be exceptionally beautiful in the Kangra paintings and the features are paid great attention to add most amount of detail. Kangra paintings are one of the most renowned paintings of the Pahari family and is a treasure of Himachal Pradesh.

Thangkas Painting

Introduction to Tibetan Art & Himachal

To begin with, one must be aware of the fact that cultural diversity is what brings people to most of the Indian states; the uniqueness in offerings of each of the regions in India is what people look forward to. From Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh and from Jammu & Kashmir to Tamil Nadu, the relics of their culture and heritage are quite varied and it is an adventure to discover these secrets while visiting them.

Introduction to Himachali Art Forms

Himachal Pradesh is like a heaven on earth with its immense natural beauty. The endless expanse of greenery spread over hills and valleys set a vibrant image in the minds of the people. One other thing about this state that entices people is its artworks on wood, stone and most importantly paintings. Stonework is still practiced today and used as memorial stones, or as name plates in temples; it is also done in form of household instruments of daily use. Most of the woodwork of Himachal Pradesh is seen in the old temples that were used on doors or ceilings.

Paintings in Himachal & Thangka

Himachali painting culture today is done basically on a large scale for the decoration of homes. Paintings adorn the floors and walls of most houses; most of the painting styles also have come up and developed from this practice of painting indoors and are still practiced today. For instance, most houses today have their floors painted with patterns in white, whereas the walls are decorated with colours derived from natural sources like Kumkum, turmeric and red clay making them vibrant and to stand out.

Other styles of paintings that have developed in the region are the Pahari style of paintings and the Kangra sect of the painting style; began and flourished in the era of Rajput kings back in 17th to 19th Century, these two kinds of paintings are one of the most prized possessions of Himachal Pradesh and are in great demand in the eyes of the tourists. One other important for is the Kamdeo form of painting; depiction of the amorous acts of Lord Kamdev and Rati, an indication of the post marital duties of the couple, adorns most rooms where newlyweds live. This kind of painting is also seen in many Hindu temples in the region.

Now coming onto the core idea of the article, the Thangka is basically a Tibetan style of painting that patronizes Buddha and his principles. The style of painting first appeared in Tibet in 7th and 8th century and has since then undergone changes in every region it has travelled to. The images migrated and soon started appearing in the monasteries of Himachal. The founding of many new monasteries in 1960 and the visit of his holiness Dalai Lama opened up the centers of for development of Thangka in and around Himachal; places like Tashijong, McLeodganj, Bir, Shimla and Manali

Thangka Style in Detail

The most basic forms of the painting can be on a piece of cloth which may be rolled away. Thangka is mostly done on cotton on linen and rarely on materials like silk. The subject matter of the paintings are mostly the life of Buddha, the scenes of the ‘Jataka Tales’; the artists also show the scenes from the lives of Dhyanibuddha, Amitabha, the Bodhisattvas, and female deities like Tara. The saints; the sixteen arhats who are said to have attained Nirvana and who preach the teaching of Buddha to mankind are another major subject of the Thangka depictions.

Essentially the Thangkas are vertical paintings and are mostly used as banners in religious processions, hung on walls or displayed at the altars. It began in the hands of the monks initially but over time it spread and today it is painted by common man as well and these sell from a few hundred Rupees to several thousands in Himachal Pradesh.

To do it the traditional way; for painting a Thangka, an auspicious date is defined and then incense is lit and doctrines are recited to create the holy atmosphere. It was supposed to be a master’s work assisted by his disciples. Great attention is paid on the details and as such most perfect one take a lot of time and are as such quite costly.

Today, for the tourists, woodblocks of the basic design are inked on and transferred on to cloth. But the true meaning of Thangka and the patience needed to make one can only be understood by a true devotee and made by a true master.

[/lockercat]HPPCS Notes brings Prelims and Mains programs for HPPCS Prelims and HPPCS Mains Exam preparation. Various Programs initiated by HPPCS Notes are as follows:- For any doubt, Just leave us a Chat or Fill us a querry––
error: Content is protected !!