Enclosed in the terrain of White Mountains, green wooded countryside, diverse cheeping flora and fauna and Murmur Rivers which delicate on moon-lit nights and golden day breaks gives an unsurprisingly the imaginative urge in humans to find diverse expression in delicate art forms. Sketching and practicing the Kangra painting art form, over the centuries, have come up with such masterpieces that numerous alleged galleries around the world has put them as a permanent display.
Kangra painting is the art form that came into fame after the fall of the Mughal Empire in Delhi, when many artists, left to fend for them, required support from the Raja’s of the mount in 18th century. The delicate minuscule sort of the paintings, different for the Rajasthan’s Rajput School of Painting, has popularly come to be known as the Pharari or Kangra School of Paintings.
Master artists who have been taught the Mughal style of painting have left a lot of parody of the older school with their works in the Kangra paintings. Local art schools such as the Guler school of art pervaded with the Mughal style and gave rise to a fresh fusion with a unique naturalistic style. The colors used in these paintings were extracted from minerals, vegetables, flowers and animal hides.
Spreading out from Guler, several variants of the Pharari School of paintings, confined to a small area to different royal houses in the hills came onto their own. The art of Kangra paintings branched out from Guler and established at Basohli, Nurpur, Chamba, Bilaspur, Kangra, Mandi, Kullu, Arki, Nalagarh and Tehri Garhwal.
From the Katoch royal ancestry, who ruled the region from the unassailable Kangra Fort, Maharaja Sansar Chand Katoch was a great patron of the arts when the Kangra School of paintings thrives and made its mark in the world of art.
The king of that era was a keen aficionada of Lord Krishna, the painters in an attempt of compliment him picked themes from the life of Lord Krishna, especially his flirting with Gopi’s and the love life with Radha to paint on. In return of the work of art the Pharari masters prepared, the kings confer handsome payments.
Other than the indecisive love life of Lord Krishna, the artists were also influenced by the existing religious beliefs and popular prose of the times. Other than the love themes of Krishan and Radha or Krishna and the Gopi’s (maids), many themes picked out from the religious literature of Bhagvata Purana, or the love poems of Jaidev did become the subjects depicted in the paintings.
Radha and Krishna have been depicting as the ultimate source of spiritual experience and that is why the Kangra paintings present a stunning mixture of the Bhakti and Shringar Rasa.
Playing a universal tune on his flute, the blue god Krishna captivated the Gopiyans, in another set of painting we see him doing the Kaliya Dahan, indicates the destruction of evil and elsewhere we see him standing in a crossed leg position under a tree with peacocks, birds, deer and cows, depicting the dark lord in complete peace as master of the universe.
Natural beauty amidst panoramic landscapes, multitude of trees, Mountain Rivers and the harmony of spring, occupy a leading milieu subject in most paintings.
The Kangra paintings present such an art of drawing which includes romance, nature and above all beliefs in it. One time the painting speaks with senses while on other with soul. It also present the perfection mixed with the melody and tranquility, like a poem with colors and depth with emotions. The painting not only include the charm of Mughal practice and the beautiful scenery of Kangra but the themes of Krishna Lila which make it alive and blissful even today.