Breathing life into miniature paintingskangraarts / Sunday, June 1st, 2008 / 6 Comments »
By: Ashok Raina
After sinking and craving for survival for long, Kangra’s trademark art form gets a fresh lease of life
The Kangra School of Painting— Kangra Kalm— has been described as the ‘art of patience, labour and native devotion.’ Attributed to this school is the art of miniature paintings, described as an ‘art of delicacy of line, brilliancy of colours and minuteness of details.’ Originating during the reign of Raja Goverdhan Chand of Guler (1744-73), this 260-year-old art had almost reached the verge of extinction until the newly established Kangra Arts Promotion Society (KAPS) initiated efforts to preserve it.
Kangra divisional commissioner and KAPS president, B.K. Agrawal, stressed for a joint effort by art lovers to preserve the Kangra Miniature Paintings. Strokes of Kangra, an Exhibition of Kangra Miniature Paintings at Mcleodganj, was a step in this direction. A part of this endeavor were 11 artists, including national award winner Vijay Sharma of Chamba, Anil Raina, Mukesh Diman, Preetam, Dani Ram, Om Sujhan Puri and the only woman artist Anu Priya, who exhibited their 80 Kangra paintings.
Agrawal said that in an effort to revive this art, a special painting school would be opened here under the patronage of KAPS, which would provide financial benefits to the painters, besides promoting this art. KAPS would provide stipend to the budding artists during their one-year training in the school and they would be provided proper market for their paintings after the completion of the course.
KAPS would hold two major annual exhibitions, one each in the state and a metropolitan city like Delhi and Mumbai, in order to provide market to these artists. He informed that Kangra paintings worth Rs 50,000 had been sold at the first exhibition organised by KAPS at McLeodganj.
Describing the Kangra painting as a lyrical blend of religion and romance, Agrawal said that renowned Sanskrit poet Jai Deva’s Geet Govinda, The Bagwat Purana, Bihari’s Satsai, Keshav’s Rasik Priya and Kavipriya had been illustrated by these artists. The Nayaka Bheda, the Baramasas of miniature paintings depicting the twelve months, were the height of the creative imagination.
Agrawal added that these great miniatures constitute a valuable record of ancient culture of Vashnava faith Krishna Avtara. The universal feelings of love and romance were conveyed through ideal and spiritual love of Radha and Krishna.
The artists have captured moonlight, the rain-rich clouds, white swans against the dark sky, lotus pools and lovers’ pavilion and the love messengers like Chakva-Chakvi. Anand Coomaraswamy brought the Kangra paintings into the limelight for the first time in 1910, when he visited the Kangra valley. The state government, in a bid to revive the art by starting training centers for young artists through the Handloom and Handicraft Corporation and the Himachal Academy of Art Culture and Languages, also started training in this art in the 70’s through guru shishya parampara but failed to achieve the desired results.
After the death of the renowned Kangra painting artist Chandu Lal Raina, on May 5, 1994, his son Anil Raina and Satya Prakash made copies of masterpieces. The practicing artists of the school could be counted on the fingertips now.
Art scholar Dr Eberhard Fischer held a show of Kangra paintings in the Museum Rietberg, Zurich, for three months. Under the guidance of Dr Fischer, the Department of Art Culture and Languages had to set up a gallery for Kangra paintings at the Kangra Museum, which didn’t materialise due to lack of patronage from the Government. It’s hoped that with its sincere efforts, KAPS would certainly help to revive this art in the days to come.