Art of pahari miniature paintings flourished in the hills of northwestern India. Jammu, Basohli, Kangra, Guler, Chamba

Art of pahari miniature paintings flourished in the hills of
northwestern India. Jammu, Basohli, Kangra, Guler, Chamba
and Almora were major centers of this art.However, Basohli
miniature paintings gained prominence in this art of
miniature paintings. This painting style derives its name from
the place of its origin – hill town of Basohli about 80 Km.
from the centre of district Kathua and 170 Kms. from Jammu
in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Basohli was earliest centre
of painting in the Pahari region where under the patronage
of Raja Kirpal Pal, an artist named Devi Dass executed
miniatures in the form of the Rasamanjari illustrations from
1694 A.D. The Basohli style of painting is characterised by
vigorous and bold lines and strong glowing colours. The
Basohli style spread to the various neighbouring states and
continued to flourish till the middle of 18th century.
Although the Rasika Priya of Keshav Das was the manual of
poetry most frequently illustrated by Indian artists, it is the
earlier Sanskrit treatise, the Rasamanjari of Bhama Datta
that excited Raja Kripal Pal’s interest and resulted in the
production of a vividly illustrated text at Basohli. Though the
original poem discusses the conventions of ordinary lovers,
under this Basohli ruler’s stimulus, however, the lover was
deemed to be Krishna and although the verses make no
allusion to him, it is Krishna who monopolizes the illustrations.
One can witness the display of Basohli Paintings at Dogra Art
Museum at Mubarak Mandi and at Amar Mahal Museum &
Library both located at Jammu. Rasamanjari paintings series
painted by painter Devi Dass are considered to be master
pieces of Basohli miniature paintings and maximum collection
can be seen at Dogra Art Museum situated in Mubarak Mandi,
Jammu. This series is based on Rasamanjari or Bouquet of
Delight (a long love poem written in 15th century by
Bhanudatta of Tirhut Bihar). The geometrical patterns marry
the vigorously used primary colors to create a powerful
historically dramatic composition. Adorned by the striking
blazing red borders, bold lines and rich symbols, the paintings
have unique facial formula characterized by the receding
foreheads and large expressive eyes, shaped like lotus petals
that provide an exclusive individuality to the paintings.
Basohli paintings have a smooth polish, a savage
sophistication and a command of shading which suggests the
influence of the Mughal style of Delhi. It exhibits distilled
exquisiteness that circumvolves the portraits of mythological
gods, rulers, love keynotes of Radha-Krishna, Madhava-
Malati, Nala Damyanti, literary, contemporary, historical
themes and themes from Bhagavata Purana.

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