The culture of Himachal Pradesh is a rich mix of Hindus, tribes like Kinnars, Gaddis, Gujjars, Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims. As it is bordered by Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, and Tibet, the culture of Himachal Pradesh is extremely varied and deeply influenced by all these cultures. Himachal Pradesh is also famous for many forms of paintings which come under the umbrella of Pahari paintings. Himachal houses the Chamba and Kangra schools of painting which are both looked up to in the nexus of art. Apart from these, Himachal is also a house for another famous school of Art which is known as the Gompa School.
The painting style of Himachal Pradesh are:
Basholi, Gharwal School of Paintings, Arki School of Paintings, Chamba School of Paintings, Pahari School of Paintings, Bilaspur Paintings, Guler Kangra Paintings, Kullu style of Painting, Mandi Paintings, Nurpur Style of Paintings, Kangra School of Paintings.
- Basholi style of painting in Himachal Pradesh was one of the famous painting styles. Basohli was a town in Jammu and Kashmir from where the style spread to its neighbored state of Himachal Pradesh.
- This style became one of the signature styles of the state and contributed a new dimension to the legacy of a painting of Himachal Pradesh since the early 17th century.
- With the coming of Mughals in the early 18th century, the Basholi style of paintings was introduced with a new dimension which led to a new art style called the Guler-Kangra style of paintings in Himachal Pradesh.
- This is the earliest known hill school of paintings in the region. The first patron of this school was Raja Kirpal Singh who ordered the illustration of Bhanudatta’s Rasmajari, Gita Govinda, and the Ramayana drawings.
- The most famous painter of this school was Devi Das who was famous for his depiction of Radha Krishna and the portrait of kings in their livery and in white garments.
- The contrast of colors is associated with this school and they stylistically borrowed from the Malwa paintings.
GARWAL SCHOOL OF PAINTINGS
- These paintings originated in the Garhwal or Uttaranchal region from where it derived its name.
- They include illustrations of Ramayana, Gita Govinda, and their blend of poetry, religion, and love with the conceptualization of ideal beauty and richness of thought making the paintings beautiful and captivating.
ARKI SCHOOL OF PAINTINGS
- Arki was the capital of Baghal state in Shimla Hills (present-day district Solan).
- Arki school was influenced by Basholi School of Paintings but later Kangra style was adopted.
- The paintings of School deal with Shiva-Parvati, Krishna legend, and Nayak-Nayika themes of Rasikpriya of Keshvadas.
- Basholi Kalam was flourished in Arki under the patronage of Rana Mehar Chand (1723-43) and Rana Bhup Chand (1743-78).
- Later Kangra Kalam flourished under the patronage of Raja Jagat Singh, Saran Singh.
- Raja Kishan Singh of Baghal helped Kangra Kalam to flourish in the State.
CHAMBA SCHOOL OF PAINTINGS
- The earlier painting of Chamba was influenced by Basholi Kalam but later influenced by Kangra Kalam.
- The central theme of Chamba Paintings was Vishnu in his two incarnations, Rama and Krishna.
- For the first time, Chamba paintings got royal patronage under Raja Udai Singh.
- In the 18th century, Nikka was the master artist of Chamba paintings.
- Chamba School of Paintings are similar to the Mughal style of paintings with strong influences of Gujarat and Deccan styles and were patronized by the Chamba rulers like King Raja Jai Singh and Raja Udai Singh.
PAHARI SCHOOL OF PAINTINGS
- It is quite similar to Rajput paintings in terms of style and colors.
- These paintings established and developed during the period of 17th to 19th century, have been done mostly in miniature painting forms.
- Pahari paintings, as the name suggests, were paintings executed in the hilly regions of India, in the sub-Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh.
- It is in the development and modification of Pahari paintings, that the Kangra School features.
- Under the patronage of Maharaja Sansar Chand, it became the most important center of Pahari painting.
BILASPUR SCHOOL OF PAINTINGS
- Bilaspur town is located in Himachal Pradesh.
- This town has witnessed the growth of the Pahari paintings around the mid-17th century.
- Apart from the artworks of the Bhagavata Purana, Ramayana, and Ragamala sequence, painters also made paintings on coverlets for sacraments and rituals.
GULER – KANGRA PAINTINGS
- The Guler Kangra painting style was developed somewhere around the year 1800.
- It was a naturalized version of the painting, with an evident difference in the treatment of eyes and modeling of the face.
- Landscapes were also generally used as themes in Guler-Kangra style paintings.
- This style also emphasized the grace and refinement of Indian women.
KULU STYLE OF PAINTINGS
- The paintings of Kulu style comprise two Madhumalati manuscripts, Bhagavata Purana, etc.
MANDI STYLE OF PAINTINGS
- Mandi has witnessed the evolution of a new style of painting under Raja Sidh Sen from 1684 to1727
- The paintings portrayed the ruler as a colossal figure with exaggerated huge heads, hands, and feet.
- Other works were characterized by geometric configurations and subtle realistic details.
NURPUR STYLE OF PAINTINGS
- Nurpur paintings are found in Himachal Pradesh
- Nurpur paintings generally employ bright colors and flat backgrounds.
- Later periods, the dazzling colors were substituted by subdued ones.
KANGRA SCHOOL OF PAINTINGS
- It became prevalent with the fading of Basohli school of painting in the mid-18th century, and soon produced such a magnitude in paintings both in content as well as volume, that the Pahari painting school, came to be known as Kangra paintings.
- The Kangra painters made use of pure colors like yellow, red, and blue, and these have retained the brilliance, even after two hundred years.
- The central theme of Kangra painting is live and its sentiments are expressed in a lyrical style full of rhythm, grace, and beauty.
- The three main centers of Kangra painting are Guler, Nurpur, and Tira-Sujanpur. Though the main centers of Kangra paintings are Guler, Basohli, Chamba, Nurpur, Bilaspur, and Kangra. Later on, this style also reached Mandi, Suket, Kulu, Arki, Nalagarh, and Tehri Garhwal (represented by Mola Ram), and now are collectively known as Pahari painting, covering the style that was patronized by Rajput rulers between the 17th and 19th centuries.