From the Jacket
Wall painting was a fascinating art which has become defunct now on account of changing fashions and techniques of decorating and embellishing buildings. Under the impact of modernism, patronage of wall paintings melted away and with it the know-how of the preparation of special plaster for the wall and colour for paintings also sank down to oblivion. Consequently, the muralists disappeared as also this art with them. But during the centuries it was popular all over the country, it created a large bulk of pictures on walls most of which were of high water mark, as well as important as visual representation of the cultural trends in society for which these were painted. But unfortunately the medium, the plaster and colour, was most liable to disfiguration and dispigmentation on account of its constant exposure to atmospheric vagaries and human neglect. The result is that wall paintings have terribly suffered, and the surviving ones are also in danger of total disappearance. The same had been the case in Jammu and Kangra Hills.
Realising the inevitability of their disappearance Dr. Charak devised a plan for their documented photo-preservation, which he worked out with punctilious comprehensibility with the aid of Jammu University as its Emeritus Fellow for five years. The result is a voluminous work on each mural center. The present book gives a panoramic view of Pahari murals in the context of technical and readable commentary on the outstanding specimens of the art and its technique which survive to this day.
Dr. Charak as pioneer in higher female education founded Arya College for women at Pathankot and was also the Founder-Principal of an H. P. University College In Kangra District (H. P.). He became associated with Jammu University in 1977 as Senior Fellow I.C.H.R. and retired as Reader in Medieval History and Culture, after with he was awarded Emeritus Fellowship from 1985 to 1990 in the same University.
His lasting contribution is in the field of historical research and publication with some 20 books on history and culture to his credit, including 9 on History and Culture of Himalayan States (which are in progress), 2 annotated English translations of Persian histories-Gulabnama and Rajadarshani and a book on Gen. Zorawar Singh published by Pub. Div., Govt. of India. He has written over 50 research papers and articles on various facets of history, culture and art. As member of National Editorial Board for Govt. of India Project People of India, he has edited volumes on Jammu and Kashmir. He is also member of Advisory Committee for Development and Promotion of Archives, Archaeology and Museums, J&K State, and Dogri Encyclopaedia Sub-Committee J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages.
Dr. (Mrs.) Anita K. Billawaria did her M. A. in History (1981) on Wall Paintings of Jammu City from the University of Jammu. The same University has conferred on her Ph. D. degree for her thesis entitled Brahmanical Religious Art in Jammu Region, 1700 to 1900 A.D., in 1986. Both her research works have been published. She has provided historical annotations to Rajadarshani, a Persian MS on history of Jammu, translated into English by Dr. Sukhdev Singh Charak. She is also co-author with Dr. Charak of History and Culture of Himalayan States, Vols. VII, VIII and IX on Socio-cultural History of Jammu, and has contributed chapters on art and socio-religious rites and customs. She has written over twenty-five papers on various facets of Art and Culture, which were presented in historian scholars' gatherings or published in journals and periodicals. In 1987 she was appointed Lecturer has been promoted to the Readers cadre, and put in charge of the newly created 'Regional Centre for History and Culture of Jammu and Ladakh' in the University with the designation of 'Senior Fellow'
Painting is not an exotic art. It is an indigenous product rooted in Indian soil as congenially as the arts of dance and music. A number of Sanskrit treatises on art of paining, chitrabhasa, and references to painted portraits in classical literature, and fine specimens of murals surviving in Ajanta. Ellora, Sittanvasal and other caves show that painting as a sophisticated and classical art is art least as old as the Gupta age. The history of wall painting goes as far back as the culture of the cave man, and in our country remains of drawings by cave dwellers have been attributed to as early a period as ten to twenty millenniums.
The consciousness of meaning and appraisal of a painting may be a matter of expertise but its pigments and fluid line fascinates even as ordinary and uninitiated onlooker. Young and old, literate and unlettered, all are probably painting and drawing, however crude and ambiguous, may have and languages. Most probably the early scripts were painting-based and hence were pictographic before they evolved into alphabets.
In spite of perfection of scientific scripts and alphabets the property of painting as a carrier of idea or event, particularly emotional cognition, has not been minimized. The wall painting especially was found to serve more effectively as a vehicle of expression of emotions, a rich depictor of fiction and legend and psychic states which are otherwise inexplicable by the word. Being larger in size, simpler in content, exposed and discernible to a large audience from a little distance, wall paintings have ever remained a popular art zealously patronized and universally appreciated. The traces of murals time universally practiced by kings, courtiers, chiefs and well-to-do people with paintings and during the middle ages, even to the close of the 19th century, it had remained one of the popular fashions.
Wall painting in Jammu-Kangra Hills was a product of this county-wide craze, with varied thematic richness and stylistic kernel, individualistic local idiom and the romantic element so characteristic of the Jammu-Kangra styles. Though the main content of murals at centers described and represented in the present work is religious legends, deities and mythological characters, yet their depiction is infused with catholic and secular spirit and is characterized by good knowledge of tenets of iconography and mural art. The surviving specimens are a proof of a long tradition of the mural and miniature painting tradition in this region.
At the same time it is a matter of pity that these wall paintings represent the last glowing flicker of the once popular art fashion. As the authors assert, this book deals with an which is now extinct and dwells out that during the last seven years of his active study of wall paintings of these hills he has seen a majority of them altogether disappear and a large number of the surviving lose their glow and quality of pigments due to the process of decay and human neglect. It should be a matter of concern for all art lovers and connoisseurs of cultural heritage of the Dogras to realize that in such conditions the day is not distant when all existing wall paintings will turn a tale of yesterday. The only feasible way devised by the authors of preserving this art wealth is photographing the existing specimens of murals of this region. Dr. Charak and his daughter, Dr. Mrs. Anita Billawaria, have done a great service to the society of the Jammu region by publishing more than 250 choicest murals of Dogra group with essays on their origin, technique and artistic wealth.
The Pahari group of the Indian population, inhabiting the hills from Simla to Punch, are reared amidst a scenic nature. The panorama of idyllic valleys, green spurs, colourful clouds, fascinating flowers and charming singing birds ha imbued in them a feeling for the beauty of nature. A fleecy lamb bleating at the top of a ridge or a forlorn cuckoo cooing amidst a dark cluster of mango trees, thrills their heat with an inexplicable ecstasy. This thrill now and then found expression in some fragments of country lyrics or occasionally captured in line and colour or performance of movements and gestures of the limbs. The folk songs, the painting and the Pahari dance were born thus.
However, with the advent of new trends in modern society and the popularity of the cultural mores of the scientific age, the psyche of the segregated Pahari people is also undergoing a corresponding transformation resulting in the Paharis' estrangement from their own surroundings. The result can be imagined. Under the close impact of nature they had patronized and executed painting in its various forms. In the event of estrangement from its influence they have forgotten these arts, which have now become a thing of the past. The miniature painting probably died out earlier than mural art. But it makes little difference since both the arts are now extinct. Only their specimens remain. Miniatures have comparatively survived in a better condition and in large quantities, whereas murals in the Pahari areas have suffered irreparably from the ravages of time and human neglect - man's apathy, rather his hostility - in the sense that with the changing conception of the upkeep of houses and mansions and the decayed condition of most of the murals, the keepers of mansions and temples bearing murals find them rather a hinderance in the way of 'tidiness' or adjustment of the walls to suit their present needs.
Most of the murals have fallen victim to 'rub, friction and wipe', whereas large number of them have been buried under coats of white-wash applied to renovate or brighten the wall surface which looked dull due to the fading away or disfiguring of the paintings. Some walls and mansions wholly or partly have crumbled, due to ageing and weathering. Thus an immense measure of invaluable mural treasure has disappeared. The remaining small quantity is also fast disappearing for want of effort to preserve it. We find it thinning or waning every year and it will be no surprise if it is totally wiped out to its last specimen in a decade or two. The murals which were in good condition in Damtal, Nurpur and Sui, for example, a few years back, are hardly recognizable now and their owners cannot be blamed if they, finding these useless and untidy affair, altogether white-wash them out of existence after a few years.
It is this realization, which flogged us to run to these mural centers, to photograph and document the remaining specimens of wall paintings. But the task is immense for a couple of individuals. It involves not only great personal endeavour and inconvenience, but also large funds, if the existing murals are to be preserved, not on the spot which is not possible because murals are to be preserved, not on the spot which is not possible because of various aforesaid implications-but to be preserved vicariously, in the form of colour transparencies and photographs, the only imaginably possible method of preserving them at some sort of museum or photo gallery. A part of such endeavour finds expression in the present work, which, we hope, will serve the purpose of an introduction to the Pahari schools or styles of wall paintings and preserve some important specimens. It will also help exhibit the nature of the decay some of these centers are faced with and of which a few specimens could be salvaged by the effort of the camera.
At no few centers, the pigments, which were pearl-like in luster, have waned away into paleness and lost most of their vividness. Drawing and line have also badly suffered in the majority of cases and it is not unoften to find scratches, writings and other marks of havoc played by visitors to several of the paintings. And the disfiguring of some of the paintings as a result of electrification, decoration, whim and other adjustments executed by the dwellers or inmates are also visible in some specimens. Though the owners have lately been made to realise the value of wall paintings yet their domestic needs and the caprices of ignorant and innocent persons, like children and school students, continue to harm this unguarded treasure.
We have attempted to present a study of this fast vanishing art as it was practiced in the Dogra Hills from Punch to Kangra. Chivalry seems to go hand in hand with the instinctive love for beauty and the fine arts. And here, among the solitary hills and isolated valleys of Jammu-Chamba-Nurpur region we find annals of heroism and encounter a luxuriant harvest of enchanting wall paintings which signify a rich tribute to the love for patronage of this art subsisting among the warriors and rulers of this hilly tract.
Whether embellishing the walls of royal palaces or sanctifying those of temples and shrines these paintings present a large variety of themes steeped both in artistic deftness and emotional wealth embodying in themselves the spirit of both the Hindu ideals of kama and moksha. We have further tried to present an analytical study of situations in which these walls were painted and to trace not only the driving force - the libido of the patrons - but also to identify the devotional depth of the artists who executed this art. The present study traces the history of the mural and miniature traditions in the Hills of Jammu and Kangra, ascertains their relationship and interdependence and analyses the cultural and emotional import of the existing specimens of wall paintings and delineates the cultural soil out of which this art grew up. The prevailing trends of style and technique employed at various mural centers have also been identified. The present work, however, is a sort of introductory prelude to a more comprehensive, methodical and multi-volume study which is being carried out under a separate scheme of Emeritus Fellowship awarded to the first author by the University of Jammu.
In the preparation of this work the advice and suggestions of some of our friends have been of great value for which we are grateful to them.
We are indebted to Shri Jagmohan, former Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, for the interest he has evinced in our work by writing an erudite Foreword to this composition. Our thanks are also due to Shri Shakti Malik of Abhinav Publications for bestowing special care to lend artistic getup to the work.
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