The book is divided into five chapters. In the first chapter, an attempt has been made to put the paintings in their setting. The way geography influenced the pattern of early settlements and helped to evolve a very sturdy and hardworking character of the people of this region has been discussed at the outset. The historical perspective which has determined the cultural mores of Rajasthan, beginning with the birth of the Rajput dynasties, their dominance, contact with the Mughals and the Marathas has been discussed. The extent to which religious movements and beliefs of the time influenced culture has also been brought out. The economic system which resulted in the patronage of art through the rulers, the aristocracy, the big religious mathas and later on the trading and banking families and the powerful community of the Jains has been critically evaluated and discussed.
In the second chapter, the important centres of wall paintings found in the Rajput States of Mewar, Marwar, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Amber, Bundi and Kotah, and in the feudatory estates of these States have also been discovered and discussed.
The technique of preparing the walls, the quality and character of the drawings, the methods and varieties of colour schemes employed have been discussed in detail. An analysis of the presentation of the way space, movement, balance, expression, tension and iconography have been portrayed has been done in great depth in the third chapter.
The stylistic influences and interactions on the art of Rajasthani wall paintings right from the tradition of Ajanta, the Jain School of Painting, the Deccani style and the Malwa painting have been traced and analysed. The interaction with the Mughals enriched both the Mughal ateliers in their artistic endeavours and further encouraged the patronage of painting by the Rajasthani courts and also brought a greater naturalism to the Rajasthani tradition of painting. A comparison of the contemporary Pahadi and Bundelkhandi Schools has also been discussed. The similarity and interaction between the Rajasthani miniature tradition and the style of wall painting has been analysed. These interactions ultimately produced a unique art celebrating life in all its facets of glory, joy, love and the cultural ethos of basically a warrior community which is distinct and distinguished in itself and makes a powerful statement in Indian art.
The personalities of the patrons and the names of artists whose existence is supported by reliable documentary evidence has been discussed in the last chapter.
The book has taken several years of research and uses for the first time hitherto unpublished archival material to date the paintings in a definitive fashion. The book does not limit itself to the chronological and thematic content of Rajasthani painting but gives great emphasis to its technical and aesthetic aspects. The strength of the book lies in giving the tradition of wall painting its due place in the great artistic heritage of India.
Dr. Mira Sethis a distinguished art historian who has spent several years doing research work on Indian painting. She has specialized on frescoes and murals in India and has already published two books on this subject –The Wall Paintings of the Western Himalayas (1976) and Dogra Wall Paintings in Jammu and Kashmir (1987). She believes that Indian art should be studied in the context of its aesthetics and techniques and not merely for their themes and that paintings is also a product of the geographical, historical and economic structure of the area which gives it birth.
The National Museum is proud to present Dr. Mira Seth’s book The Wall Paintings of Rajasthan. The book is the result of two decades of exhaustive research on the subject. For the first time the tradition of Rajasthani wall-painting has been presented in a holistic manner discussing it from the multi-perspective of Rajasthan’s geography, its turbulent history and the vicissitudes of its political, social and economic past. The techniques of these paintings, their stylistic analysis pointing out derivative influences and inter-connections with contemporary styles has also been analysed meticulously. A comparison with the earlier and Rajasthani miniature tradition has also been done. It is very significant that for the first time archival material has been exhaustively studied in order to fix dates of the wall paintings. The author has also been able to find out the patrons and artists of many of these otherwise obscure paintings.
The National Museum has the privilege of owning one of the largest collections of Rajasthani miniature paintings, generally done on paper. It had once commissioned the distinguished art historian Mr. Karl Khandalavala to write two volumes on this collection, unfortunately before these volumes could he c ompleted Mr. Karl Khandalavala died. Dr. Mira Seth’s book was visualized as a companion volume to the work on the miniature tradition as the wall painting tradition is earlier than the existing. Rajasthani miniatures and would, thus, enable a better understanding of the miniatures themselves. The National museum is deeply involved in the restoration and preservation of the mural paintings of India. It had acquired some paintings from Chamba, Rangmahal, in 1961-62, followed by the Kulu Devi mural of Sultanpur in Himachal Pradesh in 1966. The most colourful wall paintings of the beautiful Haveli of Zalim Singh Jhala, the Diwan of Kotah, were also conserved by the. National Museum in 1989. Some of the Jhala Haveli paintings now form part of the Museum collection and a few of them are on display. The National Museum has all along been interested in the conservation and study of our great heritage of wall paintings.
Dr. Mira Seth has done pioneering work in the study of the wall painting tradition of Rajasthan. It is hoped that scholars and art lovers will benefit from her vast documentation of the existing paintings, her critical analysis and the discussion of the ambience in which these paintings were produced.
The tradition of Indian wall paintings is among the oldest in the world. While more than a century has gone into analyzing the classical tradition of cave paintings, research on such paintings executed in the early and late medieval periods, as well as, the large body of wall paintings done form the eighteenth century onwards is a more recent phenomenon.
In the tradition of Indian wall painting, Rajasthan can justly be proud of its contribution to this art form, which was practiced here in almost all its states. Rajasthani wall paintings hark back to the classical tradition but it is fascinating to analyse their response to imported Islamic influences. It is paradoxical but true that two contrary forces, the rise and the fall of the Mughal empire gave great impetus to this art. The Mughal period brought relative political stability, fresh cultural exposure and economic prosperity for Rajasthan and hence the resource and economic prosperity for Rajasthan and hence the resources for the patronage of art. The decline of the Mughal empire saw the return of the royal patrons from their military tents in the service of the Mughals, to their native states, giving them the peace time leisure of construction of new palaces and temples and their ornamentation.
The Rajasthani wall paintings found in forts, palaces, havelis and temples are the product of a highly evolved technique and make a great style statement of their own. Their study is important not only because they represent one of the most vibrant art forms but also their sheer quantity makes a very powerful impact on Indian art and history and calls for their preservation.
The research effort on this book started in 1975 and took a long time to gestate and had many difficulties in getting published. The research involved was arduous and time consuming but an all absorbing interest of great joy. It brought me many friends, from all walks of life, without whose help it would not have been possible to finish it, as finding new wall paintings is like mountaineering, you require a lot of logistic support and the journey often leads to nowhere.
I am extremely grateful to the officers of the All India Administrative Service of the Rajasthan Cadre for assistance whenever I needed it. My batchmates Sarvshri Bhagwan Ram, K.S. Rastogi, L.N. Gupta and Sontake, were in the forefront of my supporters. Shri B.N. Dhoundiyal, Shri Arun Kumar later to became Chief Secretary Rajasthan and Sri Lalit Pawar as Secretary Culture helped me. Many district Collectors and other officers were very supportive.
I do not have enough words to thank the photographers who accompanied me on my innumerable journeys. I would like to give special thanks to Shri Vijay Kumar Srivastava of Rajasthan State Department of Archaeology, who took the first set of photographs for study purposes and whose black and white pictures have been used in the book along with slides on Samode and a few of Shekhawati. Major Bhim Amar of Delhi has contributed the maximum number of slides on Samode and a few of Shekhawati. Major Bhim Amar of Delhi has contributed the maximum number of slides for the book including Jodhpur, Mewar, Dungarpur, Bikaner and some of Bundi, Kotah and Jaipur. He always accompanied me at short notice. He would always have my gratitude and concern. Shri Arun Kumar ex-Chief Secretary of Rajasthan, shot some slides of Jain Temples and Galta of Jaipur, Kuchaman and Bundi forts. Shri Rajbir Singh of the Archaeological Survey of India, in association with Shri I.M. Tikoo took many of the slides now used for illustrating Kotah, Bundi and Jaipur wall paintings. shri Chauhan of Jaipur took the Unniara slides and Shri Sharma of the Centre for Cultural Research, New Delhi of Ramgarh and Parasurampura, Shri Dutta Gupta ex-Photo Officer of A.S.I. and Shri J.C. Arora, Photo Officer of the National Museum took photographs of National museum paintings. the department of Tourism, Rajasthan supplied most of the slides used in Chapter –V.
My grateful thanks are due to the owners of forts and havelis who opened their doors for me, specially the late Dr. Karni Singh of Bikaner, ex-Maharana Bhagwant Singh of Mewar, Maharawal Lakshman Singh of Dungarpur and the present ex-rulers of the states, namely Col. Bhawani Singh of Jaipur, Shri Brij Raj Singh of Kotah and Shri Gaj Singh of Jodhpur and the late ex-Rajmatas of Bundi and Indargarh.
The Directors of the state museums of Jaipur, Udaipur, Madho Singh Museum of Kotah and the Directors of National Museum, New Delhi gave gracious help in allowing me to see their vast collections of miniatures.
I would like to acknowledge the assistance given to me by various librarians-Shri Mukherjee of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. Shri Govardhan Singh of Himachal Secretariat Library and Shrimati Parashar, Librarian of the National Museum, for tracing many books.
The Directors of the State Archives of Rajasthan at Bikaner, both Dr. Sharma and Dr. Kaul, the curator of the Mehrabgarh fort museum, Jodhpur and the Superintendent of Kotah district Archives placed at my disposal many bahis of the erstwhile rulers which helped me in identifying many artists and fixing the dates of paintings.
Shri Narayan Singh Bhatti as Director Oriental Research Institute, Jodhpur and Dr. Dilbagh Singh, Professor of History, Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Delhi gave me a few references on history and economic life of Rajasthan respectively for which I would like to thank them.
My thanks are due to Late Shrimati Maya Majumdar for editing the book and to Dr. S.P. Gupta who at the request of the publisher checked the diacritical marks. My special thanks are due to Shri Gopi Gajwani for designing the splendid layout of the book. Thanks are due to Shrimati Komal Anand and Shrimati Kasturi Gupta Menon, who as Director General, Archaeological Survey of India, extended their support.
Finally I am most grateful to Prof. B.B. Lal, Chairman of the Publication committee of the National Museum and Dr. R.D. Choudhury, Director General, National Museum for accepting my book for publication and facilitating its publication at every stage.
I am thankful to the officers of the Publication Division of the National Museum including Shri Rajesh Gupta, its earlier Production Officer and now in charge of the production of this book, to Shri J.E. Dawson (Curator Archaeology), the present officer in charge of this Division and Shri Ranjit Banerjee, lay out artist for their efforts on this book.
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