The Women in Pahari Paintings

Passions and Moods

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The outpouring passionsPreparing for a bathCourtship
The outpouring passions
The outpouring passions | Source
Preparing for a bath
Preparing for a bath | Source
Courtship
Courtship | Source

Introduction

A woman is like a fast flowing river whose depth cannot be fathomed by man. Those who tried floundered on the stormy rocks. To discover the ultimate reality of women, one has to cultivate a higher merit, strength of imagination, control of senses and total conquest of ego. This is possible in some men of creative capabilities.

A women is after all a mother and to fulfill this task, she had to bind herself to man. Without the satisfaction of this instinct she is like a barren land chased by all. To perpetuate the existence of man, she has to wade through the river of her own self. Emerging from the core she aspires to reach the surface and bears the burden alone.

The artists have captured the various facets of women on canvas from time to time. Images like suggestion of two pillars or a pair of handkerchief, a sharp necked flask filling into a wide mouthed cup, mortar and pestle, flower blossom etc. symbolize the flames of passion raging within.

The Garhwal School

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The Heroine Going to Meet Her Lover at an Appointed Place, A morose woman seated on a chauki on a garden terrace plays the sitar
The Heroine Going to Meet Her Lover at an Appointed Place,
The Heroine Going to Meet Her Lover at an Appointed Place, | Source
A morose woman seated on a chauki on a garden terrace plays the sitar
A morose woman seated on a chauki on a garden terrace plays the sitar | Source

Capturing the Moods of Women

A women waiting beneath a banana tree or a Cyprus tree for her lover, pouring her heart to a pair of bucks are some of the favorite scenes. In some Pahari paintings the peacock assumes the role of lover or the hero. With nightfall even the peacock retreat into the groves to enjoy the company of their beloveds. The dark night outside and the raging storm within heightens the pangs of separation. The flashes of lightening in the dark cloudy sky signify union. The flight of pair of cranes (symbolizing flight of lovers), a pair of parrot sitting on a banana tree (symbolizing sexual urge), a young girl carrying earthen pots (symbolizing fertility), all unravel the riddle of women’s mind.

The Passions

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 Painting of feet, Kangra School 1800 AD.The love stricken heroineBull, another masculine symbol
 Painting of feet, Kangra School 1800 AD.
Painting of feet, Kangra School 1800 AD. | Source
The love stricken heroine
The love stricken heroine | Source
Bull, another masculine symbol
Bull, another masculine symbol | Source

Women in Kangra Paintings

In Kangra paintings the artists have even surpassed the scope of above mentioned images. The path leading to the house of beloved has been shown in the form of arlacot I.e., by joining two branches. The branches are tied together and a gloomy looking bird is shown perched on them. This symbolizes the longing for the union, which never takes place because of the social customs and taboos.

In one of the Kangra painting, the beloved is shown being led by female companion for a midnight tryst at the arrival of the lover with the kelp of flaming torches.

The final sexual union of lovers has been depicted by the paintings with merging the qualities of various objects, which become blurred in the pursuit of oneness.

The vine climbing up the tree represents nothing, but the state of union.In these paintings, the lovers are brought to life through symbols and signs.

In Bara- Masa paintings the lovers are brought to life through different symbols and signs. What they cannot say to each other is conveyed through the objects of nature viz. birds, trees, clouds, flowers, fruits etc. It is the artist who has made the women realizes her vital being.

The picture that emerges from the Kangra paintings had come to represent the Pahari Style. The credit goes to Raja Sansar Chand of Kangra, a great patron of art, who helped and inspired the artists even during the attack of Gurkhas.

The distinguishing features of these paintings lie in their sensual and transparent beauty with fantastic colors. The Kangra paintings embody feminine tenderness and a silk touch.

Rukmini Going to the Temple, 18th century Guler Painting

The Agony

The beloved communicated her agony of the departure of her lover to the birds like crows, sparrows, parrots etc., pleading with them to bring back or at least convey her message. She is depicted as offering the buttered bread to the crows. The cold winter nights are spent sharing her loneliness with caged parrots. The mood here is represented by images like dry leaves, withered trees, broken strings of musical instruments and scattered utensils.

Kangra School

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Krishna and Radha meet on a stormy night. She crushes the heads of serpents as they coil round her legs, ghouls and goblins are everywhere, she is oblivious of the downpour and fails to hear the cacophony of the cicadas while the streaks of lightningWomen Playing Holi
Krishna and Radha meet on a stormy night. She crushes the heads of serpents as they coil round her legs, ghouls and goblins are everywhere, she is oblivious of the downpour and fails to hear the cacophony of the cicadas while the streaks of lightning
Krishna and Radha meet on a stormy night. She crushes the heads of serpents as they coil round her legs, ghouls and goblins are everywhere, she is oblivious of the downpour and fails to hear the cacophony of the cicadas while the streaks of lightning | Source
Women Playing Holi
Women Playing Holi | Source

The Costumes

The heroines are shown with well-fitting blouses and ghagaras or petticoats. But their blouses reach waist levels, contrary to the bodice shown in Basholi paintings, which covers only the cups of the breasts. Dupatta or the well embroidered orhini or head cover on the head reaches the knees. These heroines also wear ornaments, while the clothing has a translucent Mughal feature.

The Imagery

The fruit imagery depicts the reticence of women. Usually two long necked flasks with covered mouths symbolize the inviolate chastity of women. The pot shaped pomegranate, apples, bananas and grapes etc. all symbolize sexual union. At such moments the lovers are often shown standing in front of a door with a raised curtain, as if the passing storm has divested them of their inhibitions and they can freely indulge in their love making. The holy moments of love are shown in the form of a tray of fruits covered with cloth lying near a thin necked flask.

Bahsoli School

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Playing with Serpents, the Phallic SymbolConfidante with Rhada, narrating to Khrisna dalliance with Gopies.based on Jaydeva's Gita Govinda.  1730 A.D.Hero taking the scarf of a milkmaid. A.D. 1700
Playing with Serpents, the Phallic Symbol
Playing with Serpents, the Phallic Symbol | Source
Confidante with Rhada, narrating to Khrisna dalliance with Gopies.based on Jaydeva's Gita Govinda.  1730 A.D.
Confidante with Rhada, narrating to Khrisna dalliance with Gopies.based on Jaydeva's Gita Govinda. 1730 A.D. | Source
Hero taking the scarf of a milkmaid. A.D. 1700
Hero taking the scarf of a milkmaid. A.D. 1700 | Source

The Basholi Paintings

In case of Basholi paintings there is a positive hint of masculinity, even in the female figures. In the paintings of Nurpur the elegantly dressed tall women have long limbs. In this style the trees are chiseled into domes and shaped structures, as if decorated deliberately.


Different Moods

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The love lorn womenThe timid brideThe woman waiting for her loverBraving the rains and serpentsGetting foot massageThe peacock symbolSending a message to the loverPouring out the feelingsThe Serpent of desire being fedGetting ready for the trystWaiting for the loverThe dancing beautyAdorning Getting ready for the palaverWaiting for the lover
The love lorn women
The love lorn women | Source
The timid bride
The timid bride | Source
The woman waiting for her lover
The woman waiting for her lover | Source
Braving the rains and serpents
Braving the rains and serpents | Source
Source
Getting foot massage
Getting foot massage | Source
The peacock symbol
The peacock symbol | Source
Sending a message to the lover
Sending a message to the lover | Source
Pouring out the feelings
Pouring out the feelings | Source
The Serpent of desire being fed
The Serpent of desire being fed | Source
Getting ready for the tryst
Getting ready for the tryst | Source
Waiting for the lover
Waiting for the lover | Source
The dancing beauty
The dancing beauty | Source
Adorning
Adorning | Source
Getting ready for the palaver
Getting ready for the palaver | Source
Waiting for the lover
Waiting for the lover | Source

Sexual Symbols

The banana trunk in the paintings is a symbol of male energy or phallic symbol for the grief stricken heroine, pinning for her lover. The snake symbolize the phallus, while the flowering creepers entwining the plants symbolize the urge for sexual fulfillment. The colorful bushes add to the atmosphere congenial for love making.

Mandi School

Marriage Procession in a Bazaar, 1645 AD
Marriage Procession in a Bazaar, 1645 AD | Source

The Features

The women are attractive combining sensuous looks and enticing gestures. The forehead is small and extends up to the long nose. The half open eyes, long coiled hair, curling at the ear, a small mouth make these heroines a lively and attractive figure to behold. The eye for detail is captured in the finely sculpted figures. Most of these paintings only depict the profiles.

The Nature

The scenes of love making in these paintings are tenderly depicted in the background of nature. The lush green surroundings with flowers in full bloom, the trees and creepers add to the sensuous appeal of female figures. The trees are depicted in kangra style in a natural way unlike the Basholi School.

The chirping birds add beauty to the atmosphere. The peacocks, parrots, swans and sparrows are the common birds shown in these miniatures. In addition the animals like cows, deer and snakes symbolize different emotions.

Guler School

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Gopis searching for Krishna, Bhagavata Purana, 1780ADLord embraces a lady. 1830 ADMusician entertaining a lady, 1750 A.D
Gopis searching for Krishna, Bhagavata Purana, 1780AD
Gopis searching for Krishna, Bhagavata Purana, 1780AD | Source
Lord embraces a lady. 1830 AD
Lord embraces a lady. 1830 AD | Source
Musician entertaining a lady, 1750 A.D
Musician entertaining a lady, 1750 A.D | Source

The Colors

The colors used in these paintings also play an important role. Three basic colors viz. the yellow, red and blue are frequently used. Other colors appear by blending these colors. The golden color is used to depict an act of sexual vision and to express the royal status of the character. Sometimes the border of the paintings is made more acute by the use of golden color.

The color is used to convey the idea of different types of heroines. For instance to express Khandita or the angry heroine, she is shown ewaring a red dress. Since the facial expressions do not bear teatimony to her rage, the color provides the effect.

Chamba Painting

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The love lorn heroineThe blissful lovers
The love lorn heroine
The love lorn heroine | Source
The blissful lovers
The blissful lovers | Source

© 2014 Sanjay Sharma

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2 comments

SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

SANJAY LAKHANPAL 2 years ago from Mandi (HP) India Author

Thanks srsddn for the visit and the comment. I love the paintings and Pahari miniatures are my favorite. I wanted to write a book on the subject, but the dasher of life .


srsddn profile image

srsddn 2 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

sanjay, it seems you have done in-depth study of Pahari Paintings. Thank you for sharing such a useful information. Voted up and interesting.

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