An Introduction to Dogri Folk Literature and Pahari Art


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Karkan. It will be worth while to glance upon some of the “Karkan” first. The most famous among them are the ‘Karks” of Baba Jitto, 'Data Ranu' and Raj Bahu Rull.

Kark of Baba Jitto : Baba Jitto was born in a village Ghar near Katra in Jammu Province. He was a Brahamin and tilled the land. Because of the animosities of his relations he left the village with his daughter and settled down in Shama Chak a village about nine miles in the West of Jammu. The village was under the charge of Mehta Bir Singh, a relative of the Jammu Ruler. Jitto got a patch of barren land in ‘Jhiri’ from him on the agreement that he should part with one third of the produce to Mehta Bir Singh. The harvest was unexpectedly rich, and Mehta-Bir Singh insisted on his getting half the produce out of sheer cupidity. As a result, a conflict ensued. Baba Jitto sat on the Grain pile and plunged the dagger into his heart. His death was a protest against the injustice. The Ballad puts beautiful lines in the mouth of Baba Jitto at the occasion of his death, which reflect his burning revolt against exaction ;

Suki kanak Nain Khainan O Metaya
Dinnain maas Ralai
“O Mehta, you will not relish the dry wheat.
So I season it with my flesh”.

The daughter of Jitoo also burns herself with the dead body of the father. The ballad of Baba Jitto ends on a tragic note; but the tragedy is compensated by the divine judgement which visits the evil doers who would get peace only by building a shrine to the Baba Jitto and accepting as their house-hold deity.

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The Karak of Baba Jitto gives all the important details of his life from birth to death; In the following lines the birth of Baba Jitto is described :

Ghar Rupa de thauger truthe
Auns narane lai
Bhale nashatar janam Babe da
Naren mangal gai

“God was pleased with Rupo and brought all hopes to fruition. The Baba was born under an auspi-cious constellation, and the women folk sang their blessings”.

The marriage of Baba Jitto is thus referred to :-

Magh Mahina Naven di lagen
Ditta Baya Rachai
Sheel Vanti Nek Kule di
Lei e Babe Bayai

“Marriage preparations were set afoot on the ninth of Magh and Baba was wedded to a gentle and well-born girl”.

The last scene is quite dramatic and runs as follows : Baba says to “Iso” a minor character in the Ballad, before his death :

Dhaulē mere Kholi udian
Meri Bua ri ghar pajai
Pagari katara Jitmal Baba
Chadya Dhera Par Jai
Mamta Chodie Jitmal Baba
Chati katara lai
Kanke De bich tadfe Baba
Panchien raula pai
[Page 33]

“Turn my grey bulls loose, and escort my daughter to Ghar. Jitmal Baba seized the dagger and mounted the pile of grains. Baba rooted out all the attachment and set the dagger against his heart. Baba was wriggling on the stack and the birds set up a squall”.

The Karak ballad ‘Datā Ranu’ is also a thrilling narrative of the deadly conflict between good and evil. Data Ranu who is accepted as the arbiter by the two rival groups torn by the long standing feuds over a dis-puted estate conducts himself with the fearless zeal and unsullied nobility of character. He repels all tempta-tion and menace of outrage from the usurper who means to wean him from the course of truth. The decree of justice is at last sealed with his blood and right is installed on its long-denied throne. The conflict bet-ween verity and mendacity becomes so overwhelming that characters seem to possess an allegorical colour. Data Ranu, according to the general impressions of the ballad, is the deification of justice and Bangi the tyrant is afflicted with leporacy for the satisfaction of retribu-tory powers of fate.

‘The Karak of Raj Bahu Rull’ ‘which sounds on the every tongue in Kangra is connected with a small water channel exploited from the runnel “Raj” which flows a little below Guggal’. The water channel is known as the “Rulla Di Koohal” which bears a clue to the sacrifice of Rull,” the daughter-in law of the king who wanted her to dedicate her life as a votive offering to the family god to ensure the flow of waters from the river ‘Gaji’ into miles-long channel excavated by the king for the good of the tillers. The completion of the project’ according to some mysterious will of the presiding


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Bar of Mian Diddo. Mian Diddo was born in Jagate village of Jammu in the month of Chet in 1780. His father’s name was Mian Hazari. He was of Jamwal sub-caste. He distinguished himself for the chivalry and prowess in his very childhood. Jammu was then ruled by M. Jit Singh who was a weakling and could not defend the State from the ravages of the Sikhs. Maharaja Ranjit Singh was reigning over Punjab. The Bhange chiefs of his court on the instigation of some vile friend of Jit Singh launched an inroad upon Jammu in 1809. The soldiers of Duggar resisted them tooth and nail under the joint leadership of Gulab Singh, Suchet Singh and Mian Diddo, and put them to rout. After the death of Jit Singh Jammu fell under the domination of the Sikhs. Gulab Singh also went in the service of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Suchet Singh had already preceded him. Diddo chaffed and fretted at the subjugation of Duggar to an alien ruler and resolved to redeem his land from the dishonor. He organized a group and began to harass the Sikh Army in Jammu. Lahore-Raj was alarmed Diddo would foil all attempts for capture. Gulab Singh was at last sent to vanquish the rebel who was in fact a patriotic soldier and staked his life for the freedom of his land. Gulab Singh tried to persuade his for surrender and assured him of amnesty and a high rank in the Sikh Darbar but Diddo refused. This led to an open conflict [Page 40] between the two. An official of the Sikh army Sardar Attar Singh, dismembered the old father of Diddo into four and transfixed the pieces to each wall of his house.

Diddo dent his steps towards Trikuta. But he was beleaguered there. He killed the murdered of his father in single combat at one fell swoop, and himself was shot dead by a soldier of Sikh Army. But Diddo was enshrined for ever in the memory of the people. He could not be openly extolled because of the fear of the Sikhs, but the popular feeling of love for this great hero of Duggar could not remain pent up and poured itself out in Bar of Diddo. In this ballad as in the others a conversational form is adopted which gives dramatic intensity to the ballad and makes the scenes dynamically graphic and life-like. In the following verse Diddo throws a challenge to the enemy and asks them to vacate his land :-

Samne khadoi Mian Dido lalkara je Ditta
Beria daiya chodi de
Sadi kandi chodi de
Apne majhe da mulk smahal
Apne lauhre da mulk smahal
Pagdi talwar Mian Diddo halla je kiita
Badi Badi mundian beri dian tange garne naal
Ladkan baal garne naal
Hath aunda nain Dido Jamval
Beri daiya chodi de
Sadi kandi chodi de
Apne majhe da mulk samahal
Kharch patha berien band je kiita
“Hun ke khaga Mian Dido Jaad?”
[Page 41]
Samne kharoiye Mian beri gi galaya
Sari kandi de pakki ge garne
Ber ni jarde haar siyal
Khai khai garne baang talwar.”

“Mian Didoo hurled his challenge on the enemy. He asked them to clear out of his land, and mind their own “Lahore and Majha”. Mian Diddo fell upon the enemy with his sword and stuck their heads to the “Garna” bushes. Didoo Jamval was not easy to capture. The enemy cut off his supplies. On being asked what he would live upon, he replied to their face, “The Garna fruit of the Kandi has ripened and berries remain in season throughout the year. I will feed myself upon them and wield my sword”.

Every word of these verses is charged with patriotic fervor.

Zorawar Singh was one of the veteran Generals of Maharaja Ghulab Singh, and stands prominent among those who helped the Maharaja in integrating the small and mutually clashing principalities into one strong domain. He had a very hard time with the feudal rebels of Ladakh who did not like this consolidation, and rose in armed opposition to guard their prerogatives. It was a grim task to subdue them to complete the integration of the State. The soldiers were ill-equipped and not used to snow and congealing cold. It was really an ineffable feat of braver for them. Some of the battles during this campaign were waged at the mountain ranging in height from 25,000 ft. to 28,000 ft. Zorawar Singh has been called the greatest warrior of the 19th. Century by some [Page 42] historians. He was a soldier in the army of Gulab Singh and had risen from the ranks. In 1832, he was ap-pointed Governor of Kishtwar and soon after, the title of Wazir was conferred on him. He began his consolidation from Kishtwar and marched towards Ladakh in 1834, and annexed Leh in 1836. It is said that he crossed into Leh six times. He merged Askardoo and Lahasa into duggar territory. He died a brave death in Lhasa in 1841, where a memorial was built to him. (The memorial was demolished during the recent incursion of the Chinese on Tibet).

“Bar of Wazir Ratnu”. After the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Gulab Singh fell out of favour with the Sikh Durbar. Through the conspiracy of Rani Jindan, Gulab Singh’s son, Sohan Singh, and his brother Hira Singh, were put to death. Sikh forces besieged even Jammu in April 1885, and demanded some tribute and territories which fell to the share of Suchet Singh and Hira Singh. Afgan Raja of Rajouri, Faqir Ullah Khan, also raised an army and marched towards Poonch. Wazir Rattnu a brave Dogra General, gave a crushing defeat to Sikhs. He even accompanied Zorawar Singh, in all his expeditions and raised the morale of the Dogra army at Lhasa. After the death of Zorawar Singh, the king of Ladakh revolted again but was quelled by Ratnu and Dewan Harichand. Wazir Ratnu made Ladakh a permanent part of Duggar.

“Bar of Basti Ram”. Basti Ram was also a compa-nion of Zorawar Singh during his campaign of Ladakh [Page 43] and Baltistan. He survived the battle of Tibet and narrated its thrilling details. Bar of Basti Ram may be treated as a supplement to that of Zorawar Singh, partly because it is smaller in volume and partly because it illuminates the reader on the other details of Zorawar Singh. In this Bar, the strategic plans devised by the Hero to wage a fight have also been described, but their description is very sweeping and superficial.

“Bar of Gugga”. This Bar is the longest of all. There is no satisfactory historical evidence about Gugga’s birth, but still he is an object of great curiosity and interest. Gugga was the enemy of the Nagas, and there are many descriptions of his fights with them. Gugga is worshipped by the people of Duggar and shrines are built to him at several places in the land. Gugga-day is celebrated every year in the Duggar and falls on the next day of Janam Ashtami. It is called Gugga Navami. An account of his conquests is also available in different parts of india. He is said to have married a princess from Bengal. According to tradi-tion, he marched to Gazani to rescue the cow of a Brahman widow from the Sultan. The cow asks him to escape in the night with it but Gugga will not play the sneaking thief. He spurns the Sultan out of his sleep and kills him in a fair battle. The ballad contains many supernatural events and describes many miracles of Gugga.

The following extract describes Gugga’s march towards Gazani and his scuffle with the Sultan.

Chadi peya gaiani par Raaja
Chot Nagare lai
[Page 44]
Thum thum chal chale rath neela
Jian kumbe par thali
Majlo majli dev Gugga
Uppar tille de aai
Uppar tille de aai khrota rath
Neele gi ronak karai
Samme bhuren palaya neelya
Tugi palaya Bachal mai
Sate kot lohe de tappe jinne
Athawin tappi e ekhai
Rambha chodaya kapalan ne
Aj phiraya e mera sain
Aj phirya mera sain
Raja mere degi band chadai
Aged hoi-e dev Gugga
Kaplan di saungal kappi
Sajje munde lei lei kaplan
Khabbe guraj khadkai
Ann jal kita nain raja
Beriya gi main jagain
Bol Raja bachan kare
Kaplan gi araj sanai
Manven de bache chori ni karde
Aun chori karda nain
Sutta peya da beri
Dei latta di ditta jagai
Chare chullan pajji gayian
Ath kabje gi pai
Kaddi miyana talwar beri ne
Sir Raje de lai
Tre Tote talwar hoie
Bajji jamin par aai
[Page 45]
Tera bar hoi geya beriya
Hun mera phirya i aai
Krodhe bich dev Gugge ne
Sir beri de bai
Dhad reya bich Gajni de
Sir chodya till tapai

“Gugga rode towards Gazani with a blast of trumpet. The blue chariot was going at a jog trot. After covering stage after stage, Gugga reached Tilla (the bank of the Atak) and threw a signal to the blue horse meaning that he had been brought in tender care by the mother Bachal. The horse sprang over the seven iron walls including the moat. The cow acclaimed her master with her lowing and hoped to be released from the fetters which were cut asunder by him. He led the cow at his left side and held the bludgeon against the right.

The cow said that she had been in complete fast for the last six days and he should slip away without waking the king up. But Gugga replied that a man should not act like a thief.

He spurned the king out of his sleep who got up growling like a lion. All the four bed posts crashed down. He clutched at the hinge and smote the head of Gugga with his sword. The sword fell in four pieces on the ground. Gugga said that now it was his turn. He struck a blow angrily on the king whose torso remained in Gazani but whose head flew across the Tilla”.

“Bars of General Hoshiara and Baj Singh” are equally famous. It is said that general Hoshiara marched [Page 46] towards Gilgit and collected some men on the way. He went scattering the Maize grains on the tracts so that he and his soldiers may not have to starve on their way back home.

The “Bar of Baj Singh” may be treated in continua-tion of the Bar of General Hoshiara. He suppressed the rising in Gilgit and made it a part of the State.

“Bar of Ram Singh”. There are Bars which sing of the heroes outside the Duggar but are no less popular. Bar of General Ram Singh is one of them. He was the native of a village five miles from Nurpur in the District Kangra. It is now known as the Bajiren Di Basa situated by the side of Shaunsh Nullah. His success-sors are still living there.

Sikh power was at its last ebb after Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the English had dominated the Punjab. When the English began to lay their hands on Kangra he resisted and died in action against them. This Bar commands a great devotion of the people of Kangra. The cultural ties of Duggar and Kangra have overlapped the geographical boundaries and made Ram Singh a popular hero of Duggar too. His efforts to repel the English may have not been successful, but they were the magnanimous assertion of the free spirit of a man who preferred honourable death to degraded living. Some lines from it are quoted below:-

Sham Singh de ghar Ram Singh Jameyan
Bada hoa avtari raja
[Page 47]
Jamde pakdi talwar raja
Lad-da bain de jor raja
Likhi parvana chori chori jo bhejda
Miki deni imdad loko
Nurpur lena chadai loko

“Ram Singh was born in the family of Sham Singh. He was a celebrated being. He wielded sword from his childhood and fought with confidence in his strength. He sent a secret message to his allies that he should get their succor as Nurpur must be liberated.

There are many other minor Baran like those of Colonol Jawahar and Colonol Bhoop Singh and Raja Dhyan Singh. But they cannot equal the scope and popularity of those already discussed.

These Baran are the heritage of glory and pride of the Dogras and are sacred to the memory of those Dogra warriors who courted death to hold aloft the honour of their clan. There greatest merit lies in the treatment of details in a chronological order which not only supplies a consistent information of the entire movement of Dogra Heroism but also secures the trophies of their victorious exploits from the pilfering hands of time. Taken as a whole they are serialised versions of one lofty theme i.e. the manhood of Dogras. Theses ballads are more authentic than history as they have arrested life in its actual gestures. They have given us a verisimilitude of reality and are the ever-fresh and complete pictures of by-gone times, while history is only a dead record of the surface happenings which hardly touch the heart.


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“Babal mera ikk kehna kijiye,
migi Ram Rattan var di-ji-ye

“Father please, grant my request and help me to an ideal husband like Ram.” This brings at once the religious associations to the mind; at the same time, the desire for a loving and loyal husband is voiced as Ram is a symbol of monogamy.

The grown up girl weighs like a nightmare on the poor father and thought of dowry almost doubles him with worry.

In the following lyric the agony of parents unable to amass sufficient dowry for their daughter is touch-ingly portrayed.

Beti de Babal Madan Madan
Mata Jisi soch hove ga
ikk meri Radhe Da bhya
Duja var daj mange ga
Prabhu ji tus Bayan chadyo
Bhagwan sharma laj rakhe ga

“The father of the girl is hard up, and the mother is in deep worry. On the one hand our darling is of marriageable age, and on the other, the bridegroom may ask for a dowry. Oh, God , see that our girl is married and safeguard our honour”. This helplessness of the parents sometimes brings humiliation to the daughter. The father of a grown up daughter can never keep his head high. This idea is given a poetic expression of high degree in the following verse :

“Ucha burj Laura da
[Page 63]
jithe nime na koi
Nime ga beti da baabal
Jedi Kanya Kuari,

“The Lahori-gate is very high and none need bow down there(to pass through) but the father of a girl who is yet not given away in marriage”.

These ‘suhaagas’ also describe the pangs of parting at the time of a girl’s departure for her new home. They are the variegated transcripts from life, the broad emotional contents which initiate us into the liv-ing Book.

Dance Lyrics Dance is the portrayal of feelings through physical movements and gesticulations. The display of limbs substitutes the use of words and conveys the various moods of mind in a mute eloquence. Different dances convey different feelings. ‘Phumnian’ dance of Duggar is characterised by a vivacity and elation while ‘Kud’ is less vehement and more slow in movement and rhythm. Some folk dances are accom-panied by lyrics, which are sung in time with their beats and measures. Such lyrics have very feeble contents and are for the most part a conglomeration of strange Jargon to imitate the sound effect of the performance. Such as.-

(Jhakka Majhakka Jhakalu)

They are an unmeaning onomato-poeia. The rest of the lines are strung together not to convey any particular idea but only to complete the circle of rhythm, which may go in unison with the movements of the dance.


[Page 67]

The following verse is its beautiful illustration :

Ghgwal lagga mela te dikhne
gi chal chalche
Gāndi Nain Paisa Dhela, te dikhne gi
chal chalche
Turi vi chalge kane galaan vi karge
Puji Jaage badi savela
Te dikhne gi chal chalche.

“Let us go to join the festival held at Gaghwal”. “But the pocket is quite empty”. “Doesn’t matter; we will beguile the way with some talk and be there before time.”

The incontestable urge to witness the festival at last overcomes the barrier of poverty. This also refers to the elementary feeling for relaxation and enjoyment.

“Gujriań” is also a form of Dongri-folk-lyrics in which repartees and witticisms are exchanged between Krishna and his cow-maids.

Family Lyrics. These pertain to the household members such as mother, father, daughter, daughter-in-law, mother-in-law and their dealings with each another.

Modern Lyrics. Modern folk lyrics are an irre-fragable proof of the close association of folk literature with public life. There has been a flood of printed literature threatening to engulf the folk literature, but the latter has kept up its merry trickle and is even-running a fresh course to show its affinity with life.


[Page 88]

The common complaint about Indian art and about artist is that it is all anonymous. Very little is known about Indian artist. But the old art shows that this vogue personality possessed character and was man of consequence.

Guller:- School of Painting. Raja Hari Chand after the invasion of Timur succeeded to the Gadi of Kangra. Story goes one day while he was hunting in the jungle, he lost his way and was separa-ted from his followers. In search of a path at night he fell down in a pit. Rest of the party made thorough search which continued for days together but without success. The matter was reported in the capital. Still more search followed but no trace of the Raja was found. Ultimately he was taken for dead. His Rani performed sati and his younger brother succeeded to the throne. A chance visitor, a merchant, passed by the ditch and took him out. But when Raja learnt that he had been taken for dead by family and people, he avoided to be disclosed. He remained in disguise for some time and later made a fort at the junction of two rivers and founded the town of Haripur and was thus the first ruler of Guler with his capital in Haripur. Being older than his successor in Kangra, he retained a higher order of social precedence within the family unit, the Katoch Rajput clan. This higher status was inherited by his descendants and as a result it was Kangra which invariably looked towards Guler, and not Guler to Kangra.

According to W.C.Archer1 the state of Guler [Page 89] played a decisive part in the development of Pahari painting in the 18th century. Not only did it develop a local art of the greatest delicacy and charm but the final version of this Guler style was taken to Kangra in about 1780, thus becoming the Kangra style itself. Guler is not merely one of the 38 centres of Pahari art; it is an originator and breeder of the greatest style in all the hill states. Guler was founded as an off shoot of Kangra. A series of unusual circumstances have given it a special relationship to the paternal state. How far this relationship led to constant respect by Kangra residents for Guler taste one cannot say. But if this powerful State did, in fact, adopt the art of its minor neighbour, the assistance of this special rela-tionship may well have been a contributing factor. The geographical position of Guler was also favourable to it. It was nearest and accessible from the plains, and as a result, continually subject to outward influence. Its ruler achieved military glory in wars conducted under the Mughal aegis. Raja Rup Chand (1610-35) waged 22 campaigns in the hills, but largely at the instance of overlord Emperor Shah Jahan. Raja Man Singh (1635- 61) achieved renown as a general of Aurangzeb, while Bikram Singh (1661-75) also served in the imperial forces. In such circumstances a small border state could hardly aspire to great political influence, when its ruler himself was attending duties of his overlord. And it is probable that as Mughal Empire was on its decline in the early 18th century due to the weakness of rulers under the threat of Persian and Afghan invasions, it was the remoter states such as Jammu, Basohli, Chamba and Kangra which could profit by the turmoil [Page 90] and they actually began to gain power.In the reign of three rulers, who were closely connected or were having contact with centre, political advancement seems to have played only minor part in their lives. But they could easily get interested in culture. Raja Daleep Singh(1695-1730)kept clear from major wars. Raja Govardhan Singh(1730-1773) impinged so little on outside events; that the Punjab historians Hutchinson and Vogel have only been able to conjecture his dates 1. Parkash Singh (1773-90) is mainly remembered for preserving the states intact without recourse to war. Geography in fact is the main clue to Guler develop-ments. It was because the state was close to plains and its Rajas were precluded from meddling with politics and thus were free to cultivate the arts. And the same nearness to the plains made possible an equally impor-tant development by stimulation to outside artists. Throughout 17th and 18th centuries the centres with naturalistic skill were all in close contact with Guler court. With the decline of the Empire, there occurred a far more general diffusion of the Mughal style and while we may not assume that artists migrated from Delhi to the Hills, painters of the fringes moved much further in. If the rise of Kangra Painting is due to the inocculation of a local style with Mughal refine-ment and naturalism, then Guler,at the foot of Kangra, was better situated for fostering this development.

Archer further adds, ‘Ajit Ghose who visited the State in present century noted that the tradition was still strong, that Haripur, the capital of Guler, was a [Page 91] most important centre of Kangna art, almost down the time of late Raja Raghunath Singh.’

G.C.French1 gives valuable account of Raja of Guler’s family collection. He describes the portrait of Raja Bikram Singh and Gobardhan Singh listening to music. Gobardhan Singh was fond of horses. The neighbouring Mughal Governor coveted for the splendid charger which the Raja had.The Raja refused and was followed. The Raja defeated the Mughal army and retained the horse.This horse was constantly depicted by artists. The school did exist under Gobardhan Singh (1730-73) and it is an incontestible fact. Archer says, “Painting on Ramayana published by him, formerly taken for Jammu paintings, are Guler’s and are an early phase of painting in the time of Raja Daleep Singh(1695-1730).’ A picture dated 1743 is a good key for further study of Guler Kalam. The third stage can be illustrated with some paintings of trees loaded with blossoms, represen-ting delicate beauty and youth revelling in moonshine of pleasure. Imagery is full of romance. Tall figures possess polish and their carriage depicts aristocratic life of garden and pavilions. In a painting, a newly-married bride is being conducted to her husband by two women. An experienced old lady accompanies the girl, who, un-imitated in new atmosphere, not conversant and familiar with new home, people and their manners, moves hesitatingly, but is encouraged by the old lady who im-parts information and secrets of the family and its man-ners. The mashal bearer, though of low origin, [Page 92] is a beauty incarnate. She looks at the lady with appro-val and interest. A picture in Dogra Art Gallery, Jammu, illustrates the fight of Rama with Khardooshan. The scene depicts dark tempestuous atmosphere, meaning there-by the severe fight that has begun. The figure of Rama sh-ows valour of a hero who could meet the situation single-handed. About seven paintings of this set were sold from Jammu. A set of 8 pictures, illustrates the story of Raja Karan who used to give away one maund of gold in charities with the blessings of Tara Devi, for whom he daily offered his head to be cooked and the Devi would revive him daily. Then there is a picture where in a jungle is all on fire, and Shri Krishna, with his divine power, eats the fire and saves his kite and Gopes from being burnt. Fortunately, a set of very beautiful paintings, now hanging in Amar Palace, Jammu, was present to Sadar-i-Riyasat Kashmir by Padha Kunj Lal of Basohli. This set consists of illustrations from the story of Nal-Damayanti. It is wounderfully fresh and well-kept. It has incorporated modern values with very clean and ingenious way. The artist has used cast-shadow sparingly to give life to the story. In one place, Damayanti who is mad with love, garlands a visionary figure of Raja Nal. The space for the figure is left clean with no colour coat, meaning thereby that the Raja does not actually exist there but the princess is simply tempted by hallucination of a mental picture. The picture of blank space is the exact representation of a form repeated on every piece. Then there is a reflected picture of turret, a grand execution. The reflection in Indian painting is new experiment which has been successfully done. Some poses attempted by [Page 93] the artist are quite new to Pahari school and seem studies from actual life. The school has acclimatized itself with the Mughal technique. There we have obvious connection between these stages but there are equally obvious gaps in old Guler paintings. In the finest works of this school, the technique is immaculate, a heritage of Mughal painting, to which it owed much. But it is very different from Mughal art though it possesses the same aristocratic veneer.

Red, white and sombre blue persist. Kangra has naturalistic back-ground, which does not exist in Guler. There is a bit primitive setting in Guler. Wide-roofed pavilion, the centre with carpet, cypresses and plan-tain, decoration in pale in wall of pavilions, suggest Kangra Kalam. The cypresses are slim, spearlike in Guler. Often flowers symbolise the girl’s juvenescene and superlative lovely forms. Colours in the advanced Guler Kalam pale down to tints and their tints are numerous. Some very beautiful colours are set in light scheme. Pleasure exists in moonshine of pale harmonies where scarlet poppies or tulips suggest amorous themes.

Hundreds of Guler pictures were exported from Jammu. Matrimonial alliances were responsible for this number. As compared with Kangra school, the colours applied in this school are not thick and the glue used is dehydrant, by virtue of which the colours scale off easily and had less of durability.

Kangra School: There are different versions about the establishment of Kangra school. According to one view-point, it came into being in 1775 A.D., in the reign of Raja Sansar Chand who succeeded his father [Page 94] Tegh Chand(1774-76) when he was only 30 years old. British traveller Moorcraft , writing in 1820, gives the dates of his reign (1775-1823); but A.K. Coomaraswamy quoting Hutchinson and Vogel in a paper in the Journal of the Punjab Historical Society dates (1776- 1824). A.D. Moorcraft writes that the Kangra court of Raja Sansar Chand contained a large and flourishing school of gifted artists. His dazzling entourage set up a brilliant and artistic court and this is confirmed by Mohammedan historian of the Punjab, Mohayy-ud-din.

The Raja could not have exercised his personal influence prior to 1785 or 1790,yet by this time so developed was Kangra style that it had spread to Chamba where his rival, Raj Singh was painted in the Kangra manner. According to Archer1 the time of birth of the Kangra School is near to 1760-1780. Lionel Heath says, “it is possible that there was a certain vogue for painting in Kashmir and Jammu, but I can discover no really indigenous school of painting in Kangra. It looks true when we can’t find any trace of indigenous painting of the school previous to the developed stage. If it had been in existence, it must have come to light. But on the other hand, Kangra schhol was already in existence before the said Raja actually began to patro-nize it.”

Raja Sansar Chand was fascinated by painting and played supreme role in its general advancement. The style must equally and obviously have originated [Page 95] at an earlier date. The reign of his grand-father, Ghamand Chand(1651-1774) A.D. hardly provides the answer, for scarcely any paintings have been dis-covered which are at all connected with him.

There is certainly no indication of any highly developed school in Kangra prior to Sansar Chand. Archer says it is still a great problem from where this style came. Another art critic opines in a similar way and says, The Kangra painting appears to have less direct connection with any previous school, although Kangra influence is discernible in most of the Pahari schools in its method,colour and style. The manner-ism is very marked,both in technique and convention. In the words of O.C.Ganguly. But it is in the Kangra phase that Rajasthani painting achieved its supreme development and exquisite refinement. The Kangra painters led by Mola Ram of Garhwal have contributed the finishing chapter in the whole history of Indian painting. They represent the last rays of a sunny day, that colour with their mystical and spiritual emotion, the trailing clouds which hover round the brilliant sunset of old Indian Art. Upto 1926 a few gifted painters still worked in Kangra. G.C.French in Himalayan Art in 1931 gives names of four artists: Nandu, Huzuri, Gulabu Ram and Lachman Dass who still worked when he visited Kangra. And it is reasonable to believe that some painters were working throughout 19th century, in spite of the devastation caused by the Gurkha invasions from 1805 to 1809 and during the reign of Sansar Chand’s successor, Anirudh Chand(1823-9) who was a nominal ruler and last but not the least, the great earthquake of 1905 that left the [Page 96] area in ruins. It must have resulted in practical dis-persal of artists in Kangra. It is believed that some artists left for Lahore and Amritsar and there they started work for Sikh Rajas. And in similar manner, others must have been absorbed in neighbouring states. This fact is illustrated by the author of the book “Punjab Hill Painting”-W.G.Archer. “Banarsi Dass the grand-father of Mola Ram came to Gharwal with his two sons Sham Das and Hari Das in the court of Prithvi Shah in Tehri as a refugee with Suleman Shikoh (1660) who was entrusted by Aurangzeb to Maharaja Mirza Jai Singh son of Ram Singh”. When Mola Ram entered Kangra nobody can say, but he received maximum amount of encouragement in the court of Raja Sansar Chand. And this encouragement was a temptation which no genius could resist. The patronage and special in-terest of the Raja not only brought Kangra into lime-light, but the fame of this area became immortal. Mughal idioms,technique,composition and colour schemes underwent transformation and carried success many steps further. The art becomes symbolical with the introduction of imageries. Colour, whereas it kept the brilliance , it acquired pleasant effects in schemes. The technique has multitudinous experiments for the attainment of refinement and softness;composi-tion becomes comprehensible and smooth. The rigidity in architecture was modified for mildness. Khaka drawings illustrating the book ‘Rajput Paintings’ of Coomarswamy have well-planned composition in archi-tecture, which exemplifies how neat and scrupulous Kangra artists were with their arrangement of angular subject. The architecture is disciplined for illustration [Page 97] of episodes. There is humanistic touch in the represen-tation of animals. As for figure, conventional female form achieved most bewitching beauty. The eyes, nose, lips, hands and proportion of form,with draparies, all received special consideration and became delicate to a marvellous extent.

There are several parallels for eyes referred to in Indian literature: Kamal Naini(Lotus-eyed), Mrignaini (gazelle-eyed), Meenakshi(eyes like the shape of a fish), Badami (Almond shape) and so on. But the eyes that Kangra artists painted had no parallel. A realist may criticize full-eyed profile, but should never forget that Indian art had never copied nature as it is. Every shape an artist foramlised was to the satis-faction of his ideal. He did not care how the things looked from a particular angle. Anyhow later on, he started to give cast shade in nocturne. It was Kangra school that introduced landscape as background for figures, and we see in them form in perspective, tone and colour, delightfully felt and expressed. The trees are less conventionally treated. In certain pieces, the picturesque effect is more realistically realised. The scintillation of gold border, priming paper with gold for getting softness, decoration of border (hashia), the creation of movement, psychological use of colour, suggesting behaviour of articles and cloud studies were the things that Kangra school contributed to Pahari school. Portraiture of Kangra school is as good as that of Mughlal school. Lately, some superb pieces of Pahari art were on view after two centuries of concealment.

This is a selection from the original text


berries, death, deceased, farmer, harvest, history, land, literature, village

Source text

Title: Dogri Folk Literature and Pahari Art

Author: Lakshmi Narain, Sansar Chand

Publisher: Academy of Art,Culture and Languages,

Publication date: 1965

Place of publication: Jammu

Digital edition

Original author(s): Lakshmi Narain, Sansar Chand

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) pages 31 to 33
  • 2 ) pages 39 to 47
  • 3 ) pages 62 to 63
  • 4 ) pages 67
  • 5 ) pages 88 to 97


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

Texts encoded by: Bonisha Bhattacharya, Shreya Bose, Lucy Corley, Kinshuk Das, Bedbyas Datta, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Sarbajit Mitra, Josh Monk, Reesoom Pal

Encoding checking by: Hannah Petrie, Gary Stringer, Charlotte Tupman

Genre: India > oral narratives

For more information about the project, contact Dr Ayesha Mukherjee at the University of Exeter.