Palampur, December 9
The Kangra art is on the verge of extinction as the governments that ruled the state for the past 40 years did little to preserve and promote it.
At one time, Kangra paintings were made in every house and village. There were hundreds of artists in the villages who used to make and promote these paintings.
In the 1980s, former Chief Minister Virbadhra Singh made efforts to preserve and promote Kangra art by setting up a gallery at Dharamsala, honouring artists, and starting classes in the state Handicrafts Department to train and encourage the youth towards the local paintings. However, later with the change of governments, not much headway was made and today, a few artists are left in Kangra.
Unfortunately, some of the surviving Kangra art experts in rural areas of the district have hand-to-mouth existence. Experts are of the view that the Kangra paintings should be introduced as a subject in schools and local artists should be employed to pass on the secrets of the art to next generations. Only then this unique art form can survive in the Kangra valley.
The three main centres of Kangra paintings are Guler, Nurpur and Sujanpur Tira. The paintings depict ideas and values that guided life in society, sentiments and passions pictured in the language of brush and colour, making our experience rich and sensibilities sharp.
Raja Sansar Chand (1775-1823) attracted a number of talented artists from the court of Guler even when he was 20 years old. He was the most-renowned Raja in the Kangra valley and the most generous patron of the art of painting.
It was under his patronage that Jaydeva’s Sanskrit love poem, “Gita Govinda”, “Bihari’s Sat Sai”, “Bhagawat Purana”, the romantic tale of Nala and Damyanti, and Keshav Das’s Raskapriya and Kavipriya were translated into the paintings of exquisite beauty. Manku, Khushala Kishan Lal, Basia, Purkhoo, Fatoo are mentioned as artists in the employment of Sansar Chand. These artists did not mention their names on the painting, which also shows their selfless devotion to the art.
Miniatures are steeped into religious faith as they depict Puranic tales and stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata in minute details. Sensitive depiction of literary works such as Rasik Priya, Sat Sai and Rasmanjari, Geet Govinda and others refer to the awareness of people.
The central theme of the Kangra paintings is live and its sentiments are expressed in a lyrical style full of rhythm, grace and beauty. The recurring theme is love, whether it portrays one of the six seasons or modes of music, Radha and Krishna or Shiva and Parvati.
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