Reviving the Kangra Kalam


The Kangra School of Painting, Kangra Kalm, has been described as an ‘ Art of patience, labour and native devotion’ as well as an art of delicacy of line, brilliancy of colours and minuteness of details that began during the reign of Raja Goverdhan Chand of Guler (1744-73). And this art, after more than 260 years now, was at the verge of extinction —sinking and craving for survival.

Mughal musings

Many artists fled the Mughal courts to escape the depredations of invaders like Nader Shah Durrani and Ahmed Shah Abdali and sought refuge in the serenity of this lush green Kangra valley. The artists received patronage from the hill rulers and they incorporated new elements in the Mughal style and the final blossom was the Kangra Miniature.

The Kangra painting witnessed an era of strong emergence and reached its zenith during the rule of Raja Sansar Chand (1775-1823) and many miniatures on the theme of the Hindu Mythology were produced. The patronage given to the artists by the Raja Goverdhan Chand was continued by his successor Raja Prakash Chand who died alt a bankrupt.

These great miniatures constitute a valuable record of ancient culture of Vaishnava faith. The universal feelings of love and romance were conveyed through ideal and spiritual love of Radha and Krishna.
These great miniatures constitute a valuable record of ancient culture of Vaishnava faith. The universal feelings of love and romance were conveyed through ideal and spiritual love of Radha and Krishna.

Pioneer Painter

It was under the patronage of Raja Sansar Chand that the Kangra School of Painting achieved its glorious height both in the perfection of style the vast sweep of its themes. Pandit Seu, who came to Guler from Kashmir in 1720, was the pioneer of this Kangra school of miniature painting and was now continuing to pursue the hereditary legacy of this art was a ray of hope to keep this art alive. District language Officer Sukh Dev Sharma says that time has bedimed the glow of the colours or the themes. In fact these great miniatures constitute a valuable record of ancient culture of Vaishnava faith. The universal feelings of love and romance were conveyed through ideal and spiritual love of Radha and Krishna.

Dismal state After Independence of the country, the artists who had been preserving and developing various forms of this art in different courts of the erstwhile rulers of Guler and Kot Kangra had to part with their art and sustenance.


Chandu Ram
Chandu Lal Raina

Chandu Lal Raina’s legacy is being carried forward by Anil Raina.
Chandu Lal Raina’s legacy is being carried forward by Anil Raina.

 

In 1973, the state government started a training school of the Kangra Miniature paintings at Rait under the supervision of Chandu Lal Raina and the center came to a closure in 1979 when Chandu Lal was transferred to Palampur to a toy center. After the death of the renowned Kangra painting artist Chandu Lal Raina, on May 5, 1994, his son Anil Raina and Satya Prakash made copies of masterpieces. The practicing artists of the school could be counted on the fingertips now Puran Chand of Samloti is also doing the copy work.

Three of the remaining five artists of this school have been deputed in the famous shrines of the district to make the Kangra painting and sell them off through the temple trusts. Mukesh Kumar, Preetam Chand and Joginder Singh are the budding artists and were trying the preserve this art in the Chamunda, Bajjreshwari and Jawalamukhi temples. Anil Raina and Dani Ram Kushdil were trying the keep the art alive in the Kangra museum. O.P. Tak is not a traditional artist but he has adopted this art and produced a large number of pahari paintings on various themes and his works have been shown in the national exhibitions.

Western Bazaar

The Kangra paintings have a high market value in the West. Dr. Eberhard Fischer, an art scholar held a show of Kangra paintings in the museum Rietbrg, Zurich, in Switzerland for three months back years back. Under the guidance of Dr. Fischer, the Department of the Art Culture and Languages had to set up a gallery for Kangra paintings at the Kangra Museum but lacking patronage from the Government, it did not materialize.

The remaining artists of Kangra School of Art hope that better sense would prevail among those in power and the state government takes appropriate steps to help in preserving this art by starting training centers of Kangra school of Miniature Paintings for new artists under the surveillance of the Raina clan so that this school of paintings remain preserved and thoroughly intact without any loss to its originality and authenticity.

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