Marwar, a southwestern region of Rajasthan has added immense glory to India’s artistic landscape. The region gained prominence in this domain under the rule of the Gurjara-Pratiharas.
The paintings developed in the royal families of Bikaner, Kishangarh, Pali, Nagaur, Ghanerao and Jodhpur are collectively called Marwar school and it greatly reflects the influence of the Mughal school of art.
The magnificence of the Marwar School of Painting is splendidly expressed in the Jodhpur style, the Bikaner style and the Kishangarh style. The important and relevant features of these styles are as follows:
Jodhpur, the second largest city of Rajasthan, historically known as the kingdom of Marwar was originally founded by Rao Jodha, chief of the Rathore clan in 1459. Even though the Jodhpur style is considered the principal style of the Marwar school, it has its own features and is less influenced by the Mughal style.
Paintings of Dhola-Maru (legendary lovers on camelback), Gita-Govinda (the depiction of relationships between Lord Krishna and his gopis), hunting scenes including elephants and horses dominate the paintings of this style.
The best examples of the Jodhpuri style paintings can be found in the Baroda Museum. This is an art gallery where elegant pieces like the Uttaradhyayana Sutra – art from the time of Rao Maldeo (1532-62 A.D.), the scion of the Rathore clan, who devoted himself to carving out the independent artistic style of Marwar; Rasikpriya – a work of art famous for its sharp applications of colour and abundance of ornaments; paintings from the time of Raja Sur Singh (1595-1620 A.D.); miniature paintings inspired by the verses of Sursagar – a book of poetry based on Lord Krishna written in the 16th-century by the famous blind poet Sur, all occupy prominent places.
Paintings in Jodhpur received a new momentum during the reign of Ajit Singh (1707-1724) and his successor Abhai Singh (1724-1750). They were keen patrons of literature, painting, music and dance.
The climax of the late Jodhpur style came during the reign of Man Singh (1823-1843). It was characterized by the prominent use of bright yet subtle colours like yellow, blue and green, spiral clouds on the horizon, women wearing bell-like skirts and men having side whiskers and wearing flat turbans and accordion pleated coats.
Located in the northern Rajasthan, Bikaner was established by a chieftain Rao Bikaji in the 15th century. The Bikaner style has prominent Mughal elements and features more than any other Rajasthani school of paintings, the reason being many Mughal school artists visited Bikaner and were employed there. Some of the famous names amongst these artists were Ali Raza, Ruknuddin, Sahibdin, Isa, Mohammed Ibrahim and Lupha.
Many critics term the early Bikaner style as the provincial Mughal style, but the paintings of slim attractive women with deer-like eyes, application of vibrant colours like green, red and blue, high end turbans of the Marwari fashion and depiction of the Bikaneri style of living along with the Rajput culture makes us believe that it has a distinct style.
This distinct and unique style can be seen in the paintings of valleys, hills, deserts, forts, religious processions, Baramasa – beautiful miniature paintings depicting the month of January with a perfect blend of high quality rich oil colours, Ragamala – a series that depicts the different Indian musical modes or ragas, Lord Krishna’s life vignettes, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Purana.
Kishangarh is a small city in Ajmer district founded by Kishan Singh, brother of Raja Sur Singh of Jodhpur, in 1609. The immense development of art emerged in the mid-18th century under the ruler Sawant Singh who was in love with Bani Thani, his step mother’s maid.
Kishangarh king Sawant Singh (1748-1764), under the pseudonym of Nagari Das, composed many songs and poems in praise of the Radha-Krishna. To express gentle sentiments of the Radha-Krishna, use of subtle light colours like rose, white, red, emerald and cream can be seen.
Patent characteristics of the Kishangarh paintings are the portraits of women with long necks, slanted eyes and aquiline nose, men with attractive physique, elevated turban, thin lips and wide eyes. The paintings depicting palace, forts, bridges, lake and garden with the Kishangarh town in the background can be commonly seen as well.
The Marwar school of painting is recognized all over the world. To explore more you can plan your Rajasthan journey with Far Horizon here and we would be more than happy to get your artistic adventure started.