Painting in Kangra

Kangra Paintings

Kangra painting is the pictorial art of Kangra, named after Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh, a former princely state, which patronized the art.

The pictorial art of Kangra is one of the finest gifts of India to the art-world. This great art originated in a small hill state ‘Guler’ in the Lower Himalayas in the first half of the eighteenth century when a family of Kashmiri painters trained in Mughal Style of painting sought shelter at the court of Raja Dalip Singh (1695-1741) of Guler. The new arrivals mingled with the local artists and were greatly influenced by the atmosphere of the hills. Instead of painting flattering portraits of their masters and love scenes, the artistes adopted themes of eternal love between Radha and Krishna. The paintings were naturalistic and employed cool, fresh colors. The colors were extracted from minerals, vegetables and possessed enamel-like luster. Verdant greenery of the landscape, brooks, springs were the recurrent images on the miniatures.

This style reached its zenith during the reign of Maharaja Sansar Chand Katoch (r.1776-1824) who was a great patron of Kangra art. Being a liberal patron, the painters working at his atelier received large commissions while others accepted a permanent settlement in the form of lands. Maharaja Sansar Chand was an ardent devotee of Krishna and used to commission artists to paint subjects based on the loves and life of Krishna.

The focal theme of Kangra painting is Sringar (the erotic sentiment). The subjects seen in Kangra painting exhibit the taste and the traits of the life style of the society of that period.

The Kangra miniatures are noted for portraying the famine charm with a natural grace. Apart from female beauty there is also a loving interest in landscapes, the countryside, the rivers, trees, birds, cattle, and flowers which have been very meticulously portrayed in these paintings. Kangra painting excels in the female figures, which were generally conceived as the embodiments of youth, beauty and emotive sentiment. The figure of youthful coy female seen in Kangra miniatures is an ideal physical type which is slender and elegant, radiating infinite charm, sensitiveness and refinement.

The colour scheme of Kangra painting appears to be toned down in such a way that it looks soft, cool but brilliant and cheerful. At the zenith of its refinement, Kangra painting presents a pure melody of flowing lines and glowing colours, breathing out a sense of space, tranquillity and poetic sentiment. Even the unfinished pictures and sketches reveal their own charms, in the free-hand movement of sensitive and spontaneous lines.

Kangra paintings can be seen in Maharaja Sansar Chand Museum (near Kangra Fort) and Museum of Kangra Art (Dharamsala).

Source: Kangra Arts Promotion Society

Chitera Art School

Presently there are very few painters practising Kangra painting, more so on full time basis due to financial constraints. In order to preserve and revive the Kangra school of Pahari painting, the Kangra Arts Promotion Society has opened ‘Chitera’- an institute of Kangra painting at the premises of the Museum of Kangra Art at Dharamsala in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. ‘Chitera’ institute's mission is to train budding painters in the tradition of Kangra School of painting and also to provide a centre for the sale of authentic and quality Kangra paintings. The students for the ‘Chitera’ Institute  are selected after assessing their basic painting skills and aptitude toward this art. They undergo one-year intensive training under the master artists. After completion of pupils’ training they will be offered work in the institution and make Kangra paintings under the supervision of Master artists.

Volunteers will get an opportunity to see the Kangra style paintings, observe the process of making these paintings and how the painting skills are imparted to students.