The silver mountains, the sparkling streams, vivid green valleys and the cool climate have attracted many into the hills of Garhwal for peace, tranquility and meditation. It is this beautiful land, which inspired the great writers Maharishi Balmiki and Kalidas. All this laid the ultimate foundation for the literary treasures of Garhwal, including painting and art.
The original art of stone carving gradually died out but woodcarving has continued. Wood carving could be seen on every door of the house until only half a century ago. In addition, wood carving can be seen in hundreds of temples all over Garhwal. The remains of architectural work have been found at the following places in Garhwal: The Chandpur fort, Temple of Srinagar, Padukeshwar near Badrinath, and the Devalgarh temple.
Garhwal School of Painting
Garhwal was always considered a safe haven for wanderers, adventurers, political exiles, philosophical thinkers and nature lovers. About the middle of the 17th century A.D. Suleman Shikoh, a Mughal Prince, took refuge in Garhwal. The Prince brought along with him an artist and his son who were his court painters and well versed in the Mughal style of Miniature Painting. After nineteen months, the Prince left Garhwal but his court painters, enchanted by the environs, stayed behind.
These painters settled in Srinagar (Garhwal), the then capital of the Pawar dynasty and introduced the Mughal style of painting in Garhwal. With the passage of time, the successors of these original masters became expert painters and also developed an original style of their own. This style later on came to be known as the Garhwal School of Painting.
About a century later, a famous painter, Mola Ram, developed a style of painting equaled in romantic charm only by few other styles of painting. He was not only a great master of the Garhwal School but also a great poet of his time. We find beautiful poems in some of Mola Ram?s paintings. There are definite influences of other Pahari Schools reflected in these paintings, but the overall originality of the Garhwal School is maintained. Special features of the Garhwal School include beautiful women with fully developed breasts, thin waist line, soft oval shaped face, delicate brow and thin nose with defined nose bridge. A poet cum artist Mola Ram was undoubtedly an exceptional personality of his age, for, he wrote poems, made notes on natural history, collected data and painted a diverse range of subjects.
The matrimonial alliance of King Pradhyuman Shah (1797-1804 AD) with a Guler Princess of Kangra induced many Guler artists to come and reside in Garhwal. Their technique greatly influenced the Garhwal style of painting. With the conceptualisation of ideal beauty, its fusion of religion and romance, its blending of poetry and passion, the paintings of Garhwal are an embodiment of the Indian attitude towards love.
From painstaking research work undertaken by eminent scholars and art historians, we know the names of various painters of that period.
Shyam Das and Har Das were first in the family tree, probably being the first to come to Garhwal with Prince Suleman. Hiralal, Mangat Ram, Molaram, Jwalaram, Tejram, Brijnath were some of the great masters of this school of art.
The masterpieces of the Garhwal School of Painting include the following :
Illustrations of Ramayana (1780 A D) Celebrations of Balarama’s birthday (1780 A D), Series of Raginis, Shiva and Parvati, Utkat Nayika, Abhisarika Nayika, Krishna painting the feet of Radha Radha looking into a mirror, Varsha Vihar Kaliya Daman, Illustrations of Gita Govinda.
Rich collections of these paintings are displayed at the University Museum in Srinagar, Garhwal, along with many sculptures and finds from archaeo logical excavations.
Special images of Gods and Goddesses were made, since idol worship played an important role in the lives of the inhabitants of Garhwal . Dekaras are the clay images of Gods and Goddesses either in relief or in three dimensional form and are meant solely for worship.
They are prepared out of fine clay mixed with Colour .