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Prabal Pramanik's Academy of Arts
Bhamlada, Punjab -145 022, India
Mobile : 09417735631/09417170998
ISBN No. 978-93-81200-03-2
|Gods, and demons in Pahari Painting
are interwoven with the fabric of Indian societies from ancient times.
Schools of art, visual, performing, and literary are all deeply influenced by the faith in
different branches of spiritual philosophy in this subcontinent.
Scriptures, canons of faith and mythology provided inspiration and the subject matter for
different forms of creative expressions and still do so in India.
Pahari schools of paintings developed at a time and also at a place where faith formed the
accepted backbone of life in society.
From the simple and fatalistic acceptance of the illiterate day labouror, to the pundit
immersed in pedanic analysis, the way of faith was universal.
Social cremoies, religious functions and individual joys and sorrows all centered around
the accepted concepts of traditional beliefs that created the world of Pahari people for
centuries, as in other parts of India.
This world included gods and demons from the mythologies.
These accepted concepts of gods and demons often became subject matter in Pahari art too.
Undoubtedly the presentation of mythological scenes were immensely popular as the viewers
were all oriented with the themes.
Scenes from Ramayana, and Mahabharata, the great Epics, in Pahari schools of art must have
delighted the viewers as the admirers were able to identify the figures easily.
Scenes from Shivpuran, Devipuran and Krishnalila were very popular themes too.
Art that appeal to the social psyche in a positive manner gain fast popularity and the
subjective matter connected with religious beliefs gave Pahari schools of art great
popularity amongst the people in olden times.
In a world unburdened by excessive materialistic obsessions and consumerist distractions,
and close to nature that was largely unspoiled, the world of Gods and demons was felt and
accepted as part of everyday life.
The artists of Pahari painting depicted the gods and demons with the passion for details
they expressed in their art works.
The gods whether in regal attires or in the ascetic style were forceful and impart a
strong impression of the artists creative skills of the artists who devised those
These pictures must have been venerated as icons had been in old Russia. People for
centuries must have prayed to these paintings at times of sorrow or joy.
We must remember that traditionally, a picture or a sculpture of a deity becomes a center
object for worship for the devotee, and surpasses the level of mere creative expression.
The modern day painter who copies pictures of old Pahari paintings for the purpose of
selling them just to make money can never understand the way of faith that the artists of
In a world where even picture books were rare and magazines non existent much greater
attention was given to the hand painted detailed illustrative pictures in traditional
The pictures of gods and godesses were concrete images people in olden days wanted to see
to anchor their faith on and the presentation in detailed oriental art forms of Pahari art
were ideal for that purpose in this hill region.
It is interesting to note that the gods wore attire and ornaments that were often
inkeeping with the styles prevalent in the hill states at the time when the artists worked
there. Shiva with Nandi and Kalika with her awe inspiring form also were painted in
Radha Krishna lila was a favourite theme and Radha and her Sakhis or companions are
painted in Pahari attire.
Krishna too sometimes sports pahari chola, though he in seen in Dhoti too. The delicate
lyrical beauty of woman, inspite of the stylization of facial expression, manifests itself
in these paintings on miniature formats.
Holi, when Radha and her companions played with colours with Krishna and his companions,
Many are the scenes of love, and sending of messengers for love in some paintings, in
Radha Krishna lilas. The background is not Vrindavan but the areas of hills where these
pictures were painted in a stylized manner.
Radha and her environment is also "Pahari" and Radha is likely to be a beauty
from Chamba, Kangra or Guler.
It is surprising how delicately the artists of Pahari art schools depicted divinity
through human figures in the perimeter of stylization.
The moods divine were expressed through eloquent gestures of the subjects and the settings
of the compositions, yet Krishna, his gopa companions, Radha and her gopi sakhis have a
very "earthly" aspect that undoubtedly allowed the local Pahari people and the
patrons of this art to form an empathy with the subjects of the art works.
The dark complexioned god, with his love that surpassed the social dictums and the
boundary of physical enjoyment and Radha, with her yearning of a devotee who aspires to
reach the ultimate goal in existence through a spiritual union in this physical world,
creates an eternal play of hide and seek in love through the appropriate art works in
Pahari schools of miniature paintings.
Demons, shown in scenes of Devipurana, when Devi Durga battles with and kills demons, and
also shown as Ravanas army in Ramayana paintings, are distinguished by demonic faces and
often with horns.
Inspite of their demonic faces I find them rather humourous too. I dont know whether
the artists purposely put touches of humour when painting the demons or whether that was
The demons depicted in battles between positive and negative forces naturally symbolized
the negative forces and the mythological teachings emphasizing the victory of the good
over evil have been focused on in these scenes showing the conflict between the gods and
the demons in these miniature paintings.
I am often surprised to find so many figures aptly placed on so small formats, and each
figure is minutely drawn and finished with great care, proving the skills of the painters
of Pahari miniature paintings.
The compositional brilliance of the old masters, who innovated the compositions that were
just copied by "copy masters" in later ages, makes the older and original
iconographic pieces of Pahari art much more valuable and much more interesting than the
later produced pieces that may just be repeatations.
Innovative minds in olden days wielding the brushes with a spontaneity that only original
artists can command, should never be compared with copymasters whose only aim is to get
career success in modern times, when evaluating iconographic aspects of Pahari schools of
Prabal Pramanik ©
(from the published book
"My views on Pahari paintings")
ISBN No. 978-93-81200-03-2