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Prabal Pramanik's Academy of Arts
Bhamlada, Punjab -145 022, India
Mobile : 09417735631/09417170998

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ISBN No. 978-93-81200-03-2


Romance, physical and metaphysical in Pahari Schools of Art

"Shringar", or the basic "rasa" or emotional entity of sex, and the love that is associated with sexual desires, is important in every school of art in the world, as this is a basic urge in the cosmic forces of creation.
This basic urge inspires, excites and has the force to push up a conscious individual to the realm of sublime realization or to push down an individual to grossest and vilest animal degradation.
"Shringer" is derived from the primeval force of Adishakti, and the expressions of sex through art can range from crude perversion to earthly to the sublime.
This all depends on the viewpoint of the artist and the way this basic aspect is interpreted in his art.
So Pahari schools of art with all the sensitive and decorative qualities depicted sex and love, through the rasa of "Shringara" at different psychic levels. When analyzing and appreciating sex and love in Pahari art, we have to keep in mind this important fact.
I have seen different ranges of psychic fulfillment in this aspect. It is unnecessary to dwell on the crude sexual mating scenes that were painted to cater to the pornographic tastes of certain patrons.
I have also seen worldly as well as other worldly interpretations of love in Pahari paintings, and I would like to discuss these aspects in detail.
Kama is urge for sex and may just connote lust. So "Kama sutra" paintings often remain at a very physical level and very few can elevate themselves or realize the pure strength of love at the crude level.
When the same rasa is refined to a degree of greater self control with an understanding that imparts a different meaning to this basic feeling, there is definitely a psychic development.
This development is manifested in stages. These psychic stages are shown in various Pahari paintings presenting the shringar rasa in different ways.
To have a better grasp on the divine, humans all over the world try to bring the concept of divinity to the human level. Pahari paintings give good examples of this attempt.
Beyond the concept of divinity, the hero, and the heroine, Nayaka and Nayika are portrayed with their human qualities and faults.
The divine is supposed to be beyond faults. Love for humans does not implicate complete surrender, while love for the divine implies absolute surrender to object of love.
This philosophy of absolute surrender prevails in other manifestations of Radha Krisshna lila in various forms of visual, literary and performing arts in different places of Indian subcontinent and have spread the traditional ideas about the relationship of the divine and the devotee through centuries.
The forms and the styles have changed according to time and place, yet the basic Vaishnav philosophy of Sadhana is the same.
The journey of Radha to meet Krishna at the eternal tryst goes through various phases. These phases are in reality stages in "Yogic Sadhana".
Radha, the "Shakti" at "Muladhar" goes up to meet Krishna at "Shahasrara" of the seat of the lotus with thousand petals along the way of "Susumna".
This is the Eternal tryst, and the stages are phases of yogic meditation in the exercise of "Chakra bheda kriya".
The revelation at each stage is a phase in the "Avhisara" or tryst of Radha.
The urge to meet Krishna or the supreme divine power to achieve complete liberation from worldly bondages prompts Radha or the consciousness of the devotee from the point of "Kundalini" at point at the base of cerebrospinal nervous system, to meet the point of supreme consciousness at the point of "sahasrara" in the brain.
These points are metaphysical, yet, the journey of the soul going through the spiritual discipline and the feelings and realizations are very real in the physical sense.
These phases of "abhisara" are given symbolic images in Indian art through different traditional schools of art.
"Shuklabisara", "Divavisara", "Sandhyabisara", "Tamasabhisara" are all phases of the journey of the tryst that use the analogy of the time of the day or night with suitable natural surroundings to connote the yogic phases of Sadhana.
Romance reaches a range of refinement that surpasses the physical aspects and passes into the realm of the divine.
The crude urge in this philosophy is filtered away and love that looses the self through "Bhakti yoga" of Shrimad Bhagavat Gita, takes a pictorial form.
The successful portrayal of this etherial stage is one of the greatest successes of the artists of Pahari Schools of art who innovated the compositions in the olden times.
The clarity of the imageries in those early compositions proved the deep understanding of sadhana the artists of yore had.
Undoubtedly they had accepted the philosophy that linked the physical aspect of love and romance to the metaphysical stage from standard views of aesthetics and the philosophy of Vaishnav Sadhana in Indian art and it should be noted that in other miniature paintings, especially in Rajasthan this idea of depicting various stages of Sadhana had prevailed before the migrant artists came to the hills to start Pahari Schools of Art.
Romance even on earthly stage is of greater refinement than what we see in modern times, as most people make love in much more calculative manner now.
"Nayaka" and "Nayika", the hero and the heroine enjoying view of the flight of white egrets against the dark rain clouds and swinging in flower bedecked swing in a garden full of flowering trees are inspiring scenes that evoke the pure romance for the sake of the romantic joy.
This romantic joy in pahari paintings is shown in the nature around the romantic couple. It is a joy that is expressed without any materialistic calculative constraints.
It is love for the sake of love. Different emotional situations of various types of Nayakas and Nayikas are important in erotic Pahari art.
In this aspect Keshavdas’s "Nayaka Nayike Bheda" had provided guidelines for the old painters.
Nuances of Shingara, from various angles, that may vary from "Vipralabdha" (the lover who feels cheated) to Yugal milan (meeting and unification of two lovers), are found in the pictorial presentations in the schools of decorative miniature paintings of Pahari Schools of art.
So, I have found pictorial presentations of romance and erotic situations in Pahari Schools of art in the stages that ranges from gross, to earthly, to divine and this great diversity of "Shringara rasa" is remarkable indeed.

Prabal Pramanik
(from the published book "My views on Pahari paintings")
ISBN No. 978-93-81200-03-2

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Prabal Pramanik



The articles presented here are from the published book "My views on Pahari paintings" by Prabal Pramanik published by M/s Orient Book Company. These articles are original. These articles are not compilations made from other articles and no chapter or portion of these articles have been taken from any other published work.
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