First published in Jammu Enquirer
With inputs from Sumbul Zehra
A fistful of Hindu mythology when marinated in one cup of Mughal miniature technique and cooked at low heat adding local folk art (of Basohli) to taste, produces a perfect mixture called Basohli Art. Mother to Pahari School of Art, it spread taking regional flavours from Kangra, Guler, Mandi, Hindur and many other hilly areas. It began in Basohli in present state of Jammu and Kashmir with classic themes of devotion and depictions form Rasamanjari under Raja Kirpal Pal (1678-93). Jammu, being an important state at the time, facilitated the spread of the miniature technique among other hilly areas during the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Dev (1728-80). The fact that Rajas of different hilly states were connected with Maharaja Ranjit Dev through trade and familial ties and that two brother artists Manak and Nainsukh worked in Basohli and Jammu, influenced the cultural exchange to a great extent.
Stylistic differences of various regions were influenced by the patronage of respective Kings who had distinct themes for the subject of paintings and the diverse topography.
Krishna dallying with Gopies exhibits a lyrical quality wth minute details in the drapes and the poses of the gopies and Krishna. Bright primary colours, square format, double storey building structures with elaborate shikharas, lotuses were are characterisic of Basohli Art. Despite stylistic diversities, the Himalayan perspective and moderately statured men and women with round faces and small but deep eyes set below a semi-circular forehead are common to Pahari art. Basohli art has been greatly influencced by Mughal characteristics of miniature art like that of division of the canvas to depict different scenes of one story.
The art form of Basohli had almost died until some people took the initiative to revive it. Mr Baloria, a school teacher of APS Udhampur, who specialises in the art form, is trying to restore the tradition by conducting free workshops apart from promoting the style.There are innumerable examples of significant part of art that has suffered neglect, but there is a rising consciousness to salvage what had been ours since time immemorial.