Visitors: 0

Kashmir’s Traditional Miniature Art – a Heritage Conserved

The blessed land of Rishi Kashyap, Kashmir became a garden in which bloomed knowledge in all its creative forms – philosophy, religious theology, languages, poetry, music, sculpture, architecture, painting, dance and performing arts (natya shastra) in various manifestations besides the various schools of spirituality.

Mostly, on festivals, artists started depicting various aspects of life in their paintings. Quite often, art reflected the impact of religious thought. An artefact that I recall from my own childhood was known as ‘Krealpaksh’, depicting various religious icons, mostly images of Saraswati in her many manifestations. These artifacts were hand-drawn, by our Kul-Gurus and presented to each ‘yajmaan’ on ‘Gauri Tritiya” (Gor-Tray). Often, our ‘Zaatukh’ or Janma Patrika would have several of these hand-made miniature paintings. The traditional panchang, colloquially called Jantri in Kashmiri found in almost every Kashmiri household across the country carries these images called ‘Krool Pachh’ that is used for certain religious functions. Credit for keeping this art form alive must go to these humble Brahmins who led simple, pious lives but acted as reservoirs of knowledge, carrying the flame from generation to generation. The colours used would be organic and each painting would be unique in design and concept. The images, always, would be linked to our religious iconography and folklores.

With this segment of Kashmiri Pandit community going out of vogue, post 1990 migration, this art form, like many of our traditions is becoming extinct. As a student of art and a Kashmiri Pandit, well known artist and painter, Mr Ravi Dhar felt a strong urge to revive this ancient artform and to present it to the new generation as part of our cultural heritage. So far, he has created ten masterpieces. Each miniature has a strong link to the traditional folklores associated with our religious icons.

Story pin image
Mata Saraswati – Patron Goddess of Kashmir

Miniature Art Kashmir - Ganpati with Riddhi and Siddhi
Lord Ganapati with Riddhi & Siddhi

Story pin image

Story pin image

Story pin image

Story pin image

What makes Miniature Painting special:
Defined by delicate brushwork, a mélange of colours, and graceful forms, miniature paintings are so delicate, that even today, with so much modernization, squirrel hair (or similar) is used to create the brushes used in this art form. Each painting abounds with fine photographic details, capturing even the hair on a character. Miniature art is an intense labour of love illustrated on a range of materials like palm leaves, paper, wood, marble, ivory panels, and cloth. Organic and natural minerals like stone dust, real gold and silver dusts are used to create the exquisite colours. Even the paper used is special; polished with stone to render a smooth non porous surface. Miniature painting is a branch of painting in which the artist portrays not only his feelings but also the period in which the painting was made. We find that miniatures became popular across India with regional style variations. In North, we have had the Basohli School of Art, also known as the Kangra or Pahari Miniature art, prevalent in HP and Jammu region. Madhubani style of Art flourished in Mithila area of Bihar (Purnia, Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur etc).

History of evolution of Miniature art:
The earliest Miniature paintings in India can be traced back to the 7th century AD, when they flourished under the patronage of the Palas of Bengal. Buddhist texts and scriptures were illustrated on 3-inch-wide palm leaf manuscripts, with images of Buddhist deities. Jainism inspired the miniature artistic movement of the Western Indian style of miniature painting. This form prevailed in the regions of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Malwa (MP). With the advent of Iranian/ Mughal influences paper replaced palm leaves, while hunting scenes and varied facial types started appearing along with the use of rich aquamarine blues and golds. Rajasthani miniatures centred around the love stories of Lord Krishna and the mythological literature of Ramayana and Mahabharata, created as manuscripts and decorations on the walls of havelis and forts. Many distinct schools of Rajasthani miniature art were established, like the schools of Malwa, Mewar, Marwar, Bundi-Kota, Kishangarh and Amber. The Deccan style refers to the miniature art style that was practiced in Bijapur, Ahmednagar, Golkonda, and Hyderabad.

Over a period, the Miniature form went into a cyclic decline in Kashmir. Several factors were responsible, including: Arrival of Oil Painting art, Display of realism in art, advent of the printing press that made it easy to reproduce images in mass numbers at low cost, loss of patronage from the royal and elite connoisseurs etc.

Quest for Revival:
Serious attempts for revival of this artform have been made by several artists, art lovers and intellectuals earlier too! Maybe, the message did not percolate down the line with the seriousness it demands. As an artist, Mr Ravi Dhar has taken up the task of reviving the miniature artform, as it existed in Kashmir for hundreds of years! He has so far created ten artworks, each depicting stories associated with Kashmir’s rich history of tantra and religious imagery. In the era of social media, he is trying to spread the word across various platforms including Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp etc. If the artform is to be revived, many, many artists shall need to own it and put it to practice!

Story pin image




    • Suniel Kumar Dhar

      While going through this article, I am reminded of my younger days, when on the occasion of Gouri Tritya, or Gor Try, we as young children used to anxiously wait for our Kulguru who will bring that KrielPachh for us ! This was a tradition in every Kashmiri Pandit family to recieve this kriel Pachh from it's kulguru.And as rightly said by the author in his blog, these KrielPachh were drawings of miniature art depicting mainly the images of Mata Saraswati, Mata Sharda and Ganesh jee. And in the olden days it is said that these KrielPachh were made by Kulguru's themselves on anything may be on paper or on other material available at those times.With the advent of modern printing press, this art form of miniature painting/ drawing also lost its natural habitat. I think Artist Ravi Dhar is doing  good job by making this style of art and making our younger generation members aware about this rich and traditional art form of Kashmir Valley. 


    Jammu & Kashmir - History, Culture & Traditions | J&K Current Trends | Social Network | Health | Lifestyle | Human Resources | Analytics | Cosmetics | Cosmetology | Forms | Jobs

    Related blogs

    Quote of the Day

    "Time Flies Over, but Leaves its Shadows Behind"