A rare painting by Mola Ram
About the middle of the 17th century AD Sulaman 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, and the then capital of the Panwar dynasty and introduced the Mughal style of painting in Garhwal, Uttaranchal. With the passage of time, the successors of these original masters became expert painters and also developed an original style of their own using very natural colours. 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 equalled in romantic charm only by few other styles of painting. Special features of the Garhwal School include beautiful women with fully developed breasts, thin waist line, soft oval shaped force, delicate brow and thin nose with definite nose bridge with a warm and cold colour range of harmonies.
Further, 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.
Of all these, Mola Ram has carved a niche for himself in the history of Uttaranchal for his contribution to Art and Painting. In fact, he laid the foundation for the 'Garhwal School of Painting'. Mola Ram was born in the year 1743 near Srinagar in district Pauri Garhwal. He was also a poet, philosopher and a statesman. Mola Ram worked during the rules of Maharaja Pradeep Shah, Maharaja Lalit Shah, Jaikrit Singh and Maharaja Pradyuman Shah from 1777 to 1804. He continued to work for the development of art and literature during the period of Gorkhas rule (1803-15) and the British rule. Mola Ram died in Srinagar at in 1833.
A rich collection of these paintings are displayed in the University Museum in Srinagar, Garhwal along with many sculptures and finds from archaeological excavations.
Some paintings of Mola Ram are kept in the Boston Museum of art in the USA and many of his paintings are even under personal possession. However, some of them can be seen in 'Bharat Kala Bhawan, Banaras', 'Kastur Bhai Lal Bhai Sangrahaalaya, Ahmedabad' and few in the art galleries of Calcutta, Allahabad, Lucknow and Delhi.
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.
However, much credits go to Barrister Mukandi Lal who brought the Garhwal Paintings and Mola Ram back to surface again in a kind manner. Barrister Mukandi Lal's book 'Garhwal Paintings' first published in 1968, in fact revived the very Garhwal Paintings and presented it to the World.
The most colourful masterpieces of the Garhwal School of painting include the following:
- Illustrations of Ramayana (1780 AD)
- Celebrations of Balarama's Birthday (1780 AD)
- 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
- Dr. Shekhar Chandra Joshi
Department of Drawing & Painting
Faculty of Visual Arts & Design
Kumaun University (Nainital)
Soban Singh Jeena Campus, Almora
- Website of District Pauri
A Book by Barrister Mukandi Lal
Title: Garhwal Painting
Author: Mukandi Lal
Publisher: Publications Division - Government of India
Place Published: New Delhi
First Edition: 1968
Revised Edition: 1982
A fascinating and admirable 110 Pages, Hardback book with 12 page introduction, 31 color plates and 47 Black and White Paintings and Sketches, demonstrating the beauty, importance and history of the Garhwal School.
Like the Mughal, the Rajasthani and the Kangra schools of painting, the Garhwal school too has its own peculiar characteristics. In this book, Mukandi Lal has given the historical background, motifs and themes of this school of painting. He has also written notes on individual colour plates. Apart from the paintings on mythological theme, avatars and nayikas, twelve paintings illustrating the marriage of Rukmini with Shri krishna have also been included in this book.
Barrister Mukandi Lal as Writer
Mukandi Lal, writer and art critic was born in Garhwal and educated at Allahabad, Calcutta and Christ Church, Oxford. He was an Advocate in the Allahabad High Court and served as a Judge of the High Court in Tehri-Garhwal State.
His interest in Indian culture, particularly in Indian Painting, dates back to his youth when he came under the influence of Ananda Coomaraswamy and Abanindrantath Tagore. Author of several books, his work was awarded prize by the Hindi Akademi, Lucknow.
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