Notes on Culture & Antique Art, Ethnic Decor & Vintage Fashion | Wovensouls Art Gallery
I am not a formal student of Indian Miniature paintings but have seen a few here and there and can now identify the Kashmir style of art.
These paintings are often seen accompanying Sanskrit text in Bhagvat Purana manuscripts. The colors are vivid and the paint are flat rather than shaded and tend to give a two dimensional effect.
Somewhat like this:
In the olden days when printing technology had not arrived, in Kashmir such paintings were placed within Hindu manuscripts that were employed in daily prayer recitals.
The painted folios were handled on a daily basis and may even be anointed on festival puja (worship) on days like Mahashivratri.
Used as portable shrines and ready booklets for joint recital of prayers by the whole family or even the community, Kashmiri manuscripts were easily available and procured by pious Hindus.
Keeping the usage in mind, the images of the gods were created as simplistic icons to evoke the thought of the God, rather than as artistic renditions.
The style that is seen in Kashmiri manuscripts is unique in the color palette, the layout, the structure of the figures, the borders and the style of applying the paint and has its own identity as can be seen from the following excerpts:
These are also found in horoscopes or birth charts based on Hindu astrology that are drawn up at the birth of a child.
The family priest,or Kul Brahmin or Purohit, whose father & grandfather would have also served as the family priest to the child’s ancestors is invited to create the child’s horoscope based on the date, time and place of birth. The priest not only constructs the predictions of the life of the child child but he also creates the physical copy of the horoscope. A long narrow scroll is used to write out the text and pictures of the Hindu Gods & Goddesses are painted to evoke the various specific qualities of each deity.
Again the paintings are done in the same style that we see in the prayer manuscripts.
So the simple Kashmir style is known and was seen alongside Sanskrit text written in Devanagari script.
So when I came across this set of folios with Kashmiri paintings alongside not Sanskrit text but alongside Gurmukhi Text I was delightfully surprised.
Asset 1358 / Wovensouls
I did not know the script but just like everyone else in cosmopolitan Bombay, I knew that this script was used in Punjab and was Panjabi or Gurmukhi.
The paintings are scenes from the lives of Vishnu and Krishna, so these are most likely from an elaborate version of the Hindu prayer book – Bhagavat Gita. [And not a birth chart].
The question that I am struggling a bit with is the simultaneous coincident presence of the script associated with one region and paintings associated with another region.
How did both of these come to be together in one document?
There was a period in which Maharana Ranjit Singh of Punjab ruled Kashmir in the 19th century. And much cultural exchange is known to have followed after that.
Chances are this hybrid manuscript is a result of that confluence.
Similar examples have been seen at Christie’s auctions in the past.
What would you call it? A Panjabi Gurmukhi manuscript with Kashmir style paintings or a Kashmiri Manuscript with Panjabi Gurmukhi text?
Man Mohan Munshi Ji says “I remember that Kul Brahmins used to bring little photographs/painting of goddess on the day of Gour’trie“.