In my mind art was equivalent to painting – and I was wrong. If you type Panjabi art into the famous oracle demigod Google you will primarily be shown results for:
Basketry, Durries, woodwork, Juttis, Paranda, and the world famous Punjabi Phulkari but mention of painting is not highlighted. But in this blog I want you to join me in finding out the origin of painting and take a quick tour of influences and some famous artists of this region.
The melting pot palette.
I am firm in my belief that the whole world is in essence a melting pot and border states ( borders change so melting pots are all over the world) are a prime example of a true melting pot: right from the Panjabi DNA to the DNA of the artist’s palette.
Mural paintings and frescoes are the main forms of paintings where all village dwellers start their quest for artistic expression combined with an aesthetic sense of decorating their houses. And it is no different with Panjab. These murals are painted on village entry gates, homes – the topic usually, in current times, are images of horses and other animals or scenes from the life of Sikh Gurus.
Old cities of Amritsar, Patiala, Ludhiana, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Faridkot and Kapurthala have historic buildings with rich mural paintings and frescoes. The topics are essentially the same but also let’s add to this list the scenes from the Geeta, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Geet Govinda, Baramas and Ragas and Ragnis.
It is quite obvious that when a true artist closes his or her eyes and wants to paint the few scenes that first flash thru their minds is of the folktales or legends. So, in fact, literature and art go hand in hand. From Heer Ranjha to Laila Majnu, Sassi Punnu and Sohni Mahiwal – all are perennial sources of inspiration.
Whether Waris Shah’s Heer ot the poetry of Keshav Dass, Bihari Lal and Surdas all have and will continue to be painted. Mythology is of course a big theme. Whether these are the legends of the Ramayana, or Mahabharata; the Nayak-Nayika and Baramasa – all are repeatedly depicted. And so are paintings of the Guru Nanak Dev (with Bhai Bala and Bhai Mardana on either side) sitting under the tree. As the Sikh Gurus walked the land of Panjab and a history developed around them paintings of other Gurus commenced.
Besides religious stuff the next obvious topic is about the class with the money and power: the aristocracy. So representations of the Sikh royalty and aristocracy like Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Maharaja Dalip Singh and other Maharajas. This brings us to a new style: The Indian miniature painting. I suspect that this is by no means an indigenous art form and probably was imported from Iran – as much of our culture was. But more on that in my next blog on Panjabi painting. Be safe and Be strong and go online and see some good art of Panjab while the lockdown continues.
Unlock your mind and see the beauty of our artists while the internet is still covid free :) !