The state of Bundi in Rajasthan, formerly known as Haraoti, was the stronghold of the Hara Rajputs. It is surrounded by Jaipur and Tonk on the north, and the state of Mewar on the west. To the south lies the state of Kotah, where an identical style of painting prevailed. This entire region is mountainous, with fast-flowing rivers, dense forests and greenery. These natural physical features proved conducive to a picturesque landscape, which Bundi painters exploited to the fullest extent. The history of Bundi began in the era of Rao Surjan (r. A.D. 1554–1585), a vassal of Mewar, who after 1569 became a feudatory of the Mughals. The recently discovered Chunar Ragamala, dated to 1591, painted at Chunar near Banaras (Varanasi), provides conclusive evidence of the close relationship between the Mughal and the Bundi rulers. The Chunar Ragamala, apart from revealing some visual similarities between Mughal and Bundi painting, has a detailed colophon in Nastalique script, giving a date, place of execution, and a genealogy of painters, whose origins leads us to the period of the Mughal emperor Akbar (r. 1556–1605). Thus it stands to reason that early as well as late Bundi painting had been influenced by contemporary Mughal painting up to the nineteenth century.As a result of the Vaishnava renaissance (in Rajasthan), which passionately captured the hearts of the Hindu masses with its doctrine of bhakti (devotion) to Vishnu and his avata¯ra Krishna, propagated by Vallabhacharya, various schools and styles of paintings sprang up, producing abundant devotional art. Authors and artists took great delight in writing about and painting themes of divine love, as in the Gı¯ta¯ Govinda of Jayadeva (c. 12th century), the Rasikapriya of Keshavadasa (c. 16th century), the Sur-Sagar of the blind poet Surdas, as well as the Dasama Skanda (tenth canto) of the Bha¯gavata Pura¯n.a. Painters' repertoires also included sets of Barahmasa (pictorial descriptions of the Indian seasons) and the Ra¯gamala (pictorial renderings of the Indian musical modes in color), which became the favorite subjects Bundi and Kotah artists.
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