Malwa, the heartland of Central India, has a great creative past. Its literary history began centuries before the common era, and that of painting around the fifth or sixth century A.D. The sixth-century wall paintings of Bagh caves in Malwa, in the tradition of Ajanta, bear testimony to its glorious past. The earliest miniature paintings at Malwa-the illustrations of the Jain Kalpa-SuŻ traŻ, appear during the first phase of the medieval renaissance. The stylistic accomplishment of Kalpa-SuŻ traŻ illustrations rendered at Mandu, the capital of Malwa, suggest that Mandu had by then assumed the position of one of the great centers of art in India. In 1401 A.D., Dilwar Khan, a descendant and the subedar (governor) of Mohammad Ghori, declared himself independent ruler of the region of Malwa. This period in the history of Malwa was full of turmoil. In 1405 Malwa fell into the hands of Hoshang Shah, a local Khalji Muslim. He made Mandu his capital, and under his patronage Indo-Islamic art and architecture flourished. The third Khalji ruler, Mahmud I, continued the tradition of his grandfather. In 1540, after Sher Shah Sur defeated the Mughal emperor Humayun and captured all of his territories, including Malwa and Gujarat, he appointed Shiya Khan as governor of Malwa. Shiya Khan's son Bayazid, the well-known hero of the legend of Baz Bahadur and Rupamati, was also a great patron of arts and music. In 1555 he declared himself the independent ruler of Malwa. In 1562 Akbar defeated Baz Bahadur, and henceforth Malwa became a Mughal subah (province). In 1690 the Maratha ruler Peshwa Baji Rao entered Malwa and, in 1743, annexed it finally to Maratha state. Peshwa made formal grant of deputy governorship of Malwa in favor of Holkar and Scindhia, his two generals, who had rendered great help in conquering it. With this ended the Mughal hold over Malwa. In Mandu, there already existed an earlier tradition of illustrating texts. Niamatnama (Book of delicacies) was illustrated during the first quarter of the fifteenth century. The dated Kalpa-SuŻ traŻ of 1439, was also an early work of art. These texts were illuminated using fine combination of ultramarine, red, and gold colors. Later Malwa artists of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries preferred a more fluid grouping in place of the tight geometrical compositions of earlier renderings. The style of luxuriant trees with swaying creepers creating a soft meandering rhythm, the use of vibrant colors, simplifications, and boldly primitive idioms for the depictions of plants and animal life are some of the main attributes of the Malwa paintings of this phase. 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. 15541585), 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. 15561605). 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 avataŻra 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 GiŻtaŻ 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 BhaŻgavata PuraŻn.a. Painters' repertoires also included sets of Barahmasa (pictorial descriptions of the Indian seasons) and the RaŻgamala (pictorial renderings of the Indian musical modes in color), which became the favorite subjects Bundi and Kotah artists.
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