Abirpothi

India’s only daily art newspaper

Holi as seen through miniature paintings

Holi is right here and when one thinks about the festival, it is hard not to imagine the grandeur and the scale at which the festival was celebrated during the Mughal times. It cut across religions and was replete with community spirit, camaraderie, and fun. These aspects of history have been preserved in miniature paintings from various schools of art. For, it was not just the Mughals who left their guard during the festival; royalties of small and big denominations across the country freely mingled with their staff on the occasion of Holi. 

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Dr Ratan Parimoo, an art historian who served at Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda confirms that the festival has been copiously depicted in varied miniature traditions. There has especially been a preeminence in the ‘Pahadi’ schools of art. He also points out that in these paintings, the predominance is on Krishna-related subjects with the depiction of gopis playing colours with Krishna. The paintings bring about the effect of throwing colours in the air, as if there is a smoke of orange and crimson colours. The cowherds are shown running towards gopis, the gopis are also running around Krishna, and there is immense experimental and dynamic movement of figures, Parimoo says. 

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So while images abound of kings and princes mingling with the women of their harems, there are also depictions of Krishna and Radha on the other hand. The choice of subjects is dictated by the different schools of art. However, despite the colourful range of themes, one thing is for certain–around 300 years back Holi was celebrated with abandon by one and all irrespective of religion or creed. A line in Amir Khusrow’s song, ‘Aao re Chisti, holi khelo…’ cements the idea of multiculturalism that Holi stood for at the time. 

 

Happy Holi to you!

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