Using Rajasthani Paintings as a lens to see Art

Using Rajasthani Paintings as a lens to see Art

Ashoka Art Gallery in Udaipur holds a treasure of traditional paintings from ancient Rajasthani schools of Art

UdaipurTimes Exclusive Th Art Story of Udaipur, Paintings in Udaipur, Rajasthani Paintings in Udaipur

Paintings have a been a part of human civilisation since the stone age and the art of painting has evolved since. Many centuries, periods, eras and generations have passed gone by and there are many artstories that the world doesn’t know about.  They say, every Art has a story to tell and every Art is a representation of its own aura. Each region, country, state and even city has a distinct art history representing itself. Rajasthan has an interesting and vibrant Art history. UdaipurTimes takes this opportunity to present the story of Ashoka Art Gallery, one of the oldest and most prominent Art galleries in the walled city of Udaipur. The gallery holds the distinction of showcasing artwork from across various Rajasthani schools of Art. 


Ashoka Art Gallery is the oldest gallery in the walled city of Udaipur. The shop was established in 1970 and the current owner of the shop is Akshay Mehta who has taken over the legacy of his father Ashok Mehta. In a conversation with UT, Akshay Mehta said that Rajasthan is the birthplace of Miniature paintings. His gallery has a collection of Rajasthani paintings put together by more than 100 painters in his fold that draw Rajasthani paintings on a daily basis. “Early there used to be only 3 painters”, says Akshay.

Akshay spoke of a detailed history of Rajasthani paintings addressing different schools of art available at his gallery. This is collectively known as ‘Rajput paintings’. Rajasthani paintings have a fusion of elements from the Mughal era. The Pahari School of Art paintings, whose existence is not easily traceable, has elements of Rajasthani and Mughal art. Pahari paintings as the name suggests emerged in North India (Himalayan region) and were influenced by Mughal School and Rajasthani School of Painting.

Rajasthani School of Miniature Painting:

Rajasthani school is also known as Mewar school. Rajasthani paintings were an extension of old Indian techniques. Rajput kings developed this art. The school was initially influenced by Mughal art, but later it was established as a purely Indian art with no Mughal influence. Despite the fact that the entire Rajasthan was attacked by Mughals, Mewar remained safe until the end of the war. Rajasthani School was not created through miniature paintings, but it was primarily used as a mural art during the period of the attack. The Rajasthani School first flourished in Mewar, then in Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bundi, Kishangarh and Bikaner before transcending across Rajasthan. 

The Art of Miniature Painting in Rajasthan

Miniature paintings became popular in India during the Pala period in 750 A.D. The paintings consisted of small, constrained scenes on palm leaves. Miniature paintings are small in size but they have fine details and every brush stroke applied on it is astonishing. The decline in Mughal Miniature paintings resulted in the development of Rajasthani Miniature paintings. 

Miniature paintings grew immensely popular during the Mughal Empire. Because of Akbar’s love for art, Indian miniature paintings combined elements of Persian style of painting, to form the Mughal style of painting. Mughal influence on these paintings continued after the fall of the Mughal Empire. Miniature paintings and artists were still popular in Rajput rulers of Rajasthan after the decline of the Mughal Empire. 

Seasons, music, hunting scenes, religious themes such as Ramayana, Mahabharata, love scenes, ragamala series are among the themes in Rajasthani Paintings. In love scenes, Krishna and Radha are depicted sitting together. 

If we talk about the main colors used in the paintings, they are the primary colors (red, yellow & blue), green, brown and white. Other colors in use are golden and silver. Also known as earth colors. It is noteworthy here that Ashoka Arts Gallery artists still use these colors in their artworks. In conversation with Akshay Mehta he said that earth colors, viz. red, black, indigo, white, etc are used and paintings are made on old Paper, Silk, Cotton, Marble and Resin. Working on Silk is more convenient than Resin. 



on resin

Elements of Rajasthani Paintings

  • Depiction of women: The women of Kishangarh School are very impressive.
  • Costumes: Females are depicted wearing the traditional Lehenga and Choli with transparent Dupatta. Males are depicted wearing turbans and Jhoba (a group of threads), pyjamas and Patka.
  • Facial features: Faces are full of emotions and feelings according to the mood. The faces are in profile, elongated and oval; the forehead is inclined downwards; long and pointed nose; swelling lips and pointed chin.
  • Lines: The lines are very fine, powerful and rhythmic.
  • Depiction of Nature: Nature has also been depicted very beautifully. Different types of trees, floral trees, mountains, water springs and lakes have been depicted in a very attractive manner. 


Udaipur influenced by Pichwai Art ( Nathdwara)

Pichwai Art refers to a painting tradition and school of artists that emerged in Nathdwara, a town in Rajsamand district in Udaipur, Rajasthan. 'Pich' means front and 'wai' means hanging which means 'paintings hanging on the wall'.

Udaipur, as we know it today, is the former principality of Mewar. In the ancient as well as medieval times, Mewar was known to be a great center of artistic and cultural activities. Ashoka Arts gallery also has a Pichwai painting collection. Paintings of Lord Krishna are the major attraction in the gallery. Pichwai (Pichvai) is a style of painting that originated over 400 years ago in Nathdwara. Intricate and visually stunning, pichwai paintings, made on cloth, depict tales of Lord Krishna’s life and Shrinathji's life scenes. Elements of Pichwai paintings are Lord Krishna, flowers, peacock mostly. Today Pichwai Paintings incorporate many elements like hunting scenes, court scenes, animal motif scenes, etc. 





court scene 1

In our conversation with Akshay Mehta, he said that the Pichwai paintings are the ones that are most frequently purchased in the ancient city region of Udaipur. Pichwai paintings are more popular among foreign tourists since they are portable and adaptable to any part of the wall. Silk paintings are also extensively marketed in addition to Pichwai artwork since silk is foldable and easy to carry. They mostly purchase Pichwai paintings with animal themes or Lord Krishna’s life related images. No matter how large or small in size the paintings are, the locals buy them all. The majority of locals purchase udaipur scenic paintings. 

Process of making a painting

The complicated section of the painting is created with details once the primary sketch and typical shading are completed. The type of painting determines the colour coating. Paintings with more detail require more time to create, Akshay Mehta added. 


Tantra and Mantra Art

According to Akshay Mehta, Tantra and Mantra paintings were created during the time of his father and grandparents. The topics of Tantra and Mantra paintings were based on actual situations, such as when someone was ill and a doctor was attending to them while the picture was created. The paintings were geometrical representation of some or the other Mantras. According to him, these paintings are not produced now since they were not passed down the generations. 

"Paintings are beautiful but the cost is too high." - Buyers

According to Akshay Mehta, when individuals see the price of the paintings, they decide not to purchase them. While it is well recognised that paintings need time and effort to create, many people are unaware of their value. They are hesitant to purchase artwork. Small, detailed paintings are more difficult to create and need more time and skill, which increases the cost. By contrast, a large painting requires significantly less time, he added. He said that people are now slowly becoming aware of the worth of art. 

Udaipur Times team was introduced to one of the painters in the gallery, whose name is Hitesh Soni. He discussed the need to preserve Rajasthani art and noted that there are few individuals nowadays who are interested in creating art. According to Hitesh Soni, all artists lost a lot of money during the COVID time since neither foreigners nor locals visited the gallery to purchase art. The market was closed so they were left with no choice. 







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