Friday, July 25, 2014





It was a proud moment for me yesterday when I saw some original Pahari Miniature paintings of NAIN SUKH the greatest master known as Picasso of Pahari Art  inside CHHATRAPATI  SHIVAJI  MAHARAJ  VASTU  SANGRAHALAYA , KALA GHORRA , FORT  , MUMBAI .

My special thanks to SABYASACHI MUKHERJEE ( Director Chhatrapati shivaji Maharaj Vastu sangrahalaya Fort , Mumbai ) and his wonderful team in preserving about 50000 rare artifacts so elegantly inside what was formerly known as PRINCE OF WALES MUSEUM MUMBAI with a section devoted to Pahari Miniature Art. The Museum has wide collection that includes paintings, stone scluptures depicting Gandhara style of Art, Coins, Bhuddist Tankas ,  Ancient Assyrian Stone reliefs, Pottery relating to Mohan jo Daro and Harrapan period, Decorative Glass work, Precious Manuscripts, Ancient jwellery, Silk and shawls,Arms,Bronzes, Terracottas etc.etc. This museum has some finest scluptures depicting the ART OF GANDHARA relating to Ist to 3rd century CE.. The images have been procured from GANDHARAN sites like SAHRI BAHLOL, TAKHT I BAHI and JAMALGARHI.
Sir Rattan Tata and Sir Dorab Tata have also gifted many private antiquities to this Museum.Some private collections of Sir Akbar Hydari and Seth Purshottam have also been gifted to this Museum. Sir Henery Cousens brought most of the excavations of Mirpurkhas(Now in Pakistan ) to this Museum. Treasured collections of Nana Phadnis (1741-1800) were also brought to this Museum. It is now a Trust or an autonomous body unaided by the  government .

I came to know from a reliable source  that an original Pahari miniature of Nainsukh was auctioned for $2 million last year. His patron, Raja Balwant Singh ( Younger Brother of Maharaja Ranjit Dev of Jammu ) of Jasrota kingdom of jammu , was a man of meagre means, but a passionate connoisseur of the arts and Nainsukh created a magical, fantasy world for him.

When Nain Sukh was left at Raja Balwant singh' s court by the artist’s father , the Raja hardly knew that he had a gem that would not only shine for ages but would also brighten up his name as a Grand Patron. His work has remained unparalleled in Pahari Miniature Art .When Raja Balwant singh died , Nain sukh along with his four sons moved to Guler Kingdom .


It is now established beyond any shade of doubt that Kashmiris are the originators of Pahari school of Art. A family of RAZADAN ( RAINA ) Brahmins from Kashmir who were artists, moved out of Kashmir sometime around 1660 A.D. when they found no patronage to their work in valley and settled in various Rajput Hilly kingdoms  on both sides of river  RAVI. The family Head PANDIT SHIV RAINA ( who later came to be known as SEU RAINA was a master of PALA STYLE OF ART ) joined as artist in the kingdom of RAJA DALIP SINGH OF GULER . NAIN SUKH (Nana ) AND MANAKU ( Manna ) where his sons who later on revolutionized the Miniature Pahari Art by joining various hilly Rajput kingdoms. It is also believed that the next generation of this group of migrant Brahmins from kashmir did not move towards plains of the country in view of Death and destrucion created by Nadir Shah and Ahmed Shah Abdali's invasions.

While Shiv Raina was an artist , other RAZADANS or RAINAS who were Brahmins and who also migrated out from kashmiri valley , took up employment in the Durbars of various Hilly Rajput Kingdoms . Some amongst these migrant Pandits  , who were well versed in Hindu scriptures, were employed as Raj Purohits by various Pahari Rulers .The Raj Purohit of Basholi Kingdom was a Kashmiri RAZADAN who was granted sufficient land by the ruler . Even to this day, this RAZADAN family owns land in and around Basholi town. Again the Raj Purohit of Haripur was a  Raina Brahmin   from kashmir.

 These Razdans / Rainas of kashmir settled themselves in  Sujanpur Tira , Nurpur , Haripur , Chamba , Kangra , Bilaspur , Hamirpur , Basholi , Jammu , Jasrota  ,Mandi , Kulu , Palampur  and other hilly kingdoms of Himachal and nearby  Jammu and Uttrakhand .

 My friend and writer Dr R K Tamiri has done extensive study and research work  on movement of these  Razdans  / Rainas from Kashmir  to Himachal Pradesh .This research took him to a village named as  Rainabari  near  Baijnath in Himachal  Pradesh  . Rainabari turned out to be a biggest settlement of Rainas from Kashmir who trace their lineage to Rainas/ Razdans  of Rainawari in kashmir . Accroding to Dr R . K . Tamiri,

“ I was always wondering as to where had  about 1500 families of Rainas from  Rainawari suddenly disappeared  sometime in seventeenth century .My questions were fully answered  when I went to Himachal and traced some of these Rainas  especially my  pilgrimage like visit to Rainabari village Near Baijnath . The village is a large cluster of Raina  families  that have settled themselves in this  peaceful place after their migration from kashmir in 17th and 18th century . Even Satyarthi Raina , Grand father of Suresh Raina ( Cricket Player in Indian Team ) is from Rainabari in H.P. These Rainas proudly trace their origin to Rainawari in Kashmir Valley . They have discarded many  kashmiri customs but they still like Dum Alu and Saag. Surprisingly I found many  inscriptions in sharda ( A script  used by  kashmiri Pandits ) like script on  some old stone slabs in Baijnath . ”

It could possibly be correct that  Pahari Miniature Artist  Seu Raina migrated  from  Rainawari in Kashmir  valley ?  A news for Rainawarians .

Like Nainsukh , Manaku too is responsible for spread of Pahari Miniature art in North India .Manaku had two sons, Fattu and Kushal who were also masters of Miniature pahari Art . Manaku’s grandsons named Madho, Malak and Kashi Ram were also artists of repute. Here is a Prtrait of Manaku done by Nain Sukh . This portrait is on display in  Chandigarh  Gallery of  Art .


 (Written above the portrait in takri script  *Manaku musawar misar " Also a digit 3 is written in  Takri  script. In Persian script with pencil above on the right says: Manaku musavvir pisr-i Seu musavvir (* The painter Manaku, son of the painter Seu*) Below right a two line script in Devnagri: Seu de putar vada Manak chhota Nainsukh(the sons of Seu: the elder, Manak, the younger, Nainsukh*)

This art was further spread in Hilly Rajput kingdoms by RANJHA and NIKKA who were talented sons of NAINSUKH. Infact Nain sukh had for sons Ranjha , Kamu ,Gourhu and Nikka and all of them were Master Artists .

Harku, Gursahai ( son of Ranjha) , Atra, Saudagar, Chhajju, Gokul ,Sukhanu , Sutanu and some more miniature Pahari Artists from this RAZADAN / RAINA family tree were also patronized by Feudal Lords and rulers of Pahari states .Other prominent descendants from this family were Rajoul, Bhupinder, Parkash and Chandulal Raina .  In fact Chandu Lal Raina of Kangra , a master Pahari painter, was the last descendent from this Raina / Razdan family tree who died in 1994. It is reported that his son Anil Raina is also trying hard to keep this Art alive .

Six Generations of Great Seu Raina ( Shiv Raina ) produced about 45 Master Artists that contributed  immensely for development of Miniature Pahari Art in various  states of what is presently known as Himachal Pradesh . The rulers of these states certainly extended  exceptional patronage to these Artists .


NAIN SUKH , trained by his father Pandit Seu Raina ( Shiv Raina ) ,made use of special colours that he himself prepared using mineral and vegetable sources . He also extracted his colours from flowers and spices . Gum , water , handmade paper and Glass rubbing techinique to give shine was also employed by him in his work. He was a master who has used soft but firm strokes and minute details in his Paintings . His observations was sharp that is widely reflected in his work.
He has drawn stout figures of men who wear colourful turbans and Jamas ( Loose Coats ). His women wear jewellery , anklets and armbands . They have sharp features . He is again a grand master when it comes to painting RAM LEELA , RAAS LEELA , SUDAM KRISHNA , RUKMANI KRISHANA , RADHA KRISHANA , GOPIS , MUSICIANS , ELEPHANTS , BIRDS , FLOWERS , DURBAR SCENES ,SCENES OF MONSOON ROMANCE , RAJA ON A HUNTING EXPEDITION , RAJA WITH HIS RANEES, WOMEN DANCING MUDRAS , RANEES ( QUEENS ) IN PALACE , COWS etc. etc.

 Apart from above , he has also painted his patron Raja Balwant singh of jammu in various poses and moods . Never has any Master Artist so devotedly  documented  activities of his patron as Nain Sukh has done  for Raja Balwant  Singh of Jasrota , Jammu  . I came across a painting wherein this  Raja is shown  sitting in a Tent at Nagrota  and puffing his Hookah .
 Another portrait shows   Raja Balwant Singh dressed in a jama  ( Loose Coat ) with a shawl  in his lap . He has also a  matching  serpech  on his Turban   and is shown  writing a letter to his nephew   Raja Amrit Pal  of Basholi  . A Hookah  is in front of him while a dagger lies close by .The artist has even copied the contents of the letter   written in Takri ( very close to sharda script of kashmir ) script.
Like a true Suryavanshi  Rajput , the Raja starts his communication by invoking Sri Rama’s Blessings . The usual “ Jai Deya ”  (that is still exchanged by  Rajputs of jammu  when they see or meet  each other ) also finds mention in the Text in Takri. I quote the translation..

“ Salutations to Sri Rama . To My honoured Bhanja  Amrit Pal from Balwant. Please accept my Greetings of JAI DEYA . May Sri Rama Protect you ; That would give our hearts great Joy .Your letter has reached  and apprised of the situation . Sayeed Khan wrote to you separately……. ”

 It is believed that Nain Sukh had direct access to Raja purely on account of his Art and never did he seek any special favour for himself or his family from his Patron .

Prof. B N Goswami eminent Researcher ,Historian and Art critic has personally seen Nain Sukh's Hand written entries in Pothhis of Pandits/ priests at Haridwar . Nain sukh took Ashes of Raja Balwant singh to Haridwar and made an entry in the Bahi khaata or Pothhi of a Pandit or priest at Ganga .He has himself signed this Pothhi giving the date and purpose of his visit to Haridwar. In a corner of the page, he has also added a small but impressive Drawing showing Bhagirath supplicating before Lord Shiva and Parvati to bring the Ganga to earth.

Dr. Eberhard Fischer, Senior Director of the Museum Rietberg, Zurich (1972-2006) who is an authority on Pahari miniature Art , opines that Nainsukh's art is a WORLD HERITAGE to be preserved at all costs and by all means. Dr. Fischer has also produced a film on Nainsukh’s life.

I am informed that Apart from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya ( Mumbai ), Nain Sukh's paintings are prominently displayed inside Kolkata Museum, London (Victoria & Albert Museum) and Zurich (Rietberg).

So long so much on NAIN SUKH………..

( Autar Mota 20.07.2014 )

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  1. The baijnath shiv temple was under the control of Rajnak / Rajdan family of Kashmir from lalitadityas time when whole himachal was part of Kashmir

  2. Interesting discovery and revelations about the Pahari Art. This well goes on to speak volumes about Kashmiri Pandits Pioneering nature which unfortunately in the present times is under siege because of pseudo secular dispensations in the country.


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