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 sculptures depicting Gandhara style of Art, Coins, Buddhist Tankas,  Ancient Assyrian Stone reliefs, Pottery relating to Mohan jo Daro and Harrapan period, Decorative Glass work, Precious Manuscripts, Ancient jewellery, Silk and shawls,Arms, Bronzes, Terracottas etc.etc. This museum has some finest sculptures 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 the 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, Nainsukh along with his four sons moved to the Guler Kingdom.


It is believed that some families of Rajanka ( Raina and Razdan ) Brahmins from Kashmir moved to Kangra during last quarter of 17th century and sought employment in the courts of various hilly principalities of present-day Himachal Pradesh. These Brahmins were proficient in astrology,art, Sanskrit and Persian languages . This learning enabled them to get employment in various courts as Rajgurus or Rajpurohits or Darbaar artists. Noted art historian M. S. Randhawa writes :

 “ Proselytism of Islam was at its height during the last years of the reign of Aurangzeb. In the last quarter of 17th  century and first quarter of the 18th  century, many Kashmiri Brahmins migrated from Kashmir to Kangra valley to seek sanctuary in the courts of the Rajas of Kangra Hill States. It is very likely that Pandit Sieu was one of them.” 

 Pandit Shiv Raina  ( artist well versed in Pala and Mughal style ) , who later came to be known as Sieu Raina , sought refuge in the court of Raja Dalip Singh ( r.1695 -1741 AD ) of Guler. Nainsukh (Nana ) and Manaku ( Mankak ) were his sons who revolutionized the Pahari Miniature Art ( See Pic. 40 and Pic.41 )  by joining Guler, Basholi, Jasrota and various hilly kingdoms of present day Himachal Pradesh . B. N. Goswamy, the noted art historian writes :

" Manaku’s patron was possibly Dinamani Raina, the Rajguru of Guler. My wife has translated manuscripts like Daliparanjini—a chronicle of Guler for its king, Dalip Singh, by a visiting poet, who was engaged/ patronised by Dinamani Raina, so it’s entirely possible he patronised artists as well. And he was an important figure at the court. He’d have been an important part of any discussion about religion. Also, Manaku belonged to the ‘Raina’ community. There’s very little doubt in my mind that he was Manaku’s patron."

This statement of B. N. Goswamy confirms  that Pandit Sieu  Raina must have gone to the court of Raja Dalip Singh of Guler only under some invitation or patronage. Pandit Dinamani Raina, the Rajguru of Raja Dalip Singh of Guler appears to be the supportive host and helper .

Was Pandit Sieu Raina working in some Mughal court or did he come from Kashmir directly? This is a baffling question. But certainly, Sieu Raina came to Guler not knowing that his sons and their progeny would shape the history of Pahari Miniature Art in the hills of what is now known as Himachal Pradesh. It also reveals that some School of Miniature Art already existed in Guler apart from the presence of Kashmiri Pandits as Rajgurus or Rajpurohits  in some hilly principalities of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu..

There is a painting done in Pahari Miniature style  held by  Philadelphia Museum of Art that also confirms the presence of Pandit Dinamani Raina and his dominant role in the affairs of Guler state when the fugitive artist Sieu  Raina sought shelter. The painting has this detail attached to it:

" This painting shows Pandit Dinamani Raina visiting the women’s quarters of Raja Dalip Singh of Guler, Himachal Pradesh, India . It relates to a period that could be  something around 1740-1770 AD. It has been  done in a medium of opaque watercolour with gold and silver or tin on paper."
  Was Pandit Sieu Raina working in some Mughal court or did he come from Kashmir directly? This is a baffling question. But certainly, Shiv Raina came to Guler not knowing that his sons and their progeny would shape the history of Pahari Miniature Art in the hills of  Himachal Pradesh. Others from this Raina – Razdan clan who worked as court painters in various principalities of Western Himalayas include Atra, Nikka, Ranjha (Ram Dayal), Chajju, Harku, Saudagar, Kama, Godhu, Chetu, Khushala, Kiru, Gurusahai, and Fattu. 

 Many references crop up in books that indicate the presence of Kashmiri artists in Darbaars of Rajput rulers in  the hills of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu apart from  the progeny of Sieu Raina. At page 289, SS Toshakhani and Kulbushan Warikoo in their co-edited book “ Cultural Heritage of Kashmiri Pandits” write this:

“ A significant collection of Ramayana series was painted by Ranjha son of Nainsukh during the reign of Raja Bhupindra Pal ( 1816 AD ) of Basholi. The basic drawings for the series were got made by Ranjha from another Kashmiri artist ( not from Ranjha’s own  family ) named Sudershan.

This group of migrant Brahmins from Kashmir did not move towards plains of the country probably because of the death and destruction created by the invasions of  Nadir Shah and Ahmed Shah Abdali. They remained confined to the hilly kingdoms of the present-day Himachal Pradesh. These artists of Kashmiri Pandit ancestry contributed enough towards the development of the Pahari  Miniature Art in the hilly kingdoms of Kangra ,  Basholi, Jasrota, Guler, Noorpur , Haripur , Chamba , Mandi , Kulu , Sujanpur Tira, and many more .


 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 . According to Dr R . K . Tamiri,

“ I was always wondering as to where had about 1500 families of Rainas from  Rainawari suddenly disappeared  sometime in the 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 the 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 the 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 Portrait 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. In fact Nainsukh had four 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 who died in 1994, was the last descendent from this Raina / Razdan family tree.  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 Bahis of Pandits/ priests at Haridwar . Nain sukh took ashes of Raja Balwant singh to Haridwar and made an entry in the Bahi or Pothhi of the Pandit or priest at Ganga .He has himself signed the Bahi entry  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 . 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………..

( Avtar Mota )

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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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