Thursday, December 6, 2018



 He went to Kangra Himachal Pradesh to study Miniature and landscape Art from some master  . He Bought a camera from a European tourist in 1880 by selling his wife’s Dejhur  or Traditional  Golden ornament ( Suhaag  symbol  ) like Mangalsutra of a  kashmiri Pandit woman . He Ventured into the field of Painting , Photography and Printing.  This is something unbelievable  to have been done by  a boy from orthodox Kashmiri Pandit  society that too during the   last quarter of 19th century . 

The boy was none other than Vishinath Kampasi . kampasi was a nickname that this family acquired .  Sh.Ramesh Kampasi informs :

“ There is a history about the family name Kampasi. Actually it was Kharoo. In those days camera was called Compass by Kashmiris. It stuck as family name.”

He also  went to Lahore to learn  photography .He boughtbooks on this Art  and on rwturn created adark room inside his Bana Mohalla hose to start his business.

About his visit to Kangra to learn art , I need to add that some   adventurous  kashmiris  from srinagar city have gone to Kangra to learn art from some Pahari Miniature Artists . History of Pahari Art informs us that there were about 46 great master painters in Himachal pradesh who worked as darbaar painters in various hilly kingdoms of Himachal. A few went to Tehri Garhwal. They belonged to Shiv Raina Razdan Clan of kashmiri Brahmins . 
Raja Dalip singh was the first person to employ and patronise kashmiri Brahmin artists when they took refuge in his kingdom in late 17th century..  , to The last brilliant painter from this clan was Chandu Lal Raina who died in 1994. These Rainas can be seen everywhere in Himachal Pradesh . They don't speak kashmiri but say that  they are from Rainawari locality  in srinagar city  . Some say that they belong to  Habba kadal locality . They are not definite nor is there any conclusive documentary evidence as to from which part of kashmir their ancestors came to Himachal in late 17th century.
 Again , Mattan town in kashmir valley  has a  historical  link with Himachal Pradesh . The purohits of Mattan have been going to Himachal and Punjab  in winters since last 3 or four centuries. They have picked up Miniature Art for their religious pictures used in almanacs from masters in Himachal. If you carefully observe the horscopes  prepared by Brahmins of srinagar city and those done by Mattan Brahmins ,you will notice the difference in style, colours and subjects. Shiva is dominant subject in one while stories from  Bhagwat Puran and sri krishna's life are depicted in another segment.  In 1987, i  saw   4 prominent miniature painters in Mattan  who made  religious paintings and pictures for horscopes. One is still living and settled in jammu. 

Sudesh Raina son of well known Artist Mohan Raina adds :

  My father has told me that his own grandfather had gone to   Himachal Pradesh  in late 19th century to learn Miniature Art  . There in Himachal Pradesh,  some  Artist from the  lineage  of  Sieu Raina was an accomplished Artist . This artists used to train young boys from Himachal Pradesh and adjoining states of Punjab and J&K . It was a Gurukul Type of learning.  My father believed that   the great Grandfather of  Kishori kaul had also visited Himachal Pradesh  in this connection. “

Coming to Vishinath Kampasi , I need to add that  sometime around 1880, he started  first   Photo shop  cum Printing press at  Fateh Kadal Srnagar , a place close to his Bhana-mohalla residence. He also went to Ladakh ,  Gilgit  and  some other places to click scenic pictures. He  did some landscapes in water colour during this sojourn. When these photographs were shown to Maharaja Partap singh , He  enrolled him as Darbaar Painter cum Photographer for about two years . 

From Fateh Kadal , Vishinath ji  exapanded  his Photo cum Printing Business to Residency Road   Srinagar   where he opened another outlet. At a point of time this family gave direct employment to  50 persons through this   Business

Ramesh Kampasi adds :

 "The biography of Sh.Vishinath Kampasi makes a fascinating story. He was  the first entrepreneur from the community, having established a printing press as well as a photography business at Fateh Kadal, Srinagar. And it was he who went to Ladakh, Gilgit and captured the virgin beauty of these unexplored places, with his cameras. He received full recognition from the Maharaja. The printing press was initially named as Kashmir Pratap Steam Press. Machines were run by steam as electricity was yet to come in Srinagar. Doing this in 19th century was no easy task.  Let me add that Vishinath Ji  printed Some heritage books at his  press. I could recently see online digitized copy of Advaita System of Kashmir Shaivism book Malinivijaya Vartikam of Abhinav Gupta, printed in 1921 at his  Fateh Kadal Press. This book is in the library of the University Of Toronto and It has been digitized . The preface of the book is very Interesting.  This book was printed by Research Department  J & K.

Ganji Kampasi Adds :

" Pt Vishnath Kampasi had made four wonderful paintings which somehow were stolen and are  said to be in Lahore, London and  Germany.
Sadly our family has no record of such a great visionary who has given us the Name "

And sat Lal Kampasi ,his son was a diploma holder from Sir Amar singh Technical institute sringar . This institute was opened by Maharaja Partap singh in  1914 and finally made as Amar Singh college in 1942. Sat Lal  was a student if great Artist JC Mukerji who was brought by maharaja to this institute to work under FC Andrews the first principal. J C Mukerji was a great painter of Bengal Renaissance apart from being a master in Landscapes. Later , Sh.Sata Lal Kampasi graduated from Calcutta School of Art. He was Fellow Of Royal Society of Arts .Sat lal ji helped J And K Govnmenent  to set up first  ITI in the state. 

It is pertinent to mention that many old photographs  that are being circulated in Social Media under   the series “OLD  KASHMIR   IMAGES “ have actually been clicked by Vishinath Kampasi . He has also clicked photographs of swami Vivekananda’s visit to  Tulamula  and a group photo of Swami ji with some Kashmiri Pandits . All these photographs are also being circulated in Social Media including Facebook and  Twitter.


 This Kampasi family had many photographs and old paintings in their residency road business premises and also at their residence in Bana Mohalla in Srinagar City . These might have been lost in the post 1990  turmoil. I don't know.

( Avtar Mota )

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