A contemporary "pichwai (religious
painting) of cows from former princess Vaishnavi Singh's
New Delhi: Art and
craft in India have traditionally been patronised by the royalty,
who spent the bulk of their wealth adding to the country's
artistic heritage. But over the centuries, the nature of patronage
has changed with the fall of kingdoms.
The erstwhile royalty - who have since acquired contemporary
aesthetic skills and global exposure - have taken it upon
themselves to personally carry the traditional crafts to the
domestic and international market.
"The cornerstone of the new initiative is relevance, fusion chic,
affordability and functionality - suitably decked with the glamour
of exclusive lineages. I wanted people to know there are people
who are doing great art blending tradition with utility to revive
their dying art traditions," art curator and connoisseur Anshu
Khanna told IANS.
Khanna brought together 10 erstwhile royalty to present a
collection of contemporary art, "Royal Fables" in association with
Khushii, a non-profit group sponsored by former cricket ace Kapil
Dev and the Metropolitan Hotel.
According to Brajraj Singh, the former ruler of Kishangarh, a hub
of Rajput miniature art, "the Mughal school may have begun with
Humayun, but it peaked during his son Akbar's reign (1556-1570)
and continued through Jahangir's and Shah Jahan's reign".
"But emperor Aurangzeb curbed several genres of art in between
1670 and 1707, forcing artists from the Mughal court to move to
the smaller Rajput principalities for survival. It sparked a new
creative wave in the smaller Rajput kingdoms," the former ruler of
Kishangarh told IANS.
Bhavani Das, a painter who migrated from the Mughal court to
Kishangarh around 1719, and Nihal Chand, the chief court painter,
were the early protagonists of the Kishangarh school of Radha-Krishna
However, in the last century shrinking resources and a creative
morass led to its decline, the former ruler said.
In 2010, scion Vaishnavi Kumari Singh, the daughter of Brajraj, a
trained designer from the National Institute of Fashion
Technology, set up the "Kishangarh Studio" with 200 artisans to
revive and modernise the Kishangarh School of Art.
"I am trying to fit the art into a metropolitan sphere by making
it functional, practical and innovative with new ideas and
techniques. I am teaching them new painting styles," Vaishnavi
She has taken motifs of the cow, lotus and foliage to create a
hand-crafted range of household accessories, "pichwai" style
drawing room art and pret wear.
Kathmandu-based art promoter Prajwal Man Shakya traces the history
of his family art and coral miniature sculptures to the lifetime
of "Shakya Muni" or Lord Buddha 2,500 years ago during the
"My forefathers migrated to Kathmandu from Kapilavastu," Prajwal
told IANS. The Shakya family is helping Gautam Rana, a leading
entrepreneur and former nobility in Kathamandu, to conserve the
Buddhist Newar art of Kathamandu Valley.
Newar art is an early form of Buddhist "paubha" or devotional
painting that flourished in Nepal before Buddhism went to Tibet.
"The paubha art had been relegated in the last century because of
poor promotion. We have been able to give Newar art an
international platform with exhibitions at our galleries -
Bodhisattva and Baber Mahal," Prajwal said.
The rare enamel art of Jammu and Kashmir has found a fresh lease
of life in former Jammu and Kashmir princess-turned-enamel
sculptor Jyotsna Singh, descendant of former Maharaja Hari Singh.
Jyotsna, an former Delhi University lecturer and daughter of
Member of Parliament Karan Singh, makes "enamel and copper wall
sculptures, lifestyle accessories with papier mache and paints
"I am trying to make the traditional enamel art more
identifiable," the self-taught artist and a member of the Delhi
Enamel Society, told IANS.
Former princess Priti Singh of Kuchaman, a descendant of legendary
Bhakti movement icon Mirabai, has taken the traditional quilt art
of her erstwhile principality to Europe and the US with her modern
line of furnishings and apparel.
Begum Farah Mir, a former Surat royalty and a scion of the former
exiled Afghan emir Dost Mohammed Khan's clan, has merged "Persian
and traditional Gujarati embroidery traditions" in her designer
saris woven by local "karigars" in Gujarat.
The tiger art of young Vikramaditya Singh, a scion of the former
Palhaita princely state, "is finding a market globally with the
"The country is beginning to recognise the importance of Brand
India and our initiatives are a small contribution to the growing
brand," jewellery designer Kavita Singh, a former Jodhpur royal,
(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at email@example.com)