Tag Archives: Barahmasa

The Barahmasa : depictions in Indian miniature paintings

         The twelve months or Barahmasa correspond to the length of a year which is a span of time. During these months various seasons happen in nature. Human activities change and so does the scenery with its various elements, the sky, birds, water bodies, animals and vegetation. The various months are Chaitra (March-April). starting in the spring season.  The following months are Vaishakha(April-May), Jyestha (May-June, Asadha (June-July), Sravana(July-August), Bhadon (August-September), Ashvin (September-October), Kartikka (October-November), Margasirsa (November-December), Pausa(December-January), Magha ( January-February) and Phalguna (February-March).

    The folio from a Hindu calendar, Vikram Samvat is seen below. The left column shows the ten avatars of Vishnu, the center-right column shows the twelve signs of the Hindu zodiac. Top middle panel shows Ganesha with two consorts. The second panel shows Krishna with two consorts. The seasons are well recognized and has been depicted in all forms in India’s art and literature and it’s overall cultural landscape. Poetry, painting and sculpture have awesome portrayals and descriptions of the seasons. Seasons in India are part of her ethos and life. Festivals are also celebrated in connections with seasons.  The Barahmasa is a genre of poetry, a concept to which there have been many contributions. Indian paintings have been closely associated with literature. Many important literary works right from ancient times have been depicted  in art and sculpture. The Jataka tales have been depicted in many Buddhist sites of India.

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Hindu calendar/almanac corresponding to Western years 1871-1872, Rajasthan. 

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

              Coming to the subject at hand, this theme has been depicted mostly from late medieval period.  An Indian treatise Chitrasutra composed by Vishnudhrmaottara, sometime during the interval of the Kushana and Gupta times has a set of guidelines on how the seasons are to be depicted in art. Painters have followed the guidelines in ancient and medieval India.

   The Barahmasa was popular in Hindi literature during 13th to 16th centuries and also was a part of Sufi poetry. However, Barahmasa in miniature paintings were mostly done or executed in the 17th and 18th centuries.  The paintings had writings in Devanagari on top or behind the painting. Many royal courts had their own painters and ateliers. This theme has not found much favour with Mughal miniatures and Deccani painting though nature by itself has been a subject of composition in these schools. Many animal and bird portraitures have been made in the Mughal paintings; the Deccani schools depict clouds, ponds and lotuses.

        The Rajasthani painting evolved in the courts of Rajputana. They were done in the mniature format. and also on walls of havelis(mansions), palaces and inner chambers of forts. The pigmetns were derived from minerals,plants, conches and precious stones too ! Gold and silver were used at places. The paintings depicted avrious themes from the social viewpoint, also stories form the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Nature was depicted too’; these paintings were representative of a rulers legacy. The Rajasthani school has many sub-schools. like Jaipur,Bikaner, Bundi, Kota, Mewar. Alwar and Jodhpur. The style of painting has been influenced by Persian, European, Mughal and Chinese art of painting.The paintings are rich, mostly due to the arid desert landscape, dry hills and less vegetation.

     The Barahmasa theme has been depicted in Chamba, Garhwal, Guler, Kangra, Mandi and Nurpur schools from among the Pahari school. The Pahari schools developed in the hilly regions of North India during 17th to 19th century. From Jammu to Almora and Garhwal,Himachal Pradesh. the range is wide,varied and very interesting. Basohli school is from Jammu which is known for its bold colours. Kangra is famous for its Radha-Krishna depictions and its lyrical quality.; being greatly inspired by Jayadeva’s Geeta-govinda. Central India has the Malwa, Datia and Bundelkhand schools.

     The Chitrasutra as already mentioned has given guidelines for the seasons and they seem to be followed by artists across India. Summer is indicated by the sun in the sky, spring with its seasonal trees in bloom, humming bees,cuckoo depictions and men and women going around happily ! Further, summer depicts fatigue experienced by men,animals, dry pools,birds hiding in trees,lions and  tigers resting in their mountainous hideouts. The rainy season has its dark, laden clouds and streaks of lightning in the sky. Autumn has trees full of fruits,corn ripe in the fields, pools full of swans and lotuses. The winter has its dew and fog, the earth is a bit bare and misty. Crows and elephants are joyous.  There is snowfall in some places.

    Depicted below are some Barahmasa paintings from different schools. The month of Chaitra is depicted with the seasonal trees in bloom and men and women joyous and in conversation. Birds and sarus cranes are seen in the background and where the lotuses are abounding in the pool nearby.

1 The month of Chaitra. Barahmasa series. March-April. 1675-1700 (circa) Bundi. British Museum.jpg

Chaitra (March-April), Barahmasa, Bundi, 1675-1700 A.D, British Museum,U.K.

By Unknown – British Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20762741

       The month of Jyeshtha is hot and humid, people are seen using hand fans reclining under shades and birds are hiding in the trees. The sun is scorching the earth and there is bright light around. Tree ahve shed their leaves due to the heat. The animals are resting in shade or retreating to the forest.

2 Jestha (may-june). Barahmasa series. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum.jpg

Jyestha (May-June). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800s, British Museum,U.K.

By Unknown – British Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20762750

 Jyestha (May-June), Folio from a Barahmasa,  Uniara, Rajasthan, 1775, LACMA- public domain image.

      The Asadha month is the pre-monsoon month and clouds are seen to start arriving in the sky with sporadic rain. In Shravan the sky gets laden with rain bearing clouds and the opens with lightning and thunder ! Peacocks are happiest during this time and dance to full glory with their splendorous tail spread out. Nature all around is green and verdant. Pangs of separation are felt more strongly in this season. Forlorn heroines are eager to meet their beloved !

 Ashadha (June-July), Folio from a Barahmasa, Kota, 1700-1725.

LACMA- public domain image.

File:4 Sravana (july-august). Barahmasa series. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum.jpg

Sravana (July-August), Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British  Museum,U.K.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bhadon (August-September), Folio from a Barahmasa ,LACMA ,U.S.A

http://www.flickr.com/photos/50398299@N08/16260026998/ image by Ashley Van Haeften

          The painting below shows a forlorn heroine trying to go out to meet her beloved and her sakhi or friend refraining her as the sky is full of menacing clouds during the month of Bhadon.

'Virahini' (Lovesick Heroine), India, c. 1740, Honolulu Museum of Art, 10689.1.JPG

Virahini (lovesick heroine), Bhadon (August-September)1740, Barahmasa,  Honolulu Museum of Art,U.S.A.

By Unknown – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29363548

Bhadon (August-September), Barahmasa, Malwa, 1640-1650, LACMA- public domain image.
Bhadon (August-September). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum,U.K.
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

6 Asoja (september-october). Barahmasa series. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum.jpg

 Ashvin or Asoja, (September-October). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum,U.K.
 See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
 7 Kartikka (october-november). Barahmasa series. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum.jpg
  Kartikka,(October-November). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum,U.K.
 See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
8 Margasira (november-december) Barahmasa series..jpg
Margasirsa or Agrahayana,(November-December) Barahmasa series,1800, Rajasthan. British Museum, London,U.K.
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
         The month of Pausa is depicted with people warming their hands over fire and  sleeping under blankets to face the biting cold. Shawls are worn around the head and shoulders. People seem to be suffering from fever and are making visits to the vaidya or doctor for treatment.
Pausa, (December-January). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum,U.K.
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
References :
  • Barahmasa/Dwivedi,V.P, Delhi : Agam Kala Prakashan,1980.
  • wikipedia.org
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Soma Ghosh

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