The Bold Voice of J&K

Basohli Painting: GI-tag recognizes unique culture & artistic heritage of region

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Prevents unauthorized use by third parties, boosts exports & promotes Basohli paintings at International level

Abhishek Padha & Manish Kumar

When it comes to art, two things come to our mind. First is any artifact and second any musical instrument. Talking about musical instruments, the vibrations emanating from the instrument brings immense peace to our mind and soul. Whereas, if we talk about the artifacts, our mind is made to think about the artist who created that masterpiece and we are mesmerized by the beauty of that creation. The magic of that artist’s hand takes the beholder to the supernatural world. This art of making paintings has been going on since time immemorial. Our ancestors have been making artifacts in different ways, be it the cave paintings made by early man during stone-age or much evolved schools of paintings as we see now. The paintings on the walls of the caves changed and so did the tools and the surface on which paintings were painted, from walls to paper or cloth. Through the stories of imagination, the artists tried to take the artwork to a new level. Art flourished everywhere, be it in hilly areas or be it in plains. Due to its unique style, Pahari paintings belonging to the area ‘Vishwasthali’ which was an ancient state situated on the bank of River Ravi in the present Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, became popular among the people.
Basholi Painting has rich history that dates back to the 17th century. It was during this time that Raja Kripal Pal commissioned a group of painters to create a series of paintings that depicted scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
The art form emerged as a fusion of Mughal miniature paintings and local traditions. Nainsukh, Manaku, and Guleri were the famous artists of this school of art. Basholi Painting form of miniature painting is known for its vibrant colors and intricate detailing. It is characterized by its use of bright, bold colors including Red, Green, Silver and Gold.
The painting depicts the scenes from Hindu mythology particularly the stories of Krishna and Radha and is known for their intricate detailing and fine brush work.
The great artists who have been associated with the miniature painting are highly skilled and often spend years and years for art. The artists use natural dyes that are made from flowers, leaves and other plant materials to create a vivid palette of colors. The colors are than applied in multiple layers to create a rich art work. Basholi Painting style is known for its peculiar facial features and energetic lines. Painting is highly stylized and almost always shown in profile with receding hairlines and large widely open eyes. Painting has an individuality of its own and can be clearly distinguished from Kangra and Rajasthani painting. The border of the painting is deep red and rarely yellow colors. Another characteristic of this painting is liberal use of Gold and Silver paints. Gold is used for embroidery and ornaments and silver for embroidery as well as for painting. Decorative treatment of the landscape and high horizon is among the prominent characteristic of Basholi painting. The drawings of the trees are distinctive. Forest is often shown by a circle of trees. The trees depicted in Basholi painting are also symbolical under the dropping branches of willows.
Despite its rich history and cultural significance, Basholi Painting has faced challenges in recent years. One of the biggest challenges has been the lack of recognition and protection of the art form. However, this changed in December 2020 when the process for GI-tagging of these products was started by NABARD in consultation with and support from the Department of Handicrafts and Handloom, during the difficult times of COVID. This is the first time in the history of GI that Jammu Region and Ladakh (UT) got GI tag for its handicrafts in 2023.Basholi Painting of Kathua district is the first independent GI-tag from Jammu region.
The GI-tag for Basholi Painting recognizes the unique culture and artistic heritage of the region and will help to protect the art form. Now, only an authorized user has the exclusive rights to use the Geographical Indication in relation to the painting. Due to this, no person can copy it from beyond their geographical areas.
This will prevent its unauthorized use by third parties, will boost exports and promote their paintings at international level, thereby promoting economic prosperity of the artists and related stakeholders.
It will also lead to increased demand for Basholi Painting and a great appreciation for the cultural heritage of the region. GI-tag for Basholi Painting could also provide more opportunities to showcase their work to a wider audience.
The artists of this school of art have been demanding a GI-tag for their art form and Basholi Artists are highly thankful to the Government of India for providing GI-tagging to their Art forms.
(The authors are HoD, I&C Department and Instructor Basholi Painting, GPC Jammu).

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