Forlorn and forgotten paintings of the yore

We cannot precisely say when painting was started if not ‘discovered’ in absolute term by the man. To express oneself or to keep a vivid memory, images were thought to be carved on the walls of caves, on stones with sharp edged tools of stones to start with. A painting conveys an idea , description of an image, an event, an expression of emotion and feelings , how surroundings and the world was perceived by the artist and the like. The ancient and probably the first form of paintings were done on walls and we call them mural paintings. Ancient pre-Islamic Indian art travelled even far beyond the boundaries of India which depicts its splendid and magnificent form and taste.
Those of us having visited Ajanta caves can recall the quality of the surviving paintings in the form of picture galleries from the ancient times. Most of them were hidden , the oldest in the two of the caves have been painstakingly restored to reveal not only their beauty but the level of expertise and the taste for art and literature which flourished in India until becoming the focal point of spate of foreign invasions for many centuries. Much of the priceless paintings, a legacy and heritage, remained either hidden or abandoned for centuries due to many reasons mainly changing political scenes. Whatever has been retrieved and restored, it could be safely said that this country had no parallel in excelling in mural paintings. The topic in itself could extend to any limits but let mural paintings of Jammu be touched, of course, with more of emotions and probably with a bit of curiosity.
Jammu and surrounding areas traditionally have been witness to the rich mural paintings which as on date, have either been neglected of their importance or the taste developing for them has been found waning. Temples , shrines, palaces, courts and forts had usually been the places where, on their walls beautiful themes, ideas, events, fictions and memories were painted. This art flourished in the Dogra region, the glimpses of which we can still see , watch and enjoy . How far the artist’s imagination was taking flights could be experienced by watching the surviving paintings. Miniature as well as mural paintings were not only encouraged by Dogra rulers but there appeared an appreciable craze for them with intent to decorate the walls and ceilings and at times, probably to recall in imagination, how events painted would in reality have looked like.
Not only proper Jammu city had the mural paintings but the connect with adjoining areas like Basohli, Ramnagar, Nurpur, Kangra, Bilaspur etc which were famous centres of both mural and miniature paintings further developed this art. Interchange of the products and the makers made this art all encompassing in its varied richness . It is, however, amazing as to how much precision and workmanship were expended in getting the colours of such purity and sheen that they could survive for centuries on the walls. Many such paintings having survived in whatever form, are a tribute to those who gave their best in making them . We , however, have a few who instead of taking pains to preserve or helping in preservation of such surviving paintings, choose to disfigure them and that is the tragedy.
Shree Ram Lila and Shree Krishna Lila scenes, a blend of epical facts and interesting myths can be still found having been painted on the walls and ceilings of some old buildings and temples which still exist in areas like Panjtirthi , Mubarak Mandi Palace complex and the like in Jammu. A small satisfaction for art lovers is that many mural paintings have survived the cruel hard whacks of time and abuses by human hand in Jammu region. Art never dies so long as the lover and the admirer for art sustains the taste. Mural paintings continue to have a future of their own, it could have comparatively brighter one if the Government and art lovers discarded their neglect and apathy towards it.