Tejinder Kaur/ Dogra Mural Paintings in Darbar Hall of Ramnagar Palace: An Analytical Study

Tejinder Kaur,

Research Scholar,

Department of Fine Arts,

Lovely Professional University,



In the outer Himalayan range of Jammu and Kashmir, Dogra Wall paintings are located. The ancient name of this region was “Durgara” which was a tribal origin. The entire area of the outer hills, between the rivers Ravi and Chenab, comes under this region. Most probably, the Khasas and the Kanets were the original inhabitants of this area. The constituency was subject to several tribal immigrations of people speaking the Dogri language which is classified as a dialect of Punjab.1 The language is comparable to the Pahari spoken in the neighboring state of Himachal Pradesh and appears to have been correctly related by Griesson in his classic linguistic Survey of India, to Kangri.2

The Dogra people were very gorgeous and kept an artistic approach. They loved beautiful things. It is proved from the specimens of the architecture and sculpture produced under their patronage. Before the Mughal period the development of painting was not extensive in this area. A remarkable impact of the Muslim’s can be seen on the painting of this region. The hills rajas visited Mughal court many times which compensated rich dividends for Dogra wall painting. Dogra painting started after the Dogra’s came in contact with the Mughal’s.

Actually, the Basholi was the first centre for the painting. Raja Bhupat Pal (1598-1635), Sangram Pal (1635-73) and Kirpal Pal (1678-93) were the main patronages of painting in Basholi. In Jammu Raja Hari Dev (1660-1690) was the first emperor who encouraged the art of painting. Raja Dhruv Dev (1703-35) and his four sons , Ranjit Dev, Ghansar Dev, Surat Singh and Balwant Singh were all patrons of painting. Kahn Singh Kalauria described about the wall paintings in Balwant Singh palace at Saruin in his book “History of Basholi”.

Malka Zamani (one of the queens of Mohammad Shah, a Mughal emperor) a widow of Mir Manu, Hari Singh (the viceroy of Lahore), Raja Kaura Mal, Dalpat Rai (son of Lakhpat Rai) were some political refugees which found asylum in Jammu . It could be possible that these refugees brought some late Mughal miniatures with them in this region.

During the reign of Ranjit Dev the Sikh had risen with all the fierceness and strength of newely- discovered strength in Punjab. The Sikhs were however not destined to completely colonize the ancient Kingdoms of Durgara Pradesh. By a sudden quirk of destiny the Rajput pride of this area was saved by a totally unexpected turns of events. This was the extra ordinary rise of the three Dogra brothers – Gulab Singh, Dhian Singh and Suchet Singh. They were aristocrats of royal blood, claiming, descents from Surat Singh the third son of Dhruv Dev. 3

In the Sikh court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, all these three brothers became very strong figures. Gulab Singh became a great army Commander, Dhian Singh resided at the Sikh court and by skill and diplomacy rose to the office of prime minister in 1828, and the youngest one Suchet Singh became a general and a favorite courtier. The Dogra brothers were very close to Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Due to their loyal services, Maharaja Ranjit Singh gave the state of Jammu to Gulab Singh in 1821, the kingdom of Punch was given to Dhian Singh and Suchet Singh was made raja of Ramnagar.4

According to McGregor, Suchet Singh was a complete soldier and in his dress he was particularly gorgeous and wore a profusion of jewels.5 Suchet Singh had a true courtier’s eye for beauty. He was so fond of adorning himself that according to the legends in Jammu, he used to decorate his moustaches with diamonds.6

Traditionally Jammu had been a very rich state and when Timur invaded it, he mentioned that a large booty of grain and property fell into his hands.7 SO, due to the richness of the state different types of art was flourished in the state. All the kings were patronages the art and artists. Suchet Singh is the most closely connected with the wall painting. Apart from the Dogra Rajas, royal women were important motivators for the wall painting of this region. They provided patronage, money as well as models for the subject illustrated in the paintings. During their wedding ceremony, ladies of the royal families get lots of capital as their dowries. They were free to use such wealth as their wish, for any activity like charity or artistic work like temple construction and wall painting.

Apart from the royal families, the people of trading community took keen interest in wall painting. But there is not much evidence that the common people were clients of wall painting.

The leading family of artist’s in this region was of Pandit Seu’s of Guler. Nain Sukh (Pandit Seu’s son) worked for raja Balwant Singh (Raja Dhruv Dev’s son).8 For the creation of the wall paintings of this region predominant motivation was provided by the religion. The most of the wall paintings had been executed as the homage to God. The themes were taken from the Ramayana, Bhagwata and other Puranas. Mural paintings also depicting scenes of Nayikas, Krishan- lila, and court- scenes, war and hunting scenes related to Rajas of this region.

Ramnagar Palace

Ramanagar palace is situated in a small historical town, Ramnagar of dist. Udampur in the state Jammu and Kashmir. It was named after its last ruler, Raja Ram Singh of Ramnagar. At that time Ramnagar was the capital of the Bindral state.

Ramnagar Palace was built by Raja Suchet Singh and Raja Ram Singh (son of Raja Ranbir Singh).9 The building of this palace had three storeys with high walls and towers at regular intervals. The rooms are situated in front of a big courtyard. From the outside the projections on the corner of its roof provides it a shape of lotus flowers. The Darbar hall is located on the right hand-side of the entrance, which is beautifully decorated with the mural paintings.

According to a local tradition, the artist who executed the painting found in the Darbar hall of Ramnagar Palace was “Hiru Mistri” resident of “Suneeta” village near Ramnagar. He belonged to the tarkhan caste of carpenters and his descendants are still living in the village.10

“Vishnu and Laksmi” & “Dancers in Suchet Singh’s Palace” are two eminent wall paintings sited in the Darbar hall of Ramnagar Palace. Both the paintings are gorgeous.

In the painting “Vishnu and Laksmi” the royal court of Vishnu is obtainable. The painting is divided into two major parts with the boundary wall of the palace. The foreground of the painting is executed with white color and it presents the core of palace while the contrasting blue color of background provides a depth to the painting and depicts outdoor scene. The use of gold color is highlighted the greatness of the occasion. The space treatment is an important indicator of the quality of this painting. The isometric composition and illusion of space creates dramatic effect in the painting. The geometrical designs of pavilion and flying angles are also extended the feeling of space. The architecture of the pavilion is hexagon and on the roof very prominent Dome is placed. On the top of the Dome” Kalasa” and “Ayudha” or “Stupi” is resembled like “the Brahmanical Temples at Bhubaneswar, Orissa”. At the top of the Sikhra, Red and Gold color Chatterwali is located which is similar to the “Sikh Architecture”. “Dome” is comparable to the top of the Muslim mosques while the ‘Stupi” is related to the Hindu or Buddhist architecture. On the Six corners, we could see the “Minaras” or “Burji” with the small Chattarawalies. Flags are also flying in the air. Some of the floral designs are sited on the pavilion which could be the mural painting and it is concluded that the influence of Sikh and Muslim art was considerable on the Hindu artists.

In the middle ground of the painting, Vishnu sits enthroned in pavilion with Laksmi under a canopy or chattarawali. Vishnu wears a highly ornamental “Mukata” and precious jewels. He holds a “Gaddha” (armament) in his right hand and a “Lotus” flower in his left hand. On the left side of Vishnu, Laksmi is seated in the —–pose. She wears a lot of jewelry which suits with her royal dress of green and red color. One of the attendants is standing behind them and doing the ‘chawar’ while the one is standing in front of them in their service. Both attendants are specified impression of ‘Pahari’ Niyakas.

On the lower right corner of the painting, Krishna, Shiva and Brahma are standing in their traditional dresses with other ditties and paying devotion to Vishnu and Laksmi. Some other righteous people are standing on supplementary side of the painting. On the both side, devotees are paying their devotion to ‘Vishnu and Laksmi’ by adjoining their hands together and lying on the ground. “Garurar” is sitting in the middle front of pavilion with his usual dress. His Red peak is balancing the red color in the painting.

In the behind of oblique wall open-air panorama is accessible. Green and yellow trees, blue sky, and coiled clouds, all are illustrating the nature. Diminutive size of buildings behind the trees is presenting 3-D effect and impression of distance in the painting. All the buildings had “Jarokhas” (windows) in which human forms are depicting different gestures and postures. Two angels are flying in the sky on each side of the pavilion. Green color of trees is balanced in the feathers of the angles. In the clouds, natives of haven are flying with their musical instrument like Dholak, Sehnai, Sitar and Khartall etc. and are playing music in honor of Vishnu and dazzling red flowers from the heavens. At the apex angles of the painting floral design are providing the upshot of brocade cloth that symbolized royalty.

This painting is a beautiful example of “Sadanga” or six limbs of painting. Balance, harmony, rhythm and proportion are situated through the repetition of color, forms and diagonal perspective. Bright and contrasting colors, such as red, green; white, blue, gold and black are used. White color is the source of light in itself. Spiral lines of the clouds are signifying the lyrical quality in the painting and shows enormous command over line. All the faces were depicted in side profile which could be compared with manuscripts paintings of eastern and western schools. Every minute detail could be seen in it that indicates the skill and acquaintance of the artist.

Another painting named “Dancers in Suchet Singh’s Palace” is presenting the pleasing attitude of royal people and an exterior garden scene. Raja Suchet Singh is seated on an extremely festooned carpet of blue color with red color perimeter and gold designing under red ‘Shamiana’. He is smoking a hookah while one of his entourage is doing the ‘Chuwar’ behind him. He wore royal dress of gold and red color with white turban on which “kalgei” to be found.   He had a sword in his left hand and a white pillow behind him is screening his supremacy.

In his fascia two gentlemen are seated and on his left two people with royal dresses are seated which could be members of his family. His courtiers are seated on his left side on a lemon yellow carpet which is also highly decorated. All of them had swords and shields.

Two stunning and juvenile dancers are performing dance in front of them with accompanying musicians. The dancers are full of liveliness; wears a lot of jewellary and enjoying the dance. Musicians are separated from his army with white dresses and musical instruments like ‘Tabla’, ‘Sarangi’ and ‘Khartal’. The dancers are resembled to the niyakas of Kangra School. No of soldiers are standing around them with blue dress and full of weapons. Few of them hold the flags and one is beating a drum. These soldiers seem to be like the British army. Few of them are in Dogra uniform, wear swords and shields. All of them hold the guns on their shoulders. On the lower corner of the paining one white horse is depicted with his porter.

On the pinnacle of illustration architecture is depicted in white color while the orange corners and blue windows provide depth and 3-D effect in the representation. Like the previous painting, white color is source of light in this image and symbolizes innocence. Color harmony presents the local ethnic culture of the region. Green grass is contrasting with yellow carpet. It is a well balanced, rhythmic, proportionate, harmonic painting and a beautiful example of Rupabheda, Parmanani, Bhva, Lavanya-yojanam, Sadrishyam and Varnikabhangam.

It is concluded that the above said painting are displaying technical and composite skill of high standard quality. The human forms, landscape, architecture; everything is painted with a fine brush strokes. The beauty and delicacy of colors is reached at its amazing heights. The paintings divulge a crucial influence of the Pahari and Mughal School. The artists paint every minute detail in the paintings and made these paintings livelihood.


  1. Census of India 1961, Vol. VI, Jammu and Kashmir. Part I-A (ii), General Report, pp. 214-234.
  2. G. Grierson , Lingustic Survey of India, Punjab, vol. VIII, part I; vol. IX, part I, Government Printing Press relating to Sind and Punjab, p.31
  3. Seth Mira, Dogra Wall Paintings in Jammu and Kashmir, 1987, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, p.10.
  4. Kirparam Diwan, Gulabnama, trans.from the Persian by Sukhdev Singh Charak, Light & Life Publishers, Delhi 1971, pp. 92-93.
  5. W.L. McGregor, The History of the Sikhs, Reprint 1979, R.S. Publishing House, Allahabad, Vol. II, p.26.
  6. Seth Mira, Dogra Wall Paintings in Jammu and Kashmir, 1987, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, p.06.
  7. Drew, the Jammu and Kashmir Territories, pp.73-76.
  8. Goswamy, B. N., Pahari Painting, The Family as the Basis of Style, Marg, Vol.XXI, September 1968, No. 4, p.18.
  9. http://asi.nic.in/asi_monu_tktd_jk_ramnagarpalace.asp
  10. Seth Mira, Dogra Wall Paintings in Jammu and Kashmir, 1987, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, p.08.
  11. Plates: Seth Mira, Dogra Wall Paintings in Jammu and Kashmir, 1987, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, plate XL & plate XLI.

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