The term, 'Central India', is not in common use in Indian art criticism and in order to understand its importance, we must begin with a brief definition. Bounded on the north by the river Chambal, on the east by the Jumna and on the south by the Narbada, central India comprises a tract of country five hundred miles long and three hundred miles wide. Its western and eastern parts were known as Malwa and Bundelkhand - the latter comprising Datia and Orchha, the former Gwalior, Indore, Ujjain, Mandu and Dhar. In the eighth century Malwa was ruled by Rajputs, from the thirteenth to fifteenth by Muslim Turks, and from 1535 till 1561 by Pathans. From then until the eighteenth century, Mughal governors held fitful charge except when Maratha plunderers established rival governments. During these centuries, the prime unit was the town or court yet, due to one important circumstance, the region was destined to play a vital role in Indian painting. Lying in the centre of India, it served from 1500 onwards as a blender and originator of styles. In the west, the Jains of Gujarat had evolved a special kind of book-illustration. To the east lay Oudh and Jaunpur influenced by Muslim culture. To the north stretched Rajasthan, the powerful state of Mewar sedulously preserving Rajput standards, while south of the Narbada lay the Muslim. Deccan, its northernmost area comprising Khandesh and Ahmadnagar, its eastern-most Golconda, its southern-most Bijapur. All these regions possessed quite different cultures and it was out of their confluence that the art which we term 'CENTRAL INDIAN PAINTING' arose.

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