It is at this point that a Kangra ruler impinges on the scene. Raja Sansar Chand (1775—1823) was only ten years old when he succeeded his grandfather, Raja Ghamand Chand. He was so impressed by the latter's masterful spirit, however, that from 1786 his supremacy over other States became unchallenged, much tribute was ruthlessly exacted and his court at Kangra achieved the acme of feudal splendour. Such successes might easily have satisfied the young ruler and if he had followed the example of Ghamand Chand, he might well have remained serenely indifferent to every form of art. He appears, however, to have been that quite exceptional phenomenon, a Rajput ruler who was not only interested in feudal glory but fascinated and entranced by art. At a very early stage, his interest was caught by pictures for, when only 12 or 13, we find him depicted examining the work of several painters and discussing their studies with them. Such interest was to characterize him all his life and even as late as 1820, the English traveller Moorcroft, noted that many artists were still in his employment and went out of his way to stress 'the Raja's fondness for drawing' and his 'large collection of pictures'.
A delight in painting, however, would have been of little significance had not Sansar Chand been keenly alive to certain other cultural movements of his time. 'Raja Sansar Chand' Moorcroft records 'spends the early part of the day in the ceremonies of his religion. The evening is devoted to singing and naching in which the performers recite most commonly Brij Bhakha songs relating to Krishna.' The cult of Krishna seems, in fact, to have had a special fascination for him and we can perhaps connect its appeal with the general nature of Sansar Chand's own life. In the Rajput society into which he was born, ladies were kept in careful seclusion, chastity was prized and the only licit channels for sexual expression were the negotiated bride or the arranged concubine. Romance, in the usual sense of the term, was impossible—it might almost be termed an aberration—and just as in medieval France, the same repressed conditions produced an imaginative release in troubadour poetry, in Rajput society there was a corresponding outlet in the cult and poetry of Krishna.
This cult had its importance from its lack of all connection with ordinary life. Krishna's career among the cowherds of Brindaban was the negation of Rajput propriety while his exploration of romance was the exact reverse of the conduct which would normally have befitted a Rajput and a gentleman. Above all, his passion for Radha, a married woman, glorified the greatest lapse from Rajput morals, adultery. Yet because this conduct was susceptible of religious interpretation - Radha being accepted as a symbol of the soul—the story evoked enthusiastic responses and some of the deepest Rajput wishes obtained imaginative relief. To Sansar Chand, the cult was evidently of quite exceptional significance and it is possible that as in the case of many other patrons, his flair for art was in some mysterious way connected with his attitude to sex. Certainly his delight in the cult of Krishna seems not unrelated to his own romances, for a village song of the Kangra valley speaks of his attachment to a shepherd girl.
The Gaddi was grazing his goats
His daughter was grazing the cows
Seeing her young face
The Raja loved her.
His sensibility seems, in fact, to have expressed itself not only in art and poetry but in a certain sexual romanticism and while in Rajput society the cult of Krishna must frequently have been a 'substitute gratification’, for Sansar Chand it may also have served as a validating sanction, perhaps even as a complement, to his private experiences.