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12 Master of the Swirling Skies:

An Anonymous Painter of Jammu • Steven Kossak
32 Mithila Painting: 1949–2014 • David Szanton
44 The Clock is Ticking: The Blue Shores Prison Art
Project • Margaret Mascarenhas & Swatee Nair



56 Mughal Mystique: The Khalili Collection of Islamic Art

 • Anjali Devidayal


66 The Ass Curse Stele Tradition: Gaddhegal of Ancient

Maharashtra • Rupali Mokashi 


76 Hindu Symbolism in Sikh Art: Brickwork in Haveli Naunihal

Singh • HumAIra Iftikhar & Shaukat Mahmood


84 The Magic of India • Nicoletta Celli



90 Midnight to the Boom: Painting in India after Independence,

edited by Susan S. Bean with Homi K. Bhabha • Sasha Altaf
91 Godharis of Maharashtra, Western India, by
Geeta Khandelwal • Marin F. Hanson
93 Art and Icon: Essays on Early Indian Art, by
Devangana Desai • Parul Pandya Dhar 



The thematic advertisement portfolio at the start of this
issue features the National Streets for Performing Arts
(nspa), Mumbai. 

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1 “Krishna and Radha”, attributed to the Master of the Swirling Skies, Jammu,
c. 1720–50. Ink, opaque watercolour and silver on paper; 29.1 x 24.5 cm.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Alvin O. Bellak Collection, 2004-149-33.

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Master of the Swirling Skies

An Anonymous Painter
of Jammu
Steven Kossak

ammu was one of the few hill states whose artistic heritage was
undervalued by W.G. Archer in his landmark Indian Painting from the Punjab
Hills (1973). Nearly 20 years later, B.N. Goswamy and Eberhard Fischer in
their comprehensive work Pahari Masters re-provenanced the early leaves
of the Shangri Ramayana (ascribed by Archer to the principality of Kulu) to
Bahu – a state that split off from but later was re-absorbed into Jammu. This article
will re-examine their assertion and show that another artist, whose paintings Archer
considered a later manifestation of the Kulu kalam, is more likely to have worked in
Jammu as well. An attempt will be made to present an initial oeuvre for this second
unnamed painter, dubbed here the “Master of the Swirling Skies”.

Historical Background
Around 1560, during the reign of Raja Kapur Dev of Jammu, a bitter dispute arose
between his two sons, and Jammu was divided – one son at Bahu fort controlling the
region northwest of the Tawi river, and the other based at Jammu holding sway over
the lands to the southeast of that river. This situation continued into the late 17th/
early 18th century when, for reasons that are unclear, the Bahu maharajas ceded their
ancestral interests to the Jammu princes. There is some evidence that the rajas who
ruled from Bahu were senior and that they were thought of as ruling Jammu state.1
The historical data are slight and there is some doubt as to the date of reunifica-
tion of Jammu and Bahu. In the Vansavali genealogies, Anant (Anand) Dev is referred
to as the last raja of Bahu who ruled 1650–75, but his reign is generally believed to
have extended into the 18th century – the dates of Anand Dev’s rule have been adjus-
ted forward by Archer to c. 1690–1715, and those of his father Kripal Dev (referred to
by Archer as Kirpal Dev) to c. 1660–90. Archer is of the opinion that the transfer of
power must have occurred soon after 1715 – through diplomacy rather than martial
means – citing in support a portrait of Anand Dev of Bahu facing his collateral Dhrub
Dev of Jammu, that can be dated to around 1715 and has an inscription that refers to
Anand Dev as Raja of Jammu and Dhrub Dev as his “rightful brother”.2
The consolidation of the two branches of the family undoubtedly led to increased
economic and martial resources for the Jammu court. Under Raja Dhrub Dev (r. 1703–
35) Jammu became the dominant state in the territory between the Ravi and Chenab
rivers, an area that includes such important contemporaneous art-producing centres
as Basohli and Mankot.
In his account of painting in Kulu, Archer focused his discussion around the late

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17th-century Shangri Ramayana that had been found there (Shangri was an inde-
pendent branch of the royal line of Kulu). More specifically, Archer’s “Style i” formed
the chief stylistic determinant of his Kulu tradition, leading him to group into the
Kulu court oeuvre such later works as the Victoria and Albert’s Ragamala series and
assorted paintings (some of which will be discussed below).3 Among the works pub-
lished under the Kulu oeuvre by Archer is a portrait of Kripal Dev of Bahu and his son,
Anand Dev.4 In contrast, Archer assigned to the early period of Jammu production
(late 17th and early 18th centuries) only a small group of works that are not stylistical-
ly coherent.5 The main portion of his Jammu oeuvre comprised works by Nainsukh,
who worked primarily for Raja Balwant Singh of Jasrota, a small principality in the
southeast of Jammu.
Archer’s categorization in this instance was particularly problematic as Kulu, set
apart by high hills, is about 136 kilometres southeast of Basohli, the hill state that
forms the locus for the birth of an original style of court painting in the second half
of the 17th century. Raja Kripal Pal of Basohli’s patronage of small-scale paintings for
his and/or his court’s delectation seems to have been influential; the production and
appreciation of portable paintings became a rage and the rajas in nearby Bilaspur,
Chamba, Mankot and Nurpur (all within 40 kilometres of Basohli) became artistic
patrons of paintings in a style related to Basohli prototypes. These states, all north of
the Ravi river, were part of the culturally related Dugar Circle, while Kulu was part of
the other group, the Jalandhar Circle.6

The Early Bahu Master

Goswamy and Fischer first asserted that Bahu rather than Kulu was the source of a
portrait of Kripal Dev of Bahu (published by Archer), and an unpublished portrait of
Anand Dev, both of which they ascribed to Archer’s Shangri i Artist (their Early Bahu
Master). They also believed he had painted some pages of the Victoria and Albert
Museum’s Ragamala set, and a few miscellaneous works.7 More recently, this writer
pared down the Early Bahu Master’s oeuvre to his Shangri pages, the portrait of Kripal
Dev and two other works.8
This article will attempt to extend the number of paintings that can be associated
with the Jammu principality. The additional paintings are in a style related to that
of the Early Bahu Master and are here ascribed to the Master of the Swirling Skies.
Some of the paintings that I ascribe to the Master of the Swirling Skies Archer had
already associated with Kulu, as this painter certainly followed in the stylistic foot-
steps of the Early Bahu Master – he may even have belonged to a later generation
of the same family. Two portraits of Bahu-Jammu maharajas are among the works
ascribed to this newly defined painter. Other portraits of a Jammu maharaja, that are
stylistically similar but cannot be ascribed to our master artist, add to the likelihood
that Jammu was in fact an important centre of painting for close to three-quarters of
a century (starting in the 1670s) and that styles derived from the Early Bahu Master
were predominant there.
In order to distinguish the trajectory of the Early Bahu Master’s influence, it is
necessary to briefly consider his style. He participated in the florescence of hill paint-
ing that began in Basohli with the work of the Master of the Early Rasamanjari (act-
ive 1660–90) with whom his works share a like visual splendour that derives from
the juxtaposition of sheets of intense colour embellished by gold and silver (often

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pricked to enhance the effect), raised whites, extravagant patterned surfaces and ex-
uberant depictions of nature. (The use of beetle wing-cases to simulate emeralds only
occurs in works from Basohli.) Unlike the Early Basohli Master, the Early Bahu Master
has a pictorial freedom that exempted him from attempting verisimilitude: architec-
ture does not have to be structurally coherent and forms are manipulated for their
optimum visual impact rather than their mimetic truth.
For example, in a painting from the Shangri Ramayana illustrated here (figure
2), the yellow room at the left in which the protagonists interact is supported only by
large, exuberantly decorated brackets of differing size, the chocolate-brown portal in
which the gate-keeper stands has no uprights but only smaller brackets at the top of
the entrance, while the portal of the orange space at the right is supported by half-col-
umns of baluster form (more closely related to the pillar supports in the Early Rasa-
manjari). The upper palace structure is mainly an agglomeration of rows of decorative
devices of riotous colour surmounted by variously patterned domes, merlons, finials
2 “Rama Instructs Lakshmana
and decorative devices that could not possibly serve as a model for an actual building to Take Sita Away”, painting
but metaphorically create the idea of a palace. The buildings in the Early Rasamanjari from the Shangri Ramayana,
attributed to the Early Bahu
are also patterned but there the decorative devices help to define architectural features
Master (Shangri i), Jammu,
and to clarify the building’s structure. The range of colour used by the Early Bahu 1675–90. Ink, opaque
Master is broader than that seen in early Basohli pages and includes secondary hues watercolour, silver and gold
on paper; 21.6 x 30.5 cm.
such as mauves, pinks and oranges that may point to Deccani influence.9 Kronos Collections,
Whereas the Early Basohli Master portrays a fairly small range of physiometric New York.

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