Rethinking Methodologies: The Problems in Dating the Pahari Paintings and Novel Solutions

The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India

The origins and sequential development of Pahari painting in the North-Western Himalayas has remained controversial in the scholarly discussion. There seems to be no consensus regarding the beginning and development of Pahari painting in terms of style, subject-matter, and iconography. The question of the origin of Pahari painting and its evolution over the course of two centuries is relevant not only in the museum practice, where the categorization of the various schools of Pahari painting is developed for curatorial purposes, but also to understand the social, economic, and political conditions of the various principalities in the north-western Himalayas that led to the emergence of this art form, individually, as well as collectively. This paper focuses on devising new methodologies which could be helpful in ascertaining the chronologies of Pahari painting from the early-17th century to the mid-19th century. The various research strategies that would be applied to develop a holistic methodological framework include: stylistic and formalistic analysis, reinterpretation of iconographies and iconologies, paleographic assessment of Sharada, Takri, Gurmukhi and Persian inscriptions on the paintings, and the sociopolitical and cultural background of the various painting centres.