Basholi Paintings


About 80 km. away from the district headquarters of Kathua, nestling among the low lying hills, stands a quaint little settlement, its withered magnificence a mute testimony to the glory it must have been in its heydey. Yet, the fortress town of Basohli, perched magnificently atop a low hill at the edge of a verdant wood has left a mark on the cultural horizon of India. Immortalised by its artistic eminences and their connoisseur patrons, Basohli today is a metaphor for a vigorous, bold and imaginative artistic style, rich, stylish and unconventional.

A style of painting characterized by vigorous use of primary colours and a peculiar facial formula prevailed in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in the foothills of the Western Himalayas in the Jammu and Punjab States. The earliest paintings in this style originated in Basohli from where the style spread to the Hill States of Mankot, Nurpur, Kulu, Mandi, Suket, Bilaspur, Nalagarh, Chamba, Guler and Kangra. The first mention of Basohli painting is in the annual report of the Archaeological Survey of India for the year 1918-19 published in 1921. Referring to the acquisitions of the Archaelogical Section of the Central Museum, Lahore, the report states that “a series of old paintings of the Basohli School were purchased, and the Curator concludes that the Basohli Schools is possibly of pre-Moghul origin, and so called Tibeti pictures are nothing but late productions of this school”.

A large number of paintings with deep red borders painted in a simple and bold style in yellow, blue and red colours were finding their way to the picture markets of Amritsar.