A number of Hindu Rajput kingdoms like Bikaner, Jodhpur, Bundi, Kota and Mewar patronised Indian art in Rajasthan. Many were deeply influenced by the Mughal style of painting while some deviated from the archetypal style of Mughal miniature. Rajasthani School of painting with its sheer grandeur illustrates a particular school of art which once stood apart in terms of both subject-matter and conception from the exactly the then contemporary work of the artists attached to the courts of the Mughals. Rajasthani schools of painting remained entirely traditional in its magical illustration of the Indian epics and Indian literature. It is therefore certainly not an over statement to say that the development of the Rajasthani schools of painting is the pictorial counterpart of the vernacular literature of India. In this regard Rajasthani schools of painting might be presented as an amalgamation of folk art with hieratic and classic traditions.
However, it was during the rule of Jagat Singh of Mewar in the early 17th century the painter Sahib Din prospered. His studio then stood as the epithet of brilliant art works including the Ramayana and the Ragamala painting. The conflict of Mewar with the Mughals prompted Sahib Din to adopt a whole different format from the Mughal miniature. Borrowed from the palm leaf manuscripts, he used a horizontal format to depict the Ramayana in his paintings. However, the ragmala Paintings were indeed done in rectangular style. Red and ochre dominated the colour palette whilst reminding the style of the classical Indian paintings. The treatment of the eyes was also innovative and far different from the Mughal format. The wide eyes, with black outlining typically recall the pre- Mughal secular text `Caurapanchasika` style of painting. These styles characteristically initiated a whole new facet in the Rajasthani School of painting.
Various types of Rajasthani Schools of painting flourished in Rajasthan from the 16th century onwards. Great names in these schools of paintings are- the Mewar School, Bundi School, Kota School, Bikaner School, Jaipur School, Marwar School and Kishangarh School. Each Rajasthani school of painting has its distinct and unique style whilst representing the hills, colours and palaces of Rajasthan.
The sepia luster of the desert, the scraggy crests, perfumed palaces, court scenes and religious processions are all rendered by these medieval Rajasthani School of paintings. Themes from Ramayana, Krishna Lila, Choura Panchasika Ragamala series and Gita Govinda dominated the art of Rajasthan then. The colors used were extracted from the natural elements like minerals, vegetables, precious stones, conch shells, pure gold and silver.
It was right after the downfall of the Mughal Empire Rajput miniatures flourished under the princely patronage by the successors of the erstwhile craftsmen. The classical element and aura of these paintings still reverberate the conventional artistry of the Rajasthani School of paintings amidst their colour treatment and texture.
It is indeed interesting that in Rajasthan the art of mural painting received a new lease of life with the painting of the havelis and palaces which was then in vogue in the early 18th century. Amongst the Rajasthani schools of painting the school of Kota, Bundi and Bikaner adapted some of the typical conventions of the Mughal miniature. The much followed depictions of these murals are battles and the processions and folk deities. Folk style art was predominant in depicting the art. The murals in the palaces of Bikaner, Udaipur and Bundi are still reckoned as the classical woks of art and artistry of Rajasthani School of painting which has so delicately redefined the art and artistry of India.