Pahari painting refers to a painting from the mountainous regions. This is an umbrella term utilized for depicting one of the types of Indian painting. The origins of the Pahari schools are unknown, but it is likely that the Hindu courts of the Himalayan foothills were not as so from the mainstream of Indian life as has been considered hitherto. Some of the earliest miniatures date from about 1650, but the sack of Delhi in the year 1739 provided a significant impetus for the refinement of Pahari art.
The Pahari painting went through various modifications through out its life. The development of the painting of Pahari can broadly be differentiated into three distinct schools; the Basohli School, Guler-Kangra School and Sikh School. The Pahari painting of the Basohli School can be characterized by the use of bold, intense colour and strong profile. It was famous in the valleys of Chamba
, Guler, Kulu and Mandi
. The Rajput as well as the Pahari artists enjoyed detailing clothing, jewellery and landscape for their subjects. More than thirty five hill states of the Himalayas produced miniature paintings. Each produced its own distinctive characteristics, often delicate in outline and pale in colour. One of the most distinguished Pahari paintings was the Kangra School, which flourished from the year 1780 to 1805, and again from the year 1810 to 1823 under the rule of Raja Sansor Chand. A majority of the best examples of this school of Pahari painting depicts the Krishna legend in all its languorous, sensual symbolism. The Kangra School exercised a sizeable amount of local influence on the art of Garhwal
, where paintings in the Kangra School were produced as late as the 1860s.
The Sikh School of Pahari painting in India was the last phase in the process of development of this school of art and was not as elegant as the former schools. With the impact of British rule in India
, the art of Pahari miniature painting died. Few artists obtained employment painting for the British. Pictures of birds, flowers and exotic scenes became popular in Anglo-Indian circles. These `Company paintings` were able to gain high standards. They were also appreciated for their own merits. In the later half of the eighteenth century, European artists like Chinnery, Zoffany and the Daniells travelled most of the parts of India. The exotic landscapes and buildings of India portrayed by them had a significant, if limited, impact on European taste, where Orientalism in architecture as well as painting became fashionable.