Saturday, August 31, 2013

India’s Heritage Comes Alive In The Nagaur Fort With Vibrant Fresco Paintings

nagaur fort fresco painting

The art of fresco painting is older than the art of painting on paper. Its oldest expression is in countries like, Italy, Egypt, China and Japan. In India it has been common practice to decorate walls with murals. These walls may be of temples, palaces, forts or residential buildings. Such a practice of decoration must have been an important factor in cultural education of the general public. Many of the private havelis, palaces and forts in Rajasthan bear testimony to this fact.

The mural paintings on the walls of the Nagaur Fort are of especially significance in that in spite of their bad and mutilated condition they display the qualities of good craftsmanship, sensitive imagination and well organized composition, which undoubtedly reveal them to be productions of the brush of some distinguished painters of the late Rajasthani schools.

fresco painting in nagaur fort rajasthan

Nagaur is a district town situated at a distance nearly 84 miles from Jodhpur. The Fort is in the center of the town. The murals in this fort dated back to 1725 from the period during which the town and the fort came under the sway of Rao Bakhatsingh. The paintings may be conveniently date 250 years old.

Folk Tradition of Rajasthan on Nagaur Fort Fresco Painting


In one of the outer courtyards there are murals painted in the folk tradition of Rajasthan. It is significant to note that here in Nagaur Fort there are three distinct schools of Rajasthani mural painting – Mughal with Persian influence, Rajput and folk. The drawing is linear, swift and precise. The brush-strokes are pre-decided and typical of the style of the folk artists. There are variations in the thick and thin brush-strokes. The figures and faces, particularly of females, are stylish; for example the curly hair line from forehead to neck is uniformly drawn in all the female faces. The eyes are depicted in classical Rajasthani style of the lotus, the ‘Khanjan’ bird or the fish.

Subjects of Murals in Nagaur Fort

The subject of these murals are the Holi festival, Krishna legends, scenes from the Ramayana, and ladies with cups of wine in one hand and wine flask in the other. A lady sitting on the terrace leaning against a pillow with a wine jar and a tray of fruit by her side, or a lady standing in a dancing attitude with hands stretched above her head is a common representation in the Nagaur murals.

In the paintings of the ceiling of the ‘Falgun Mahal’, the ceiling is constructed of long sleepers of red sand stone. These are covered first with plaster of ‘chunam’ and sand, and then with a second coating of lime and marble dust. Over this surface the figures are painted in the ‘fresco buono’ style known as Jaipur process. The subject matter of the paintings is ladies floating in the clouds. A very intriguing point is that, of the loving couple, one partner is usually clad in make costume. Incidentally, in Nagaur murals, there is no depiction of a male figure.

fresco painting in nagaur rajasthan

Learn more about Indian cultural heritage art

The Basohli Gita Govindam Art
Ethnic Miniature Paintings of India

The ceiling compositions do not represent any complete theme. They are piecemeal decorations of semi or full figures floating with flying scarves, reminding us of the Tunhuang flying damsels. They do not fly like Ajantan gandharvas, but they seem to dance on cumulus.

The murals in the Zenana Mahal, in the main hall, are distinct in style and character. The eight murals under the pilastered arches of the three main walls are remarkable in their execution. Though there very little of color in these murals their ensemble is superb. The dominating feature of these murals is their linear treatment. The delicate drawing of the figure is done with the brush loaded with black ink, with rare command and accuracy of brush-strokes.


The niches in the walls are decorated with motifs of flowers, fruits and vases. The flowers are those of poppy; the fruits are pomegranate and mango. These niche-decorations can be conveniently called the first ‘still-life’ paintings in Indian art. The peacock, the Indian national bird, is decoratively painted, either independently or perching on tree tops. The crane, the duck and the parrot have their due places in the scheme of painting here.

The wall is constructed in red sandstone. Over it a thick viscous layer of mud, nearly an inch thick, is applied. Over this layer of mudplaster a thin layer of ‘chunam’ is applied, and over this surface the murals are painted in tempera technique. The colors employed are Indian red, black, terreverte-green, light viridian and yellow ochre. The figures are completed in black outlines; and at times the volume and the rotundity of the forms are suggested by the use of line-shading. There is no chiaroscuro treatment.


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