Maharaja Man Singh Period

maharaja man singh worshipping jallandharnathji with sri idar kunwar baiji and sri anand kunwar baiji. jodhpur, c.1805. by udai ram. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.

Maharaja Man Singh

Man Singh's ruthless cousin, Maharaja Bhim Singh, had ensured the security of his claim to the throne by eliminating all those of his relatives who had a stronger claim to it than he. Only Man Singh (b.1783, r.1803-43) remained alive, and as a result, he was forced to spend his early life taking refuge in the fort at Jalor. Bijay Singh's pasban (mistress) Gulab Rai had developed an affection for the young Man Singh, and sent him to safety in Jalor with his uncle Sher Singh in 1792. She had been given Jalor by Bijay Singh in 1791 as a retort to the nobles who opposed his fondness for her, but she was murdered in 1792 by Thakur Sawai Singh of Pokaran and Thakur Nawal Singh of Pali, acting on Bhim Singh's orders.

Bhim Singh laid siege to Jalor in 1798, and Man Singh appealed to the rulers of Jaisalmer and Palanpur for support. Bhim Singh's forces, under the command of Akhai Raj, occupied most of Jalor. Bhim's position was further strengthened in 1801, when his sister married Maharaja Pratap Singh of Jaipur. Man Singh attempted to distract the . besieging forces by getting his troops to plunder the rich market town of Pali, but Bhim's troops overtook and defeated them.

In 1803 Bhim Singh issued an ultimatum that his nephew should surrender and vacate Jalor Fort by the festival of Diwali that year. Man Singh's position seemed hopeless, but Bhim Singh's unexpected and opportune death at the height of the siege in 1803 freed the twenty-year old Man Singh and enabled him to claim the throne of Jodhpur. An impressive large painting in Jodhpur shows his procession coming from Jalor to claim the gaddi of Jodhpur. An inscription on the reverse explains that the procession is led by local thakurs, notably those of Raipur and Balunda, who had brought a letter to Man Singh formally requesting him to occupy the throne of Jodhpur.

maharaja man singh visiting his spritual advisor ayas devnath at mahamandir. jodhpur, c.1810.

Maharaja Man Singh visiting his spritual advisor Ayas Devnath at Mahamandir. Jodhpur, c.1810. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

thakur sawai singh of pokaran. jodhpur, c.1830.

Thakur Sawai Singh of Pokaran. Jodhpur, c.1830. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

Man Singh's reign was severely complicated by two factors: the first was the intriguing of the powerful Champawat chief, the Thakur of Pokaran, Sawai Singh, to dethrone him and place the posthumous heir of Bhim Singh on the throne; the second was the conflict between the self-seeking factions of the religious sect of the Nath yogis (literally 'lords) and the scheming mercenary Amir Khan Pindari. As Tod remarks, 'posthumous births are neverfailing germs of discord in these [Rajput] states, and the claim of Bhim Singh's posthumous son to the gaddi of Jodhpur was used to alienate Man Singh from many of his nobles and to lead him to the brink of losing his throne. Bhim Singh had died childless, but one of his wives, Rani Derawari, was pregnant at the time of his death. A faction of nobles led by Sawai Singh of Pokaran opposed Man Singh's right to rule, and supported the posthumous child as Bhim Singh's rightful heir. Sawai Singh's hostility to Man Singh stemmed from the murder of both his grandfather, Devi Singh, and his father, Sabal Singh, at the orders of Maharaja Bijay Singh. Devi Singh was a son of Maharaja Ajit Singh, who had been adopted by the Champawat clan and given the rulership of the powerful fief of Pokaran.

maharaja man singh coming in procession from jalor to claim the throne of jodhpur. jodhpur, c.1810. by bhatti dana.

Maharaja Man Singh coming in procession from Jalor to claim the throne of jodhpur. Jodhpur, c.1810. By Bhatti Dana. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

In a sequence of events which perhaps consciously recalled Air Singh's dramatic infancy, Bhim Singh's son was whisked' away to safety by Sawai Singh and his supporters, and given the name Dhonkal Singh: 'born of strife'. Tod describes Sawai Singh as the first in power though only of secondary rank among the Champawats' (the Thakur of Awa held the first rank), and quotes his famous boast that he held the fortunes of Marwar in the sheath of his dagger.

Sawai Singh had informed the other chiefs of the Rani's pregnancy, and persuaded them to sign a pledge that if the child was male they would help place the boy on the Jodhpur throne. They also made Man Singh agree to give the boy the rulership of Nagaur and Siwana. Two years passed before Sawai Singh made his move, and asked the maharaja to fulfil his promise and grant Dhonkal Singh Nagaur and Siwana. Man Singh did not accept proof of the child's parentage, and Sawai Singh's supporters also backed down when the supposed mother herself disowned the child. Sawai Singh had to concede defeat on this occasion, but he was already planning a greater intrigue that would further his cause against Man Singh.

This involved Krishna Kumari, the daughter of the Rana of Mewar, who had been promised in marriage to Bhim Singh. The Rana would have been willing for Man Singh to marry her after Bhim Singh's death, but Man Singh's occupation of Ghanerao, on the border between Mewar and Marwar, antagonised him, and he offered his daughter in marriage to Maharaja Jagat Singh of Jaipur instead. Sawai Singh encouraged the 'voluptuous' Jagat Singh to accept, and Jagat Singh acted on this advice. Plans for the wedding started to take place. Sawai Singh then pointed out to Man Singh that the princess was rightfully his bride as his cousin's successor to the throne, and that the honour of Jodhpur was at stake. Man Singh also apparently acted on Sawai Singh's words, and mustered several thousand horsemen to stop Jagat Singh's wedding gifts from reaching Udaipur.

Taking advantage of this rift between Jodhpur and Jaipur, Sawai Singh took the young pretender Dhonkal Singh to Jaipur, where his claim to the throne of Jodhpur was supported, partly because of the blood relationship of Dhonkal Singh to the maharaja. Several powerful and hitherto loyal Rathor chiefs now turned against Man Singh and rallied to Dhonkal's cause, as did Maharaja Surat Singh of Bikaner. With Man Singh now only supported by the four chiefs of Kuchaman, Ahor, Jalor and Nimaj, and aided by some troops from Bundi, the two sides met in March 1807 at Gingoli. Dispirited at the defection of his nobility, Man Singh apparently tried to commit suicide, but was stopped by Shivnath Singh Mertia of Kuchaman, who advised him to flee on his horse.

amir khan on a dappled horse. jodhpur, c.1815.

Amir Khan on a dappled horse. Jodhpur, c.1815. Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Man Singh was allowed to reach Jodhpur and prepared for a siege. He managed to gather some 5,000 troops, including the militant Vaishnavite ascetics the Bishanswamis under Kaimdas. Jagat Singh's troops besieged Jodhpur for five months, but Sawai Singh and his military leader Amir Khan fell out over the lack of funds to pay the troops. The four chiefs who had originally supported Man Singh had been driven away by his increasing paranoia and distrust, but, with the help of two lakhs of rupees provided by the Rathor Raja of Kishangarh, they persuaded Amir Khan to abandon Sawai Singh and Dhonkal Singh and support the Jodhpur maharaja instead. This he did, and his mercenaries defeated the forces of Sawai Singh and Jaipur.

Amir Khan undertook to crush Sawai Singh's revolt conclusively in return for huge payments that were to deplete Man Singh's finances critically. He led Sawai Singh to believe that he would put Dhonkal Singh on the throne if enough money was offered. On March 30th, 1808, Sawai Singh and some 500 of his supporters were invited to Amir Khan's camp near Nagaur, where they were entertained in a huge tent. Amir Khan left the tent, and at a given signal the tent ropes were cut, and 42 of the chiefs, including Sawai Singh himself, were killed by Amir Khan's men. Dhonkal Singh, who was not present at the massacre, fled from Nagaur. As promised, Amir Khan received another huge sum in payment from Man Singh, as well as the villages of Mundiawar and Kuchilawas which gave him substantial annual incomes.

Jagat Singh now sought a peaceful treaty with Jodhpur, and it was agreed that he would cease to support Dhonkal Singh. In addition, he was to marry Man Singh's daughter, and Man Singh was to marry his. Krishna Kumari was now an embarrassment to these negotiations, and in 1810 Amir Khan was despatched to Udaipur to have her killed. She died of poison, reputedly by her own hand.

Amir Khan's power in Marwar was now immense. An Afghan who came from Moradabad, he was a Pindari freebooter loosely attached to the Maratha army. He had been given the revenue of the pargana (district) of Sironj by the Maratha ruler, and had risen in power by agreeing to side with whoever offered him the most money. Man Singh treated him with extravagant generosity, presumably in a misguided bid to buy his loyalty. In spite of Amir Khan's huge wealth, however, his was not the most influential voice on matters of state: this belonged to Man Singh's religious advisor, Ayas Devnath .

nath yogis in the himalayas. jodhpur, c.1820. brush drawing with water-colour

Nath yogis in the Himalayas. Jodhpur, c.1820. Brush drawing with water-color, Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

From his childhood, when at the age of nine he had been sent for safety to Jalor, Man Singh had been under the influence of the Nath sect of yogis. Known as kanphata (split ears) because of their distinctive large ear-rings, the Nath yogis belonged to a sect whose earliest teachers were Matsyendranath, Jallandharnath and Gorakhnath, although its legendary founder was Adinath, revered by Nath yogis as the supreme entity, from which the god Shiva later evolved. The sect assumed widespread popularity in the tenth century under Gorakhnath, who laid stress on the acquisition of knowledge through yoga. Many Nath yogis claimed miraculous powers, and attracted large numbers of followers, including the rulers of several Rajput clans. The rajas of Jaisalmer, Jalor and Jaipur had all been followers of the Naths, and important clans such as the Champawats and Kumpawats in Marwar were devoted to them. Their centres were scattered all over India, but Jalor was the largest centre in Marwar. The young Man Singh was taught there by a Nath pandit named Shambudatta Joshi. Avas Devnath was the head priest of the sect at Jalor, and became committed to Man Singh's cause against Bhim Singh, travelling around the area collecting funds and food for Man Singh and gathering support.

When, in 1803, Bhim Singh ordered Man Singh to surrender and leave Jalor Fort, Devnath prophesied that Man Singh would be ruler of Jodhpur before the feast of Diwali in October. This seemed an unfulfillable prophecy until news came of Bhim Singh's unexpected death, days before the deadline. As Tod eloquently expresses it: Whether the intercession of this exalted personage [Devnath] was purely of a moral nature, as asserted, or whether Raja Bhim was removed from this vain world to the heaven of Indra by means less miraculous than prayer is a question on which various opinions are entertained... A dose of poison, it is said, was deemed a necessary adjunct to render efficacious the prayers of the pontiff'.

Overwhelmed by Devnath's apparent powers, Man Singh vowed to rule only by Nath precepts and with his guru at hand to advise him at all times. Man Singh treated Devnath as if he were a maharaja, according him the utmost respect? and bestowing villages on him and on his four brothers who had accompanied him to Jodhpur . In 1804, a huge new temple complex was started at the Naths' headquarters in jodhpur. Known as Mahamandir, 'the great temple, the fortified enclosure contained 577 houses and could accommodate 2,500 people. Many more smaller temples were ordered to be built throughout Marwar. With the initiation of Man Singh into the Nath sampradaya (sect) at Mahamandir in 1905. Jodhpur began to attract large numbers of Nath yogis, who were honoured, fed, and given money.

nath dignitaries in procession. jodhpur, c1810.

Nath dignitaries in procession. Jodhpur, c1810. Formerly in the Ehrenfeld Collection.

Avas Devnath was more than a spiritual preceptor to Man Singh. He became indispensable to the young maharaja in diplomatic and political matters, effecting reconciliations between Jodhpur and the alienated neighbour states of Bikaner and Jaipur in 1808 and 1810 respectively. He was aided in administering the state by Singhvi Indarraj, who had been appointed on Devnath's advice. The rise to absolute power by Devnath and Indarraj and the confidence the ruler bestowed on them naturally won them enemies among the traditional hereditary nobility of Marwar. The rapacious Amir Khan was also no ally of Indarraj as he refused to comply with Amir's continuous demands for money, even on one occasion overriding Man Singh's offer of villages in lieu of cash. A group of discontented thakurs conspired with Devnath's ambitious brother Suratnath to murder both of the maharaja's confidants, and offered Amir Khan seven lakhs of rupees to perform the deed. Amir Khan earned his fee by deputing a group of his Afghan troops to pick a quarrel with Devnath and Indarraj, ostensibly over arrears of pay, and during the quarrel, on October 9th, 1815, they were both murdered in the khwabgab (sleeping chamber) in Jodhpur Fort.

Man Singh was devastated at his guru's death. He withdrew from affairs of state and became a virtual recluse in his palace. In 1817, another of Devnath's unscrupulous brothers, Bhimnath, persuaded Man Singh to place the heir apparent Chhattar Singh on the throne, knowing that he would be an ineffectual and easily manipulated ruler but, in Tod's words, youth and base panders to his pleasure seduced him from his duties', and Chhattar Singh died, in unclear circumstances, in 1818. The death of his only son increased Man Singh's paranoia and distaste for life at court, and he refused to discuss affairs of state or even to speak to anyone but his wife.

The running of the state was left in the hands of the ruthless Bhimnath, who wielded great power in spite of never having been installed on the gaddi of Mahamandir, and a few nobles, chief among them being Salim Singh, the son of Man Singh's old adversary Sawai Singh of Pokaran, and the Diwan Akhai Chand. These ministers (Tod calls them the Pokaran faction') turned to the Raja of Idar in Gujarat to ask whether a son of that line could be adopted into Jodhpur as maharaja in place of Man Singh, but the Idar ruler would not agree without the unanimous support of the Jodhpur nobles. Instead, Man Singh entered into a treaty with the British in 1818, which supported his rule and offered him troops to restore order in his kingdom. Amir Khan was expelled from Marwar, but given the title Nawab of Tonk. Man Singh's strongly anti-British sentiments did not allow him to make use of the British aid that was offered, and when James Tod was appointed agent for Marwar in 1819 he found the Pokaran faction' still in power.

maharaja kumar chhattar singh()1800-18), son of man singh, at archery practice. jodhpur, c.1815. private collection.

Maharaja Kumar Chhattar Singh(1800-18), son of Man Singh, at archery practice. Jodhpur, c.1815. Private Collection. 

But Man Singh emerged violently from his seclusion to turn on the corrupt officials who had taken advantage of the chaos in the kingdom, and he put to death Akhai Chand as well as the commander of the fort and several others who had supported Chhattar Singh's rule. Several of Akhai Chand's associates, such as Surthan Singh of Nimaj, were hunted down and killed, but Salim Singh Pokaran managed to avoid his father's fate.

Following these purges, Man Singh appointed as diwan, Fateh Raj, the brother of his late diwan Indarraj. But his swing towards cold blooded violence and revenge repelled many of the Marwar chiefs, who left the kingdom to live in neighbouring states. Dhonkal Singh made a final unsuccessful attempt from Jaipur to take the Jodhpur throne in 1827, and in 1839 the British army under Colonel Sutherland effectively took over in Jodhpur. The chief Naths were banished from Marwar in 1842 and the remainder were arrested by the political agent, Captain Ludlow, an event which so distressed Man Singh that he reverted to solitary reclusiveness and lived as a yogi until his death on September 4th, 1843.

Throughout his reign, Man Singh had been manipulated" and threatened by unscrupulous fortune-hunters such as the family of his guru and the mercenary Amir Khan. His inability to overpower them, and the ineffectiveness of the faithful diwans he appointed, combined with personal tragedies such as the murder of Ayas Devnath in 1815 and the death of his son in 1818, drove him to despair and possibly insanity.

But by all accounts, including those of the British whose interference he so strongly opposed, Man Singh was a cultivated and intelligent man, who spoke Hindi better than it was spoken in Delhi, who wrote religious and erotic poetry, and who patronized literature, painting and music at his splendid court. All this however, was combined with the ruthlessness common to all his predecessors, whose treatment of enemies and turncoats was unforgivingly cruel.

The paintings of the reign of Maharaja Man Singh are characterized by an exuberant and colourful vitality, in both secular and religious illustrations, which is hard to reconcile with the personal, political and financial turmoil which troubled Man Singh's rule. Hundreds of paintings of palace activities, festivals and pastimes imply that Man Singh's court was not plunged into despondency, even while the ruler himself was acting as an unbalanced recluse. We know that a proportion of these palace scenes were painted for nobles at court such as Thakur Ajit Singh of Ghanerao, for example, rather than the maharaja himself, and the custom of artists presenting paintings as nazar at court at certain festivals such as Holi and Diwali would also account for a further abundance of paintings.

Life at court provided subject matter for a wide range of scenes of pleasure and festivity. When James Tod visited Jodhpur in 1819, he was very impressed with the splendour of Man Singh's court, and describes how 'a display of grandeur met our view for which we were totally unprepared'' He goes on: 'Here everything is imitative of the imperial court of Delhi', although he found some of the architecture of the palace ‘more massive than elegant. In these pillared halls of audience the formal ceremonies of the court took place. Paintings showing Man Singh in darbar with his assembled nobles are relatively rare, presumably because he was at loggerheads with most of them over his adulation of the Naths. An unusual depiction of the rajtilak or enthronement of Man Singh is in Umaid Bhavan Palace. Painted by Amar Das, one of Man Singh's most prolific artists, it shows the Thakur of Bagri administering the tilak, or mark of sandal paste on the forehead, to the new maharaja in 1803. This honour had, according to tradition, been hereditary in the Bagri ruling family since 1458 when Rao Jodha's elder brother Akhairaj gave Jodha the rulership of Jodhpur and accepted the lowly jagir of Bagri for himself.

the rajtilak of maharaja man singh. jodhpur, c.1805. by amar das

The rajtilak(enthronement) of Maharaja Man singh. Jodhpur, c.1805. By Amar Das. (partly unfinished). Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

a noble, probably pratap singh of ghanerao, with ladies in a banana grove. jodhpur, c. 1825. private collection.

A noble, probably Pratap Singh of Ghanerao, with ladies in a banana grove. Jodhpur, c. 1825. Private Collection.

Less formal occasions were recorded in huge numbers. A painting in the National Museum of Man Singh seated on a throne, listening to female musicians is based closely on that of Abhai Singh by Dalchand. The Man Singh version, however, typifies the difference between 18th- and 19th-century painting in Jodhpur through its stiffness in drawing and colouring, which is quite lacking from .

Dalchand's original, in spite of its late Mughal formality. Any copy of an earlier painting is liable to dullness because of its necessary lack of spontaneity, but many original works by Man Singh's artists, though technically competent, suffer from the same stilted effect.

Garden settings remained popular for paintings of the maharaja and his foremost nobles. A painting of Raja Akhai Raj in a private collection10 shows the nobleman seated at the centre of a formal garden smelling a bunch of flowers, surrounded by his attendants, while another servant plucks fruit from the trees. An ash-smeared hermit incongruously lurks in a clearing.

Akhai Raj was originally a supporter of Bhim Singh, but had come over to support Man Singh before he gained the throne. A grand processional scene inscribed with Akhai Raj's name and dated to 1827 was on the art market some years ago. Garden scenes could also be used as illustrations to ragas, and although so far no complete ragamala of Man Singh's reign has come to light, individual scenes occasionally bear references to appropriate ragas or raginis.

Splendid garden setting, in which vegetation threatens to overwhelm the human subjects, is seen in an imaginative painting of a noble, probably the young Pratap Singh, son of Thakur Ajit Singh of Ghanerao, with ladies in a banana grove. The vitality of the curving banana leaves is much closer to the spontaneity of some 18th-century paintings than the stiff court scenes of Man Singh's reign. The noble’s white jama and the white cushions and floorspread on which he sits make an excellent focal point among the greenery.

Thakur Ajit Singh of Ghanerao (r.1800-56) was one of the most prolific patrons of paintings of Man Singh's reign. Like his predecessors Padam Singh, Viram Dev and Durjan Singh, he obviously had a great fondness for being portrayed in darbar and in more informal situations. Some of the paintings of Ajit Singh are clearly by Jodhpur artists, and indeed several are signed by them, and they can often be confused with portraits of Man Singh himself. None are as idiosyncratic as some of the paintings done for earlier Ghanerao thakurs, but one or two deviate from the strict Jodhpur norm. One impressive garden scene in which Ajit Singh sits in darbar facing his son, Kr Pratap Singh, is signed by the artist Raso and dated VS 1882/ AD 1825. Although it inevitably shows many characteristically Jodhpuri features - the curling skirts of the women, the use of contrasting striped textiles to draw attention to the area around the ruler - the whole painting has a lively and individual feeling which is considerably freer than an equivalent Jodhpur darbar of this period, although Raso seems also to have worked at the Jodhpur court as a Nath painting bears his name. The inscription on the reverse identifies all the main participants in the scene, including the artist himself, who is seated, second from the right, wearing a black turban. A painting of Ajit Singh by Man Singh's court artist Dana is dated VS 1868/AD 1811. According to an inscription on the reverse, it shows Ajit Singh watching a dance performance at the Thakur of Nimbaj's haveli in Jodhpur, although the host is not included in the painting. This night scene, with its snail-shell clouds and bursts of lightning snaking across the sky, is a lively one, and touches like the tiny child . (perhaps the young Pratap Singh) and the extravagant huqqa-base add to the painting's charm. Dana painted several more pictures of Ajit Singh, including a darbar of · VS 1868/AD 1811, an undated Gangaur procession and a hunt scene, also of VS 1868/AD 1811. Portraits by other artists include a scene of Ajit Singh performing puja in a : garden pavilion

thakur ajit singh of ghanerao in darbar with his son kr pratap singh. ghanerao, dated vs 1882/ad 1825. by raso.

Thakur Ajit Singh of Ghanerao in darbar with his son Kr Pratap Singh. Ghanerao, dated VS 1882/AD 1825. By Raso.

Ajit Singh was by no means the only thakur to relish having his portrait painted. A scene very close in style to Dana's painting of Ajit Singh's nautch party is of a rather grander gathering of the Thakur of Chandawal, dated VS 1872/ AD 1815. Again set in the rainy season, the white architecture and clothes of the assembled nobles contrast dramatically with the dark rainy sky and rolling black clouds. The painting is not inscribed with an artist's name. but may be attributed to Dana by comparison with his contemporary paintings of Ajit Singh. An artist named Rai Singh Bhatti painted a somewhat stereotyped but lively hunt scene showing Khushal Singh, son of Sujan Singh of Ranawat, hunting boar with four companions. It is dated VS 1865/AD 1808, and the inscription on the reverse states that it was bought from Paota (now part of Jodhpur) for Rs.11.

Two splendid darbar scenes were done for Thakur Nawal Singh of Pali. Both are striking compositions of rows of nobles radiating out from Nawal Singh and his brother Giyan Singh seated in the centre. Most of the sitters are identified on the reverse of the paintings. Both are datable to the early years of the 19th century, partially on stylistic grounds but also because of the fact that Giyan Singh was murdered in 1808 by Amir Khan in retaliation for his support of the pretender Dhonkal Singh. Both the brothers seem to have opposed Man Singh, as Nawal Singh himself was an ally of Sawai Singh of Pokaran, and was instrumental in the murder in 1792 of Man Singh's protector Gulab Rai. One of the pair of paintings is set on a terrace with a view of trees and sky, but the Bharat Kala Bhavan picture omits any external detail and concentrates on the formalized rows of nobles. These paintings are obviously in a direct line of descent from the darbar scenes of the mid-18th century, which use similarly bold shapes and colours and very little detail.

the thakur of chandawal in darbar. jodhpur, dated vs 1872/ ad 1815. attributed to dana.

The Thakur of Chandawal in darbar. Jodhpur, dated VS 1872/ AD 1815. Attributed to Dana. Collection of the late Sangram Singh Nawalgarh.

thakur nawal singh of pali in darbar. jodhpur, c.1805-8.

Thakur Nawal Singh of Pali in darbar. Jodhpur, c.1805-8. Bharat Kala Bhavan, Banaras.

Activities of the court such as hunting or indulging in games were frequently portrayed by Man Singh's artists. A cleverly composed polo game shows the nimbate maharaja and three companions vying for the ball with long hooked sticks which have been used as the key element in the design of the painting. An attractive sketch of a young noble on a prancing horse could well be a preliminary drawing for a similar scene. A horse with an exaggerated version of the upturned nose seen in this drawing is the subject of a curious portrait of a noble or official riding against a green background. Perhaps intended as a caricature of both horse and rider, it shows a lugubriouslooking courtier perched on a huge grey horse.

Several different versions exist of paintings showing Man Singh or his successor Takhat Singh riding a rotating ferris wheel in the company of ladies. This in subiect seems to have been surprisingly popular, and the wheel is seen in garden and palace settings. Another unconventional pastime represented in paintings is that playing on swings, an activity usually associated with ladi the Tij festival. In one painting, it is not Man Sin himself who is doing the swinging, but he is watching smilingly as a nobleman flies past, the skirts of his jama blowing open.

a young man on a prancing horse. jodhpur, c.1830. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.

A Young man on a prancing horse. Jodhpur, c.1830. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur. 

maharaja man singh and nobles playing polo. jodhpur, 1830. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.

Maharaja Man Singh and nobles playing polo. Jodhpur, 1830. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

Hunting expeditions were often performed in the company of the ladies of the zenana. A large painting shows Man Singh riding with a large assembly of female guards, all mounted on camels. The central figures of the maharaja and his lady on camel-back seems to have been inspired by the traditional form of the Dhola Maru illustration in which the two lovers escape on their came. Female company is again enjoyed by Man Singh in an unusually lively scene in which he is shown swimming in a square pool in the centre of a garden. The red clothes of the ladies and the green of the vegetation are almost the only colours, amongst which the maharaja's white-clad figure is conspicuous in four different parts of the painting.

maharaja man singh riding with a female retinue. jodhpur, c.1830-40. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.

Maharaja Man Singh riding with a female retinue. Jodhpur, c.1830-40. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur. 

maharaja man singh swimming with ladies in a garden pool. jodhpur, c.1820.

Maharaja Man Singh swimming with ladies in a garden pool. Jodhpur, c.1820. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

Festivals always provided subject matter for the artists of the Rajput courts, and the most commonly painted festival is that of Holi. Many variations on both Man Singh and Takhat Singh playing Holi survive, some of them quite ambitious in scale and composition. Although the participants in this scene are seated decorously, the impression is one of riotous colour. Some of Man Singh's Holi scenes are much more sedate, and in some he even passively receives a squirt of coloured water from a seated Nath yogi.

Lesser festivals of the Hindu calendar are also marked by lavish ceremonial and painted representations: certain auspicious days of the year required ritual clothes and even ritual food, and these are recorded in several large paintings. At Akha Tij, on the third day of the bright half of the month of Vaisakh, the maharaja and his courtiers all wore saffroncoloured clothes, and a special darbar was held at which the ruler received gifts (nazar) from his nobles and ladies.21 At Sharad Purnima, on the full moon of the month of Asoj, all the decorations and costumes were white, and celebrations were held in the moonlight. Even white food, in the form of khir, a sweet rice dish, was offered. Another painting of this group, also at Umaid Bhavan, shows Man Singh and his ladies all in black. This shows the festival of Kajali Tij, during the rainy season. The dark costumes of the participants echo the cloudy sky, and the greenery, flourishing in the rains, adds to the almost oppressive atmosphere.

maharaja man singh and his court celebrating sharad purnima. jodhpur, c.1830. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.

Maharaja Man Singh and his court celebrating Sharad Purnima. Jodhpur, c.1830. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

maharaja man singh playing holi in a palace courtyard. jodhpur, c.1830. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.

Maharaja Man Singh playing Holi in a palace courtyard. Jodhpur, c.1830. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur. 

Smaller gatherings of Man Singh with a lady were also produced. A painting by the artist Magni Ram is saved from excessive stiffness by the use of boldly-striped cushions and textiles, but in general the more static scenes of small gatherings tend to be lacking in imaginative treatment. A frequent context for paintings of small groups was the barahmasa which, in contrast to the surprising lack of ragamala illustrations done for Man Singh. was apparently a popular one at the court.

Some conventional court scenes of Man Singh with ladies are identifiable as barahmasa subjects only by inscriptions relating to a certain month on the reverse. One such is by Shankar Das, and shows Man Singh with ladies on a palace terrace. It is inscribed with the name of the month of Baisakh. Others illustrate the characteristic attributes of the month more prominently, a practice particularly common in illustrations of the month of Jyestha, which is recognizable by the inclusion of an elephant. A group of barahmasa paintings, with Man Singh as the main protagonist, is inscribed to Bhatti Shiv Das, and is datable to about 1830.

maharaja man singh seated with a lady. jodhpur, c.1830. by magni ram. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.

Maharaja Man Singh seated with a lady. Jodhpur, c.1830. By Magni Ram. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

Continuing the fashion that had reached a peak in the mid18th century, Man Singh's artists produced hundreds of portraits of the local thakurs on their horses. Some of these are splendid paintings, in which the static formality of the Man Singh style lends itself very well to a conventional idiom such as the equestrian portrait. One such is the painting of Umaid Singh Jagmalot of Nagar, which uses bold colours and strong lines that fill the whole frame of the painting. Sometimes the equestrian portrait can incorporate other figures, as in the painting of the young musaddi Budmalji on horseback, preceded by armed retainers. This painting shows certain affinities with Bundi paintings of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, although we do not have evidence of Bundi artists working in Jodhpur, nor of Bundi paintings entering the Jodhpur collection. The musaddis or mutsaddis were civil administrative officers who had considerable power in the state although they came from non-Rajput communities. A very similar painting is in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

musaddi budmalji with an armed guard. jodhpur, c.1820. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.

Musaddi Budmalji with an armed guard. Jodhpur, c.1820. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

The vogue for paintings of solitary ladies had declined at the beginning of the 19th century, but a few were still being produced, notably by Amar Das. A very competent picture of a lady at her toilet is inscribed Amar Das Narayandasot on the reverse, with the date Monday, the 4th day of the bright half of Asoj, VS 1884/AD 1827. Decorative paintings like this were often given to the maharaja as nazar on certain occasions, and the specific date suggests that this may have been the case with this painting. Bundi influence is again apparent in this painting, which shows strong affinities with works of the same subject from the so-called 'white period of Bundi painting, although this seems to have developed somewhat earlier in Bundi (c.1760-75) than the date of the Amar Das painting.

a lady at her toilet with a maid. jodhpur, dated vs 1884/ ad 1827. by amar das. collection of the late sangram singh nawalgarh.

A lady at her toilet with a maid. Jodhpur, dated vs 1884/ AD 1827. By Amar Das. Collection of the late Sangram Singh Nawalgarh.

It seems very likely that paintings from other schools, including Bundi, were in the Jodhpur collection and available for study by the court artists. A fanciful portrait of the Mughal empress Nur Jahan by the same artist shows the characteristic up-swept eyes and small mouth of the Man Singh style. One of the best examples of the genre is a delightful painting in the Bharat Kala Bhavan in which two ladies are shown admiring the crescent moon. The mildly erotic theme of female embrace is continued in several other paintings of the time, probably also nazar paintings. One of the finest is in the National Museum, New Delhi : it uses intense colours and shading to heighten the sybaritic atmosphere of the scene.

As well as 'thousands of meditational songs and bhajans," Man Singh is known to have composed several erotic literary works. The interest in sexual subjects in the early 19th century is borne out by a curious series of erotic paintings signed by the artists Bhatti Dana, Amar Das and Shiv Das, and dated to the VS 1880s (approx. AD 1820s). Most of the paintings in this group, which appeared on the London art market in 1977-8, are not very distinguished, although some have had more care spent on them than others. A peeping Tom scene, reminiscent of similar scenes from the Persian romance Farhad and Shirin, by Bhatti Amar Das, dated VS 1882/AD 1825, is one of the more decorative. Perhaps it is significant that it is also one of the least explicitly erotic in content, and could be classed with the highly decorated pictures of the ruler at leisure with the palace ladies rather than the starkly depicted couplings such as one of lovers on a swinging seat by his son Bhatti Dana done at about the same time.

More than the actual content of these paintings, their interest lies in the inscriptions that almost all of them carry on the reverse. Not only are they inscribed with the artist's name and frequently the date, but also with his patronymic. Although the artists' genealogy can in many cases be traced through inscriptions on other paintings, these erotic works are unusually informative in this manner. Thus, Bhatti Dana is called Bhatti Dana Amardasot – 'Bhatti Dana son of Amar Das'. Amar Das is named as the son of Narayan Das, not apparently a known artist himself, and Bhatti Shiv Das as the son of Udai Ram, whose portraits of Maharaja Bijay Singh and Man Singh are also in Jodhpur Palace.

begum nur jahan. jodhpur, c.1825-30. by amar das. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.

Begum Nur Jahan. Jodhpur, c.1825-30. By Amar Das. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

two ladies gazing at the moon. jodhpur, c.1830. bharat kala bhavan, banaras.

Two ladies gazing at the moon. Jodhpur, c.1830. Bharat Kala Bhavan, Banaras.

two ladies embracing. jodhpur, c.1830-40. national museum, new delhi.

Two ladies embracing. Jodhpur, c.1830-40. National Museum, New Delhi.

From other individual paintings further information can be gathered which sheds light on the apparently hereditary aspect of the court painter's profession. A portrait of Takhat Singh dated VS 1902/AD 1845 is ascribed to Bhatti Babhuta, son of Dana, while another of Dana's sons is identified by the inscription on folio 32 of the Shiva Purana series in Jodhpur Palace which reads madhe dane re kino - Madha (son) of Dana made it. A similar formula for expressing the father-son relationship of two artists is used of the same set: chitare dane amra ri kino - 'the artist Dana [Son] of Amra made it - which seems to underline the unequivocal Dana Amardasot ('Dana son of Amar Das”) used in the erotic painting inscriptions. Thus, for at least one family of artists, we can construct a genealogy of four.

The artist Shiv Das and his father Udai Ram also bear the community name 'Bhatti', which, as well as being the clan name of the ruling house of Jaisalmer, also refers to an artisan Community originally from Jaisalmer, but which settled found Jodhpur. 33 It is probably from such a community that these families of artists came.

Several of the erotic paintings overlap the boundar the genre paintings current in Jodhpur around gruesome and not very well-painted scene of mur. rape at the hands of Nadir Shah's troops by Amar VS 1885/AD 182834 illustrates this tendency. As a invaded Delhi in 1739, Amar Das was probably wor from an original contemporary with the event. A pa Amar Das's son Dana, dated in the same year, shows violent scene in which a husband returns home to wife with another man and takes his revenge by killi man and, imminently, his wife. This painting seems to h copy of an earlier work attributed to the artist Ganga and it is likely that he also provided the original for the Am Das painting. Gangaram was working in the second cu of the 18th century, probably in Mewar; his ghoulish taste for violent and disturbing subjects is illustrated by two further works formerly in the Khajanchi collection.

The most popular subjects for humorous genre scenes since the seventeenth century were spurious holy men and opium addicts. Variations on this theme occur in most of the Rajasthani schools of painting, although where the fashion started is not clear. There are several Mughal paintings of groups of holy men, but they lack the element of ridicule which is always present in the Rajput pictures. Some later Mughal pictures depict groups of yogis indulging in bhang (drink containing cannabis) or opium sessions, and this theme continued in both the Rajasthani and Pahari

The subject appears to have been treated by several Jodhpur artists. A painting by Juni shows a group of typically inept opium addicts surrounding a rat apparently with intent to kill it. A related painting in Jodhpur Fort shows a similar but better painted group of misfits brandishing swords and guns at another rat who sits unconcernedly under a tree. A curiously grinning portrait inscribed as that of a Habshi or Abyssinian, by Moti Ram, continues a widespread tradition of caricature popular since Mughal times when foreigners, usually Europeans, were the most frequent subject for ridicule. The use of the jharokha portrait, with its strong association with royal portraiture, adds to the satirical edge of the painting.

a group of opium eaters threatening a rat. jodhpur, c.1830-40. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.

A group of opium eaters threatening a rat. Jodhpur, c.1830-40. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

a habshi(abyssinian). jodhpur, c.1820-30. by moti ram. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.

A habshi(Abyssinian). Jodhpur, c.1820-30. By Moti Ram. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

Paintings of the Naths

Paintings of the Naths Man Singh's adherence to the Nath sect and his rec for its priests meant that the principal Naths were trea very much like important nobles at the Jodhpur co well as wielding power and gaining considerabic the income of villages given to them, this also extend their being portrayed in paintings in the manner of principal thakurs. Man Singh commissioned huge nun paintings depicting his revered spiritual advisors. include single portraits of contemporary earlier preceptors of the sect such as Jallandhai which Man Singh pays homage to Ayas De gurus, including those of the past; and the tal illustrated series such as the Siddh Siddhant, the and the Nath Charitra.

The Siddh Siddhant Paddhati is a Nath text whic deals with the origins of the universe according to Nath teachings. The text starts with the teachings of Adinath the First Lord of the Naths, continues with the creation of the world, and ends with yogic practices. The last of the 25 illustrations to the text bears the surprising information that all of them were painted by a Muslim artist: chitara musulman tayi kina jumla pana 25, and is dated VS 1881/AD 1824.

illustration to the siddbsidhant jodhpur, dated VS 1881/ AD 1824. By 'the Muslim artist'. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

Illustration to the Siddb Sidhant Jodhpur, dated VS 1881/ AD 1824. By 'the Muslim artist'. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur. 

The Nath Purana and Nath Charitra also deal with Nath creation myths and tales of the Naths' miraculous exploits. The 99 paintings of the combined Nath Purana and Nath Charitra are kept together at Umaid Bhawan, but the first 28 are illustrations to the Nath Purana, with the remaining 71 illustrating the Nath Charitra. From folio 1 of the Nath Charitra onwards, the pages bear two sets of numbers, e.g. 29/1, but the two works are actually quite separate. As in the Siddh Siddhant Paddhati, a Muslim artist was involved in the illustrations to the Nath Charitra: an inscription on the reverse on of the Nath Charitra reads chitara musulman tiyar kiya - 'the Muslim artist prepared it. Unlike the Siddh Siddhant Paddhati, however, the illustrations of the Nath Charitra seem to have been a joint effort, is inscribed chitara bulaki bagera ra kiyo da: done by the artist Bulaki and others'.

The quality of the paintings in both the Siddh Siddhant and the Nath Purana/Charitra is very high. The somewhat stiff and formalized style used for depictions of the Naths is often lightened by individualistic details such as the delightful animal audience and 5 of the Siddh Siddhant or the delicately primitive renditions of small trees throughout the Nath Charitra, which are made with a smudge of green paint on the artist's finger.

The paintings of the Siddh Siddhant are almost all divided into three or more sections, often all filled with detail, but sometimes with blocks of plain gold or colours filling the spaces between them. The Nath Purana/Charitra paintings are more expansive, frequently devoting a large section to a single figure of a Nath, or whole sheets to a few obscure and dreamlike images of Naths against a plain ground.

While these large-scale Nath series are undoubtedly very imposing, the individual paintings of the Nath gurus frequently of interest in their own right. All the main con artists were engaged in painting Nath subjects: Dana Sh. Das, Bhatti Gula, Amar Das, Madha, Raso and Bulaki all have paintings ascribed to them. While some are stiff, idealized portraits of doll-like figures, others are treated more imaginatively. A painting of the young Man Singh worshipping the footprint of Srinathji with Nath yogis (Umaid Bhavan Palace, no.7(4)) is dated VS 1860 / AD 1803. Although unsigned, it identifies the subject. and the participants are labelled sri huzur – ‘the maharaja - and sri sarup - a general term of respect for kanphata yogis

nathji seated in a pavilion surrounded by trees. jodhpur, c.1805-15. by amar das. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.

Nathji seated in a pavilion surrounded by trees. Jodhpur, c.1805-15. By Amar Das. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

harnathji maharaj(center), brother of ayas devnath, with suryanathji and ladunathji, son of devnath. jodhpur, c.1815. private collection.

Harnathji Maharaj(center), brother of Ayas Devnath, with Suryanathji and Ladunathji(left), son of Devnath. Jodhpur, c.1815. Private Collection.

An imaginative painting of an unidentified Nath seated under a pavilion is ascribed to Amar Das and is datable to about 1805-15. It illustrates the distinctive use of heavy bluish shading that was a technique frequently used by Amar Das. The Nath is often shown as an ascetic seated on a tiger skin in a wooded landscape, or as an almost statuesque form worshipped by the maharaja. This painting of the young Man Singh paying homage to Jallandharnathji, one of the earliest Nath teachers, is inscribed with the name of the artist Udai Ram, who had also painted Bijay Singh at worship.

On other occasions, when an individual rather than a conceptual guru is intended, Ayas Devnath is depicted as a nobleman or raja whom Man Singh is visiting with due ceremony. The spectacular, unsigned and undated bird'seye view of the Nath stronghold at Mahamandir shows Man Singh visiting Ayas Devnath, surrounded by the gardens and houses outside the temple, and vignettes of the horses and camels by which Man Singh's procession entered the town. The interior of Mahamandir itself is decorated with paintings of Nath devotees in yogic postures, many in the style of Amar Das using his ‘shaded technique.

The influence and increasing wealth of the principal Naths meant that they were frequently portrayed as powerful dignitaries and land-owners in what would normally be taken for secular portraits, were the Nath subjects not identifiable by their characteristic earrings. As with paintings done for local secular dignitaries, these scenes spanned the whole range of compositions from the grandest processions to darbar scenes and small group portraits. The massive tripartite processional scene is more lavish than anything known to have been painted for Man Singh himself. The subject is a Nath dignitary, probably Devnath himself (although an inscription on the reverse seems to name him as 'Khali Nath'), surrounded by a huge retinue, travelling to an encampment in a village. This could well be the occasion of the presentation of several villages, chiefly that of Chopra, around Jodhpur to Devnath and his brothers in 1804. The right-hand section shows the village itself with its outlying fields at the top, the arrival of the Nath, having dismounted from his elephant, on horseback in the lower register, and the activities of the encampment in the centre.40 The closest parallel to this painting that we have is the bird's-eye view of Man Singh's visit to Devnath at Mahamandir, which is comparable in its attention to tiny detail and in its large scale.

A painting of another Nath dignitary is on a very different scale. The composition of this small group scene - recalls paintings such as Magni Ram's painting of Man Singh and a lady, which is similarly enlivened by bold striped cushions. Although the sitters are identified on the reverse, the painting is not inscribed or dated, but it was probably painted before 1818, when Ladunathji, son of Devnath, was installed as high priest at Mahamandir. In this painting, Ladunath is sitting in an attitude of deference before his uncle Harnathji, who presumably held the higher rank when the picture was painted.

Ladunath appears again, this time as the most elevated figure, in a darbar scene of c.1825 in the Sangram Singh collection. The close parallels between this painting and darbar scenes of Man Singh himself are striking: seated in a palace setting, the Nath and courtiers are all in white, recalling the festival darbars such Grandiose formal paintings such as this emphasize the extremely high status attained by these supposedly spiritual leaders at Man Singh's court.

maharaja man singh worshipping jallandharnathji with sri idar kunwar baiji and sri anand kunwar baiji. jodhpur, c.1805. by udai ram. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.

Maharaja Man Singh worshipping Jallandharnathji with Sri Idar Kunwar Baiji and Sri Anand Kunwar Baiji. Jodhpur, c.1805. By Udai Ram. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

illustration to thw ramayana: the death of bali, the crwning of sugriva, rama and lakshmana in the mountains, attend by animals. jodhpur, c.1825-30. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.

Illustration to the Ramayana: the death of Bali, the crwning of sugriva, Rama and Lakshmana in the mountains, attend by animals. Jodhpur, c.1825-30. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

In compositions which border on the surreal, he is obviously influenced by European topographical scenes, and the result is deserted streets and squares which collide bizarrely with the activities of people and animals around their edges. These unsuccessful attempts at realism contrast with happier compositions such as that in which Subuddhi, the tenth son of Punja, meets evil spirits dancing in fire and Virabadhra (a fierce form of Shiva) sitting on a fiery throne.

Four large paintings of the Gajendramoksha story were also made for Man Singh, as well as a set of illustrations to the Rasalila. The two remaining series made under Man Singh are the Panchatantra and the Dhola Marwan, which deal with secular rather than religious themes. Neither of these is as grandiose in conception as the other large sets, although both are ambitious in terms of numbers of illustrations, with the Dhola Marwan containing 121 paintings, and the Panchatantra over 400.

Dhola Marwan, or Maru, is the story, very well-known in Rajasthan, of two lovers, betrothed in childhood, who grow up and, betraying their vows, marry other people. Eventually, after many vicissitudes, they meet up again and elope together. Like its Punjabi equivalent Sassi Punnu, the Dhola Maru story has been illustrated countless times. Most frequently it is epitomized by the scene of the two lovers fleeing their pursuers on their faithful camel, a theme which often occurs as a single painting rather than part of the series, or as an illustration to the musical mode Maru ragini.

illustration to the dhola marwan : a lady and maids in a palace. jodhpur, c.1830. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.

Illustration to the Dhola Marwan : a lady and maids in a palace. Jodhpur, c.1830. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

The Umaid Bhavan Dhola Marwan is painted on small sheets in a competent but somewhat lifeless style, which employs the usual characteristics of Man Singh period painting without the imaginative compositions of the more accomplished sets such as the Shiva Purana. The folios are provided with the usual space at the top for the text, which here has never been added. No artists' names are given, except on a single sheet which does not belong to the series. although it has been incorporated. It shows the lovers on their camel and is inscribed on the reverse chitara Amar Das ro hath ri - by the hand of the artist Amar Das'. This stray painting is in a different format to the others in the set, with no space for the text, and no red borders, and seems to have been done as a single work. It is also unusual in that the ubiquitous store-house note is here written out in full as dakhil dholiya re kotar, whereas in virtually all other paintings from the Jodhpur stores the dakhil (“contained in') is abbreviated to da.

illustration to the dhola marwan : dhola and maru escaping on their camel. jodhpur, c.1830. by amar das. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.

Illustration to the Dhola Marwan : Dhola and Maru escaping on their camel. Jodhpur, c.1830. By Amar Das. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

The Panchatantra is the collection of animal fables derived from the Hitopadesha and which, through translations over the centuries, forms the basis for numerous versions of stories including the Fables of Bidpai and the Arabic Kalila wa Dimna. This set contains over 400 folios, and is mostly painted in a charmingly informal version of the Singh style. The paintings are frequently somewhat crudely executed, especially in the portrayal of human beings, but the animals, trees and plants are superbly humorous and lively.

Man Singh's reign was the last in which Jodhpur artiste brought imagination or creativity to bear on painting at court. If by the latter part of the period the Jodhpur had become stiff and conventional, during the earlier ve of the nineteenth century artists such as Amar Das were experimenting with shading and perspective and producing works of individuality and merit. Paintings done for the Thakur of Ghanerao were especially lively, and mainstream Jodhpur artists such as Dana found the opportunity here to indulge in less formal compositions than those required at the Jodhpur court. The large narrative sets done for Man Singh include some remarkable tours de force of composition, and this type of ambitious production was not to be repeated after Man Singh's death in 1843.

Illustration to the Panchatantra : a gathering of birds. Jodhpur, c1830. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

Illustration to the Panchatantra : a gathering of birds. Jodhpur, c1830. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

Illustration to the Panchatantra : the king of the crows on his throne. jodhpur, c.1830. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.

Illustration to the Panchatantra : the king of the crows on his throne. Jodhpur, c.1830. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

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