Shringara of Shrinathji© Viya Home

‘Shringara of Shrinathji’ Is A True Visual Masterpiece

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Nayare Ali

Limited-edition, one-of-a-kind collector’s edition, Shringara of Shrinathji is a visual anthology of the Gokal Lal Mehta’s family’s collection of miniature Nathdwara paintings of the centuries-old Pushtimarg tradition. Authored by Amit Ambalal and conceptualised by Vikram Goyal, it catalogues 60 previously unpublished works that belonged to Goyal’s grandfather, the late Gokal Lal Mehta.

Shrinathji Art©Viya Home

“My grandfather had a great eye and a keen interest in art and architecture. He openly shared his knowledge and passion,” says Goyal. “I have fond memories of him envisioning that this rare family collection of paintings would be published for the world to see. Rajasthan was a perfect canvas to soak it all in.” It was a serendipitous meeting with Bipin Shah of Mapin Publishers that fuelled the thought for this collector’s item with the most eye-catching, arresting cover.

“A chance meeting with him led to this exploration and an opportunity to make my grandfather’s dreams come true!” The book is a celebration of the unique, imaginative adornments — or Shringaras — of Lord Shrinathji. For each of these paintings, Ambalal — “a renowned historian and authority on Nathdwara paintings,” as Goyal says — meticulously highlighted the different aspects of the shringaras, including the season and day, the headdress, ornaments, dress, and the pichvai backdrop.

Art Masterpiece©Viya Home

There’s a fascinating history behind these paintings. In the 15th century, a time of artistic and spiritual renaissance, philosopher Vallabhacharya founded the Vaishnava sect of Pushtimarg. The community lays great emphasis on the worship of the Shrinathji deity through the joys of good living, which include performing kirtans, offering bhog to guests, adopting the process of shringara (dressing and ornamentation), and also decorating and painting their homes. These paintings came to be identified as the Nathdwara school of art as the image of Shrinathji is enshrined in a temple in Nathdwara, Rajasthan.

Shringara of Shrinathji: From the Collection of the Late Gokal Lal Mehta encapsulates 60 splendid artwork that were executed during the dynamic stewardship of Tilkayat Govardhanlalji (1862– 1934), a great patron of the arts. Under his patronage, Nathdwara paintings reached their zenith. The high-quality workmanship of the collection make it likely that this set of Nathdwara miniatures were painted by Sukhdev Kishandas Gaur, the mukhia (chief artist) of the temple. Documenting the high degree of skill in the draughtsmanship, portraiture and composition, Ambalal’s expositions accompany the exceptional, high-quality photographic reproductions of these beautiful works of art. Ask Vikram whether he has a favourite from this series, and he says, “Sharad Purnima pictured for its devotional significance, the contemporary graphics and the ‘ghata’ paintings that are sublime in their monochromatic minimalism.”

Photo Courtesy: Viya Home

This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s September 2022 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!