Guler State
Princely State
CapitalHaripur Guler
65 km2 (25 sq mi)
• Foundation of the state
• Annexation by the Sikh Empire
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kangra State
Sikh Empire
Today part ofHimachal Pradesh, India
Depiction of Durga in a Guler style painting
Depiction of Durga in a Guler style painting

Guler was a small precolonial Indian hill state in the Lower Himalayas. Its capital was the town of Haripur Guler, in modern-day Himachal Pradesh. The kingdom was founded in 1415 by Raja Hari Chand, a scion of the ancient royal family of Kangra. [1] The etymology of the word Guler can be traced to the word Gwalior, meaning the abode of cowherds. One of the foremost schools of Pahari miniatures is named after this small principality.[1]

Guler State is famous as the birthplace of Kangra painting in the first half of the 18th century when a family of Kashmiri painters trained in Mughal painting sought shelter at the court of Raja Dalip Singh (r. 1695–1741) of Guler. The rise of Guler Paintings or Guler style started in what is known as the early phase of Kangra art.[2]


Early history

According to legends, the Guler state was founded at an uncertain date between 1405 and 1450 by Raja Hari Chand. One fateful day, he fell into a dry well while hunting. Since no one could find him, the Raja was presumed dead and his brother was then named the Raja of Kangra State. When Raja Hari Chand was eventually brought back alive from the well, instead of fighting for his rights to the throne, he founded the town of Haripur on the valley below the fort by the Banganga River.[3]

Sikh Empire and British Raj

In 1813, Guler state was annexed by the Sikh Empire under Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Bhup Singh (1765 - 1826) was the last ruling king. He was given a Jagir in Nandpur by Ranjit Singh in 1826. The Jagir was recognized by the British government in 1853. In 1877, his son Shamsher Singh died without male heirs and the state lapsed.[citation needed]


A list of rulers of the Guler state who formerly bore the title Mian and later 'Raja'.[4]


Guler paintings

The Mughals had a considerable impact on the socio-cultural and political sphere of the hilly areas. The Mughal influence provided an important impetus to the development of the Guler School, as the rulers started to take an active interest in promoting and patronizing art as the Mughals did.[1] According to recent research works, the tradition of painting was already present in the second half of the 17th Century in the Pahari areas of Basohli, Chamba, and Nurpur. This period saw monochrome drawings and the prevalence of warm primary colours used by the painters. These paintings however lacked the fine, intricate details seen in Mughal miniatures.[1][5]

In Dilparanjani, one of the verses mentions the name of Rajguru Dinamani Raina, one of the painters of Guler, along with Chaturbhuj Purohit, one of the royal preceptors famous for his knowledge of mythological texts. Contemporary portraits of both these figures are known and have been catalogued.[1] The Kashmiri painters, who earlier enjoyed prestigious positions under the Mughals, were dispossessed after the ascendancy of Aurangzeb and were forced to migrate in search of patronage from the Rajput rulers.[6] Accordingly, a family of Kashmiri painters, Hasnu and his sons Seu, Billu (Billand) and Raghu, settled at Guler towards the last phase of the 17th Century and introduced a new style of painting that was characterised by a high degree of naturalism in addition to the Mughal conventions which these painters brought with them.[1] This family having set up a workshop at Guler, began working in the court. An inscription in Guler bahi at Haridwar mentions this lineage as 'vamsa h ka', and even later Pandit Seu's son Nainsukh had identified Hasnu as his grandfather in a detailed bahi-entry written by him, at Haridwar in 1763.[7] Bahis are records maintained by priests at Hindu worship sites of the pilgrims visiting these places for ceremonies, etc. While Manaku is said to have noted the earliest inscription of this painter-family at a bahi in Haridwar, where in 1736, he along with his cousins wrote the entry in the Takri script identifying the group as 'vasi Guler ke'. Manaku was Seu's eldest son.[8] Later, while Manaku worked at Guler, Nainsukh migrated to Jasrota court, and in his oeuvre that flourished under the patronage of Raja Balwant Singh, the Guler paintings reached their state of maturity and creative finessee.[9]

The portraits of the Guler school show close proximity with those of the Mughal school, suggesting that Seu, and his songs Nainsukh and Manaku, had borrowed extensively from the traditions of Mughal miniatures. Apart from portraits, the rulers, particularly Raja Govardhan Chand, under whose patronage Manaku worked, commissioned paintings on a variety of subjects such as the Bhagavata Purana and the Gita Govinda.[1] Youthful female faces, well-rounded, and definite in shape - as seen in the painting Lady Smoking a Huqqa at the Terrace, became a prototype for the depiction of female figures in the Bhagavata Purana, and Gita Govinda series. Developed by the two brothers Manaku and Nainsakh, these features exhibited a fine perfection of the Guler school and were also adopted by the later-generation painters.[1] These next-generation painters transformed the style, and more subtle pictorial landscapes, and stylized bodily features, especially the depictions of female bodies, colour choices, etc, underwent considerable changes. For Khandalavala, the roundish female faces of the first half of the 18th Century were typical of what he called the Bhagvata face.[10] Manaku-Nainsukh's slender female forms clad in ghagra choli, are replaced by fuller forms wearing peshwaz by the later artists. While the Guler paintings depicting Baramasa and Bihari Satasi, composed in oval formats, capture the subtle sentiments of love and human emotions. However, by the end of the 19th Century, the splendour of the Guler school had declined as artists began to produce cheap copies, and laborious processes of making colours and pigments were discarded as chemical paints became available in the market. The artists next started to paint under Sikh chieftains, as the Janamsakhi paintings reveal. This was facilitated by the consolidation of Sikh power at the same time.[1][5]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Sharma, Vijay (2020). Painting In The Kangra Valley. New Delhi, India: Niyogi Books. ISBN 978-93-89136-65-4.
  2. ^ Hill Post - Guler Style
  3. ^ Mark Brentnall The Princely and Noble Families of the Former Indian Empire Himachal Pradesh, vol. I: Himachal Pradesh, Indus Publishing, 2004, ISBN 8173871639, ISBN 9788173871634, p. 304
  4. ^ Princely states of India
  5. ^ a b Singh, Chandramani (1982). Centres of Pahari painting. New Dehli: Abhinav Publ. ISBN 978-0-391-02412-0.
  6. ^ Goswamy, Brijinder N.; Lalit Kalā Akadami, eds. (1999). Painted visions: the Goenka collection of Indian paintings. New Delhi: Lalit Kala Akademi. ISBN 978-81-87507-00-0.
  7. ^ Goswamy, Brijinder Nath; Kuprecht, Andrea; Tyebji, Salima (2011). Nainsukh of Guler: a great Indian painter from a small hill state (Reprint ed.). New Delhi: Niyogi books. ISBN 978-81-89738-76-1.
  8. ^ Goswamy, Brijinder Nath (2017). Manaku of Guler: the life and work of another great Indian painter from a small hill state. Artibus Asiae. Supplementum. New Delhi, India: Artibus Asiae Publishers, jointly published with Niyogi Books. ISBN 978-93-85285-82-0.
  9. ^ Hindu Hill Kingdoms Archived 30 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine V&A Museum
  10. ^ "Pahari Miniature Painting". INDIAN CULTURE. Retrieved 2 June 2023.

Further reading

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