What is controversy behind GI tag of Jammu’s Basohli Painting?
The Basohli School of Painting is a world-renowned art form that originated in the independent Himalayan hill state of Basohli, now a tehsil in the Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir. It is known for its vibrant colours, distinctive style, and intricate detailing, which inspired Pahari miniature art and contributed significantly to the Indian art tradition. It has been admired and appreciated by art lovers around the world for centuries.
In a recent development, the Basohli Painting received the coveted Geographical Indication (GI) tag, which is a form of intellectual property protection that is granted to products that have a unique geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. A GI Tag for any product is a first for the Jammu region.
GI Tag Controversy
However, the GI tag for Basohli paintings has been mired in controversy due to the incorrect facts in the documentation of the art form. The documentation mentions that the Basohli painting style was ‘started by Mughals’, is a fusion of Hindu mythology Mughal techniques and folk art of the local hills, and it emerged in 17-18th century, all three of which are factually untrue.
The people of Basohli, and the whole Jammu region are disappointed and in resentment against this flawed GI Tag which has been given after years of efforts. They are continuously voicing their concerns and urging the government to preserve the uniqueness, history and significance of Basohli Paintings.
These paintings are an important part of the cultural heritage of the Jammu region, and any incorrect documentation, especially in the GI Tag, undermines the factual position of the Basohli Paintings and the authenticity of the GI Tag itself.
The controversy over the GI tag has been further fueled by the fact that the Lineage (Vanshavali) of Basohli has been documented wrongly in the GI Registry journal, that Raja Bhupat Pal founded Basohli in 1635.
The people are demanding immediate remedy to the incorrect documentation to ensure that the heritage of Jammu is rightfully acknowledged, and its identity is preserved for future generations.
Assistant Director, Handicrafts Kathua couldn’t be reached for comment.
Basohli Paintings’ Unique History
The Basohli school of painting was first mentioned in the Archaeological Survey of India’s 1918-19 report. It said that the Archaeological Section of the Central Museum, Lahore has acquired a few Basohli Miniature Paintings from Punjab dealers and their curator has concluded that the School is of Pre-Mughal origin, which was later established.
Following this, several art historians from India and outside India have studied the art and sung praises of its aesthetics and uniqueness. They’ve tried to trace its history and found it as a rejection of Mughal influence for a number of factors.
Balauria Rajputs, who were known by the surname Pal, are known to have established the state of Basohli in the 8th century with their capital originally named Balaur or Vallapura, as recorded in the Rajatarangini.
The history preceding the Pal dynasty remains unclear.
Some texts indicate that Raja Bhupat Pal, who ruled in the 17th century, was imprisoned by the ruler of Nurpur with the assistance of Jahangir, the Mughal Emperor. After 14 years in prison, Bhupat Pal managed to escape and defeated the Nurpur army, reclaiming his state in 1627.
In 1635, he shifted his capital to Basohli town. The same year he travelled to Delhi to pay his respects to Shah Jahan, the Mughal Emperor, where he was allegedly assassinated by the same ruler of Nurpur with the connivance of the Mughals.
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