Basholi style of painting, characterised by sharp use of primary colours (red, mustard yellow and blue), and a peculiar facial formula prevailed in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in the foothills of the western Himalayas
in the states of Punjab
and Jammu and Kashmir
. The faces of figures painted are characterised by receding foreheads and great expressive eyes, shaped like lotus petals. Originating in Basholi, the style spread to the hill states of Mankot, Nurpur, Kulu, Mandi, Suket, Guler and Kangra.
The Basholi style of painting displays a subtle fusion of the folk art of the hills and the Mughal technique. The Mughal influence is seen in the transparent clothing of the women and the clothes of the men, whereas the facial formula has its roots in the folk art of the hills. Basholi artists originally came from the court of Aurangzeb. Most of them being Hindus, they found a haven in Basholi which was at that time ruled by the patron of arts Rajput Sangram Pal. The hill states of the Punjab Himalayas were the only regions in the north where Hindus could follow their religion in comparative freedom. The seventeenth century also saw the revival of Vaishnavism in these parts, and the myths and legends of Vaishnavism found visual expression in the Basholi style of painting.
The most popular theme of Basholi painting was from Bhanu Datta’s Rasamanjari, which was profusely used by the famous Basholi artist Devi Das in A.D 1694-1695. Radha - Krishna episodes, Bhagavata Purana themes and the love of Madhava-Malati were stock themes of these paintings. Many of the Basholi paintings bear strong resemblance to Rajasthani and Malwa paintings.