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A painting by Mola Ram depicting 'Shiva' done in the style of the Garhwal School of Painting.
A painting by Mola Ram: Abhisarika nayika, "the heroine going to meet her lover". She turns back to look at a golden anklet, which has just fallen off. There are also snakes below and lightning above.

Mola Ram or Maula Ram (Devanagari: मौला राम) (1743–1833)[1] was an Indian painter, who originated the Garhwal branch of the Kangra school of painting.[2] He was also a poet, historian and diplomat.[3] Much research about him was done by Barrister Mukandi Lal.[4]


Life and careerEdit

He was born in Srinagar (now in Uttarakhand) to Mangat Ram - Rami Devi[5] and worked for the Garhwal Kingdom from 1777 until its annexation first by the Gorkhas in 1803 followed by the British in 1815.

It is said[6] that two miniature painters of the Mughal imperial court at Delhi, Sham Das and his son Har Das (or Kehar Das[3]), accompanied Sulaiman Shikoh, the son of Dara Shikoh, when he escaped from his uncle Aurangzeb in 1658 and sought refuge from Prithvi Shah of the Garhwal kingdom, which had its capital in Srinagar. The painters remained in Srinagar as the royal tasbirdar (picture-makers), and developed the Garhwal style of miniature painting. Mola Ram was one of their descendants.[6] The inception of the Garhwal school of painting is also sometimes credited to him. His son Jwala Ram and grandson Atma Ram continued the tradition, but further descendants suspected a curse and gave up painting.[3] However, one of his descendants, Tulsi (often confused with Tulsi Mistri, another contemporary painter) was also a painter.[1]

Mola Ram worked during the times of Garhwal rulers Pradeep Shah, Lalit Shah, Jaikrit Singh and Pradyuman Shah from 1777 to 1804. He continued to work for the development of art and literature during the period of the Gorkha rule (1803-15) and the British rule over Garhwal.[5]

Mola Ram himself initially painted in the Mughal style until visiting Kangra,[7] e.g. his painting Mastani is in the Mughal idiom,[8] while his later paintings, e.g. Vasakasajja Nayika,[9] are in the Garhwal style. Some of his paintings are signed.[2]

Poem and portrait of event of death of Kaji Nain Singh Thapa in 1804-06 Gorkha conquest of Garhwal, by Poet Maula Ram

He wrote the historical work Garharajavansh ka Itihas (History of the Garhwal royal dynasty) which is the only source of information about several Garhwal rulers.[10][11] He starts with Sham Shah and goes on to describe Dula Ram Shah, Mahipati Shah, Pritam Shah, Medini Shah, Lalit Shah, and Jayakrit Shah.[12] He also wrote Ganika Natak or Garh Gita Sangram in 1800.[13] Mola Ram himself played a part in politics, helping Jayakrit Shah obtain help from Raja Jagat Prakash of Sirmaur to quell a rebellion at the battle of Karparoli.[14][15]

Mola Ram wrote Rajavanshakavya, Ran Bahadur Chandrika, Shumshere Jung Chandrika, Bakhtawar-Yash-Chandrika and others.[16] When Kaji Bakhtawar Singh Basnyat reached Srinagar, Uttarakhand on 1867 V.S. (i.e. 1810 A.D.), Maula Ram described the Gorkhali administration since 1861 V.S. (i.e. 1804 A.D.). In appreciation of Mola Ram's works, Kaji Bakhtawar gave 61 gold sovereigns, a horse, a robe, some weapons and restored his jagir villages and daily allowances.[16] Mola Ram dedicated Bakhtawar-Yash-Chandrika in praises of Kaji Bakhtawar Singh Basnyat. He also wrote about the past, present, and future of the Gorkhali administration in Kumaon and Garhwal, which had predicted the possible collapse of Gorkhali rule as mentioned in his another work Garhraja-Vamshakavya.[16]

Mola Ram died in Srinagar at in 1833.[5]


A large collection of Mola Ram's paintings are preserved at the Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University Museum in Srinagar, Uttarakhand. Some of his paintings can also be viewed at the Boston Museum, USA, at the Bharat Kala Bhawan in Varanasi, and at the Kastur Bhai Lal Bhai Sagrahaalaya, Ahmedabad.[5]

Barrister Mukandi Lal wrote the book 'Garhwal Painting' published by the Publications Division of Government of India in 1968 which traced the history of Garhwal school of painting showcasing Mola Ram's various paintings and sketches. [5]


  1. ^ a b Kamboj 2003, p.119
  2. ^ a b Coomaraswamy 1969, pp.75–76
  3. ^ a b c Kamboj 2003, p.25
  4. ^ Chaitanya, p. 77
  5. ^ a b c d e "Mola Ram, Garhwal Paintings, Garhwal School of Painting, Barrister Mukandi Lal". Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  6. ^ a b Hāṇḍā 2002, p.129
  7. ^ Kamboj 2003, p.28
  8. ^ Chaitanya, p. 80
  9. ^ Chaitanya, p.32
  10. ^ Hāṇḍā 2002, p.120
  11. ^ Hāṇḍā & Jain 2003, p.21: "Mola Ram was witness to the collapse of dynastic rule, rise and fall of the tyrannical Gurkha hegemony through which he could steer well, and the British dominance in Garhwal. The upheavals through which the Garhwal kingdom passed during those days are most authentically recorded in his Garh Rajvansh ka Itihas. This work of Mola Ram covers the history of Garhwal from the period of Sham Shah (AD 1550-1569) to the tyrannical days under the Gurkhas and British rule."
  12. ^ Hāṇḍā 2002, pp. 120–144
  13. ^ Rawat 2002
  14. ^ Hāṇḍā 2002, p.144
  15. ^ Chaitanya, p.78
  16. ^ a b c Regmi 1987, p. 116.


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