Born: 1929
Died: 10 March 1997

G.R. Santosh - Paintings


Ghulam Rasool Dar, later known as Ghulam Rasool Santosh after taking in his wife’s name was born in a small village called Dab on the outskirts of Srinagar, in the heart of Kashmir in 1929 with a rare gift that often gets overlooked in average Indian households. It was a genuine love for mother nature and the young lad had inherited the good fortune of being born and raised in a land that is fabled for its natural beauty. Even in his early childhood, he used to walk to school but never reached it on time as he used to walk, nor directly to school with his friends, but always taking a longer route in order to walk over the fields and tread under the orchards. The magnificence of Kashmir seldom failed to mesmerize the young G.R. Santosh even when viewed daily on the way to school and back. The headmaster of the school demanded explanation for his habitual late-coming. Hearing the unexpected explanation and his capacity to love nature so deeply at such a young age, silenced the hard-task master permanently. His love for nature and art also could be traced back to his ancestral heritage. His father was a policeman in the J&K Raj Sarkar but his grandfather practiced the traditional art of ornamental painting on papier-mâché, a native craft of Kashmir. Information about his early years is rather scanty but it is surely logical to assume that Santosh must have watched his grandfather handpainting such papier-mâché decorative items and thus learned his first use of brush under an expert, though traditional, guidance.

The early attempts in landscape, along with the sketches he did while continuing his rather monotonous job in a ghat of the river Jhelum must have been good enough as his landscapes, even when painted at the back of motorized vehicles, were instrumental in his getting spotted by S.H. Raza while on a holiday in Srinagar. In 1950, Santosh joined the Progressive Arts Association in Kashmir, formed as a result of Raza’s effort to mobilize Kashmiri painters. He showed across India as a member of the association. In 1954, he won the government scholarship to study Fine Arts under painter N.S. Bendre at the MS University in Baroda.

G.R. Santosh - Artworks
Souza - Indian Artist

He was enrolled as a non-formal student in its art facility and continued his art study by devoting all his attention to landscapes he loved the most. He became so adept with this branch of art that Bendre advised him to make a brief stop and study human form for a change. Soon enough, he gave up landscapes for quite some time in order to perfect his skill in portraiture. After his scholarship tenure, Santos came back to his homeland and continued his landscapes with the infusion of ‘cubist’ ideas he got fascinated with at Baroda. Santosh had already mastered the art of applying colours on canvases and ability to draw his chosen subjects in any form, realistic or otherwise. It was his spiritual quest that in the prime of his youth took him to study Tantric texts and getting familiarised with its secretive rituals.

He began to create his own artistic vocabulary around these yogic anatomy and went on to add visual imagery of fire and water, tranquility and turbulence, nocturnal peace and enlightened divinity in his paintings. His personal art soon became over-filled with precise imagery of various mantras which he internalized in order to paint his own version of unity of Purusha and Prakriti, of Shiva and Shakti. Santos received the Sahitya Academy Award for his book of poems Besukh Rug in 1979, two years after he was awarded Padma Shri. His poetries may be seen as an extension of his philosophy on life as well as something he felt comfortable in expressing, not with paint but words alone. He once said, while in conversation with KL Kaul, that each of his paintings is a vibration and that he consciously tries to engage the sense of hearing through the medium of sight.

Text Reference:
Excerpts from the book G.R. Santosh Perennial Transcendence by Arun Ghose published by Sanchit Art


  • Padma Shri, Government of India, 1997


  • G.R. Santosh: The Artist as Yogi
  • The Art of G.R. Santosh
  • G.R. Santosh Perennial Transcendence
  • Awakening: A Retrospective of G.R. Santosh

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