Art is an art genre that entails intricate brushwork, great expertise in
craftsmanship and the mastery of many different techniques. As such, one
painting will represent the work of specialists in several fields—not only what
we usually consider as “art” (composition, colour and so forth) but also the
creation of the painting surface itself and the many natural pigments, as well
as each of the many steps between the initial sketch and the finished masterpiece.
paintings originated not as independent pieces but rather as narratives or
illustrations for manuscripts or books. The tradition bloomed primarily as a
means to reveal the Divine. It gained momentum with the revival of Vaishnavism
and the growth of the Bhakti Movement in the 18th century. Devotional
literature like Gita Govinda, Bhagvat Purana and Surasagara
became the source of inspiration for the Indian artists. Even the paintings
commissioned by the Hindu princely courts were an act of respecting the sacred
scripts and religious epics. Eventually, there was some external influence as
well. Here are some of the most prevalent miniature artforms that have survived
the test of time.
form brought by the Mughals in the sixteenth century, with Akbar and Humayun
playing key roles in the development and promotion of the art in the
subcontinent. The art has with time evolved as per the tradition and mind of
the Indian artists over the generations. The king of kings riding along the
dense jungle path, with his raised sword gleaming in the moonlight and bow and
arrows hung from his sinewy shoulders as the horse on which his proud girth is
positioned gallops towards the unknown. The dark sky glittered with stars as if
alive, and the whitening foliage and shrubs in the background add a mystic
beauty to the otherwise darkness of the night we all are aware of. The moon
shaped as a distinct canoe bestows its blessing to the brave king, who has
braved both the night and the forest to hunt another king, famously termed as
king of beasts.
painting, whether portrayed on the walls of palaces, paper, ivory, wooden
tablets, textiles and even marble, has a story to tell starting from great
adventures, ideal romances, passionate bonds, myriad facial expressions to day
to day conducts between royalty as well as the common man.
surrealism and magic of miniature paintings that have enriched our history,
especially that of Rajasthan and also has the potential to enrich our lives was
brought to the land of India by the Mughals. The Mughals brought the art form
from Persia, with trained artists from that region mentoring the many budding
Indian artists who had with time evolved the art form as per their culture and
tradition. Like many scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana have also been
depicted through the medium of this art form. The story of Radha and Krishna
which is best expressed in Bani Thani paintings with a unique style involving
exaggerated features such as long necks, almond-shaped eyes and long fingers
that convey a sense of divinity to the observer is another example that brings
to light the adaptation of the Persian art form by Indian artists. The creation
of the art form Bani Thani has an interesting tale behind to tell. In
Kishangarh kingdom of Rajasthan, during the 18th century, the ruler of the
province Raja Sawant Singh had fallen in love with a slave girl whose name was
Bani Thani. He was so inspired by the bond they shared that he ordered his
artists to portray them as Radha and Krishna in their miniature paintings. The
depictions involved portraiture of the two lovers with different backgrounds
such as garden, court, music parties, naukavihar (lovers on a boat),
along with many other Indian festivals like Holi, Diwali, Durga Puja and Dussehra.
paintings were brought to life keeping in mind the minute details, and the
harmony of colours and patterns that made the paintings stand out and appear
almost real. Multiple perspectives were taken into account while preparing the
art that reflected both the past and the present, unlike their European
counterparts. The colours were painstakingly derived from nature, and days of
toil would lead to extraction of a very small amount of an exquisite colour.
For example, the colour red was derived from the dried fruit of Peepal tree,
orange from the flower known as Palash, and green extracted from leaves and
black from stones. The colour yellow, quite interestingly, was acquired from
the dried urine of a sick cow. The crystallised gold or silver colours were
acquired by boiling metal with camel husk and water. It would then be rubbed on
a plate or ground by hand for consecutively 2-3 days resulting in a very
minuscule amount of pristine concoction.
the processes of extraction had been completed, the colours were then mixed
with water and natural gum to make them all set for application. The artist had
to be extra careful and make sure that the colour is uniform because if it is
even the slightest out of place the painting would get spoiled as due to its
extremely small size.
Mughal painting which is primarily secular, the art of painting in Central
India, Rajasthani and the Pahari region etc. is deeply rooted in the Indian
traditions, taking inspiration from Indian epics, religious texts like the
Puranas, love poems in Sanskrit and other Indian languages, Indian folk-lore
and works on musical themes. The cults of Vaishnavism, Saivism and Sakti
exercised tremendous influence on the pictorial art of these places. Among
these the cult of Krishna was the most popular one which inspired the patrons
and artists. The themes from the Ramayana., the Mahabharata, the Bhagavata,
the Siva Purana, the Naishadacarita, the Usha Aniruddha,
the Gita Govinda of Jayadeva, the Rasamanjari of Bhanudatta,
the Amaru Sataka, the Rasikapriya of Kesavadasa, the Bihari
Satasayee and the Ragamala etc., provided a very rich field to the
painter who with his artistic skill and devotion made a significant contribution
to the development of Indian painting.
School represents the earliest examples of miniature painting in India. The
Buddhist monasteries (mahaviharas) of Nalanda, Odantapuri, Vikramsila
and Somarupa were great centres of Buddhist learning and art.
paintings are in the form a large number of manuscripts on palm-leaf relating
to the Buddhist themes. The images of Buddhist deities at these centres which
also had workshops for the casting of bronze images. Students and pilgrims from
all over South-East Asia gathered there for education and religious
instruction. They took back to their country examples of Pala Buddhist art, in
the form of bronzes and manuscripts which helped to carry the Pala style to
Nepal, Tibet, Burma, Sri Lanka and Java etc.
extant illustrated manuscripts of Pala Empire mostly belong to the Vajrayana
School of Buddhism. Pala style is naturalistic and resembles the ideal forms of
contemporary bronze and stone sculpture, and reflects some feeling of the classical
art of Ajanta. The best example is the manuscript of the Astasahasrika
Prajnaparamita. After the Muslim invasions, many of the monks and artists
escaped and fled to Nepal, which helped in reinforcing the existing art
art is one of the important branches of medieval art in India. Jain monks and
scholars of medieval India wrote thousands of manuscripts related to their
religious philosophy and teaching. These manuscripts contain some beautiful miniature
paintings. In fact, Jains are the pioneers of miniature paintings in India.
Jain literature goes back to 5th Century before Common Era, the earliest known
miniature paintings are from 11th Century. However, it is assumed this art
might have started as early as 9th Century. These paintings are from Kalpasutra
text. This art of miniature paintings flourished in next few centuries,
especially in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Deccan. This art started to decline after
significant feature of Jain miniature paintings is the stylish figures of the
women in the paintings. The artists used strong colors and liked to show
enlarged eyes of the persons in the paintings. The artist also liked to
decorate the persons with ornaments. Jain miniature paintings are found mainly
in old Rajasthani, Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi and Kannada manuscripts. In early
era, they were painted on palm leaves, later Jains started to paint on paper.
The colors were made especially from vegetables, minerals and even from gold
branches of Indian art were greatly inspired by Jain miniature paintings and
they adopted the style of Jains. Other branches include Rajasthani, Mughal,
Odissa and some other schools.
the 15th century the Persian style of painting started influencing the Western
Indian style of painting as is evident from the Persian facial types and
hunting scenes appearing on the borders of some of the illustrated manuscripts
of the Kalpasutra. Introduction of the use of ultramarine blue and gold
colour in the Western Indian manuscripts is also believed to be due to the
influence of the Persian painting. These Persian paintings, which came to
India, were in the form of illustrated manuscripts. A number of such
manuscripts were copied in India. Some colours used in these types of copies
can be seen in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington and an illustrated
manuscript of Bustan of Sadi in the National Museum, New Delhi. The Bustan was executed
for Sultan Nadir Shah Khilji of Malwa (1500-1510 A.D.), by one Hajji Mahmud
(painter) Shahsuwar (scribe).
illustrated manuscript of the Nimat Nama (Cookery Book) which exists in
the Indian Office Library, London is marked by a new trend of painting at
Malwa. The manuscript was started in the time of Ghiyasaldin Khilji of Malwa
(1469-1500 A.D.). A left of this manuscript is illustrated here. It shows
Ghiyasaldin Khilji supervising cooking being done by maids. In the Nimat Nama
style the Persian influence is visible in the scroll like clouds, flowering
trees, grassy tufts and flowering plants in the background, female figures and
costumes. Indian elements are noticeable in some female types and their
costumes and ornaments and colours. In this manuscript one can notice the first
attempt towards the evolution of new styles of painting by the fusion of the
Persian style of Shiraz with the indigenous Indian style.
finest examples of painting belonging to the first half of the 16th century
are, however, represented by a group of miniatures generally designated as the "Kulhadar
Group". This group includes illustrations of the 'Chaurapanchasika'
- " Fifty Verses of the Thief by Bilhan, the Gita Govinda,
the Bhagavata Purana and Ragamala. The style of these miniatures
is marked by the use of brilliant contrasting colours, vigorous and angular
drawing, transparent drapery and the appearance of conical caps 'Kulha'
on which turbans are worn by the male figures.
example of the Chaurapanchasika miniature shows Champavati standing
near a lotus pond. This miniature belongs to the N.C. Mehta collection, Bombay.
It was executed in the first quarter of the 6th century, probably in Mewar. The
style of the painting is purely indigenous derived from the earlier tradition
of the Westen Indian art and does not show any influence of either the Persian
or the Mughal style of painting.
manuscripts of the Laur Chanda, an Avadhi romance by Mulla Daud, one in
the Prince of Wales Museum, Bombay and the other in John Rylands Library,
Manchester seem to have been painted at Muslim courts between 1530 to 1540 A.D.
They show a mixture of Persian and Indian styles like the Nimat Nama of Malwa.
The other two important manuscripts of this period are the Mrigavati and
the Mahapurana, a Jain text. They are executed in a style related to Chaurapanchasika
no pre-Mughal painting from the Deccan is so far known to exist, yet it can
safely be presumed that sophisticated schools of painting flourished there,
making a significant contribution to the development of the Mughal style in
North India. Early centres of painting in the Deccan, during the 16th and 17th
centuries were Ahmednagar, Bijapur and Golconda. In the Deccan, painting
continued to develop independently of the Mughal style in the beginning.
However, later in the 17th and 18th centuries it was increasingly influenced by
the Mughal style.
Ahmednagar painting are contained in a volume of poems written in praise of
Hussain Nizam Shah I of Ahmednagar (1553-1565) and his queen. This manuscript
known as the 'Tarif-in-Hussain Shahi and assigned to a period 1565-69 is
preserved in the Bharat ltihas Samshodaka Mandala, Poona. One of the
illustrations depicts the king sitting on the throne and attended by a number
of women. The female type appearing in the painting belongs to the northern
tradition of Malwa. The Choli (bodice) and long pigtails braided and ending in
a tassel is the northern costume. But the long scarf passing round the body is
in the southern fashion. The colours used in the painting being rich and
brilliant are different from those used in the northern paintings. The Persian
influence can be seen in the high horizon, gold sky and the landscape.
other fine examples of the Ahmednagar painting are the "Hindola
Raga" of about 1590 A.D. and portraits of Burhan Nizam Shah II of
Ahmednagar (1591-96 A.D.) and of Malik Amber of about 1605 A.D. existing in the
National Museum, New Delhi and other museums.
Bijapur, painting was patronised by Ali Adil Shah I (1558-80 A.D.) and his
successor Ibrahim II (1580-1627 A.D.). An encyclopaedia known as the Najum-al-ulum
(Stars of Sciences), preserved in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, was
illustrated in 1570 A.D. in the reign of Ali Adil Shah I. This manuscript
contains 876 miniatures. The ladies appearing in the illustrations are tall and
slender and are wearing the South Indian dress. One of the miniatures
illustrated here shows the "Throne of Prosperity". There is influence
of the Lepakshi mural painting on the female types. The rich colour
scheme, the palm trees, animals and men and women all belong, to the Deccani
tradition. The profuse use of gold colour, some flowering plants and arabesques
on the top of the throne are derived from the Persian tradition.
II (1580-1627 A.D.) was a musician and author of a book, the Naurasnama.,
on the subject. It is believed that a number of the Ragamala paintings
were commissioned in various museums and private collections. A few
contemporary portraits of Ibrahim II are also available in several museums.
earliest paintings identified as Golconda work are a group of five charming
paintings of about 1590 A.D. in the British Museum, London, painted in the
period of Muhammad Quli Quta Shah (1580-1611) Golconda. They show dancing girls
entertaining the company. One of the miniatures illustrated shows the king in
his court watching a dance performance. He wears the white muslim coat with
embroidered vertical band, a typical costume associated with the Golconda
court. Gold colour has been lavishly used in painting the architecture,
costume, jewellery and vessels etc.
outstanding examples of the Golconda painting are "Lady with the Myna
bird", about 1605 A.D. in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, an
illustrated manuscript of a Sufi poem (1605-15 A.D.) in the British Museum,
London and a couple of portraits showing a poet in a garden and an elegantly
dressed young man seated on a golden stool and reading a book, both signed by a
certain artist Muhammad Ali in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Deccani painting absorbed influences of the northern tradition of the
pre-Mughal painting which was flourishing in Malwa, and of the southern
tradition of the Vijayanagar murals as evident in the treatment of female types
and costumes. Influence of the Persian painting is also observed in the
treatment of the horizon gold sky and landscape. The colours are rich and
brilliant and are different from those of the northern painting. Tradition of
the early Deccani painting continued long after the extinction of the Deccan
Sultanates of Ahmednagar, Bijapur and Golconda.
in Hyderabad started with the foundation of the Asafjhi dynasty by Mir
Qamruddin Khan (Chin Qulick Khan) Nizam-ul-Mulk in 1724 A.D. Influence of the
Mughal style of painting on the already existing early styles of Deccani
paintings, introduced by several Mughal painters who migrated to the Deccan
during the period of Aurangzeb and sought patronage there, was responsible for
the development of various styles of painting in the Deccan at Hyderabad and
other centres. Distinctive features of the Deccani paintings of the 18th and
19th centuries are observed in the treatment of the ethnic types, costumes,
jewellery, flora, fauna, landscape and colours.
miniature showing a princess in the company of maids is a typical example of
the Hyderabad school of painting. The princess is reclining on richly furnished
terrace covered with a canopy. The style of the painting is decorative. Typical
characteristics of the Hyderabad painting like the rich colours, the Deccani
facial types and costumes can be observed in the miniature. It belongs to the
third quarter of the 18th century.
style of painting characterised by bold drawing, techniques of shading and the
use of pure and brilliant colours flourished at Tanjore in South India during
the late 18th and 19th centuries.
typical example of the Tanjore painting, in the collection of the National
Museum, is an illustrated wooden panel of early 19th century showing the
coronation of Rama. The scene is laid under elaborately decorated arches. In
the middle Rama and Sita are seated on the throne, attended by his brothers and
a lady; In the left and right panels are seen rishis, courtiers and princes. In
the foreground are Hanuman, Sugriva who is being honoured and two other vanaras
opening a box probably containing gifts. The style is decorative and is marked
by the use of bright colours and ornamental details. The conical crown
appearing in the miniature is a typical feature of the Tanjore painting.
Pahari region comprises the present State of Himachal Pradesh, some adjoining
areas of the Punjab, the area of Union Territory of Jammu in the Jammu and
Kashmir State and Garhwal in Uttar Pradesh. The whole of this area was divided
into small States ruled by the Rajput princes and were often engaged in
welfare. These States were centres of great artistic activity from the latter
half of the 17th to nearly the middle of the 19th century.
to nearly the middle of the 19th century.
earliest centre of painting in the Pahari region was Basohli where under the
patronage of Raja Kripal Pal, an artist named Devidasa executed miniatures in
the form of the Rasamanjari illustrations in 1694 A.D. There is one more series
of the Rasamanjari miniatures painted in the same style and almost of the same
period but appears to be in a different hand. The illustrations of the two
Rasamanjari series are scattered in a number of Indian and foreign museums. The
Basohli style of painting is characterised by vigorous and bold line and strong
glowing colours. The Basohli style spread to the various neighbouring states
and continued till the middle of the 18th century.
illustration from a series of Gita Govinda painted by artist Manaku in 1730
A.D. shows further development of the Basohli style. The miniature which is in
the collection of the National Museum, depicts Krishna in the company of gopis
in a grove on the bank of a river.
is a change in the facial type which becomes a little heavier and also in the
tree forms which assume a somewhat naturalistic character, which may be due to
the influence of the Mughal painting. Otherwise, the general features of the
Basohli style like the use of strong and contrasting colours, monochrome
background, large eyes, bold drawing, use of beetles wings for showing diamonds
in ornaments, narrow sky and the red border are observable in this miniature
last phase of the Basohli style was closely followed by the Union Territory of
Jammu group. of paintings mainly consisting of portraits of Raja Balwant Singh
of Jasrota (a small place near Union Territory of Jammu) by Nainsukh, an artist
who originally belonged to Guler but had settled at Jasrota. He worked both at
Jasrota and at Guler. These paintings are in a new naturalistic and delicate
style marking a change from the earlier traditions of the Basohli art. The
colours used are soft and cool. The style appears to have been inspired by the
naturalistic style of the Mughal painting of the Muhammad Shah period.
Guler, another State in the Pahari region, a number of portraits of Raja
Goverdhan Chand of Guler were executed in circa 1750 A.D. in a style having
close affinity with the portraits of Balwant Singh of Jasrota. They are drawn delicately
and have a bright and rich palette.
finest group of miniatures done in the Pahari region is represented by the
famous series of the Bhagavata, the Gita Govinda, the Bihari Satasai, the
Baramasa and the Ragamala, painted in 1760-70 A.D. The exact place of origin of
these series of painting is not known. They might have been painted either at
Guler or Kangra or any other nearby centre. The Guler portraits together with
the Bhagavata and the other series have been grouped under a common title of
"Guler Style" on the basis of the style of the Guler portraits. The
style of these paintings is naturalistic, delicate and lyrical. The female type
in these paintings is particularly delicate with well-modelled faces, small and
slightly upturned nose and the hair done minutely. It is very likely that these
paintings are in the hand of the master-artist Nainsukh himself or by one of
his competent associates.
Guler style was followed by another style of painting termed as the
"Kangra style", representing the third phase of the Pahari painting
in the last quarter of the 18th century. The Kangra style developed out of the
Guler style. It possesses the main characteristics of the latter style, like
the delicacy of drawing and quality of naturalism. The name Kangra style is
given to this group of painting for the reason that they are identical in style
to the portraits of Raja Sansar Chand of Kangra. In these paintings, the faces
of women in profile have the nose almost in line with the forehead, the eyes
are long and narrow and the chin is sharp. There is, however, no modelling of
figures and hair is treated as a flat mass. The Kangra style continued to
flourish at various places namely Kangra, GuIer, Basohli, Chamba, Union
Territory of Jammu, Nurpur and Garhwal etc. Paintings of the Kangra style are
attributed mainly to the Nainsukh family. Some of the Pahari painters found
patronage in the Punjab under Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the Sikh nobility in
the beginning of the 19th century and executed portraits and other miniatures
in a modified version of the Kangra style which continued till the middle of
the 19th century.
with the naturalistic Kangra style in the Pahari region, there also flourished
a folk style of painting in the Kulu-Mandi area, mainly inspired by the local
tradition. The style is marked by bold drawing and the use of dark and dull
colours. Though influence of the Kangra style is observed in certain cases yet
the style maintains its distinct folkish character. A large number of portraits
of the Kulu and Mandi rulers and miniatures on other themes are available in
miniature from the series of the Bhagavata in the collection of the
National Museum was painted by Shri Bhagwan in 1794 A.D. Illustrations show Krishna
lifting the Goverdhana mountain on his little finger to save the people
of Gokula from the wrath of Indra who has let loose heavy rains. The
dark clouds and rain in the form of white dotted lines are shown in the
background. The drawing of figures is bold though rather stiff. The painting
has a yellow floral border.
example of the Kulu painting is of two girls flying kites. The miniature is in
the folk style of the late 18th century and is marked by bold drawing and dark
and dull colour scheme. The background colour is dull blue. The girls are
wearing the typical costumes and ornaments which prevailed in the Kulu
region in that period. Two flying parrots indicate sky in a symbolic manner.
The miniature belongs to the collection of the National Museum.
school came into existence during the 17th century AD. Most of the paintings
depicted the love stories of Radha and Krishna and also stories from ‘Krishna
Leela’ and ‘Gita Govinda’. These paintings were rich in colour and
often depicted the majestic landscape of the eastern parts of India. The
strokes used were bold and often expressive.
Your email address will not be published *
Email a Friend