“Beauty shines with a light from beyond itself.” In the tradition of Tanjore art- glistening with its golden and jeweled embellishments and the purifying presence of the great divine, this statement finds an expression. Drawing from the opulent treasure of Indian religious traditions, Tanjore or Thanjavur paintings are proof of India’s devotion to its culture, which is turned into an unforgettable visual experience encased within a refined wood frame by the Tanjore artisits.
The term “Tanjore” (after a South Indian town of the same name) in reality applies to a form of art whose inspiration started taking shape under the Vijayanagara kingdom and was developed after its collapse in 1565 under the patronage of Nayakas (subsidiary rulers) of Tanjore and the Marathas. Characteristic features of Vijayanagar paintings are- slim figures, differentiated features, attention to detail, and a protruding second eye of the subjects. Under the Nayakas, round limbs, almond eyes, lavish costumes, and the use of red, green, and white in the background along with heavy decorations became a feature of their art. The Marathas who were outsiders in the South kept the traditional idiom of Thanjavur art alive, with secular themes and European ideas being introduced into the artistic vocabulary. Throughout its development, themes from ancient Hindu Purana and epics- Ramayana and Mahabharata, have dominated the canvas of Tanjore. Continued association with the royals is another basic feature of Tanjore art, owing to the laborious process of making producing these aesthetic marvels.
Looking at a Tanjore portrait, you will feel like you are gazing at a three-dimensional image in a two-dimensional medium. Embossing- the technique of creating raised patterns on the surface and the use of gold leaf are distinct steps in the making of a Tanjore painting which are behind the awe-inspiring high-relief effect of these artworks. The skilled Tanjore artists who have inherited the art for generations begin the procedure by selecting a structure for the painting, with the use of layers of wood and starboards stuck together with paste, to protect the art from damage. The prepared frame is covered with a fine cloth such as muslin (Sallathuni) spread on the surface with tamarind paste glue and covered with lime paste or “Sudha”.
A canvas thus obtained gets adorned with rough sketches drawn with coal, over which “Sukkan” (un-boiled limestone) is applied to create the elevated patterns on the images. Gemstones, glass pieces, semi-precious stones, and gold leaves are now put on the drawing and the artist adds striking colors from a defined color pallet, obtained from natural sources to the painting. Gold leaf in the Tanjore painting is either used on the elevated areas of the painting or coated over the flat canvas on the attire, jewelry, and decorative elements to bring that distinguishable golden luster to this art. Finally, the eyes of the deities are drawn, a process which has artistic as well as ritual meanings in Indian art, referred to as “opening of the eyes” or “Kandera Derachina”. The entire process is a complex one in which the artist pays utmost attention to details and leaves ample room for correcting even the tiniest errors in between two steps.
TANJORE PAINTINGS AND HOW TO ADD THEM TO YOUR SPACE
The gilded Tanjore artworks can be divided into a) icons of individual deities and b) paintings that showcase mesmeric mythological scenes.
Paintings of deities standing in a celestial place of worship, surrounded by diminutive figures of priests, devotees, and secondary gods-goddesses, with the lowermost portion of the image showing plates of offerings of fruits, flowers, and other ritual items, are based on the visualization of the interiors of a temple, the “Garbha-griha”, where the deity or group of deities reside. Portable and endowed with elements that perfectly recreate the devotional ambiance of a Hindu shrine, these impeccable Tanjore paintings are the promise of a personal and ethereal experience of gazing into the large almond eyes of the divine.
The second group where the otherworldly tales of pristine Hindu texts come to life are Tanjore paintings with episodes from Mahabharata, Ramayana and Puranas imprinted upon the canvas. Popular Tanjore artworks such as “Meenakshi-Kalyanam” (the marriage of goddess Meenakshi or Parvati with Shiva) and “Kalinga-Krishna” (Krishna dancing on the hoods of serpent Kaaliya) are examples of the fluidity of a story used in the traditional and rigid Tanjore idiom, where enabled by the pan-Indian legends, the Tanjore artists become storytellers. These paintings are rich in subject matter, with a wide range of primary and secondary subjects drawn, each given an individualistic quality with the help of different skin colors.
The sheer variety of subjects and the bold expression actualized by the Tanjore artist in a tradition that has not deviated much from its original form is the reason why Tanjore paintings have survived a considerable period of a slump in demand. In fact, in the modern minimalist management of space, a glistening Tanjore painting is the perfect choice to bring character to your surroundings.
IN YOUR PLACE OF WORSHIP
Framed by a sturdy teakwood temple, Tanjore paintings of Ishta Devata (tutelary god-goddess) and Kula- Devata (family deity) are a simple, traditional and tested way of bringing this magnificent art form into your house. As the central piece in your place of worship, a Tanjore painting will radiate much-needed spiritual splendor for you to soak in.
IN YOUR OFFICE
In the modern world, workspaces are becoming increasingly bland and indistinguishable in their interiors. With a large Tanjore painting in the conference hall or the gallery, you can transform your place of work from a plain and stressful space to a spiritually rich and artistically remarkable one.
IN YOUR HOME
A story is the best way to break the ice between you and your guests. Scenes from Indian religious tradition spread across your wall in golden tints and eye-catching shades of the Tanjore painting can become your visual aid while you let your visitants in on the awesome stories they hold, simultaneously bringing an exotic and mystical feel to your home.
Exotic India Art treasures a vast collection of traditionally made Tanjore paintings made available to you online. “Navaneeta Krishna” (childhood form of Krishna), sage Kashyapa with Kamadhenu, “Rama Pattabhisheka” (coronation of Sri Rama), Ranganatha Swami to “Gajalakshmi”, “Uma-Maheshwara” (Shiva with Uma-Parvati) and numerous beguiling themes are waiting for you to explore and pick this artistic 24-Karat gold for your space.
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