Tanjore paintings are well known for their use of pure gold embellishment and
combination of vivid colors to beautify the devotional icons. Similar is this
painting in which Lord Shiva, also known as ‘Mahadev’, and his eternal consort
and internal potency, Goddess Parvati, along with the mount of Lord Shiva,
Nandi, the sacred Bull, have been depicted. Lord Shiva is the predominating
deity of Tamo Guna (mode of ignorance), and therefore, is responsible for the
destruction of the material world in order to start a new cycle of repeated
births and deaths, and Goddess Parvati is the energy behind this act of the
Lord. He rides on Nandi, who is always loyal to his master.
As you can
see here, Lord Shiva sits in Ardhapadmasana on the pure white Nandi who is
adorned with several ornaments including a chain of tinkling bells around his neck.
He is always ready to serve his Lord with pure devotion and looks upon him with
his eyes filled with pure love. The Lord is unprecedently clad in a bright
yellow dhoti down to his ankles and adorned with a huge crown on his head,
which is unusual. Instead of the garland of skulls around his neck, he has worn
heavy neckpieces and a flower garland can also be seen around his shoulders. He
has four arms; the two upper hands carry a musical instrument called ‘Dumroo’
and a flame, while the lower hands are in the boon granting Varada Mudra and
the gesture of fearlessness Abhaya Mudra. Next to him is seated Goddess Parvati
who is beautifully attired in a silk saree with typical South Indian motifs.
She is bedecked with several jewels and wears a crown on her head. Her
complexion is similar to the fresh leaves of autumn season while Lord Shiva’s
is fair. The Prabhavali or arch surrounding them adds to the aesthetics of the
painting and the way everything has been embellished with the sequences of
shining stones is praiseworthy.
Tanjore painting is a traditional form of art in the South Indian
style and was started by the inhabitants of a small town known as
Thanjavur of Tamil Nadu. This gives it another name called
“Thanjavur painting”. This painting draws its figures, designs,
and inspiration from the time when Vedic culture was prevalent in
India. Certain remarkable features of a Tanjore painting
distinguish it from other paintings. Some of these are pure gold
or gold foil coating on gesso work, the use of rich and vivid
colors, and the inlay of cut-glass or semi-precious and precious
stones. The subjects of most of the Tanjore paintings are Hindu
Gods, Goddesses, and saints. The main devotional figure is
portrayed in the central portion of the painting and is usually
surrounded by various secondary figures.
The classic Tanjore paintings are done on wooden planks and hence
are also referred to as Palagai Padam in South India (Palagai =
Wooden plank, Padam = Picture). Creating a masterpiece is never an
easy task but the skilled artists of Thanjavur have been following
the tradition of making timeless Tanjore paintings for decades.
The making process begins with preparing the wooden board or
canvas. The size of the board depends upon the choice of the
patron. The next step is to paste cardboard over the wooden board
and then a cotton fabric is stretched and pasted upon it using
Now that the cloth is attached to the wooden panel, a rough sketch
of the motifs and figure is drawn onto the fabric. After this, a
paste of chalk powder and water-soluble adhesive is evenly applied
over the base and smoothed.
Thereafter, the outlines which were made or traced using a stencil
are now ready to be beautified and decked with various add-ons.
The usual materials for decoration are cut-glass, pearls,
semi-precious and precious gems, gold leaf, and laces. 22 or 18
Karat Gold leaves and gems of varied hues are especially inlaid in
areas like pillars, arches, walls, thrones, and dresses.
In the final step, the rest of the painting is filled with rich
and striking colors such as shades of red, blue, and green.
Formerly, the artists used natural colors like vegetable and
mineral dyes instead of chemical paints. The entire painting is
then cleaned and refined to give a flawless finished look.
Since the making of a single piece of Tanjore painting requires a
complex and elaborate process, the artists usually take at least
one or two months to complete it. The use of pure gold foil and
gems for beautification is a characteristic of an authentic
Tanjore painting. Due to this, Tanjore paintings last for
generations without getting tarnished and are much more expensive
than general paintings. Though the art form has undergone various
changes and technique modifications over the years, it continues
to attract the hearts of art lovers.
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