The history of Indian paintings has lots of riches for people to enjoy and experience. For the usual humid climate in India the preservation of paintings have been difficult than other forms of art. Some of the earliest Indian paintings have been rock paintings of the prehistoric times. In places like Bhimbetka, petrogyyphs are found, some of them happen to be from 5500 BC.
Buddhist Literature in India is filled with examples of texts which go on to describe mansions of kings and aristocratic class overstated with paintings, but the Ajanta Caves are very significant of them all. Indian paintings offer a visual variety which expands from the early evolution to the present day. From being basically religious in purpose in the beginning, Indian painting has developed over the years to become a combination of a variety of cultures and traditions.
Ancient Indian Paintings
Ancient Indian art has seen the rise of the Bengal School of art in 1930s pursued by a lot of forms of experimentations in European and Indian styles. With the development of the economy the forms and styles of art also undergo many changes. Monuments of the exceptional value are Bhimbetka Rock Shelters, here, more than 500smaller rocks and caves contains thousands of paintings. Some of the oldest paintings here are more than 15000 years old, and in some cases it is 30,000 years old. The prehistoric art from is spread all over India from snow covered Himalayas to south of Tamil Nadu.
Indian Cave Paintings are regarded as the earliest evidences of Indian paintings which are made on cave walls and palaces while miniature paintings are small-sized colourful, intricate handmade illumination. This starts from prehistoric cave painting of Bhimbetka and flourishes through cave paintings of Ajanta caves, Ellora caves and Bagh.
Medieval Indian Paintings
During the Medieval period, India observed important development in the field of art of painting. The Medieval India is the part of Indian history between the 8th century and the 18the century A.D. The Persian tradition of miniature painting was also first introduced by the local rulers. It was during Akbar’s supremacy that the painting was organized by a grand concern which brought jointly Hindu and Muslim painters and artiÂsans from diverse parts of India, particularly, from regions like Gujarat and Malwa where manuscripts and miniature paintings had developed.
Mughal Paintings mainly describes Indo-Islamic design of painting and flourished in the ateliers of Mughal emperors including Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan. Tanjore Paintingsare classical South Indian form of painting which evolved in the village of Thanjavur.
Rajasthani paintings are miniature paintings of the finest quality, which are made both on paper and on large pieces of cloth. A number of famous schools of painting are Mewar, Hadoti, Marwar, Kishangarh, Alwar and Dhundhar. It is also known as Rajput Paintings and has clear influence of Mughal paintings though it quite unique in its own way. Pahari Painting is the miniature painting evolved in the hilly states of Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir during the period of Rajputs. These paintings have beautiful scenes of Himalaya as the backdrop.
Modern Indian Paintings
Glass Painting in India is a new concept and is extremely wonderful for its clarity and richness of colours. Patachitra flourished in the state of Odisha and is made on cloth with extremely vivid colours and mythology-based subject. Kalighat pots are another form, which are made on earthen pot or cloth. These are mainly used as wall hangings. Marble Painting is also a type of modern Indian painting which is made on exquisite marble stones. Marble paintings are mainly used for decorative purpose, especially on tabletop, furniture and flower vases. The Indian artists adopted Indian Oil painting as a unique technique of art and Raja Ravi Verma was considered to be the pioneer who made this new medium popular in India.
The tradition of painting has been carried on in the Indian subcontinent since the ancient times. Standing as a testimony to this fact are the exquisite murals of Ajanta and Ellora, Buddhist palm leaf manuscripts, Mughal and Kangra schools of miniature Indian paintings, etc. Infact, records have been found that indicate the usage of paintings for decorating the doorways, guest rooms, etc. Some traditional Indian paintings, like those of Ajanta, Bagh and Sittanvasal, depict a love for nature and its forces.
With time, Indian classical paintings evolved to become a sort of blend of the various traditions influencing them. Even the folk painting of India has become quite popular amongst art lovers, both at the national as well as the international level. Most of the folk paintings reflect a heavy influence of the local customs and traditions. In the following lines, we have provided information on the famous paintings of India:
Cave paintings of India date back to the prehistoric times. The finest examples of these paintings comprise of the murals of Ajanta, Ellora, Bagh, Sittanavasal, etc, which reflect an emphasis on naturalism. Ancient cave paintings of India serve as a window to our ancestors, who used to inhabit these caves.
Madhubani painting originated in a small village, known as Maithili, of the Bihar state of India. Initially, the womenfolk of the village drew the paintings on the walls of their home, as an illustration of their thoughts, hopes and dreams. With time, the paintings started becoming a part of festivities and special events, like marriage.
Miniatures paintings are beautiful handmade paintings, which are quite colorful but small in size. The highlight of these paintings is the intricate and delicate brushwork, which lends them a unique identity.
Mughal painting reflects an exclusive combination of Indian, Persian and Islamic styles. As the name suggests, these paintings evolved as well as developed during the rule of Mughal Emperors in India, between 16th century and 19th century.
Mysore Painting is a form of classical South Indian painting, which evolved in the Mysore city of Karnataka. During that time, Mysore was under the reign of the Wodeyars and it was under their patronage that this school of painting reached its zenith.
Pahari painting is the name given to Rajput paintings, made in the in the Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir states of India. These painting developed as well as flourished during the period of 17th to 19th century. Indian Pahadi paintings have been done mostly in miniature forms.
Rajput painting originated in the royal states of Rajasthan, somewhere around the late 16th and early 17th century. The Mughals ruled almost all the princely states of Rajasthan at that time and because of this; most of the schools of Rajput Painting in India reflect strong Mughal influence.
Tanjore Painting is one of the most popular forms of classical South Indian painting. It is the native art form of Thanjavur (also known as Tanjore) city of Tamil Nadu. The dense composition, surface richness and vibrant colors of Indian Thanjavur Paintings distinguish them from the other types of paintings.
Chola Paintings of South Indian have very high significance in the history of art. These paintings have great emotion in the faces, whether it is anger, compassion or any other expression. The era of the royal Cholas was an era of continuous development and enhancement of Dravidian art and architecture. They utilised their extraordinary wealth which were earned during their widespread invasions in building long-lasting stone temples and beautiful bronze sculptures.
The murals of the Chola age bring out diverse emotions on many faces, a feature rarely seen in Indian art. The majestic temple of Brihadishvara in Thanjavur is an example of the great wealth and power of the Chola Empire. The art of paintings boomed, Figures were painted with realism. The ability of the Chola painters is seen on their paintings. Most the paintings are massive and animated, which brings alive the greatness of the Lord who destroys evil and ensures peace.
Though the sculptural wealth of the Hoysalas is very well known through the magnificent examples of architecture and sculpture all over their realm, no example of the painter’s art has been discovered so far. though no murals have been noticed in any of the temples, fortunately there are specimens of painting of the Hoysala period from their territory preserver for us in Moodbidri. These are painted palm leaf manuscripts at the Jain pontifical seat at Moodbidri and are objects of worship.
These manuscripts, fortunately have been well taken care of in the ancient library at Moodbidri. By their paleography , clearly of the Hoysala period, and closely resembling the lithic as well as the copper-plate inscriptions of Vishnuvardana’s time, they have survived , with their paintings of quality in bright colour, to give an idea of the art of Hoysala painter.
In addition to architecture and sculpture, the Vijayanagar emperors were enthusiastic patrons of painting. The Vijayanagar school of painting was renowned for its frescoes of Hindu mythological themes on temple walls and ceilings. The rulers of Vijayanagar encouraged literature, art, architecture, religious, and philosophical discussions. With the fall of the Vijayanagar empire after the Battle of Talikota in 1565 CE, the artists who were under royal patronage migrated to various other places such as Mysore, Tanjore, and Surpur.
Absorbing the local artistic traditions and customs, the Vijayanagar school of painting gradually evolved into many styles of painting in South India, including the Mysore and Tanjore schools of painting. Mysore painting, an important form of South Indian classical painting, developed out of Vijayanagar painting and originated in the southern town of Mysore, in Karnataka, during the reign of the Vijayanagar emperors.
The Dravidian style of Architecture is the characteristic South Indian style and is mainly found in the Southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh. The Dravidian architecture can mainly be seen through the temples; which were of various shapes such as square, rectangular, octagonal, star-shaped etc and they were made from stones. They were constructed by sandstone, steatite or granite. The Vastu Shastra, an ancient science of architecture and construction, states it as one of the three styles of temple building.
Mughal painting, was style of painting, confined mainly to book illustration and the production of individual miniatures, that evolved in India during the reigns of the Mughal emperors (16th–18th century). In its initial phases it showed some indebtedness to the Ṣafavid school of Persian painting but rapidly moved away from Persian ideals. Probably the earliest example of Mughal painting is the illustrated folktale Tuti-nameh (“Tales of a Parrot”) at the Cleveland (Ohio) Museum of Art.
Mughal painting was essentially a court art; it developed under the patronage of the ruling Mughal emperors and began to decline when the rulers lost interest. The subjects treated were generally secular, consisting of illustrations to historical works and Persian and Indian literature, portraits of the emperor and his court, studies of natural life, and genre scenes.
The school had its beginnings during the reign of the emperor Humāyūn (1530–40 and 1555–56), who invited two Persian artists, Mīr Sayyid ʿAlī and Khwāja ʿAbd al-Ṣamad, to join him in India.
Though retaining the upright format, general setting, and flat aerial perspective of Persian painting, the Indian artists of Akbar’s court exhibited an increasing naturalism and detailed observation of the world around them. Akbar’s fondness for history resulted in his commissioning of such dynamic illustrated histories as the Akbar-nāmeh (“History of Akbar”), in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. An empathy for animals is evident in the illustrations of the animal fables, particularly the Kalīlah wa Dimnah and the Anwār-e Suhaylī.
The elegance and richness of the Jahāngīr period style continued during the reign of Shah Jahān (1628–58) but with an increasing tendency to become cold and rigid. Genre scenes—such as musical parties, lovers on a terrace, or ascetics gathered around a fire—became frequent, and the trend continued in the reign of Aurangzeb (1658–1707). Despite a brief revival during the reign of Muḥammad Shah (1719–48), Mughal painting continued to decline, and creative activity ceased during the reign of Shah ʿĀlam II(1759–1806).
The particular miniature produced by Indian artists in their own style is known as Rajput or Rajasthani miniature. During this time, several schools of painting evolved, such as Mewar (Udaipur), Bundi, Kotah, Marwar (Jodhpur), Bikaner, Jaipur, and Kishangarh.
These paintings are done with utmost care and in minute details, with strong lines and bold colours set in harmonious patterns. The miniature artists use paper, ivory panels, wooden tablets, leather, marble, cloth and walls for their paintings. Indian artists employed multiple perspectives unlike their European counterparts in their paintings. The colours are made from minerals and vegetables, precious stones, as well as pure silver and gold. The preparing and mixing of colour is an elaborate process.
The Kishangarh province in Rajasthan is known for its Bani Thani paintings. It is a totally different style with highly exaggerated features like long necks, large, almond shaped eyes, and long fingers. This style of painting essentially depicts Radha and Krishna as divine lovers, and beautifully portrays their mystical love. Kishangarh miniature painting reached a peak in the eighteenth century, during the rule of Raja Sawant Singh, who fell in love with a slave girl, Bani Thani and commanded his artists to portray himself and her as Krishna and Radha. Other themes of Bani Thani paintings include portraits, court scenes, dancing, hunting, music parties, nauka vihar (lovers travelling in a boat), Krishna Lila, Bhagavata Purana and various other festivals like Holi, Diwali, Durga puja, and Dussehra.
Kishangarh painting was 18th-century school of the Rājasthanī style of Indian painting that arose in the princely state of Kishangarh. The school is clearly distinguished by its individualistic facial type and its religious intensity. The sensitive, refined features of the men and women are drawn with pointed noses and chins, deeply curved eyes, and serpentine locks of hair. Their action is frequently shown to occur in large panoramic landscapes.
The magnificence of Jaipur paintings is recognized world-wide. The royal palaces are decorated with beautiful eye catching paintings. Captivating paintings retreat spectators to erstwhile era. The paintings in the royal palaces portray the extravagance, once enjoyed by Maharajas and Maharanis. The art of painting started budding during the reign of the Maharajas. The artisans of that era were highly endowed, and were responsible to beautify the regal palaces so exclusively that they still captivate eyes.
The collection of traditional and contemporary paintings can be glimpsed in Jaipur’s City Palace with a great collection of mind blowing paintings are on display. Jaipur offers specimens of some exclusive frescos and paintings in its vicinity. The palaces and havelis in Rajasthan mesmerize with their splendor, especially the grandeur of Shekhawati region is worth persistent visits.
It was at Marwar and other places such as Jodhpur, Pali and Nagaur that a variety of sub-schools of paintings developed during 17th -19th centuries. Of these, Jodhpur is the most important centre of Marwar School of paintings. Rao Jodha founded Jodhpur, the capital of Marwar in 1459. As in the other states of Rajasthan, the Jain style of painting flourished in Jodhpur in the 15th and 16th centuries. Subsequently, a folk art style became prevalent and a Ragmala series in this style was painted at Pali in 1623. The paintings in the Mughal style developed mainly under the patronage of Jaswant Singh (1638-1681) and also by his successors also up to 1750.
Bundi is one of the few places in India, which can lay its claim to an authentic School of Painting. “The Bundi School” is an important school of the Rajasthani style of Indian miniature painting that lasted from the 17th to the end of the 19th century in this princely state. One of the earliest examples of the Bundi Paintings is the Chunar Ragamala painted in 1561. Bundi paintings emphasized on hunting, court scenes, festivals, processions, life of nobles, lovers, animals, birds and scenes from Lord Krishna’s life.
The Bundi School had a close association with the Mughal style yet it was never fundamental to the evolution and growth of Bundi paintings, however the delicacy of the Mughal style was also not abandoned.
The Bikaner style of painting is a Rajasthani style of painting developed in the city of Bikaner. It emergered in medieval India and was founded by Prince Rao Bika in 1488.
The subjects painted often originate from Indian mythology. Elephant trunks are frequently featured. Jain, Buddhist, Mughal, Rajput, and Deccan miniatures have been found using the Bikaner style. Raja Rai Singh was particularly influenced by Mughal art. Some notable examples of this school of art were painted during reigns of Rai Singh, Karan Singh and Anup Singh. They painted scenes from the Ragmala, Bhagavata Purana, and Rasa lila.
Many pictorial texts painted in the Mewar style in the middle of the 17th century and in the reign of Maharana Jagat Singh (1628-52) are available. Because of the growth of the Vallabha sect in Rajasthan, the Radha-Krishna Lila was the main contribution of the Mewar style. Bhagwad-Purana was the main subject of Mewar paintings.
With this style, artists used a single hair from the throat or tail of a squirrel to execute the finely detailed work of these superb paintings. The Mewar School continued through the 1700s and into the 1800s, the output being quite prolific. Although religious themes continued to be popular, more and more paintings concentrated on portraiture and the life of the ruler.