Indian Painting


  • pre-historic rock painting at Bhimbetka caves (M.P.)
  • cave paintings of Narsinghgarh (Maharashtra) show skins of spotted deer left drying
  • Both Hindu and Buddhist literature refer to paintings of various types and techniques for example, Lepyacitras (folklore), lekhacitras (line drawing and painting on textile) and Dhulitcitras (painting on the floor).
  • Buddhist text Vinayapitaka (4th–3rd century) describes the existence of painted figures in many royal buildings
  • play Mudrarakshasa (5th Century A.D.) mentions numerous
    paintings or Patas
  • 6th Century AD text on aesthetics-Kamasutra by Vatsyayana has mentioned painting amongst 64 kinds of arts and says that it was based on scientific principles
  • Vishnudharmottara purana (7th century A.D.) has a section on painting called Chitrasutra which describes the six organs of painting like variety of form, proportion, lustre and portryal of colour
  • Gupta paintings are the ones at Ajanta
  • Mural paintings are done on walls and rock surfaces like roofs and sides
  • Cave no. 9 depicts the Buddhist monks going towards a stupa. In cave no. 10 Jataka stories are depicted
  • Materials used in the paintings
    • chitra shalas (art gallery) and Shilpasashtra (technical treatises on art) have been made in literary ssources
    • principal colours used were red ochre (dhaturaga), vivid red (kum kum or sindura), yellow ochre (haritala), indigo (blue) lapis lazuli blue (Pakistan), lampblack (kajjala), chalk white (Khadi Mitti) terra verte (geru mati) and green
    • Buddhist paintings have also been found at the Buddhist caves at Bagh in the North and at various Deccan and southern sites of sixth and ninth centuries
    • Badami (Karnataka), at temples of Kanchipuram, at Jain caves of Sittanavasal (Tamil Nadu) and the Kailasa and Jain caves at Ellora (eighth and ninth centuries)
    • Brihadeshwara temple at Tanjavur are decorated with wall paintings on themes from epics and mythology
    • Bagh, Ajanta and Badami represent the classical tradition of the North and Deccan at its best, Sittana
      Vassal, Kanchipuram, Malayadipatti and Tirunalaipuram show the extent of its penetration in the south
    • paintings of Sittanavasal (abode of the Jaina Siddhas) are connected with jaina themes while the other three are Saiva or Vaishnava in theme and inspiration

Indian Painting

Art in Medieval India

  • During the time of Iltutmish (1210-36) we have references of paintings. During the time of Alauddin Khalji (1296-1316) we have mural painting, miniature painting (of illustrated
    manuscripts) and paintings on cloths. During the Sultanate period, we notice the Persian and Arabic influences on Indian painting.
  • The decorative paintings of the palace of the Gwalior king Man Singh Tomar impressed both Babur and Akbar
  • During 14th – 15th centuries A.D. miniature painting emerged as a powerful movement in Gujarat and Rajasthan and spread to Central, North and Eastern India because of the
    patronage of rich Jain merchants. Mandu in M.P., Jaunpur in Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bengal in Eastern India were other great centres of manuscripts illustrated with paintings
  • In Eastern India, in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, during the Pala kingdom in the 9th – 10th century A.D., a new kind of painting developed called the miniature painting.
    • Small works which were made on perishable materials.
    • Buddhist, Jain and Hindu manuscripts were illustrated, on palm leaves
    • Resemble the Ajanta style, but on a miniature scale.
    • Made on the request of the merchants, who donated them to the temples and monasteries.
  • In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries illustrated manuscripts of Persian influence were produced at Malwa, Bengal, Delhi, Jaunpur, Gujarat and the Deccan.
  • Illustrated manuscripts of Jain scriptures were presented to temple libraries. These manuscripts depicted the lives and deeds of the Tirthankars.
  • Emperor Akbar patronised artists from Kashmir and Gujarat; Humayun brought two Persian painters to his court. For the first time painters’ names were recorded in inscriptions. Some great painters of this period were Abd-us-Samad Dasawanth and Basawan.
  • Baburnama and Akbarnama
  • Akbar also encouraged the art of making portraits.
  • Jahangir who himself was a great painter and connoisseur of art
  • vibrant colours such as peacock blue and red and were able to give three dimensional effects
  • Mansur, Bishan Das and Manohar were the most gifted painters of Jahangir
  • Shah Jahan was more interested in architectural splendours, his eldest son Dara Shikoh patronised painting
  • Aurangzeb led to the dispersal of artists to different places in the country
    • painting in Rajasthan and the Punjab hills
    • Rajasthani and Pahari Schools
    • These works were painted on a small surface and were called miniature painting
    • Miniature painting was also developed at local centres
      like Kangra, Kulu, Basoli, Guler, Chamba, Garhwal, Bilaspur, and Jammu

Art in the Modern Period

  • Shaikh Zia-ud-Din’s bird studies for Lady Impey and
    the portrait paintings of Ghulam Ali Khan for William Fraser and Colonel Skinner
  • Oil paintings of Raja Ravi Varma of Travancore depicting mythological and social themes
  • Rabindranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, E.B. Havell and Ananda Kehtish Coomaraswamy
  • Bengal School had a great flowering at Shantiniketan where Rabindranath Tagore set up the Kala Bhavan
  • Nandalal Bose, Binod Behari Mukherjee and Ramkinkar Baij
  • Jamini Roy, another great painter of this period, drew inspiration from Qrissa’spatapainting and Kalighat painting of Bengal
  • Amrita Shergil, a great painter received education in Paris and Budapest
  • Calcutta painters led by Paritosh Sen, Niroda Majumdar and Pradosh Dasgupta
  • Progressive Artists Group-Bombay in 1948 under Francis Newton Souza
    • Included S .H. Raza, M.F.Hussain, K.M. Ara, S.K. Bakre and H.A. Gode
    • broke away from Bengal School of Art and represented the modern forceful art of independent India
  • Madras School of Art under Debi Prasad Roy Chowdhury and K.C.S Paniker
  • National Gallery of Modern Art
  • Lalit Kala Akademi

Decorative Art

  • The designs are called rangoli in the North, alpana in Bengal, aipan in Uttaranchal, rangavalli in Karnataka, Kollam in Tamilnadu and mandana in Madhya Pradesh

Mithila Painting

  • Madhubani folk art-Bihar-Conceptual-Think & Thought
  • village women who make three dimensional images
  • vegetable colour with few earthen colours and finished in black lines on cow dung treated paper
  • Tales-Sita’s exile, Ram-Laxman’s forest life, or depict the images of Lakshmi, Ganesha, Hanuman
  • Tulsi Plant
  • court scenes, wedding and social happenings
  • flora, animal and birds motifs, geometrical designs
  • special practice for mothers for their daughters as a marriage gift
  • advice on ways to lead a good married life
  • social variation in subjects and use of colours (Upper Class-more affluent classes are colourful & Lower caste-red and black line work)
  • passed on by the mother to the daughter

Kalamkari Painting

  • Painting done by kalam (pen)
  • Andhra Pradesh
  • Hand painted as well as block printing with vegetable dyes applied on cloth
  • Vegetable dyes
  • Sri-kalahasti is the best-known centre
  • Masaulipatnam
  • Decorating temple interiors with painted cloth panels
  • Vijaynagar rulers
  • Subjects from ramayana, the mahabharata and hindu
  • Continuous legacy from father to son
  • Use a bamboo or date palm stick pointed at one end with a bundle of fine hair attached to the other end
  • Dyes are obtained by extracting colours from plant roots, leaves, along with salts of iron, tin, copper, alum


  • Odisha
  • Kalighat Pats
  • painted on cloth are more detailed and more colourful
  • stories of Hindu gods and goddesses

Phad Paintings

  • scroll painting
  • most famous painting of Rajasthan, mainly found in the Bhilwara district
  • heroic deeds of a heroic figure, the daily life of a peasant, rural life, animals and birds, flora and fauna
  • main themes-depict the deities and their legends and the stories of erstwhile Maharajas
  • Colours-bright colours and subtle colours, black and later filled with colours
  • bold lines and a two-dimensional treatment of figures with the entire composition arranged in sections

Gond Art

  • Santhals in India
  • sophisticated and abstract form
  • Gond tribe of the Godavari belt

Batik Print

  • imported from the Orient

Warli Painting

  • derives its name from a small tribe of Maharashtra
  • decorative paintings on floors and walls of ‘gond’ and ‘kol’ tribes’
  • Trees, birds, men and women collaborate to create a
    composite whole
  • made mostly by the women as part of their routine at auspicious celebrations
  • white colour and rice paste and local vegetable glue
  • geometric patterns like squares, triangles, and circles. Dots and crooked lines are the units
  • expanded by adding subject after subject in a spiraling manner
  • do not employ religious iconography and is a more secular art form

Kalighat Painting

  • place of origin Kalighat in Kolkata
  • Patua painters
  • paintings on paper made with water colours comprise clear sweeping line drawings using bright colours and a clear background
  • Kali, Lakshmi, Krishna, Ganesha, Shiva
  • social life of Bengal
  • Similar kind of pata paintings may be found in Orissa
  • inspiration from the introduction of photography, western style theatrical performances, the rise of babu culture in Bengal as a result of the impact of British colonial and administrative system
  • referred to as the first works of art that came from Bengal

Indian Handicrafts

  • Kashmir-embroidered shawls, carpets, namdar silk and walnut wood furniture
  • Rajasthan-tie-and-dye (bandhnï), precious stone and jems, blue glazed pottery and minakari work
  • Andhra Pradesh is famous for Bidri work and Pochampalh saris while
  • Tamil Nadu is well known for bronze sculpture and Kajeevaram silk saris.
  • Mysore is well known for silk, sandalwood
  • Kerala is famous for ivory carvings and rosewood furniture
  • Chanderi and kosa silk of Madhya Pradesh,
  • chikan work of Lucknow,
  • Brocade and silk saris of Benaras,
  • Cane furniture and goods of Assam,
  • Bankura terracotta modelling and handloom items of Bengal

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