Ancient Indian Painting Styles that marked our culture and traditions
India has a fine history related to every field of life, whether it is art, warfare, food, clothing, architecture or civilization; and ancient Indian paintings are one of them. Differentiated by the geographically widespread regions, these particular forms of art range from Mithila paintings of North to Tanjore paintings of the South, and Pattachitra art in the East to Warli art in the west.
All these art styles gave birth to a lineage of famous painters of India, who produced masterpieces, valued till date. Some of the most prominent traditional Indian painting styles that became and remain a popular part of our culture are:
Miniature painting style was a part of India back in the 10th and 12th century when they were done on palm leaves. These miniatures, regarded as Pala and Jain, were adopted by different schools of art such as Rajasthani, Mughal, Pahari and Deccani miniatures, each of which have their own characteristic style and uniqueness.
The art style flourished under the Mughals in the 16th century, known to be an important milestone in the history of Indian art. It was an amalgamation of Islamic, Persian and Indian elements. These paintings were created using natural stone colors, mineral colors, conch shells, gold and silver dust with fine brushstrokes and intricate detailing. Rajasthani miniature paintings remain the most famous among all the other schools of this art across India.
Madhubani paintings, which originated in the Mithila region of Bihar, is one of the most celebrated styles of folk paintings in India. This spectacular wall art style includes beautiful illustrations which were made on the exposed interior walls of the houses in the medieval period. The beauty of Madhubani painting lies in its simple and evocative portrayal of the culture and traditions of India. The distinct style of designs included mostly geometrical patterns, symbolic images, and scenes from mythology using vibrant colors to enhance the story telling aspect of the painting. This includes sub styles named Bharni, Katchni, Tantrik, Godna, and Kohbar.
This famous Indian art form from Orissa dates back to the 12th century. Pattachitra is a composition of two words: ‘Patta’ which means cloth and ‘Chitra’ which means picture, making this a cloth or canvas painting style. This art style is being preserved by the natives of Raghurajpur, in Orissa where every family has at least one member still involved in the art.
The fundamental themes of pattachitra art were religiously bent and included Lord Jagannath, an incarnation of Lord Krishna, the excerpts from the story of Radha-Krishna, scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata (the two popular Indian epics), temple activities, and so on. An important feature of this painting style is the use of vegetable and mineral colours, to produce exquisite pieces.
Phad was a Rajasthani traditional narrative scroll painting, which depicted stories of local deities and heroes, painted on horizontal cloth scrolls in hues of red, yellow and orange. The Phad scrolls represented battlefields, adventure stories, legendary romances and the richness of the Indian princely states. This alluring painting style leaves one spellbound at aesthetic and artistic expression of stories by the folk artists.
Warli art belongs to one of the major tribes in the Western state of Maharashtra, the Warlis. Though rediscovered just a few decades back, this art form has its origins back into the 10th century A.D. Warli paintings were done inside the walls of huts and depicted pictures of the tribal daily life and social rituals. Various elements of nature such as the sun, moon, and rain accompanied by a Mother Goddess, Palaghat, a symbol of fertility, is used as the central motif of any Warli art. No other deity formed a part of this art. Circular patterns which can be commonly found in these paintings are indicative of their belief that death is just another beginning.
Besides, community activities such as farming, dancing, hunting, praying etc. were also painted as design themes. They were traditionally made using twigs and rice paste using geometrical patterns with a monochromatic theme, resembling cave paintings.
Picchwai paintings, translated as “back wall hanging”, were originally used as wall hangings behind the idols of Lord Krishna in Nathdwara temples. They narrated stories related to Lord Krishna with colourful, intricate works and artistic motifs. This distinct devotional and spiritual art form has passed from one generation to another in the state of Rajasthan, India.
These paintings were done on fabric using dark rich hues and completely revolved around the figure of Lord Krishna and his various moods or various sevas (offering) of Srinathji.