Painting Art of India

Genre’s of Indian painting:

Painting is mentioned as 1 of 64 Kalas in ancient Indian texts. Historical art of Paintings in India can be classified into two different segments:

  • A. Murals or Wall Paintings
  • B. Miniature Paintings

A. Mural Painting:

  1. A mural is any piece of artwork painted or applied directly on a wall, ceiling or other large permanent surface
  2. Architectural elements of the given space are harmoniously incorporated into the picture.

Method Of Paintings

  • True Fresco Method
    • The paintings are done when the surface wall is still wet so that the pigments go deep inside the wall surface.
    • Technique of mural painting executed upon freshly-laid, or wet lime plaster.
    • Water is used as the vehicle for the pigment to merge with the plaster, and with the setting of the plaster, the painting becomes an integral part of the wall.
  • Tempora or Fresco-­Secco
    • Method of painting on the lime plastered surface which has been allowed to dry first and then drenched with fresh lime water.

Pre-historic Murals:

Bhembetka, Raisen, MPbhimbetka5

  • Found Period:
    1. Paleolithic
    2. Mesolithic – Zoo Rock Shelter : boar
    3. Chalcolithic
  • Inside Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary – Vindhya Hills
  • Earliest depicting animals such as bisons, bears
  • Mainly Red and white , occasionally use of green and yellow
  • Later : battle scenes

Ancient Murals:  (2BC – 7th AD)

Ajanta Paintings:download

  • They are cut into the volcanic lava of the Deccan in the forest ravines of the Sahyadri Hills
  • The Ajanta caves are cut into the side of a cliff that is on the south side of a U-shaped gorge on the small river Waghora (or Wagura)
  • The earliest group of caves consists of caves 9, 10, 12, 13 and 15A. – probably under the patronage of the Satavahana dynasty– 2nd BC
  • The second phase began in the 5th century-during reign of Harisena – Vakataka dynasty
  • There are 30 caves in Ajanta of which 9, 10, 19, 26 and 29 are chaitya-grihas and the rest are monasteries (Viharas)
  • All paintings shows heavy religious influence and centre around Buddha, Bodhisattvas, incidents from the life of Buddha and the Jatakas.
  • The paintings are executed on a ground of mud-plaster in the tempera technique.
  • Abandoned in AD 650 in favour of Ellora
  • Calligraphic lines characterize these paintings, which can be classified into portraits, narrative illustrations and ornamental decoration.

Ellora Cave Paintingscoloured_painting_ellora_ceiling

  • 34 in No’s – A.D. 600 to 1000 – Chamadari Hills
  • Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism– illustrates spirit of tolerance in Indian tradition
  • South to North: The 12 Buddhist (caves 1–12), 17 Hindu (caves 13–29) and 5 Jain (caves 30–34) caves
  • Paintings can be found in five caves. However, all of them are today preserved only in the Kailasa temple.
  • The rock paintings of Ellora were painted in two different series. The first series, which were done when the caves were carved, revolve around Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi. The second series, painted centuries later, illustrate procession of Shaiva holy men, Apsaras, etc.

Bagh Paintings:

  • Bank of Bagh river 5th -7th century
  • Depict some aspect of Buddhist life and rituals.
  • Influenced by Ajanta

Sitabinji Cave Paintings:

  • Ravana Chhaya – natural shelter which contains unique artwork – 7th AD tempera painting.
  • Before applying tempera (fast drying color) the rough surface of granite was smoothened with a thin coating of lime.
  • royal procession
  • Bhanja dynasty

Medieval Mural paintings – After 7th century AD

Sittanavasal Paintings

  • Jain Monastery, near trichy
  • Pandyan period of the 9th century
  • themes of these paintings include animals, fish, ducks, people collecting lotuses from a pond, two dancing figures
  • Ceiling of the Ardhamandapam is adorned with murals from the 7th century

Armamalai Cave

  • Natural cave which was converted to a Jain temple in 8th century AD
  • The mural paintings are on the roof and walls of the cave.
  • The paintings were created by applying colours on the thin lime surface and over the thick mud surface
  • similar to the paintings of Sittanavasal Cave

Shekhawati paintings:

  • It is covered by the two modern districts of Jhunjhunu and Sikar
  • Geometric and floral designs.
  • The interior work is usually painted secco, using tempera, onto dry plaster.

Other Mural Paintings:

Thirunadhikkara Cave Temple (TN)
Malayadipatti rock-cut Hindu temples (Tamil Nadu)
Saspol Caves (J& K)
Tabo Caves (HP)
Bhimbetka ·       Medieval : Sankha Lipi Inscriptions:

a)     Use of ornamental spiral flourishes resembling a conch shell (sankha).

b)     Most Gupta Period


Murugan Temple, Thiruparankundram (Tamil Nadu,
Kanheri Caves (Maharashtra)
Manmod Caves (Maharashtra),
Undavalli (Andhra Pradesh).

B. Miniature Paintings:

  • The Palas of Bengal were the pioneers
  • Glory during the Mughal period
  • The different schools of the Miniature paintings of India include:
    1. Mughal School
    2. Northern
      • Pahadi
    3. Eastern:
      • Pala School – Earliest
      • Orissa School –Pattachitra
      • Madhubhani
    4. Western School
      • Rajasthani/Rajput School
    5. Central:
      • Malwa,
      • Deccan
      • Jaunpur
    6. Southern:
      • Mysore
      • Tanjore
    7. Jain School
    8. Vernacular

Mughal School of painting:m2

  • Unique blend of Indian, Persian and Islamic styles
  • Tuti-nama – first work of the Mughal School.
  • Hamza-nama(illustrations on cloth)- more developed and refined than Tuti-nama.
  • Humayun:
    • Return-brought with him Persian artists – Mir-Sayyid Ali and Abd-us-samad.
    • Khamsa of Nizami with 36 illuminated pages
  • Akbar
    • Established in India an atelier
    • Hamzanama series, stories of Amir Hamza – painted on cloth
    • Elements of realism and naturalism coming to the fore.
  • Jehangir
    • Deeply influenced by European painting

Rajput School Paintings

  • Themes – events of epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, Krishna’s life, beautiful landscapes, and humans
  • Precious stones, Gold and silver were used
  • Mughal Influence
  • Dominance of Chaurapanchasika group style in Indian Rajasthani Paintings

Starting from the 16th century, when the Rajput Painting originated, numerous schools emerged, including:

Mewar School Chavand, Nathdwara, Devgarh, Udaipur and Sawar
Marwar school the Kishangarh, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Pali and Ghanerao styles
Hadoti school Kota, Bundi and Jhalawar styles
Dhundar school Amber, Jaipur, Shekhawati and Uniara styles
Pahari school Himachal (kangra & Kullu) & Jammu and Kashmir
  1. MEWARa1
  • Drawing is bold and the colours are bright and contrasting.
  • Text of the painting is written in black on the top against the yellow ground.


  1. BUNDI
  • a2Very close to the Mewar style
  • rich and glowing colours, the rising sun in golden colour, crimson-red horizon, overlapping and semi-naturalistic trees
  • Mughal influence is visible in the refined drawing of the faces.


  1. KOTAHa4
  • Very much akin to the Bundi style
  • Themes of tiger and bear hunt were very popular at Kotah.
  • most of the space is occupied by the hilly jungle which has been rendered with a unique charm.


  • This school of painting originated at Amber but later shifted to Jaipur, the new capital.
  • There is a fairly large number of portraits of the Jaipur rulers


  • a6Executed in a primitive and vigorous folk style
  • completely uninfluenced by the Mughal style.
  • A large number of miniatures comprising portraits, court scenes, series of the Ragamala and the Baramasa, etc. were executed from the 17th to 19th centuries at several centres of painting like Pali, Jodhpur and Nagour etc. in Marwar.
  1. BIKANERa7
  • Bikaner had close relations with the Mughals.
  • Some of the Mughal artists were given patronage by the Bikaner court
  • responsible for the introduction of a new style of painting having much similarity with the Mughal and the Deccani styles.
  • developed under the patronage of Raja Savant Singh (1748-1757 A.D.), who wrote devotional poetry in praise of Krishna
  • master painter Nihal Chand who, in his works, has been able to create visual images of his master’s lyrical compositions

Pahadi School of Painting:

  • Rajput paintings, made in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir states
  • Two Types:
    • Basohli and Kulu Style (Influenced by Chaurpanchasika style)
    • Guler and Kangra Style (Based on cooler colors and refinement)


  • Characterized by vigorous and bold line and strong glowing colours.
  • There is a change in the facial type which becomes a little heavier and also in the tree forms which assume a somewhat naturalistic character, which may be due to the influence of the Mughal painting.
  • general features – use of strong and contrasting colours, monochrome background, large eyes, bold drawing, use of beetles wings for showing diamonds in ornaments, narrow sky and the red

2.GULER (Jammu)p2

  • consisting of portraits of Raja Balwant Singh of Jasrota (a small place near Jammu) by Master Nainsukh.
  • He worked both at Jasrota and at Guler.
  • paintings are in a new naturalistic and delicate style marking a change from the earlier traditions of the Basohli art.
  • colours used are soft and cool.
  • inspired by the naturalistic style of the Mughal painting.


  • third phase of the Pahari painting in the last quarter of the 18th century.
  • developed out of the Guler style.
  • the faces of women in profile have the nose almost in line with the forehead, the eyes are long and narrow and the chin is sharp.
  • There is, however, no modelling of figures and hair is treated as a flat mass.

4.KULU – MANDlp4

  • a folk style of painting, mainly inspired by the local tradition.
  • style is marked by bold drawing and the use of dark and dull colours.
  • Though influence of the Kangra style is observed in certain cases yet the style maintains its distinct folkish character.

Mysore Paintings:

  • Evolved from the paintings of Vijayanagar times
  • Similar to Tanjore Paintings.
  • Raja Wodeyar I (1578–1617 A.D) — >Tipu Sultan — > Krishnaraja Wodeyar III (1799-1868 AD)
  • After colouring the figures, the artists would turn to elaboration of the faces, dress and ornaments including the gesso work (gold covering), which is an important feature of Mysore painting

Gesso Work:

  • Gesso work was the hallmark of all traditional paintings of Karnataka.
  • Gesso refers to the paste mixture of white lead powder, gambose and glue which is used as an embossing material and covered with gold foil.

Tanjore Paintings

  • Dense composition, surface richness and vibrant colors
  • Embellishments of semi-precious stones, pearls and glass pieces
  • 16th century, under the reign of the Cholas
  • Theme of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, along with saints.

Madhubani Paintings: v0

  • Madhubani painting or Mithila painting is a style of Maithil painting, practiced in the Mithila region of Bihar state, India, and the adjoining parts of Terai in Nepal.
  • Painting is done with fingers, twigs, brushes, nib-pens, and matchsticks, using natural dyes and pigments, and is characterized by eye-catching geometrical patterns.
  • For each occasion and festival
  • Traditionally done on freshly plastered mud walls and floors of huts, but now they are also done on cloth, handmade paper and canvas.
  • GI


  • Traditional, cloth-based scroll painting, based in Odisha
  • depict stories of Hindu deities -specially inspired by Jagannath and Vaishnava cult
  • Palm leaf pattachitra which is in Oriya language known as Tala Pattachitra drawn on palm leaf.

Jain School:

  • Emphasis on style
  • Strong pure colors, stylish figures of ladies, heavy gold outlines, diminution of dress to angular segments, enlarged eyes and square-shaped hands
  • Influenced Rajasthani & Mughal

Malwa School:malwa

  • Manuscript of the Nimatnama painted at Mandu, during the reign of Nasir Shah (1500–1510) represent a synthesis of the indigenous and the Persian style.
  • Use of contrasting colours, refinement of drawing due to the influence of the Mughal paintings
  • Ornaments and costumes consisting of black tassels and striped skirts.

Deccani School of Painting (1560-1800 A.D.)


  • female appearing in the painting belongs to the northern tradition of Malwa.
  • Choli(bodice) and long pigtails braided and ending in a tassel are the northern costume.
  • colours used are rich and brilliant
  • Persian influence – high horizon, gold sky and the landscape.


  • ladies – tall and slender and are wearing the South Indian dress.
  • rich colour scheme, the palm trees, animals and men and women all belongs to the Deccani tradition.
  • profuse use of gold colour
  • some flowering plants and arabesques on the top of the throne are derived from the Persian tradition.


  • “Lady with the Myna bird”, about 1605 A.D
  • colours are rich and brilliant
  • continued long after the extinction of the Deccan Sultanates of Ahmednagar, Bijapur and Golconda.


  • d3Belongs to the third quarter of the 18th century.
  • introduced by several Mughal painters who migrated to the Deccan during the period of Aurangzeb and sought patronage there.
  • Distinctive features – treatment of the ethnic types, costumes, jewellery, flora, fauna, landscape and colours.
  • style of the painting is decorative.
  • typical characteristics – rich colours, the Deccani facial types and costumes

Vernacular Art:

  • Art alive based on the collective memory of group.


  • Phad is a painted scroll, which depicts stories of epic dimensions about local deities and legendary heroes.
  • Bhopas(local priests) carry these scrolls on their shoulders from village to village for a performance
  • represents the moving shrine of the deity and is an object of worship.
  • most popular & largest Phad – local deities Devnarayanji and Pabuji.


  • v3Kalamkari (lit. pen-work) is primarily used for the temple festivals or as wall hangings.
  • stories from the epics Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas are painted as continuous narratives
  • relevant Telugu verses explaining the theme are also carried below the artwork.
  • colors are obtained from vegetable and mineral sources.
  • gods are painted blue,
  • the demons and evil characters in red and green.
  • Yellow is used for female figures and ornaments.
  • Red is mostly used as a background.


  • A ritualistic design drawn at the threshold of households and temples.
  • drawn everyday at dawn and dusk by women in South India
  • Kolam marks festivals, seasons and important events in a woman’s life such as birth, first menstruation and marriage.
  • Kolam is a free-hand drawing with symmetrical and neat geometrical patterns.