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Home >> Illustrated Manuscripts

Illustrated Manuscripts



India has a fairly large number of vivid illustrated manuscripts from the 11th century onwards. The early manuscripts from the western and eastern India were made of palm leaf folios bound between wooden covers with knotted cords passing through holes drilled through both covers and leaves. During the 14th century, paper began to replace the palm leaves and manuscripts consisting of paper leaves gathered together between boards of still paper or wood wrapped in cloth became vogue.

The vertical format bound book appeared in increasing numbers in the 15th century. It was mostly used for calligraphic specimens and miniatures. By the early 16th century, there was a slight variation in the book form, the new variant consisted of sets or series of illustrations with self contained texts on each leaf with captions or with no text at all in a manner of portfolio of illustrations. This format became very popular for Rajput illustrations.

Astasahasrikaprajnaparamita or The Perfection of Wisdom in 8000 verses is one of the earliest examples of the manuscript illustrations from eastern India. The manuscript is a collection of Buddha and other deities images where the text seems to be suppressed in favor of illustrations.

While the Jain illustrated texts like Kalpasutra and the Kalakacharyakatha (The Story of Kalaka) were executed in western India. The other notable illustrations of this region are the Balgopalastuti series and Vasanta Vilasa.


The advent of Islamic rule in the 12th century brought with it Persian painting traditions which fused with indigenous idioms of India. The resultant Indo Persian painting traditions led to the production of illustrated manuscripts like Khamsah, Nimat- Nama, Sharaf-Nama and Iskandar-Nama.

The Chaurapanchasiksa or the CPS Group Style characterized with flat, bold lines, colors, and rhythms appeared in the 16th century. The illustrated manuscripts like Aranyaka Parva of the Mahabharata and the Mahapurana, Chaurapanchasika series itself, Chandayana, Ragamala, Bhagavata Purana, Devi Mahatmya, Mrigavata, Ragamala, and Gita Govinda are attributed to this group.The Mughul Period in the 16th century is remembered for its vivid illustrated manuscripts like Tutinama, Babur Nama, Akbar Nama, and Tuzuk I Jahangiri, which carried both the Persian and Indian idioms. Under the influence of Mughal, the Rajput States of India also produced vivid, engaging illustrated manuscripts based on the Ragamala, Rasikpriya, Rasabeli, Bhagavata Purana and Ramayana. The Deccan and South were not far behind, notable illustrated manuscripts like Tarif-Husayn Shahi, Nujum al-‘Ulam’and Mahabharata were produced in the late 16th-17th century.Each illustrated manuscript has a story, themes and colors, which speak, let’s know them closely.

  • Akbarnama
  • Mughal Illustrated Manuscripts
  • Chaurapanschasika
  • Rasamanjari
  • Jain Illustrations
  • Sikh Illustrated Manuscripts
  • Medieval Manuscripts
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