The colorful illuminations, which captured the fancy of the royalty and aristocracy, emerged in the medieval period. The illustrated manuscripts of Jains and Buddhists, and the flowering of the Mughal, Rajput, and Deccan Miniatures are noted for their meticulous execution and artistic skills. The fine stroke of brushes conveyed the themes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagvata Purana, Rasikpriya, Rasamanjiri, etc.These masterpieces of yore have a universal appeal which still touch the right chord of the audience.
The irony of history never ceases to amaze. The mighty Himalayas nurtured in its western valleys, a School of Paintings known as the “Miniature”. This intricate school of art was characterized by delicate brushwork and existed in the forms of ‘illuminations' (Drawings included in a book, especially in medieval manuscripts) or normal paintings. Miniature Painters used varied substances for coloring their drawings, namely- minerals, vegetables, precious stones, indigo, conch shells, pure gold and silver.
Paintings in Rajasthan | Kishangarh
Court Painters | Bani
Pahari Paintings |
Mughal Paintings |
Swami Haridas, Tansen and Akbar in Vrindavan, a leaf
from Jaipur-Kishangarh mixed style, circa A.D. 1750
The themes of these paintings included the Ragas or musical codes of Indian Classical music. There were three primary schools of Indian Miniature Paintings - the Rajput, the Mughal and the Deccan schools.
The Genesis of Miniature Paintings
The culture and history of the western Himalayas gave birth, to an Art form in the17th Century, which we now know as the Miniature Paintings. Though known specimens of this art form can be traced only to the latter part of the 18 th Century, one has every reason to believe that this art form existed way before the datable specimens.
Mughal School of Miniature Painting
The Mughal Miniature Paintings have a strong and a definite narrative content. These brilliantly illustrated paintings glow as if illuminated from inside. The use of bold contrasts such as red, green, blue yellow is definitely a native influence.
During the reign of Jahangir these paintings gained more sophistication. They became smaller and more intricate. Even the themes were very carefully chosen.
Rajput School of Miniature Painting
The Rajput School was characterized by the Krishna Legends themes. The literature of the Bhakti cult (a revolutionary religious cult movement) seems to be the primary source of inspiration of these paintings. The emphasis was on the emotions of love and the view of point was that of a woman's. Radha and Krishna were the models of an ideal couple. These paintings are known for the aesthetic depiction of various love acts of the divine couple. Rajput Miniature painters mainly used vegetable and mineral dyes. The striking use of yellow and blue in these paintings is noteworthy. Some important Rajput miniature painters are Keshav Das and Bhanudutta.
Deccan School of Miniature Painting
The influence of the Persian and Turkish painting traditions is evident in the Deccan School Miniatures. This school of painting flourished in Ahmadnagar, Bijapur, Golconda, and Aurangabad. The synthesis of these styles with indigenous traditions produced a fascinating hybrid. Lively themes and bold execution are the trademarks of a Deccan School Painting. Some interesting examples of this school are Husayan Shahi Manuscript, Ragamala, Nujum al-Ulam, Portraits of Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah II and Kulliyat from Golconda.
Paintings are one of the most creative modes of self-expression. But they gain historical importance only if they manage to depict the conditions and more importantly the thoughts of their times. Miniature Paintings, apart from being a very accomplished art form, are the most authentic story tellers of their times. Beneath their colorful veneer hides stories of kingdoms lost and ways of life coming to an end.