Painting in India

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Origin of Indian Painting

Bhimbetka Paintings

The origin of painting in India can be traced back to ancient times, and it has a rich history that spans several millennia. The earliest forms of painting in India are found in prehistoric rock art. The Bhimbetka rock shelters in Madhya Pradesh contain stone paintings dating back approximately 30,000 years. These paintings depict animals, human figures, and scenes from daily prehistoric life, using natural pigments.

Ancient texts like the Vedas and epics like the Mahabharata and Ramayana reference painting and its importance in Indian culture. Murals from ancient times can be seen in places such as the Ajanta Caves (dating from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 or 650 CE), where elaborate frescoes illustrate the life of the Buddha and various Jataka tales. These paintings are noted for their spiritual themes, expressive figures, and vibrant colours.

Several regional painting styles developed during the medieval period, influenced by local traditions and foreign elements. Miniature painting emerged during the Mughal era, starting in the 16th century and began to flourish. These paintings are characterised by intricate detail, rich colours, and elaborate themes involving court life, battles, and love stories. Styles such as Rajput, Pahari, and Deccani painting also developed during this period.


Classification of Indian Paintings:

Indian paintings can be broadly categorised into two primary forms: murals and miniatures. Murals are large-scale artworks painted directly on solid surfaces like walls and have been a part of Indian art since prehistoric times. Notable examples of mural paintings include the ancient frescoes at the Ajanta Caves and the Kailashnath Temple. In contrast, miniature paintings are detailed works on smaller, more delicate surfaces such as paper or cloth.

The tradition of miniature painting in India is believed to have been initiated by the Palas rulers of Bengal, and it reached its zenith during the Mughal era. This style was further developed by various schools in Rajasthan, including those in Bundi, Kishangarh, Jaipur, Malwa, and Mewar. ‘Ragamala’ paintings, which depict various musical modes, fall within this miniature category.

The major categories of Indian paintings include murals, miniatures, Mughal Paintings, and Rajasthani paintings, each representing distinct styles and periods in the rich tapestry of Indian art history.


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