Traditional or Folk, you can term them in any of the names. The paintings of India are a testimony of the country’s rich heritage and culture. The ideas depicted in the paintings are being carried forward from one generation to another, proclaiming the ancient beliefs, customs, and habitat prevailing during those times. The point that amazes me the most is the artistic skill and talent of the craftsmen and artisans. They knew how to leverage natural dyes and colors in the absence of modern technologies or provisions, organically curating such masterpieces. As a tribute to those wonderful artists and painters, I would like to share 7 traditional paintings of India with my readers that truly speak about the country’s ancient glory.
Originated about 2500 years back, the Madhubani art form is one of the oldest paintings of India. Alternatively known as Mithila art, it is popular mostly in Bihar (eastern India). The unique characteristics of the painting are its geometrical pattern, complex yet artistic. They portray the rituals that are followed in Hindu religious events and festivals. As per Hindu mythology, it is believed that the first painting was initiated when King Janaka requested artists to adorn the entire kingdom with the art form to celebrate the wedding of Sita and Rama, the tale of the epic Ramayana. The colors used in the paintings are all naturally prepared from flowers, sandalwood, turmeric, etc. The base of the painting is often made out of rice paste. The painting has gained wide-scale popularity internationally especially in Japan and Nepal.
Historians have discovered the origin of the Warli paintings way back to the 10th century. It is also one of the oldest traditional paintings of India, specifically belonging to the state of Maharashtra (Western India). The paintings portray the lives and habitat of the Warli tribe who held on to the folk culture of ancient India even in the modern era of civilization. The tribal people used the art form to decorate the walls of their houses. The art form was majorly created by the womenfolk of Warli. The patterns are all geometric in shape, mainly depicting the life of human beings. The base was created by cow dung or mud for imparting the brown texture. The white designs were made using rice paste, using a pin, a needle, etc. Nowadays, artists add colors to it and even paint them on paper and clothes.
Pattachitra is a word in the Sanskrit language, which comprises Patta meaning cloth and Chitra meaning picture. The origin of the painting dates back to the 12th century, prevalent in the state of Odisha (eastern India). The artists and the craftsmen skilled in designing the Pattachitra paintings reside in a village called Raghurajpur. For generations, the families in the village have been involved in paintings, carving toys, stones, and many more. The cloth used for the paintings is fine and is coated with white stone powder and glue, made out of the seeds of tamarind. The colors are all made from natural ingredients, the key one being the gum from a tree called Kaitha. The theme of the paintings mostly revolved around the life of Lord Jagannath (the incarnation of Lord Krishna of Hindu mythology).
Kalamkari is a Persian word, split into Kalam meaning pen and Kari meaning craftsmanship. It is one of the ancient traditional paintings of India, dating back to 3000 BC. The traces of the paintings have been discovered in the sites of Mohenjo-Daro. The process of creating the paintings is tedious, comprising of 23 steps starting from dyeing, hand painting, starching, cleaning, and the rest of the procedures. Pictures of animals and birds and the Hindu mythological characters from the epics Mahabharata and Ramayana are the main themes of the art form. Mustard, pomegranate, indigo, jaggery, turmeric, etc are used for the natural dyes. The art form is mainly prevalent in the state of Andhra Pradesh (southern India).
Thangka is an ancient Tibetan painting, dating back to the 7th century. You can find the art form in the Tibetan monastery, symbolizing Lord Buddha and his philosophies and other historical events. The intent behind the paintings was to impart the teachings of the Lord to humanity. The art form is often used in religious ceremonies to attain a feeling of devotion and meditate to pay respect to Lord Buddha. Some of the themes commonly found in the paintings are that of a treasure vase, conch shell, victory banner, lotus, a parasol (a symbol for protection), and different mudras (hand gestures) of the Lord ushering in the spirit of enlightenment.
Kalighat paintings or Bengali Paat instills within me a sense of pride as it belongs to the place where I was born, the state of West Bengal (eastern India). The art form has earned such a name due to its evolution near the holy temple of Kalighat in Kolkata, the capital city of West Bengal. The images of Goddess Durga and Goddess Lakshmi and the scenes from the two Hindu mythology epics Ramayana and Mahabharata form the theme of the paintings. The legendary artist and painter Jamini Roy was extensively influenced by the Kalighat paintings. The ingredients of the paintings were made at home using natural dyes.
Tanjore or Thanjavur paintings are a specialty of the state of Tamil Nadu (southern India). The origin of the painting dates back to the 16th century, flourishing under the blessings of the Marathas and the Nayakas. The unique feature of the art form, that distinguishes it from the other art forms of India, is the usage of motifs carved out of gold and other precious stones. Images of Hindu gods and goddesses formed the theme of the paintings. The base is wooden, made out of either the bark of the Jackfruit tree or normal plywood. The colors used are made out of mineral or vegetable dyes though now the artists use synthetic dyes.
The other traditional paintings of India that are prominent are miniature paintings, Phad and the Gond.
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