Chapter – 11 Indian Painting: Ancient Period: Origin and Art in Medieval India

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Painting is one such form with which you may have been acquainted in some way or the other. Indian Painting is the result of the synthesis of various traditions and its development is an ongoing process. Modern Indian Painting in thus a reflection of the intermingling of a rich traditional inheritance with modern trends and ideas.

Ancient Period: Origin

  • Painting as an art form has flourished in India from very early times as is evident from the remains that have been discovered in the caves, and the literary sources.

  • The history of art and painting in India begins with the pre-historic rock painting at Bhimbetka caves, where we have drawings and paintings of animals.

Image of Bhimbetka Caves

Image of Bhimbetka Caves

Image of Bhimbetka Caves

  • Thousand of years ago, paintings and drawings had already appeared on the seals of Harappan civilization.

  • Both Hindu and Buddhist literature refer paintings of various types and techniques for example, Lepyacitras, lekhacitras and Dhulicitras.

  • The Buddhist text Vinayapitaka describes the existence of painted figures in many royal buildings. The play Mudra rakshasa mentions numerous paintings or Patas.

  • Archaeology and literature testify to the flourishing of painting in India from pre-historic times.

  • The best specimens of Gupta paintings are the ones at Ajanta. Their subject was animals and birds, trees, flowers, human figures and stories from the Jataka.

Art in Medieval India

  • During this period of Delhi Sultanate, mural painting has been reported from the royal palaces and royal bed-chambers and mosques. They chiefly depict flowers, leaves and plants.

  • During the time of Iltutmish we have references of paintings. During the time of Alauddin Khalji we have mural painting, miniature painting and paintings on clothes.

  • During the Sultanate period, we notice the Persian and Arabic influences on Indian painting.

Image of Miniature paintings

Image of Miniature Paintings

Image of Miniature paintings

  • During this period, we have paintings from other regional states. The decorative paintings of the palace of the Gwalior king Man Singh Tomar impressed both Babur and Akbar.

  • In Eastern India, in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, during the Pala kingdom in the 9th -10th century A.D. a new king of painting developed called the miniature painting.

  • The art of painting reached its climax during the period of Jahangir who himself was a great painter and connoisseur of art.

  • Artists began to use vibrant colours such as peacock blue and red and were able to give three dimensional effects to paintings.

  • The rise of the Bhakti movement in India in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries also inspired illustrative texts on the themes of Vaishnava devotional cults.

  • In the pre-Mughal era mural paintings on the walls of temples gained prominence in the northern part of India.

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