Features and Evolution of Miniature Paintings in India

Art and Culture, Miniature Paintings, Features of Miniature Paintings, Evolution of Miniature Paintings in India, Schools of Miniature Paintings

Features and Evolution of Miniature Paintings in India

Miniature paintings are special works of art because they are delicate handmade paintings, much smaller in size than a normal painting. This is indeed the hallmark of these paintings, the intricate and delicate brushwork, which lends them their unique identity, requires much patience and skill on the part of the artist making them.

It is needed difficult even to create normal paintings or a portrait, so one can imagine just how much more difficult it would be to create a miniature painting.

Features of Miniature Paintings

The colours used in the miniature painting are handmade, acquired from vegetables, minerals, indigo, conch shells, precious stones, pure gold and silver. The most common theme of Indian miniature Painting compromises the Ragas i.e. the melodies of Indian classical music. Miniature painting is an ancient art in India and there were many schools for the same, including those of the Rajputs, Deccans and the Mughals.

Evolution of Miniature Paintings in India

The art of Indian Miniature painting started in the Western Himalayas, around the 17th century. These paintings were very much influenced by the mural paintings that originated during the later half of the 18th century. This art further flourished during the Mughal rule. Muslim kings of the Deccan and Malwa and also the Hindu Rajas of Rajasthan were the patrons of this great tradition. In fact, the Mughals were even responsible for introducing the unique Persian flavour in the miniature paintings of India.

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The concept of illustrated palm leaf manuscripts came into being during the 11th and 12th centuries. Since the manuscripts were diminutive in size, the paintings are done and they had to be much smaller. This itself could have given rise to the concept of miniature painting.

Miniature paintings are also done on wooden tables, ivory panels, paper, marble, leather, on walls and even on cloth. Some of the special miniature paintings show the flourishing of the Mughal period, illustrated manuscripts of Jainas and Buddhists, scenes from the Rajput history and also Deccan miniatures. Additionally, miniature paintings also included themes from Indian epics such as Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavata Purana, Rasikpriya, Rasamanjari and the rages of Indian classic music.

Schools of Miniature Paintings

The Schools of Indian Miniature Paintings include the Orissa School, the Pala school, the Mughal school, The Jaina school, The Rajasthani school and the Nepali School.

Pala Schools

The earliest specimens of the Indian Miniature paintings are those attached to the Pala school and date back as early as the 11th century. This school was characterised by its symbolic use of colour in the paintings, which took its inspiration from the age-old tantric rituals in vogue then. Yet other characteristics of the Pala School included the use of graceful lines, modelling forms with the delicate manipulation of variation of pressure, use of natural colours and so on.

Jaina School

The Jaina school of miniature paintings mainly concentrated on style. This school used strong pure colours, heavy gold outlines, stylish figures of ladies, diminution of dress to angular segments, square-shaped hands and enlarged eyes. One can get to see the influence of Jaina miniature paintings on Rajasthani and Mughal paintings as well.

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The very essence of miniature paintings is found in Rajasthan and can be traced back to its schools of Jodhpur, Jaipur, Mughal, Kangra and Mewar. The Jodhpur schools of miniature paintings depict legendary lovers such as Dholu and Maru on camel back. They also depict hunting scenes with elephants and horses. This school of Miniature Paintings mostly uses gold and stone colours.

The Mughal School of miniature paintings mostly depicts amorous scenes, Mughal Royal courts and the Battlefields, using gold and stone colours. Mughal Paintings feature stylized imagery in rich draped figures with a blend of Indian and Persian styles.

The primary difference between the Rajput and the Mughal miniature paintings lay in the use of colours. The Mughal school used muted colours, giving its paintings a shadow and depth, while the Rajasthan School uses bold primary colours, which ended up giving the paintings a more abstract look.

Yet other Schools of miniature paintings include the Malwa School, Raghogarh School, Bani Thani and Budhelkhand School. Folk miniature paintings evolved in two varying styles known as Phads and Pichwais. The artisans and peasants developed these attractive and vibrant paintings.       

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