History of Indian Paintings: All that you need to know

Today government jobs are in demand due to the stature, prestige, and numerous benefits that come along. More and more people these days are opting for Govt. exams with the aim of getting into the banking sector, or other Govt. departments, ministries and organizations. However, to get there, you need to crack the online entrance examination. The exam is conducted in different stages and the syllabus covers ancient as well as contemporary topics. If you are appearing for the SSC CGL exam, then one important section of your paper will be ‘Indian History’. Knowing about the history of Indian culture can help you score good marks in the examination, which is why we have compiled a list that talks about the history of Indian paintings.


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History of Indian Paintings

Indian paintings offer an aesthetic continuum, which extends from early civilization to the present day. Initially depicting religious beliefs and values, Indian paintings have now evolved to become a synthesis of diverse traditions and cultures. Here is a list of paintings that have been the epitome of Indian culture and history since decades

1. Murals

The history of Indian Murals dates back to the early medieval and ancient times (2nd Century B.C. to 10th Century A.D.). All over India, over 20 locations boast of mural paintings, which depict themes of Jain, Hindu, and Buddhist religions. These paintings are found mainly in the form of natural rock-cuts and carvings, in caves of Bagh, Ajanta, Ellora (Kailashnath Temple), Sittanavasal, and Armamalai.

2. Paintings in Eastern India

The miniatures paintings of Eastern India developed in the 10th Century. These depict scenes from Lord Buddha’s life and His divinity, painted on palm leaves and wooden covers. The earliest Buddhist manuscript still in existence is the Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita, which is currently under the possession of The Asiatic Society, in Kolkata. The influence of miniature paintings of Eastern India is evident in the Buddhist temples of Myanmar and Tibet.

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3. Miniature Paintings in Western India

Western miniature paintings are beautiful, colourful handmade paintings. The main attraction of these paintings is the delicate, intricate brushwork, which enhances the detailing and provides a unique identity. Many of these paintings are from folk literature and Sanskrit. Some of the miniatures are from the Hindu Vaishnav sect, while others are from the Jain sect. The Vaishnav sect paintings depict various occasions from Lord Krishna’s life.

4. Jaunpur, Malwa, and Deccan Schools of Painting 

During the rule of Nasir Shah, between 1500A.D. and 1510 A.D., the Nimatnama manuscript, painted in Mandu, set a new trend in illustration of manuscripts. This represents a fusion of the patronized and indigenous Persian style, although the former dominated the Mandu manuscripts. Lodi Khuladar, another style of painting, developed in the Sultanate’s reign, stretching from Delhi to Jaunpur. The miniature paintings, which initially thrived in the court of Bahmani and later in the Golkanda, Bijapur, and Ahmadnagar courts, are known as the Deccan School of Painting.

5. Mughal Paintings

Mughal painting is a precise form of Indian painting, usually limited to book illustrations and miniatures, which developed, emerged, and evolved during the era of the Mughals (16th Century to 19th Century). Mughal paintings have a unique blend of Persian, Islamic, and Hindu styles. The paintings depict the Mughal Emperors’ life events- conquests and marriages. Akbar’s reign saw the origin of the Mughal School of Miniature Paintings, the first production of which was the Hamzanama series. Later, Jahangir encouraged court artists to paint durbar scenes and portraits. After that, Shah Jahan continued the tradition of miniature paintings.

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6. Rajput Paintings

One of the most aesthetic styles of painting in India, the Rajput paintings flourished and evolved in the royal courts of Rajputana, during the 18th Century. Each of the Rajput kingdoms had a unique style, but with a few common traits. The paintings depict events and themes of the two Indian epics- Mahabharata and Ramayana. They portray the life of Lord Krishna and beautiful landscapes.

7. Mysore Paintings

Mysore paintings, known for its muted colours, elegance, and attention to detail, originated in Mysore in South India. The main theme of these paintings is Hindu Goddesses and Gods, and mythological scenes. Today, these paintings have become a souvenir during festivals in South India.

8. Tanjore Paintings 

Another important form of traditional South Indian paintings, Tanjore paintings are native to Tanjore, a town in Tamil Nadu. This form of painting goes back to the early 9th Century, during the reign of the Cholas. These paintings are popular for their intricate detailing and rich colours. Similar to the Mysore paintings, the main theme of these paintings centres on Hindu mythology and Gods-Goddesses.

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9. Kangra Paintings

This style of painting originated in the early 18th Century in the pre-colonial hill state of Guler, in Himachal Pradesh. The Kangra paintings reached its high point during the rule of Maharaja Sansar Chand Katoch.

10. Madhubani Paintings

Madhubani painting style was practised in Mithila (Bihar). These paintings depict images of Gods and Goddesses, Hindu mythology, royal court scenes, and royal weddings. One interesting fact about these paintings is that all the gaps are filled in and no space is left unoccupied. Usually, the gaps are filled with drawings of geometric designs, floral images, images of birds, and animals.

11. Pattachitra

Pattachitra is the traditional paintings of Eastern India, specifically West Bengal and Odisha. In Sanskrit, ‘Patta’ means clothing or vastra, and ‘Chitra’ means painting. The Bengal Pattachitra is categorized into various aspects like Chalchitra, Durga Pat, Tribal Patachitra, etc. The name given to the artist of the Bengal region is Patua. The Odisha Pattachitra tradition is linked closely with the reverence of Lord Jagannath (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu). The theme of these paintings centres around the Vaishnav sect. The subject matter is mostly folklore, religious stories, and mythology.

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12. Modern Art and Paintings

Western influences made an impact on Indian art during the colonial period. Some artists used the Western ideas of realism, perspective, and composition to illustrate Indian themes. Other eminent artists like Jamini Roy and Manishi Dey drew inspiration from folk art.

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These are some of the most eminent styles of Indian paintings. Moreover, this is an important part of your SSC CGL exam syllabus. Knowing all about it can help you with your competitive exam preparation.


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