The earliest Indian paintings can be traced back to pre-historic times and played a significant role in understanding the evolution of humans. Gradually, the paintings in India, like most other art forms of the country, came to be deeply influenced by its diverse cultures and traditions. Hence, it is not surprising that almost every region in India is associated with a specific form of painting and artwork.
What Are Indian Paintings Called?
While there is no single collective name for Indian paintings, they are generally named as per the style in which they are made. This style reflects the traditions, ideas, and practices followed by painters across generations and makes them unique.
Popular Styles of Indian Paintings
Given below are the brief details of some of the most popular styles of Indian paintings.
Cave paintings are the earliest version of Indian artwork and date back to pre-historic times. Sadly, only a small percentage of these paintings exist today as a majority of caves featuring them were destroyed over centuries.
The cave paintings are mostly inspired by nature and feature themes related to the religious, social, and cultural life of people living in those times. Some famous sites featuring cave paintings include Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Armamalai Cave, Bagh, Ravan Chhaya rock shelter, and Sittanavasal.
This extremely popular style of painting originated in the village of Maithili in Bihar and hence is also referred to as Maithili Painting. The women of the village used it as a kind of wall painting for decorating the interiors of their homes. They used colors derived from plants and other natural sources to paint their ideas, dreams, and aspirations on the walls.
The paintings were drawn using twigs, matchsticks, and even fingers and often featured a clear depiction of the local culture and traditions. Today Madhubani paintings have gained much popularity and are created on paper, cloth, and even canvas.
These extremely small paintings were first created in India around 750 AD on palm leaves. The most distinguishing features of these art paintings are the vividity of colors and intricate brush strokes that make them stand apart. These paintings were created according to a specific theme and used colors derived from vegetables as well as gold and silver.
This form of painting was extensively promoted and supported by the Rajput kings of Rajasthan and hence they often depicted the tales of their bravery and their grand lifestyle. Today they are specially created for books and albums and reflect the great artistic tradition of India.
Dating back to the 12th century BC, this style of painting originated in present-day Odisha. The literal translation of Pattachitra is a cloth picture, and the style was named so because the painters drew scenes from religious scriptures and everyday life on a cloth.
Many times, painters used long pieces of cloth to paint elaborate scenes and once the painting was complete, the cloth was rolled up like a scroll. The painters also known as chitrakars used colors derived from vegetables and minerals to create these beautiful works of art. Today this style of painting is restricted to only a few settlements in the state of Odisha.
Also known as Warli Art, this style of painting is named after the Warli tribe of Western Maharashtra. Even though this style of painting dates back to the 10th century AD, it came to light only in the 1970s. This form of painting is similar to the Madhubani painting in that it is created on the walls of their huts by the women of the Warli tribe.
However, unlike Madhubani paintings, the Warli paintings feature only earthly tones and neutral shades and hence are created using only linear and monochrome colors. Another distinguishing feature of this style of painting is the excessive use of circular patterns and the absence of any religious or mythological figures.
The Tanjore style of painting is believed to have originated in the 16th and 17th centuries BCE in the South Indian town of Thanjavur. These panel paintings are created on a piece of wood and mostly feature a deity with almond-shaped eyes and enclosed by an arch, as their main theme.
The paintings are created using bright vivid colors and are embellished with gems, semi-precious stones, and even pieces of glass. It is also a common practice to cover the paintings with a thin sheet of gold to create a three-dimensional effect. The use of such expensive materials naturally places these paintings among the most highly-priced Indian artwork.
As the name suggests this style of painting originated in the Hill kingdoms of the Himalayas in North India. They are generally categorized into two main types namely Kangra Paintings and Bhasoli Paintings. While Kangra paintings are more delicate and focus on reflecting the elegance and style of Indian women. Bhasoli paintings are distinguished by their use of intense and bold colors and abundance of geometric patterns.
In general, the Pahari paintings focused on the themes of traditional folk songs and epic stories as well as the depiction of tales of love and devotion.
Which painting is India famous for?
While all the different styles of paintings prevalent in India are unique and popular, some are more so than others. Madhubani and miniature artworks are perhaps among the most famous ancient Indian paintings followed closely by Pattachitra and Warli paintings. In recent years Phahari paintings and Mysore paintings are also gaining much popularity both within the country and internationally.
Who is the most famous Indian painter?
Given the rich and complex history of Indian Art, it is not surprising that several artists and painters have contributed to its glory. Some of the most famous painters who have contributed significantly to the promotion of Indian artwork both nationally and internationally include Raja Ravi Varma, Rabindranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, Amrita Shergill, Sayed Haider Raza, Tayeb Mehta, and M.F. Hussain.
Every style of Indian artwork reflects the centuries-old culture and traditions of the country. The different styles also highlight the great skills and artistic creativity that form an integral part of the social fabric of different communities living in the country.