Indian Art forms: A Legacy of Painting Styles

The land of diversity, India, has nurtured several cultures and communities over time. Each of them is unique and what could be better than Art to express and cherish the beauty of the same. Consequently, a number of painting styles were born out of these cultures which reflected its customs, traditions, and ideologies. With brilliant colors, patterns, and details, these styles are exquisite and successfully uphold the legacy of a rich past. These painting styles preserve the heritage while maintaining the individual flavors of the different cultures. Here, we present some of the very prominent painting styles of India, which has enthralled Art enthusiasts globally.

Madhubani Painting:

Adorned with vibrant colors and intricate designing , this is an age old painting style . It is native of Mithila region of Bihar and hence, also called ‘Mithila Painting’. The history of its origin can be traced back to Ramayana times when King Janaka asked for a painting to be made depicting the marriage of his beloved daughter Sita to Lord Rama.

The specialty of these paintings are the intricate geometric patterns and design which symbolize love, power, wealth, fertility etc. Painters use naturally derived colors for these paintings. Rice powder is used for white, turmeric for yellow, indigo for blue, lampblack for black, etc. The tools used for paintings include- fingers, twigs, brushes and matchsticks . Deities, mythological scenes, marriage ceremonies , gatherings are the popular themes for these paintings. An elegant form of art, people praise it all over the world.

Madhubani painting

Pattachitra Painting:

Etymologically, ‘Patta’ means ‘ Cloth’ and ‘ Chitra’ means ‘Paintings’. Basically‘ Pattachitra’ is ‘ Painting on cloth’. This painting style originated around 12th century AD and is religiously practiced by the artisans of Odisha and Bengal. The paintings are generally inscriptions of folklores and mythological folktales and are closely associated with their much praised Lord Jagannatha.

Cottons cloths are used to make the ‘Pattas’ or canvases and the colours are derived from natural sources . Crushed and powdered conch shells are used for white, red is made from shingles, yellow from harital stones. The painters incorporate minute details in these paintings, draw the figurines with sharp features and mandatorily add a floral border . These paintings have a magical touch to them with a hint of divinity. A disciplined painting style , Pattachitra is a narrator of stories in colours.

Miniature paintings :

It is a small scale yet incredibly detailed, phenomenal painting style.This style reached its peak development under the Mughals. Extreme details and vivid expressions are what these paintings are all about. Artists make them on paper, palm leaves, wood , etc. These paintings incorporate symbolic use of colours. Instances have been there where painters even used gold and silver in the paintings . Skillful lines , large eyes , sharp feature of the figurines , bright coloring techniques are typical of this style.

The themes are closely associated with Indian Ragas and also include Royal court scenes, portraits, gatherings, Krishna Leela, etc. An exquisite style of painting, they invite people to have a peek into the royal and common lifestyle of the past, appreciate the efforts of the artisans and teach us the importance of details.

Warli Paintings:

A purely traditional folk painting style , it belongs to the tribal people of North sahyadri in Maharashtra. It resembles the pre-historic cave arts . People make these paintings on the walls of the village huts for decoration purposes generally before auspicious events . Branches from trees, earth and red brick are mixed and smeared to create an ocher background. The warli paintings are done only with white pigment obtained by mixing rice flour with water and a bamboo stick chewed at the end serves as the brush.

Artists use basic geometric figure like lines, circles , triangles to represent elements of nature with meager detailing . Their favorite themes include wildlife, hunting, fishing, mountains, marriage ceremonies and the traditional Tarpa dance. The local people considered the paintings to be sacred . Although simple , these drawings in mono-colour efficiently uphold and express the higher morals.

Warli painting of Lord Ganesha

Phad Paintings:

A type of scroll painting, Phad originated around seven hundred years ago in Rajasthan . Artists do the paintings on long scrolls of cloths called ‘Phad’ . They mostly narrate stories of locally worshiped deities ‘Pabuji’ and ‘ Devnarayan’. These scrolls are about 30 feet long each presenting a different episode. Every available free space is filled with designs. The scale of the figurines are a symbol of their social status.

A unique aspect of these paintings is that the figurines never face the viewer but rather they face each other. Traditionally, vegetable extracted colours are used in these paintings. The complete saturation of the ‘Phad’ with different elements and bright colours makes the painting style elaborate and striking.

We know, India is blessed with diversity in case of paintings styles as well. These are some of the most popular styles of paintings which had survived the test of time. They are gifts of our heritage, pride of our nation . Thus , there should be a collective endeavor to keep them thriving in the future too.