Miniature paintings are colorful handmade paintings and are quite colorful but small in size. One of the outstanding features of these paintings is the intricate brushwork which contributes to their unique identity of these paintings. The colors used in the paintings are derived from various natural sources like vegetables, indigo, precious stones, gold and silver. While artists all around the world convey their respective theme through their paintings, the most common theme used in the miniature paintings of India comprises of the Ragas or a pattern of musical notes, and religious and mythological stories. Miniature paintings are made on a very small scale especially for books or albums. These are executed on materials, such as paper and cloth. The Palas of Bengal are considered the pioneers of miniature painting in India, but the art form reached its zenith during the Mughal rule. The tradition of miniature paintings was further taken forward by the artists of various Rajasthani schools of painting, including the Kishangarh, Bundi Jaipur, Mewar and Marwa.
- The best part of these paintings is the complex and delicate brushwork, which gives them a distinctive identity.
- The colors used for miniatures are handmade. They are mainly obtained from pure gold, silver, minerals, vegetables, precious stones, indigo, and conch shells
- The theme of the Miniature painting of India includes of the Ragas.
- There were a number of miniature painting schools in the country, comprising those of the Deccan, Rajputs, and Mughals.
The different schools of the Miniature paintings of India include:
1. Pala School- The earliest Indian miniature paintings are related to the Pala School dating back to the 8th century A.D. This school of painting emphasized on the symbolic use of colors and the themes were often taken from the Buddhist tantric rituals. Images of Buddha and other deities were portrayed on palm leaves and were often displayed in Buddhist monasteries, such as Nalanda, Somapura Mahavihara, Odantapuri and Vikramasila. These miniature paintings attracted thousands of students from far and wide. Thus, the art form spread across South-East Asia and soon, the Pala style of paintings became popular in places like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma, Tibet, etc
2. Orissa School- The Orissa School of miniature painting came into existence during the 17th century A.D. Though the usage of paper was widespread in India during the 17th century, Orissa School of miniature paintings stuck to its tradition as it continued using palm leaves to display this intricate art form. Most of the paintings depicted the love stories of Radha and Krishna and also stories from ‘Krishna Leela’ and ‘Gita Govinda’.
3. Jain School- One of the earliest schools of miniature paintings in India, the Jain School of painting gained prominence in the 11th century A.D when religious texts like ‘Kalpa Sutra’ and ‘Kalkacharya Katha’ were portrayed in the form of miniature paintings. Like other schools of miniature paintings, Jain School too, displayed its art works on palm leaves, but started using paper from the late 12th century. Natural colors including gold and silver were used to depict the stories.
4. Mughal School- The amalgamation of Indian paintings and Persian miniature paintings gave rise to the Mughal School of miniature painting. Interestingly, Persian miniature paintings were largely influenced by Chinese paintings. The Mughal style of painting flourished from 16th to 18th centuries, especially under the reign of Akbar. Scenes from the royal court, hunting expeditions, wild life and battles were often displayed through these paintings. Plants and trees were portrayed realistically and the paintings had rich frames that were decorated heavily. Such was the importance given to miniature painting by the Mughal Emperors that many famous artists were commissioned to come up with several pieces of art. The Mughal style of painting also inspired Hindu painters who came up with miniatures depicting stories from ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata.
5. Rajasthani School- The decline of the Mughal miniature paintings resulted in the rise of the Rajasthani School. Rajasthani School of painting can be further divided into various schools depending on the region they were created in. The Mewar School, Marwar School, Hadoti School, Dhundar School, Kangra and Kullu Schools of art are all part of Rajasthani School of painting. Like the Mughal Emperors, the Rajput rulers were also lovers of art and gave their patronage to miniature paintings.
6. Pahari School- Pahari School of miniature painting emerged in the 17th century A.D. These paintings originated in the kingdoms of North India, in the Himalayan region. Influenced by the Mughal School and the Rajasthani School of miniature paintings, the Pahari style of paintings flourished in the Jammu and Garhwal regions from 17th to 19th centuries.