Etymology: Since this art form developed in and around the Malwa region, these miniatures came to be known as Malwa Miniatures.
Origin: Having no specific region of origination, the Malwa school of miniatures spread throughout many districts of Central India. Malwa itself is spread between two states, the western part of Madhya Pradesh and the southeastern part of Rajasthan.
Location: Malwa miniatures covered many districts of Central India and some of the places where the traces of these miniatures could be found are Mandu, Nusratgarh, and Narsyang Sahar. Although, these paintings could be linked to the region of Bundelkhand as well, as many of the Malwani miniatures were unearthed from the Datia Palace, situated in Madhya Pradesh.
Relevance: The Malwa miniatures exceedingly represent the Hindu Rajput courts.
Significance: The Malwa region is an amalgamation of various cultures for two reasons, one being the fact that it stretches out to many districts between Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, and the second reason being that this province has been under the ‘raj’ of many rulers such as Avanti kingdom, Mauryans, Malavas, Guptas, Paramaras, Delhi Sultanate, Malwa,, the Mughals, Marathas and finally the British.
Culture and Societies: The Malwa region is influenced majorly by the Rajasthani culture and minimally by the Marathi culture. They have traditional music called ‘Lavani’ and a dance called ‘Sawag’, they also practice ‘Mandana’ the folk art of painting walls and floors.
Religious Significance: Some of the Malwa illustrations are on manuscripts as well. Malwa’s inscriptions in two other central Indian art styles and Orchha-Ditya is prominent in Raghodah. The subjects of Malwa miniature paintings are Ramayana, Mahabharata, Devi Mata, Riskpriya, Lokchandrayana, Barhamasa, Ragamala, etc
Style: These miniatures are two-dimensional paintings with simplistic representations of human and animal forms. Features such as large protruding eyes and angular facial features are seen in these paintings. Dense lush greenery, sparse depiction of animals, and minimal architecture are the general aesthetic that these miniatures adhere to. Sometimes the header of the painting is adorned with sombre calligraphy, whereas the borders are often either boldly painted with a block colour or are seen decorated with vines and other flora.
Central motifs: The striking depiction of Indo-Islamic architecture makes these miniatures unique and gives these paintings structure and composition. Animals and birds such as peacocks and deer and characters from Ramayana are illustrated.
Image Courtesy: Sahapedia
Most of these paintings are presented and exhibited at The National Museum in Delhi and ninety-one of the illustrations of Amru-Shataka are on display at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai.