The miniature paintings that are narrating mythological stories are small, colourful pieces of art that expert artists intricately handcraft. Vegetables, indigo, precious stones, pure gold, and silver are among the natural sources of colour used in these paintings. Paintings such as these stand out for their delicate brushwork, which contributes to their distinctiveness. 

Rooftop will explore this ancient art that has survived the test of time.

History Of Miniature Paintings

These ancient paintings are prevalent in all cultures worldwide. But do you know that Indian miniature painting dates back to the 9th-10th centuries? It originated during the Buddhist Pala period in the east and the Jaina period in west India. 

Image credits: Etsy (1); Verve Magazine (2)

Under the Mughals (16th-18th century AD), Indian miniature art flourished, marking a rich era in the history of art. The artists during his reign blended Persian styles with Indian local art to produce high-detail, rich works of miniature art.

After the decline of the Mughals, the rulers of Rajasthan and the Pahari kingdoms became the new patrons.

Symbolism & Importance Of Miniature Paintings

Miniature Painting
Image credits: LinkedIn

Have you ever wondered how old this art form is?

It is said that miniature paintings have existed for longer than paper. It is thought that Indian painters illustrated epics, fables, and religious texts so that those who could not read them could see these stories through their art.

This ancient art revolved around themes like Raga malas, Bhagavata Purana, Gita Govinda, and depicted hunting scenes of Mughals, sensuous palace lives of Rajputs, Krishna Leela, Panchatantra, and many more. There was a profound influence of Indian literature on miniatures, which often served as illustrations to texts and as individual paintings. 

Various Schools Of Miniature Paintings

Pala School

Indian miniature painting originated with the Pala School. Several manuscripts with Buddhist themes were painted on palm leaves and displayed in great Buddhist monasteries like Nalanda, Odantapuri, Vikramsila, and Somarupa.

Image credits: Met museums

A strong emphasis was put on themes and colours derived from Buddhist tantric rituals. Many students flocked to India from South-East Asia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma, and Tibet to learn this ancient art.

Jain School

Jain School
Image credits: The Metropolitan Meseum of art

After Pala, the Jains pioneered this artform in India. We can find thousands of manuscripts related to Jain philosophy and teaching by Jain scholars of medieval India. These manuscripts contained several miniature paintings in them. 

Mughal School

Miniature paintings enjoyed a prominent position during the reigns of Akbar, Shahjahan, and Jahangir. Court scenes, wildlife, and war were the central themes during this period. There was a strong influence of Islamic and Persian culture on the paintings. 

Detail and delicateness were evident in the art. Tuti Nama and Hamza Nama are two of the most celebrated works from this period. 

Mughal School of Miniature Painting (1) ; Pahari School of Miniature Painting (2)
Image credits: Cisindus (1); First post (2)

Pahari School

These paintings originated in the Himalayan kingdoms during the 17th-19th century. Basohli, Mankot, Kangra, Chanba, and Garhwal became popular Pahari schools. Each school offered its variation.

Heavily influenced by the Mughal school, this school was greatly supported by the Rajputs. Paintings depicting gods, goddesses, divinity, and love became popular themes due to the Bhakti movement.

Rajasthani School

Rajasthani School Miniature Art
Image credits: Latest GK GS (1); Rojgar Aur Nirman (2)

Rajputs were enthusiasts of art and culture like Mughals and fully supported the Rajasthani school of miniature paintings. Despite its great inspiration from the Mughal school, the subjects of the Rajasthani school were all about kings and royals.

Orissa School

These miniature paintings are relatively new and emerged from Hyderabad, Golconda, and Tanjore during the 17th-19th centuries. Migrants from Mughal areas migrated to the Deccan to become artisans. Turkish, Iranian, and Persian cultures heavily influenced the works of this school. 

Orissa School
Image credits: Twitter – Indian Diplomacy

Despite its waning practice, miniature art holds a significant place in the history of humankind. Museums and Rajasthani forts are now home to many preserved miniature paintings. Many Indian regions still practice the art, sometimes under the patronage of royal families, but not as meticulously as the originals.

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