Rooftop – Where India Inspires Creativity

Learn Indian art online

The Enchanting World of Jodhpur Miniature Paintings

The Shaili of Jodhpur Miniature Paintings

The picturesque blue city of Jodhpur emerged as one of the most prominent centres of Rajasthani Miniature painting. A new style of court painting developed here, visible in most Jodhpur Miniature paintings. This school was active during the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, and its style was heavily inspired by Mughal Miniature painting.

In this blog, we will delve into the styles, themes, and evolution of the Jodhpur School of Miniature Painting.

An Introduction to the Jodhpur Style

The Six Sons of Maharaja Ajit Singh of Jodhpur on a Visit. Opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, 1720. From the collection of Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The Marwar region is a dry, deserted region with rugged terrain located at the edge of the Thar desert. The Rathore ruler Rao Jodha established the city of Jodhpur in 1459. The Marwar school of Rajasthani Miniature art consists of the Jodhpur styles, along with the sub-schools of Kishangarh, Bikaner, Sirohi, and Nagaur.

Ganesha, Saraswati and Jallandharnath, Marwar, ca. 1825. (Image source: From the collection of Mehrangarh Museum Trust via Wikimedia Commons)

The Jodhpur region served as the cradle for a distinctive style of Miniature painting. Under the Rathore dynasty of Rajputs, Jodhpur became a hub for artistic expression, especially in the court of Maharaja Jaswant Singh in the mid-seventeenth century. The artists of this region had their own local style, often referred to as the Thikana style, which was deeply rooted in the traditional indigenous art of the area. Even though Jodhpur came under Mughal rule in 1570, the local artistic traditions persisted, creating a unique blend of influences.

The Marwar painting of Jodhpur is an important part of Rajasthan’s cultural heritage. It reflects the region’s rich history, mythology, and folklore, as well as the artistic sensibilities of its people.

The Stylistic Development of the Jodhpur Miniature Paintings

Maharaja Bakhat Singh with women of the Zenana. Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, Nagaur, ca. 1748–50. Image credits: From the collection of Mehrangarh Museum Trust via Alain.R.Truong.

As the different sub-schools of Rajasthani Miniature painting evolved, they each developed distinctive characteristics. These characteristics also influenced the art of other regions when they came into contact with each other. The aerial bird’s-eye perspective is one of the most signature features of Jodhpur Miniatures.

Kannauj, the Ancestral Kingdom of the Rathores. Opaque watercolour, gold, and tin on paper, Jodhpur, c. 1829.
Image credits: From the collection of Mehrangarh Museum Trust.

The Jodhpur style developed in the 18th century. Reds and yellows dominated its colour palette. Bold linework and primary colours are distinctive stylistic features of the Jodhpur school. Men wore high turbans and jamas, while women wore clothing with dotted patterns and floral jewellery. The human figures are short with round hands.

Ragini Gundakar, a page from a Ragamala series. Opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Jodhpur, late 16th century. (Image credits: From the collection of Mehrangarh Museum Trust)

One of the earliest works of the Jodhpur School was born from the indigenous style that refused to be overpowered and removed from the narrative. It was a 37-piece Ragamala set made in Pali by Pandit Virji for Sri Gopal Dasji and his beloved son, Bithal Das. The style was reminiscent of early Jain manuscript painting and book covers from the surrounding regions. It also contained elements of what is often referred to as the early Rajput style. They describe a flat-box-like architectural environment with dark backgrounds, bright colours, and prominent decorative patterns.

Materials Used

Jodhpur Miniature paintings were typically executed on various surfaces, such as paper, cloth, and walls, using natural colours derived from mineral and vegetable sources. The artists employ fine brushes made of squirrel hair to create intricate designs, and their works often depict scenes from Hindu mythology, local folklore, and historical events.

The artists who worked at the courts of the Mughal emperors trained the Jodhpur artists and taught them the classical principles of composition and portraiture. When mixed with local style, vivid colours, and regional subjects, the sophisticated painting techniques produced a distinctive and lively school of painting. Marwari painting from Jodhpur is still very popular today. The artists use age-old methods and supplies to produce stunning pieces that are prized by collectors worldwide.

The Mughal Influence on Jodhpur Miniature Paintings

‘Women of the Zenana Watch a Dance Performance with Bakhat Singh’. Opaque watercolour and gold, Nagaur, c. 1740. (Image credits: The Heritage Lab)

The Mughal influence on Jodhpur Miniature Paintings is undeniable. After coming under the control of the Mughal Empire in 1556, the artists from the Jodhpur region were exposed to the classical concepts of portraiture and composition. During the reigns of Raja Gaj Singh and Maharaja Jaswant Singh in the following century, the Mughal influence became prominent in Marwar culture, including court painting. We see this influence in works from this period of Marwar painting, through the naturalistic visual style, refined draughtsmanship, and detailed depictions of costume and jewellery.

Other conventions of this period include the depiction of figures in profile, a funnel-shaped style of turban, slender and spiral-shaped clouds, and an abundance of yellows, greens, and blues. This fusion of local style, vibrant colours, and regional subjects with the sophisticated techniques of Mughal painting gave birth to a unique and lively school of art.

The Late Stages of Jodhpur Miniature Painting

Shiva and Parvati in Conversation and Shiva on His Vimana, folio 53 from the Shiva Rahasya. Opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Jodhpur, 1827. (Image credits: From the collection of Mehrangarh Museum Trust via The Heritage Lab)

Under the patronage of Maharaja Jaswant Singh, an era of intense painting emerged in the mid-seventeenth century. He commissioned numerous documentary-style paintings of court scenes and portraiture. Jaswant Singh and his nobles commissioned several group portraits in the 1640s and 1660s. These well-executed Miniatures indicate that Jodhpur artists were familiar with Mughal training. This painting style remained popular throughout the Jodhpur School, only fizzling out when the art of photography started to gain prominence in the nineteenth century.

Sage Markandeya’s Ashram and the Milky Ocean, Watercolour on gold paper, ca. 1780-90. (Image credits: Mehrangarh Museum Trust via Wikimedia Commons)

As time passed, the Jodhpur Miniature Paintings evolved, and each period had its own distinctive characteristics. The art style from the seventeenth century, marked by a naturalistic Mughal-inspired visual style, gradually transitioned into a more extravagant and decorative style by the late eighteenth century. However, the arrival of European art in the nineteenth century ultimately led to the decline of the Marwar school.

A Chance To Learn Authentic Rajasthani Miniature Painting!

If you want to learn more about the wonderful world of Miniature painting, you’re in luck. We’re hosting an exclusive Indian art workshop at the Quorum Club in Lower Parel, Mumbai. Participate and learn from Rajasthan Lalit Kala Academy winner Master Artist Virendra Bannu Ji, a seventh-generation miniature artist. Do not miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

Date: 25th – 26th November

Time: 11 AM – 2 PM

Venue: Quorum Club, Lower Parel, Mumbai 

There are limited seats available, so hurry up and register now at

Follow us on Instagram @rooftop_app to never miss an update on exciting art events and workshops. Download the Rooftop app from Google Play or the App Store to keep learning about Indian tribal and folk art forms!

By Melissa D’Mello

Related Posts