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Different Styles of Paintings from India

Cave Paintings, Tanjur Paintings, Madhubani Paintings, Kalamkari Paintings, Pata Chitra, Miniature Paintings, etc.

Out of all the art forms known to man, expressing oneself through hand paintings is perhaps one of the most fascinating of all. In fact, for thousands of years, humans have been using simple lines and easily available colours to sketch and draw their day to day activities as well as express their inherent thoughts and feelings. The famous cave paintings of Ajanta and Ellora (1st - 5th century A.D.) and the paintings found on simple pots dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization (3rd century B.C.) hold testimony of this trend.

Let's take a look at some of the different styles & techniques of paintings in India -

1. Kalamkari Paintings
The term Kalamkari basically refers to a technique of painting using pen work (Kalam - pen & Kari - work). The style of Kalamkari paintings originate from Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh. The defining features of these paintings are their beautiful, larger than life figures with large eyes. Kalamkari paintings primarily have a traditional, mythological theme and depict epic scenes from the Mahabharat, Ramayan, Panchatantra & Jataka tales, etc. Kalamkari paintings have a thick border all around with the theme and story clearly visible. A number of raw materials are used to prepare one Kalamkari painting. What is interesting to note is that all materials used are natural products, derived from nature. The outlines of the drawings are made using the tip of a kalam. These may be made by using burnt tamarind twigs after dipping them in molasses and iron filings. Next, colour is filled within the drawings.


2. Madhubani Paintings
Famous for their intricate details and eye catching beauty, Madhubani paintings (also known as Mithila Paintings) are a produce of Madhubani village in Bihar. These paintings were traditionally made on mud walls of huts and later, these paintings were drawn on cloth and handmade paper. The defining feature of Madhubani Paintings are straight lines filled with vibrant, lively and bright colours. The theme of these paintings include images of Hindu gods and goddesses like Rama, Sita, Krishna, Durga, etc and holy signs & symbols as well as special events such as weddings, etc. Also read - The Art of Madhubani Paintings.

3. Tanjore Paintings (Thanjavur Paintings)
The traditional & extremely beautiful Tanjore paintings date back to the 16th century courts of the Kings of Tanjore. They display the rich cultural heritage of South India, Tamil Nadu in particular. These paintings are created on a cloth which is attached to a base made of wood. Once the material is treated further, the drawings are outlined, filled with dye colours and further decorated, especially the clothes and jewellery with beautiful semi precious stones etc. The usual theme of these paintings are Lord Krishna in different poses.

4. Patta Chitra Paintings
Patta Chitra paintings represent one of the oldest and most treasured art form of the state of Odisha (Orissa) and are associated with the family of the Jagannath Temple in Puri, in particular. The term 'Pata' means cloth and 'Chitra' is Sanskrit for picture. The theme of pattachitra paintings span across religion and Hindu mythology and depict the various Jagannath icons as well as stories from the Ramayan, Mahabharata, etc. These paintings are made on cotton or tussar cloth which is generally coated to give a leather-like finish. All patta chitra paintings have a consistent border on all four sides of the canvas. The colours used by the painters or 'Chitrakars' are natural and obtained from natural sources. The most prominent and widely used colors include white, green, yellow, red, blue and black.

Also read - Patta Chittra: Poetry in Colours - An Exquisite Art Form of Odissa, Paintings of a Different Era - Indian Paintings

5. Phad Paintings
Native to the state of Rajasthan, Phad Paintings are made by artists from Bhilwara. This popular style of painting comes under the category of folk painting and is also referred to as a kind of Scroll Painting. The most common themes are the historical tales of yesteryear Rajputs as well stories of the folk dieties. The term 'Phad' refers to the long piece of cloth on which the paintings are drawn. The colours used are natural, subtle and sometimes bright.

6. Thangka Paintings (Thanka or Tanka)
Thangka Paintings are a form of religious painting belonging to Leh in Ladakh. The theme of these paintings may include Lord Buddha & other Buddhist dieties as well as rituals associated with the Buddhist religion and the various forms of the dragon, etc. Thangka paintings are made using beautiful vibrant colours and consist of the following main parts - embroidered or painted picture panel, covering made in silk, textile mount, etc. They are a form of scroll painting. You may have come across Thangka wall hangings which are quite popular.

7. Rangoli, Floor Decoration
Rangoli, also known as Alpana is an art of floor decoration, very popular in India. The tradition of creating rangolis especially during special events and festivals is common in most Indian homes where the women of the house get together to decorate the floors, especially the entrance with alpanas. In order to make the rangoli, a powder is prepared using rice flour and white stone. Next, women use their bare fingers to design and decorate the rangoli with beautiful colours. Designs of the rangoli may include geometrical patterns or natural motifs of plants, flowers, etc.

8. Some other forms of paintings include Cave Paintings, Ivory Paintings, Miniature Paintings, etc.


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