Indian paintings have their origin in our ancient past. They depict the life and customs followed by the people of those times. Literary records show that from very early time painting both scholar and religious were considered an important form of artistic expression. Indian miniature paintings are one of the best examples of handmade forms of visual art in India.
There are seven school of Indian Miniature Painting which are discussed below:
1. Pala School of Miniature Painting
The painting dating back to the 8th century AD belongs to this school. This school emphasized on the symbolic use of colours and the themes were often taken from the Buddhist Tantric rituals.
Nalanda, Somapura Mahavihara, Odantapuri and Vikramasila Buddhist monasteries witness how images of Buddha and other deities were portrayed on palm leaves. Thousands of students came to the place every year and learn the concept, style and how varieties of colours are used in single paintings.
The style of the paintings of this school is very popular in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma, Tibet, and South-East Asian countries. Apart from the emphasis on symbolic usage of colours, other prominent characteristics of the Pala School include the skilful and graceful usage of lines, and modelling forms by delicate and expressive variation of pressure, usage of natural colours, etc.
2. Jaina School of Miniature Painting
This school of miniature painting gained prominence in the 11th century AD, when religious texts like ‘Kalpa Sutra’ and ‘Kalkacharya Katha’ were portrayed in the form of miniature paintings. In this school, natural including gold and silver were used to depict the stories.
Portrayal of enlarged eyes, square shaped hands and portrayal of stylish figures are the main characteristic features of this school. The paintings often displayed male figures and goddesses of the Tirthankara with the use of colours like green, red, gold and blue. In this school, paintings of goddesses were shown often heavily ornamented. These paintings began to decline during the late 16th century.
3. Mughal School of Miniature Painting
This school flourished from 16th to 18th centuries AD, especially under the reign of Akbar with synthesis of Indian paintings and Persian miniature paintings. Interestingly, Persian miniature paintings were largely influenced by Chinese paintings. The painting of this school is based on supple naturalism based on close observation of nature and fine and delicate drawing.
Mughal paintings contain scenes of royal court, hunting expeditions, wild life and battles. 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’. Since the Mughal rule saw various emperors, the style of miniature paintings differed with emperors. While Humayun and Jahangir encouraged paintings that portrayed events from their respective life, in Shah Jahan’s reign painters began giving importance to portraiture.
Bichiter, Anup Chattar, Chaitaraman, Inayat, Mohammed Nadir of Samarquand and Makr were well-known miniature artists of Shah Jahan's period.
In addition to portraiture, many paintings of the period depict groups of ascetics and mystics and several illustrated manuscripts. Mughal miniature paintings started to decline under the reign of Aurangzeb because according to him the practice of art is not allowed in Islam especially miniature paintings.
4. Rajasthan School of Miniature Painting
The decline of the Mughal miniature paintings gave rise of the Rajasthani School. This school is divided into various schools, depending on the region such as the Mewar School, Marwar School, Hadoti School, Dhundar School, Kangra and Kullu Schools. Like the Mughal Emperors, the Rajput rulers were also lovers of art and gave their patronage to miniature paintings.
The paintings of this school were inspired by the Bhakti Movement of Medieval India and Hinduism. This school is accompanied by the distinct style of different Rajputana Kingdom with a few common features such as depicting stories from the Ramayana and the royal lifestyle of kings and queens.
Colours used were often bold and contrasting in nature which is extracted from plants, minerals, shells, gold, silver and precious stones. The preparation of colours itself would often take weeks and only fine brushes were used. The difficult art of miniature painting still exists in Rajasthan where the painters often use paper, ivory and silk as their canvas. However, natural colours are no longer used as they have been replaced by artificial colours.
5. Orissa School of Miniature Painting
This school came into existence during the 17th century AD. Most of the paintings depicted the love stories of Radha and Krishna and also stories from ‘Krishna Leela’ and ‘Gita Govinda’. These paintings were rich in colour and often depicted the majestic landscape of the eastern parts of India. The strokes used were bold and often expressive.
6. Pahari School of Miniature Painting
The painting of this school is inspired by the Mughal School and the Rajasthani School of miniature paintings. It is developed in the hilly kingdoms of North-Western India. Basohli, Jasrota, Mankota, Champa and Nupur are the famous centres of this school. The Guler School, Basohli School, Garhwal School, Chamba School and Kangra School are comes under this school of miniature painting.
Each and every style of painting has its distinct features, but the portrayal of gods and goddesses is one of the most common features of this school. The scenic beauty of the Himalayas was also often depicted in these paintings. While usage of bold and contrasting colours shows the influence of the Rajasthani School of miniature paintings, heavily decorated frames and borders exhibits the influence of the Mughal School.
7. Deccan School of Miniature Painting
This School of painting was flourished in places like Ahmednagar, Golconda, Tanjore, Hyderabad and Bijapur from 16th to 19th century A.D. It developed without the influence of the Mughal School. This school incorporates the elements of the Iranian, Ottoman, Arabian and South Indian.
The paintings are often portrayed intense colours and sensuous looking female figures. The ladies were portrayed with beautiful faces, large eyes and broad foreheads. Also, symmetrical arrangement played a prominent role in the Deccan School of miniature painting. Bright colors like red and orange are some of the most important aspects of Deccan School of miniature painting.
The tradition of painting in India spans the period of thousands of years. The exquisite mural of Ajanta and Ellora, Buddhist manuscripts, Mughal and Kangra schools of miniature paintings stands testimony to this fact. Indian miniature paintings are highly influenced with religion, philosophy and faith.