Paintings for Patrons: The Tradition of Miniatures, Miniature Paintings

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Paintings for Patrons: The Tradition of Miniatures

India is known for its rich cultural heritage. While studying a particular region or culture, it is important to observe it through the lenses of music, cuisine, art, dance, and its particular style of attire since each region has a unique sense of style. Speaking of art, have you ever heard about miniature paintings? Let us know more about them and how these helped in preserving the rich culture of India.

Miniature Paintings – The Tiny Pieces of Beauty

Miniature Paintings

Miniature paintings were another tradition that developed in different ways. The word “miniature” means small in size. Thus, essentially these were small-sized paintings that were done on cloth or paper with the help of watercolors. Before the advent of paper, the earliest miniatures were done on palm leaves or wood.

These beautiful paintings were predominantly found in the regions of Western India and the Himalayan foothill around the present-day state of Himachal Pradesh. By the latter half of the 17th century, this particular region had developed its own peculiar style characterized by the bold and intense style of paintings known as Basohli. Bhanudatta’s Rasamanjari was one of the most popular texts to be painted in the form of miniature paintings. In the western part of India, these are predominantly illustrated in various Jaina texts.

The Mughal Impact

The Mughals were considered to be famous connoisseurs of art and emperors such as Akbar, Jahangir as well as Shah Jahan were known to patronize highly skilled painters of those times who illustrated various manuscripts containing historical records and poetry. These were characterized by their use of bold colours and their portrayal of various aspects of social life as well as scenes from court or battlefield. Sometimes, they even vividly portrayed scenes of hunting.

When the Mughal empire started to decline many painters were forced to move out to the courts to other emerging regional states. They carried with them their Mughal artistic influence to the regional courts of the Deccan and the Rajput courts of Rajasthan. In spite of this, they still retained their distinctive features. Consequently, the portraits of rulers and court scenes came to be painted.

Apart from these, regions in such Mewar, Jodhpur, Bundi, Kota as well Kishangarh, depictions of mythology and poetry were also observed in the paintings. These paintings were often exchanged as gifts and were viewed only by an exclusive few which included the emperor and his close associates These paintings were often viewed as a rare commodity and when exchanged as gifts and were allowed to be viewed only by the emperor, his close associates and an exclusive few.

Nadir Shah’s Impact

A Kangra Painting

Nadir Shah’s invaded the plains of Delhi in 1739. Fearing uncertain times, a lot of Mughal artists moved to the hills where they found many ready patrons of their art. Thus the Kangra school of painting was born. The Kangra artists developed a style by the mid-eighteenth century which breathed a new spirit into miniature painting. Inspired by the Vaishnavite traditions, these paintings had many prominent features such as the inclusion of soft colours like cool blues and greens as well as a lyrical treatment of the theme.

Art was not just restricted just too famous artists. Even ordinary men and women painted using walls, pots, floors, and cloth as their canvas. Sadly only a few of the paintings stood the tests of time as opposed to the miniatures which were carefully preserved in the courts.


Which of these styles of paintings were characterized by the inclusion of soft colours as well as a lyrical treatment of the theme?
a. Basohli
b. Warli
c. Kangra
d. Rasamanjari
The correct answer is option c. Kangra.
These paintings were characterized by the use of soft colours like cool blue or cool green as well as a lyrical treatment of the theme.