Wednesday January 17, 2018

Indian art: The folkish inclination

traditional indian paintings

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a traditional painting of Indian deities
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  • By Megha Sharma

The Indian terrain has always been an amalgamation of different art forms. It encompasses a whole range of Indian art fields from literature, paintings, various handicrafts etc that are bought throughout the world. The  traditional Indian paintings will be focused in this article and how these traditional artistries elevate the cultural heritage of India. Moreover, the lands where these are widely produced and their historical significance will also be seen.

  • Bengal Pat

18 sahib pat

As the name suggests, the art form is rooted in the Bengal region of the country. It is observed to be hundreds of years old. It came as an entertaining part at the court to intensify the performances by painting and also depicted the life of the contemporary period. It also was a thoughtful process of preserving for the later beatification of the artist.  Interestingly, this art also uses natural colours like that of minerals, soot or other things. It observes paintings of some social evils prevailing in the society and was made to expose it to the common masses.

  • Miniature Paintings

a scene of the queens' room in a miniature painting
a scene of the queens’ room in a miniature painting

Miniature paintings are beautiful hand-made arts which developed in the Mughal period. They were short and descriptive paintings which through their subtleties expressed great ideas.  Mughals even introduced Persian tradition to the same. The earliest example of the paintings was seen in the 11th century that was related to the Pala school. The phenomenon of hothouse cultivation helped for the widespread of the art and it got manifested in a lot of schools. The colours were handmade from minerals, vegetables, precious stones, indigo, conch shells, pure gold and silver. It flourished a lot under the reign of Akbar, Shahjahan and Jahangir.

  • Tanjore Paintings
a beautiful Tanjore painting of Radha-Krishna
a beautiful Tanjore painting of Radha-Krishna

Tanjore is a city in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is a classical art form of the place. It is made with dense, beautiful colours and embedded with stones, pearls and glass pieces which give it a 3-D effect and add to their glory. The paintings flourished in the 16th century under the reign of the flourished Chola kingdom. It was patronised by various kingdoms of the period. The specimens included the pictures of gods and goddesses. They are also known as ‘Palagai Padam’, which means a painting made on a wooden plank.

  • Patachitra

the patchitra art of Orissa
the patchitra art of Orissa

The art form is a unique invention of Odisha. It is a painting made on canvas, as the word is taken from Sanskrit “pata” which means a canvas whereas “chitra” means a picture. It is usually painted on mythological themes with beautiful colours. “Some of the popular themes represented through this art form are Thia Badhia – depiction of the temple of Jagannath; Krishna Lila – enactment of Jagannath as Lord Krishna displaying his powers as a child; Dasabatara Patti – the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu; Panchamukhi – depiction of Lord Ganesh as a five-headed deity.” The art undergoes deep concentration and take up to five days for completion. The basic cloth or the canvas is painted yellow using turmeric and preparing it well. It is also interesting to note that the colours are made of natural ingredients with kaitha tree gum as the basic ingredient. As to this day, the form has seen transition from being painted on a yellow cloth to now as wall-hangings. However, it has not lost its essence and is still done with this natural touch.

  • Madhubani Painting

a madubani painting
a madubani painting

This form is as old as the Ramayana epic was written. It is believed to originate in Maithili village in the space of Bihar, a state of India. Maithili was the capital of King Janaka, father-in-law of Lord Rama. Though a specific time period cannot be discovered for the form but it is assumed that Sita used to paint beautiful pictures in her adolescence and even the king of the space ordered Maithili paintings on the auspicious occasion of his daughter’s wedding. “Maithili paintings make use of three-dimensional images and the colours that are used are derived mainly from plants.” The paintings were thematised on mythological figures and natural elements. It was used to be made with natural colours and the brush was made of a bamboo stick. It also recorded certain auspicious events and celebrated the nature Gods like- Surya Dev, Indra Dev, the religious plant of Tulsi and many others. In those times too, they used different geometrical shapes and hold significant position in the Indian arts.

  • Gond paintings

a recent painting of the art
a recent painting of the art

Gond is an indigenous word which means the people who lived in the hill forests of Central India. Thus the art acquired its name, formulated by these tribes. The paintings had mundane themes which represented the life of these tribals. There was no grand theme for them as they have always been considered as marginalized by the society. It was painted on the walls and floors of their houses and was considered a factor of good luck for them. It is parallel to the art of tattooing. Each painting possessed a certain signature of the artist who made it, which provided a quality of individualism to their art. “The paintings are a combination of earth tones and vibrant hues, which bring the canvas to life.”

  • Kalamkari Painting

a still from Hindu scripture Mahabharata in Kalamkari style
a still from Hindu scripture Mahabharata in Kalamkari style

The art has attained this name with the way it is been carried out, as ‘kalam’ means pen and ‘kari’ means work. It is considered to originate about 3000years ago in Kalahasti (80 miles north of Chennai) and at Masulipatnam (200 miles east of Hyderabad). It became popular under the ancient tradition of using organic colours. The artists executed it using a bamboo stich, sharply pointed at the end. Initially the main themes were to highlight the Hindu deities but today it has advanced to quite a great level and is used on various fabrics, mainly cotton. It undergoes a long process of dyeing and hand-printing and thus take a long time to be finalized.

One sees how the traditional art forms of India, acknowledged the gods and mundane things and gave a rich panoramic idea to the world of painting. It is also interesting to note that all these arts used organic and natural colours for their paintings. Today, they have not lost their name but flourished more and more with national and international identification. The widespread of these forms make it possible for Indians, all around the world, to admire them. They attract a lot of foreign audience as well because of the beautiful colours and natural touch they possess.

Megha is a student at the University of Delhi. She is pursuing her Masters in English and has also done her studies in the German Language.) Email: loveme2010@gmail.com. Twitter @meghash06510344

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10 Facts about Madhubani Paintings which will blow your mind

Recently, Madhubani painting style came into limelight after some artists decided to renovate the Madhubani Railway Station by painting a huge Madhubani painting on the walls of the railway station.

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A Madhubani Painting in black and white. Wikimedia Commons
A Madhubani Painting in black and white. Wikimedia Commons

Madhubani Paintings, also known as Mithila Paintings are the quintessence folk art form of Mithila Region of Bihar. The art form is incredibly old and the name ‘Madhubani’ which means, ‘forest of honey,’ has a lineage of more than 2500 years.These paintings are the local art of Madhubani district of Bihar, which is also the biggest exporter of Madhubani paintings in India.

Recently, Madhubani painting style came into limelight after some artists decided to renovate the Madhubani Railway Station by painting a huge Madhubani painting on the walls of the railway station. The painting spans across an area of 7000 square feet and is expected to attract tourism to the Madhubani District. Madhubani art has received international and national attention in recent times.

Paintings and art are a reflection of the culture and tradition of the place from where they originate. Madhubani paintings are an important part of the Indian Culture. Madhubani painting in black and white are some of the oldest and most beautiful art that people can witness and admire. The style, which was losing its importance earlier is once again emerging as a major art form.

A modern representation of Madhubani art form. Wikimedia Common
A modern representation of Madhubani art form. Wikimedia Common

Here are 10 facts about Madhubani paintings which will blow your mind :

  • The history of Madhubani paintings dates back to the days of Ramayana. The history of Madhubani paintings dates back to the time of Ramayana when king Janaka asked an artist to capture the wedding of his daughter Sita with prince Rama. He commissioned craftsmen to decorate the entire kingdom with Madhubani art on the auspicious occasion of his daughter’s marriage. That’s one of the earliest mentions of Madhubani paintings that can be found in ancient scriptures and text.
  • Madhubani Paintings have 5 distinct styles to delight our eyes. Madhubani art has five distinctive styles, namely, Bharni, Katchni, Tantrik, Godna, and Kohbar. In ancient times, Bharni, Kachni and Tantrik style were done by Brahman and Kayastha women, who were considered ‘upper caste.’ Their themes were mainly religious and depicted Gods and Goddesses, flora and fauna. People belonging to lower castes including aspects of their daily life and symbols into their paintings.Nowadays, however, Madhubani has become a globalised art form. There is no difference in the work of different artists of different regions or castes.
  • Madhubani paintings are done using different kinds of everyday materials. In past, Madhubani painting was done using fingers, twigs. Now, matchsticks and pen nibs are also used. Usually, bright colours are used in these paintings with an outline made from rice paste as its framework. These paintings rarely have any blank spaces. Borders are often embellished with geometric and floral patterns. These paintings use natural dyes. For example, Madhubani paintings in black and white often use charcoal and soot for the black colour.
A Madhubani Paintings can be made using different materials on different mediums. Wikimedia Commons
A Madhubani Paintings can be made using different materials on different mediums. Wikimedia Commons
  • Madhubani art is characterised by symbols and figures. Madhubani paintings are characterised by figures that are prominently outlined, like bulging fish-like eyes and pointed noses. The themes of Madhubani paintings usually include natural elements like fish, birds, animals, turtle, sun, moon, bamboo trees and flowers, like a lotus. Love, valour, devotion, fertility, and prosperity are often symbolized by geometric patterns, which is another important feature of this art form.
  • From Mud-Walls to Canvas. Earlier, Madhubani paintings were made by women on freshly plastered mud-walls of their houses during religious occasions. The skill has been passed onto from one generation to another. Today, this artwork can be found on an international platform on mediums like cloth, paper, canvas, paper-mache products, etc.
  • Discovered and brought to attention by William G. Archer. Madhubani paintings, though prominent in India, were unknown to the outside world until a colonizer, William G. Archer found them. While he was inspecting the damage after the massive earthquake of  Bihar in 1934, Archer was amazed when he discovered the beautiful illustrations on the interior walls of the huts. He decided to bring the attention of other colonizers to this art form and introduced it internationally.

    Madhubani paintings are made without sketches. Wikimedia Common
    Madhubani paintings are made without sketches. Wikimedia Common
  • Madhubani is an Instinctive Art Form. Madhubani art is created without the use of sketches, they are made instinctively by the artists. This feature not only makes Madhubani paintings unique but also incredibly exclusive.
  • Madhubani painting also prevents Deforestation. Surprised? This folk art is not just mere decorations on the wall, it is also used for worship. Artists in Bihar draw paintings depicting Hindu deities on trees and those who hold strong religious beliefs, prevent others from chopping those trees down. This plays a big role in preventing trees from being cut down.
  • The Connection with Feng shui. Madhubani paintings use symbols and geometric figures which have a strong association with the Feng Shui philosophy. The use of flowers, especially the lotus, birds,  fishes, and turtles which we find in Madhubani paintings, are closely linked to the concept of divinity and spirituality in Feng Shui. Madhubani painting is believed to bring with them, the benefits of Feng Shui as well.

    Madhubani painting rarely has any spaces. Wikimedia Common
    Madhubani paintings rarely have any empty spaces. Wikimedia Common
  • The Importance of Sun in Madhubani. Since ancient times, the sun has always been an important symbol of nature worship. The Sun also occupies such an important place in the Madhubani paintings. There are paintings wholly dedicated to the Sun, in which it can be seen painted in different moods and colours. Every Madhubani home has one painting of the Sun which they worship daily.