Whenever there is a discussion of traditional Indian paintings, it is impossible to forget the name of Tanjore paintings. They are undeniably one of the oldest and most widespread forms of ancient paintings in the southern part of the country. Considered as a native art form of Thanjavur, a part of Tamil Nadu, Tanjore paintings are known for their vivid and rich colours.
Right from the dense composition to the lushness of hues, these paintings have set themselves apart from the rest. The inclusion of all kinds of embellishments including, but not limited to, glass pieces, pearls and semi-precious stones have enhanced the overall charm of this art form.
The inception of Tanjore paintings dates back to the 16th century. Under the reign of the Chola dynasty, this paintings style gained its structure. After the migration of the painters to Thanjavur, this style got the support of Maratha princess, Nayakas and Naidus of Madurai. In this particular era, from the 16th century to 18th century, the artists adapted the local artistic ways into theirs in order to create the Tanjore paintings which are known to all. In addition to this, the artists started adorning the temple spaces and other physical edifices including, but not limited to, palaces, major buildings and residences of the kings.
A majority of the Tanjore paintings revolve around the theme of deities and includes their portrayal. The main figure is always positioned in the centre of the artwork. As these paintings are mostly done on the surface of solid planks made of wood, in the local language they are termed as ‘Palagai Padam’, wherein palagai means a wooden plank and padam means picture.
Style and Technique:
This Indian traditional painting had a unique style of its own. They were made in numerous sizes which entirely depended on the subject and discretion of the patron. Large paintings of the divine beings and Maratha rulers were created which were then mounted on the walls of Maratha palaces and buildings.
These oblige as architectural accents in the great forts of the rulers. Apart from the canvas, these paintings were done on the surface of walls, glass, paper, and mica. In certain special cases, exotic mediums like ivory were also used as a surface to paint the beautiful Indian traditional paintings. The portraits created on the exteriors of ivory were a very famous part of jewellery and were worn as cameo pendants.
The Tanjore glass paintings followed the popular technique of Chinese reverse glass paintings. These paintings were usually created on the reverse surface of a glass sheet with bands of metal flattened into transparent openings. This gave the effect of jewellery and valuable gems. A major portion of these paintings included the Hindu Gods and Goddesses; however, portraits of others were also created using the same technique.
Making of Tanjore Paintings:
In order to create the mystic appeal of this Indian traditional painting, numerous steps need to be taken. Firstly, a drawing of the preliminary sketch is created on the base which is mostly made up of a cloth pasted on the surface of a wooden base. After stencilling out the basic sketch, chalk powder/zinc oxide is mixed with a water-soluble glue which is then applied to the base.
Afterwards, the drawing is made and then decorated with glass, pearls and other semi-precious stones. In certain cases, laces and threads are also used to beautify the painting. To enhance the appeal of the painting even more, very thin sheets of gold are stuck to certain areas of the painting and the remaining parts are tinted with bright hues.
There is no denial to the fact that Tanjore artworks are one of the most ancient Indian traditional paintings which hold great significance even in today’s day and age.