Theoretical Approach to Painting in India


  • Third Khanda of Vishnudharmottara Purana (a 5th century text) has the chapter Chitrasutra. Chitrasutra is considered as a sourcebook of Indian painting.
  • The art of image making is referred to as Pratima Lakshana, which are canons of painting and deals with techniques, tools, materials, surface (wall), perception, perspective and three-dimensionality of human figures.
  • Canons of paintings laid out in Chitrasutra formed the basis of all styles & schools of painting in India.

Different limbs of painting described by Chitrasutra:

  • Roopbheda: Looks and appearance
  • Pramana: Measurements, proportion & structure
  • Bhava: Expressions
  • Lavanya Yojana: Aesthetic composition
  • Sadrishya: Resemblance
  • Varnikabhanga: Use of brush and colours.

Classification of Painting in india

Painting in India can be broadly classified into following two categories:

  1. Wall Painting/Murals: These painting is found on the walls. They are usually large in size so that a viewer can appreciate them from a distance.
    • The history of wall painting in India goes back to the pre-historic ages for example: Wall paintings at the Bhimbetka Caves and other caves sites.
    • The art of wall painting reached its highest point in the Ajanta Caves. Wall paintings are painted by 2 techniques
      • Fresco:  
      • Tempera
  2. Miniature Painting: These paintings were relatively small in size.
    • These miniature paintings were hand-held and observed from a close distance due to their minute details.
    • Miniature paintings are different from mural paintings. Most of the miniature paintings were used as manuscript illustrations as they are pictorial translations of poetic verses from epics and various canonical, literary, bardic or music texts (manuscripts).
    • Manuscript illustrations were methodically conceived in thematic sets (Each set comprising several loose paintings or folios).
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