In city, an exhibition celebrating India’s monuments in Thanjavur style

Context: Seema Sethi, an artist from Delhi, decorates her canvases using a variety of mixed media, including gold foil, watercolour, and semiprecious stones. Deities are portrayed in the Thanjavur style, which is distinguished by use of vibrant, rich colours and shiny golden foil.

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Thanjavur/Tanjore paintings

  • Thanjavur painting is a traditional South Indian painting style that originated in the Tamil Nadu town of Thanjavur.
  • The Nayakas of Thanjavur, who were under the control of the Vijayanagara Rayas, encouraged art—primarily, classical dance and music—as well as literature, both in Telugu and Tamil, and painting of predominantly Hindu religious subjects in temples. The art form draws its immediate resources and inspiration from this time period, which dates back to around 1600 AD.
  • However, Thanjavur art as we know it today originated in the Thanjavur Maratha court (1676–1855). Under the support of the famous art patron Sarfoji II Maharaj, these works achieved their pinnacle.
  • The Saraswathi Mahal Library in Tanjore, which was established by Sarfoji II, contains some specimens of this artwork. 
  • According to Charles Gold, a British narrator, the Tanjore paintings were created by “Moochys or Painters of India. The Nayudu community of Madurai and the Raju group of Thanjavur and Tiruchi, also known as Jinigara or Chitragara, were the communities that produced the paintings in the Thanjavur style.
  • The Government of India recognised it as a Geographic Indication in 2007–2008.

Style and technique

  • The pieces were framed and intended to be hung on the walls of domestic puja rooms or bhajan halls. They were constructed on canvas glued on a wooden structure, marking a considerable departure from the pan-Indian tradition, which requires that paintings be modest.
  • The vibrant reds, rich greens, chalk white, turquoise blues, and generous use of gold (foil) and inset glass beads made up the majority of their stunning colour palette. The paintings occasionally included precious stones.
  • During Sarfoji II’s reign, Thanjavur glass paintings that used Chinese reverse glass painting techniques became popular as a quicker and less expensive art.
  • Dark brown or red was typically utilised for outlining. The background was primarily red, though it may also be blue or green.


  • Paintings from Thanjavur exhibit influences from Deccani, Vijayanagara, Maratha, and possibly European or Company styles.
  • The paintings from Tirupati and Kalamkari may have had the most influence.
  • During the Anglo-Mysore Wars of 1767–1799, when a British garrison was stationed in Thanjavur, the direct European influence on Tanjore paintings began. 
  • The majority of artworks depict Hindu gods, goddesses, and saints, essentially acting as devotional icons. Jain, Sikh, Muslim, and other religious as well as secular subjects have also appeared in Tanjore paintings.

About Miniature Paintings

  • Miniature paintings are bright, individually created, small works of art. These paintings’ complex brushwork, which contributes to their distinct individuality, is one of their best qualities. 
  • The colours utilised in the paintings come from a variety of organic materials, including fruits, indigo, precious stones, gold, and silver.
  • Miniature painting in India is credited to the Palas of Bengal as its forerunners, but it was under the Mughals that it attained its zenith. 

History of Miniature Paintings

  • When the Palas ruled over India’s eastern region around 750 A.D., miniature paintings first appeared there. 
  • The religious teachings of the Buddha, which included his images, were inscribed on palm leaves, which is how these paintings came to be well-known.
  • Similar paintings were imported to western India by the Chalukya Dynasty kings around 960 A.D. Religious topics were frequently depicted in miniature artworks at this time.
  • The popularity of miniature paintings began to soar with the expansion of the Mughal Empire. Indian miniature paintings merged elements of the Persian style of painting during Akbar’s reign
  • With the influence of European paintings at the Mughal court, these miniature paintings underwent further development.
  • The Rajput kings of Rajasthan continued to support miniature paintings and artists even after the Mughal Empire had collapsed. The miniature paintings of Rajasthan had unique characteristics and frequently portrayed the royal lifestyle and mythological tales of Lord Krishna and Radha, despite being influenced by the Mughal style of painting.

Practice MCQ
Q. With reference to the Cultural history of India, consider the following statements:
1.Thanjavur paintings depicted only religious themes related to Hinduism. 
2.Under the Rayas of Vijayanagar, Thanjavur paintings first appeared and reached climax.
3.The community called ‘Jinigara’ was related to the production of Thanjavur paintings.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a)1 only
(b)2 and 3 only
(c)3 only
(d)1 and 3 only
Answer: (c)

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