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5 Styles of Classical, Ancient Indian Paintings

Chitrangada loves the richness of Indian art, culture and traditions. As a writer, she wants to spread information about Indian culture.

Tanjore paintings

Tanjore paintings

Some Ancient Indian Paintings at a Glance

Ancient Paintings, whether Indian or Western, communicate so much about the times, in which they were made—the people living in those times, their costumes, their ornaments, their belongings, in fact the whole culture.

It would not be wrong to say that we learn a lot of history and the growth of civilisation through these paintings.

Being an Art lover, I keep on visiting Art Galleries and Art exhibitions.

As an admirer of creative art and architecture, I am always fascinated by the way, these ancient paintings help us, to understand the general history of the period, in which they were made.

The Traditional Indian Paintings

The Indian Paintings have a long tradition of excellence. Some of the earliest paintings were rock paintings, created as early as 5500 BC.

These paintings give great aesthetic pleasure, and also provide a continuous sequence of events, occurring in succession. This also helps us to understand the earliest civilisation, and correlate with the past, to the present, and even to the future.

The traditional Indian Paintings have evolved over thousands of years, and it may be termed as a fusion of various Art, Traditions and the various cultures of India.

These Paintings truly represent the varied, colourful and vibrant culture of the Indian people, over thousand of years.

Glimpses of some of the ancient Indian Paintings are shared here. Though there are so many beautiful pieces, I really feel its not fair to showcase them at such a small space.

Madhubani Paintings

Madhubani Paintings

The Madhbani Paintings

  • The MADHUBANI Painting, is practised in the Mithila, region in Bihar state of India.
  • These were traditionally done on the mud walls and floors in villages, by the village women.
  • This was their unique way of decorating their homes. Natural vegetable colours or powdered rice is used to make them.
  • The theme relates to the Gods from the Indian mythologies or the Nature, the Sun, the Moon, various plants, the Wedding scenes, or other celebrations of the family.
  • Now these paintings are not confined to mud walls, but they are made on the Canvas, clothes or other dress materials.
  • This art has been passed on from one generation to the other.
Tanjore paintings

Tanjore paintings

The Tanjore Paintings

  • The Tanjore painting is another classical Indian Painting, which has its origin in South India, Thanjavur, Tamil Naidu, to be more specific.
  • These are known for their elegance, rich colours and attention to the details.
  • These paintings are done on solid wooden planks. The Hindu Gods and Goddesses are beautifully painted in the centre, giving prominence, but the rest of the area is also done beautifully, giving attention to the details.
  • It is amazing to see, how beautifully the ornaments and costumes are decorated with semi precious stones and a rich golden touch is given with the golden foils---so much detailing.
Traditional Indian paintings

Traditional Indian paintings

The Kalamkari Paintings on a Saree

The Kalamkari Paintings on a Saree

The Kalamkari Paintings

  • The Kalamkari Paintings has it’s origins in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
  • It is generally done on fabric and as the name suggests, is done with a Kalam or pen. Basically it’s a free hand drawing, and only natural dyes or colours are used in these paintings.
  • The subject matter of the drawings is heavily influenced by the temples and the Gods and Goddesses. One can find images of temples, sacred objects, auspicios birds and animals, in the Kalamkari paintings.
  • The handwork is beautifully done on sarees, dress materials, wall hangings etc.
  • In modern times, this is also done digitally.
Mughal Paintings

Mughal Paintings

The Mughal Paintings

  • The Mughal Paintings are the beautiful and unique blend of Indian, Persian and Islamic styles and they were commissioned by the Mughal kings to record their work as hunters, conquerors and their dynamic ceremonies.
  • These can be seen generally in miniatures or illustrations and had developed during the The Mughal period in India.
  • The Mughal kings encouraged their artisans for these paintings, which are generally in red, blue and green colours.
Scroll to Continue
Rajput paintings

Rajput paintings

The Rajput Paintings

  • The Rajput paintings depict themes, from the the epic Ramayana and Mahabharat, episodes from the life of Krishna, beautiful landscapes etc.
  • This style of Indian Paintings emerged from the Rajput kingdoms of Rajasthan state of India.
  • These paintings can be seen on the palace walls, inner chambers of the forts and manuscripts.
  • They tell a lot about the life and times of Rajputana kings.
  • The paintings were generally done in bright colours, extracted through natural resources, such as the plants and minerals, and semi precious gems.

To Conclude:

The traditional Indian paintings were basically religious in nature, but they have evolved and one can get a glimpse of the Indian people, their art, their culture, their ornaments, their clothes, their festivals, the lifestyle during the times, when they were created and many other things.

Rajput paintings are done in bright colours, and depict the life and times of the Royals or the Rajputana, from the state of Rajasthan in India.

References for further reading

1. Classical Indian Paintings, via Wikipedia

2. Classical Indian Painting, via Artiana

3. New Art Collector’s guide to classical Indian Paintings, via Indian Art Ideas

Classical Indian Paintings, source: You tube

Indian paintings, Source: YouTube

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Chitrangada Sharan

What is your favourite Indian style of painting? Please share your views in the comments section.

Chitrangada Sharan (author) from New Delhi, India on September 13, 2017:

Thank you OSBERT JOEL C for reading and appreciating!

OSBERT JOEL C from CHENNAI on September 12, 2017:

Great article well written.

Chitrangada Sharan (author) from New Delhi, India on July 03, 2017:

Thank you Nadine May for your kind visit and comments!

I am glad you liked this hub about Indian art that conveys a lot of history, culture and traditions of thousands of years ago.

Appreciate your positive feedback.

Thanks and have a good day!

Nadine May from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa on July 03, 2017:

I have always loved any art that tells a story through pictures because that is how I experience my thoughts to be, images. Thanks for sharing your article about Indian art.

Chitrangada Sharan (author) from New Delhi, India on July 22, 2016:

Thank you Jay C OBrien, for your kind visit and insightful comments!

I observe paintings for their artistic beauty and to understand the lifestyle of people living in those times.

Thanks again for commenting!

Jay C OBrien from Houston, TX USA on July 21, 2016:

Parents often use religious art as a guide in training their children. The problem with the major religions is they teach "warrior" behavior: fight for your country or for religious principles.

In Hinduism, Arjuna fights and kills his cousins to impose his religious principles.

In Judaism & Christianity, Joshua fights and kills men women and children to establish Israel.

In Islam, Mohammad (PBUH) declares it is OK to fight and kill defensively. Killing is not defensive. However I perceive Mohammad (PBUH) began the first Use of Force Policy.

It is time for a change. Teach children to become "Officers" instead of "Warriors." This occurs with a shift of intent from,

"Kill the enemy," to

"Arrest the citizen."

Warriors Kill;

Officers arrest Without Harm.

Chitrangada Sharan (author) from New Delhi, India on April 14, 2015:

Thank you colorfulone, for your kind visit and comments!

I am pleased to learn that you liked this hub about some of the traditional paintings of India. They are indeed wonderful pieces of art. Most of the colors used in ancient paintings are natural colors extracted from vegetables, flowers, food grains etc. This makes them all the more unique and precious.


Susie Lehto from Minnesota on April 13, 2015:

I love looking at traditional Indian paintings. You have featured some lovely art, on your interesting article.

The details are fascinating, and colors used are rich. They all seem to have a three-dimensional quality.

Chitrangada Sharan (author) from New Delhi, India on April 07, 2015:

Thanks peachpurple, for your kind visit and appreciation of the hub!

You are right all ancient paintings, whether Indian or Western look fascinating! They reflect the growth, civilization and culture of the people and the countries to which they belong.


Chitrangada Sharan (author) from New Delhi, India on April 07, 2015:

Thanks deergha, for your kind visit, comments, votes and share!

Appreciate your encouraging words and support.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on April 07, 2015:

i do not know much about indian paintings, but they do look fascinating as western paintings too

deergha from ...... a place beyond now and beyond here !!! on April 07, 2015:

Very informative and well written hub dear friend. Shared and votes up interesting.

Chitrangada Sharan (author) from New Delhi, India on April 25, 2014:

Thank you chef-de-jour, for your kind visit and appreciation!

Good to know about your interest in Art masterpieces and also in ancient Indian paintings. Art and Architecture always attracts me, whether it is from India or any other country. These silent paintings speak volumes about our ancient culture and civilization.

Ajanta caves in India also has some remarkable paintings done on the wall of the caves with vegetable colors, created centuries ago and even today they look as fresh as ever.

Long live the Art! Thanks for your wonderful and insightful comments!

Andrew Spacey from Sheffield, UK on April 25, 2014:

Thank you for sharing these amazing images. I've seen a few ancient Indian paintings over the years and their intense colours always catch the eye. Such vivid hues from vegetable dyes and other natural products - and they last for centuries.

These colours remind me of those in the Celtic masterpieces created by the monks and scribes in the early 7th/8th/9th centuries here in the UK and Ireland.In the Book of Kells and Lindisfarne Gospels for example. Just beautiful.

Chitrangada Sharan (author) from New Delhi, India on January 13, 2014:

Thanks Deb, for visiting and commenting!

I am glad to know that you enjoy Art and that you liked this hub.


Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on January 13, 2014:

Thanks for the basic art lesson, as well as showing some of the lovely work done by Indian artists. I enjoy art, too.

Chitrangada Sharan (author) from New Delhi, India on January 09, 2014:

Thanks Devika, for your kind visit and comments! Your continued support is much appreciated. I am glad you liked it.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on January 09, 2014:

Beautiful paintings indeed and you presented this hub with such perfection. Indian art is unique and very interesting.

Chitrangada Sharan (author) from New Delhi, India on January 08, 2014:

Thanks MG Singh, for your kind visit and comments!

Chitrangada Sharan (author) from New Delhi, India on January 08, 2014:

Thanks Sunil, for visiting this hub and your encouraging words!

It is difficult to describe the rich cultural heritage of India in few words. It is just a very small effort. Glad you liked it!

MG Singh from UAE on January 08, 2014:

Nice expose of Indian art.

Sunil Kumar Kunnoth from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India) on January 08, 2014:

Excellent topic and beautiful presentation. You deserve a big clap. This kind of articles will give some idea to the reader on the rich heritage and cultural fabric of India. Voted up.

Chitrangada Sharan (author) from New Delhi, India on January 08, 2014:

Thanks DeborahNeyens, for visiting this hub and your appreciative comments!

Deborah Neyens from Iowa on January 08, 2014:

I love art but did not know much about traditional Indian paintings. These are very beautiful. Thanks for the lesson!

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