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Traditional styles of Paintings in India


Madhubani art (or Mithila painting) is practised in the Mithila region of the Indian subcontinent. Painting is done with fingers, twigs, brushes, nib-pens, and matchsticks, etc. Using natural dyes and pigments, and is characterised by geometrical patterns.[citation needed] There is ritual content for mythological occasions or celebrations, such as birth and marriage, festivals, such as Holi, Surya Shasti, Kali Puja, Upanayana, Durga Puja.

Phad Scroll Paintings

Traditional phads from Rajasthan are large paintings on cloth depicting the epic lives of village gods, protectors of cattle. Vegetable colours are used on cloth and paper. Lively colours and bold lines, two-dimensional treatment of characters, and the entire composition designed in sections are characteristic of these paintings. Shahpura in Bhilwara and Udaipur are the main centres.


Warli painting is a style of tribal art mostly performed by the tribal people from the North Sahyadri Range in India. This range includes cities such as Dahanu, Talasari, Jawhar, Palghar, Mokhada, and Vikramgadh of Palghar district. This tribal art was started in Maharashtra, where it is still practised today.

The Warli tribe is one of the largest in India, located outside of Mumbai. The style of Warli painting was not known until the 1970s, even though the tribal style of art is thought to date back as early as 10th century A.D. The Warli culture is focused around the concept of Mother Nature and elements of nature are often focal features depicted in Warli painting. Farming is their main way of life and a large source of food for the tribe. They greatly respect nature and wildlife for the resources that they provide for life. Warli artists use their clay huts as the backdrop for their paintings, similar to how ancient people used cave walls as their canvases.


The word Gond evolves from Kond, which means green mountains in the Dravidian idiom. The Gond described themselves as Koi or Koiture. The Gonds, are the largest Adivasi Community in India. They decorate their walls with vibrant depictions of local flora, fauna and gods such as Marahi Devi and Phulvari Devi(Goddess Kali). Traditionally made on festive occasions such as Karwa Chauth, Diwali, Ashtami and Nag Panchami, the Gond painting depicts various celebrations, rituals and man’s relationship with nature.


Kalamkari is a kind of hand-painted or block-printed cotton textile, composed in Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Historically, Kalamkari used to be known as Pattachitra, an art form still found in neighbouring Odisha and other parts of India and Nepal.

In ancient times, groups of singers, musicians and painters, called chitrakars, moved from village to village to tell the village dwellers, the great stories of Hindu mythology. They illustrated their accounts using large bolts of canvas painted on the spot with simple means and dyes extracted from plants. In the same way, one found in the Hindu temples large panels of kalamkari depicting the episodes of Hindu mythology and iconography, similar to Buddhist Thangka paintings.

Under medieval Islamic rule, the term Kalamkari Persian,قلمکار which is derived from the words Kalam (pen) and Kari (craftsmanship), meaning drawing with a pen came to be in popular use under the patronage of Golconda sultanate.


Kalamkari (referring to the pen which is used in decorating handloom cloth with natural dyes) has evolved over the centuries as an art form in Andhra Pradesh. The Kalahasti style, the Golconda style and the Machilipatnam style are three important kalmkari styles. Kalamkari originally depicted ancient legends like stories or scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha. The scenes were depicted in rows and the narrative written below. The most popular kalamkari is the Tree of Life pattern. The kalamkari fabric has an earthy natural beauty born of gentle vegetable dyes.

Kalamkari Design (Image Courtesy: Desicraft blog)

Kalamkari Design (Image Courtesy: Desicraft blog)

Thangka Paintings

Thangka is a vibrant painting on cloth and can be rolled up. It invariably has vertical images, usually painted on cotton or linen, and rarely, silk. Thangkas first appeared in Tibet in the seventh and eighth centuries. Given the close ties, Spiti, Lahaul and Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh have had with Tibet, these images soon appeared in Himachal's monasteries too.

Thangka Depicting Vajrabhairava, c. 1740

Thangka Depicting Vajrabhairava, c. 1740


The Hamzanama (Epic of Hamza) or Dastan-e-Amir Hamza narrates the legendary achievements of Amir Hamza, an uncle of Muhammad, though most of the stories are extremely extravagant, "a continuous series of romantic interludes, threatening events, narrow escapes, and violent acts".

The Hamzanama chronicles the fantastic adventures of Hamza as he and his band of heroes fight against the enemies of Islam. This illustration shows the witch Anqarut in the guise of a beautiful young woman, who hopes to seduce the handsome king Malik

The Hamzanama chronicles the fantastic adventures of Hamza as he and his band of heroes fight against the enemies of Islam. This illustration shows the witch Anqarut in the guise of a beautiful young woman, who hopes to seduce the handsome king Malik

Cheriyal Scrolls

Cheriyal Scroll Painting is a stylized version of Nakashi art, rich in the local motifs peculiar to the Telangana. The scrolls are depicted in a narrative format, much like a film roll or a comic strip, describing stories from Indian mythology, and intimately tied to the shorter stories from the Puranas and Epics.

In India, each region and village developed its own scroll painting traditions, characterised by content, form and technique depending on the local ethos, patronage and socio-economic conditions. Rajasthan is known for its Pabuji ki Pad, Devenarayana Katha as also tales from the legend of Dhola and Maru. Goa evolved the Dasavathara, as Maharashtra did Pinguli and the Chitra Katha traditions. Maharashtra and Gujarat are also known for a sophisticated scroll painting tradition called the Prasasti Patra. Orissa and Bengal are famous for their Patachitra traditions.

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Kalighat Paintings

Kalighat painting or Kalighat Pat originated in the 19th century West Bengal, in the vicinity of Kalighat Kali Temple, Kalighat, Calcutta, and from being items of souvenir taken by the visitors to the Kali temple, the paintings over a period of time developed as a distinct school of Hindustani painting. From the depiction of Hindu gods, god, and other mythological characters, the Kalighat paintings emerged to reflect a variety of themes.


Pattachitra or Patachitra is a generic term for traditional, cloth-based scroll painting, practised in the eastern Indian states of Odisha and West Bengal. Pattachitra artform is appreciated for its intricate details as well as mythological stories and folktales inscribed in it. Pattachitra is one amongst the traditional artworks of Odisha. Patrachitra is a part of an ancient Bengali narrative art, originally serving as a visual device while the performance of a song.

Pattachitra are based on Hindu Mythology. Depicted here is a parade of the god Ganesha.

Pattachitra are based on Hindu Mythology. Depicted here is a parade of the god Ganesha.

Thanjavur painting

Thanjavur painting is a traditional South Indian painting technique, that was originated from the city of Thanjavur and developed across the geographically adjoining Tamil country. The art form draws its inspiration from way back roughly 1600 AD, a period during the Nayakas of Thanjavur under the kingdom of the Vijayanagara Rayas, inspired art—chiefly, classical dance and music—as well as literature, both in Telugu and Tamil and painting of particularly Hindu religious themes in temples. It is defined by its famous gold coating. However, it can safely be surmised that Thanjavur painting, as we know it now, originated in the Maratha court of Thanjavur (1676 - 1855).

A painted brass repousse of Tirupati Balaji. Circa 19th century CE.

A painted brass repousse of Tirupati Balaji. Circa 19th century CE.

Mughal painting

Mughal painting is a distinct style of South Asian painting which generally confines miniatures either as book illustrations or as single works to be kept in albums, which developed from Persian miniature painting (itself largely of Chinese origin), with Indian Muslim, Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist influences, and developed chiefly in the court of the Mughal Empire of the 16th to 18th centuries. The Mughal emperors were Muslims and they are believed to have consolidated Islam in South Asia and spread Muslim (and particularly Persian) arts and culture as well as the faith.

Mughal painting: Babur Receives a Courtier by Farrukh Beg c. 1580-85. Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, painted and mounted within borders of a Rawżat aṣ-ṣafāʾ page. Freer Sackler Gallery.

Mughal painting: Babur Receives a Courtier by Farrukh Beg c. 1580-85. Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, painted and mounted within borders of a Rawżat aṣ-ṣafāʾ page. Freer Sackler Gallery.

Rajasthani painting

Rajput painting, also called Rajasthani painting, emerged and prospered in the royal courts of Rajputana in India. Each Rajputana kingdom developed a distinguished style, but with specific characteristic features. Rajput paintings portray a number of themes, narratives of epics like the Ramayana. Miniatures in manuscripts or single sheets to be kept in albums were the selected medium of Rajput painting, but many paintings were produced on the walls of palaces, inner chambers of the forts, havelis, particularly, the havelis of Shekhawati, the forts and palaces built by Shekhawat Rajputs.

  • The Mewar school that includes the Chavand, Nathdwara, Devgarh, Udaipur and Sawar styles of painting
  • The Marwar school comprising the Kishangarh, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Pali and Ghanerao styles
  • The Hadoti school with the Kota, Bundi and Jhalawar styles and
  • The Dhundar school of Amber, Jaipur, Shekhawati and Uniara styles of painting.
  • The Kangra and Kullu schools of art are also part of the Rajput painting. Nainsukh is a renowned artist of Pahari painting, working for Rajput princes who then ruled that far north.

Bikaner style of painting

The Bikaner style of painting is a Rajasthani style of Indian painting developed in the city of Bikaner. It emerged in medieval India and was founded by Prince Rao Bika in 1488.

Artist at work. Bikaner c. 1780-90. Painting of India.JPG

Artist at work. Bikaner c. 1780-90. Painting of India.JPG

Basohli Paintings

Basohli Paintings is a coalition of Hindu mythology, Mughal miniature techniques and folk art of the local hills, developed in the 17th and 18th centuries as a unique technique of painting. This method of painting acquires its name from the place of its origin - hill town of Basohli about 80 Km. from the centre of district Kathua in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.


Mata Ni Pachedi

Shri Manubhai Chitara and his family has been following this tradition of making the Mata ni Pachedi for more than 10 decades. The style of this artwork is drawn from the Kalamkari paintings. The method involves drawing on a cotton cloth with a stick made from the date plant with natural dyes. The motifs are drawn from Hindu goddesses and the cloth is made to hang behind the holy idol of the goddess. Today this is a showpiece that is found in many an art lovers home. The cloth is something that is offered as a token of gratitude to the goddess by those who seek her blessings especially during Navratri.


Palm Leaf Paintings

Palm leaf paintings are very ancient in Odisha. The Palm Leaf illustrations are mainly of two types, simple engravings or illustrations in pure line on palm leaf and engraving with colour fillings. In these engravings, colours are muted and play a very minor part. Where colours are at all applied, they are just painted either to emphasize the inscriptions, or to fill up blank space.

Mandana paintings

Mandana paintings are created on wall and floor paintings of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, India. It is painted to protect home and hearth, welcome gods into the house and as a manifestation of festivities on celebratory occasions. Village women in the Sawai Madhopur area of Rajasthan maintain the art for making designs of perfect symmetry and precision. The ground is prepared with cow dung mixed with rati, a local clay, and red ochre. Lime or chalk powder is used for making the motif. The design may show Ganesha, peacocks, women at work, tigers, floral motifs, etc.

Deccani painting

Deccani painting is a Deccan form of miniature painting, emerged in south-western India—(also known as Deccan), during the beginning of Bahmani Sultanate in 1347 CE. The technique developed under the patronage of Deccan sultanates—( namely, Bijapur, Golkonda, Ahmadnagar, Bidar, and Berar ) and lasted until the extinction of the Qutb Shahi dynasty in 1687 CE.


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sowspeaks from Bengaluru on April 24, 2020:

very interesting and detailed article.

What Art (author) on April 03, 2020:

Thanks Ahmed Faiz for appreciating. I will definitely work on it.

Ahmed faiz on April 02, 2020:

Good information. It will be great if you could write about indian architecture but ina simpler version. It's very complicated on internet.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on December 21, 2019:

Very elaborate and interesting. Thanks.

Anju on November 06, 2019:

Good information but say something about himachali culture

Lynne Samuel from Malaysia on October 31, 2019:

Wow, you have such indepth knowledge of this. Fascinating, and the arts are very interesting.

Renu sharma on June 10, 2019:

Such an interesting article and love pictures

Lorna Lamon on June 10, 2019:

This is such an interesting article Mugdha with wonderful depictions of the artwork. Thank you for sharing.

Lorna Lamon on June 10, 2019:

This is such an interesting article Mudgha - wonderful photos. Thank you for sharing.

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