Cave Paintings of India: Difference between Murals, Miniatures and Frescoes

Murals are large works executed on the walls of solid structures, as in the Ajanta Caves and the Kailashnath temple. Miniature paintings are executed on a very small scale for books or albums on perishable material such as paper and cloth. Fresco is a technique of mural painting executed upon freshly laid lime plaster. This implies that the Fresco is done on wet plaster and that is why it is more durable work than Mural. Murals are painted on already dried surfaces.

The early murals of India were painted by guilds of painters. The themes were Buddhist, Jain and Hindu. However, the dharma or duty in life of the painters was to create their art: to continue the legacy of their ancestors and to present visions of life which looked beyond the veils of the material world, to the divinity which underlies the whole of creation.

Ajanta Paintings: Murals or Frescoes

The mural paintings of Ajanta are not all frescoes, as they are sometimes mistakenly described, for they were not painted on wet lime plaster. These murals were executed with the use of a binding medium of glue applied to a thin coat of dried lime wash. Below this surface wash were two layers of plaster covering the stone walls.

The first was a rough, thick layer of mud, mixed with rock-grit, vegetable fibres, grass and other materials; the second was a finer coat consisting of mud, rock dust or sand and finer vegetable fibres, which provided a smooth surface for the lime wash on which the paintings were made.

The artist got his colours from the simple materials that were available in these hills. For his yellow and red he used ochre, for black he used lamp soot, for his white he used lime. Only for his blue he used lapis lazuli, which came from Afghanistan. These simple colours were blended to provide the numerous colours and subtle hues, which are seen in the Ajanta paintings.

Question for UPSC Mains:
Differentiate between Murals, Miniatures and Frescoes with suitable examples.

Published: May 1, 2016 | Modified:December 22, 2019

Comments