Salient Features of Miniature Paintings in India

Miniature paintings are executed on a very small scale for books or albums on perishable material such as paper and cloth.

In India, the Pala miniature paintings, which date back to 11th century, are the earliest evidences of miniature painting tradition. In due course of time, the different schools of miniature painting emerged in different geographical locations across the country.

The 10th century illustrated Buddhist text, Prajnaparamita, is the earliest known example of painting where a canvas of micro, or miniature size made its debut.

However, the golden period for miniature paintings was the 16th century when various schools of paintings were provided patronage by the Mughals, rulers of Deccan and Malwa, and Hindu chieftains of Rajasthan. This led to the development of important schools of paintings such as Mughal, Rajput and Deccan schools.

The Mughal paintings of India had included the elements of Hindu, Persian, and European styles. The Tuti-nama and Hamzanama was important works accomplished during the reign of Akbar. Jahangir is known to have focused on specialization and study of nature. Aurangzeb almost banned painting at his court. This forced Mughal artists to migrate to various provinces, where the Mughal art transformed into the provincial Mughal style.

One of the most important reasons that so many artistic traditions flourished in India during the Mughal era was the political stability and vital social and economic structures.

Rajasthan witnessed the development of several regional schools of painting during this time like Mewar, BundiKota Kalam, Jaipur, Bikaner, Kishangarh and Marwar schools. The miniature paintings depicted themes such as court scenes, gardens, forests, palaces, hills and valleys, deserts, life of Lord Krishna, love scenes, hunting scenes, and animal fights. Other important components of Rajasthani miniatures are Ragmala (representing ragas in classical music), Geeta Govinda, Ramayana, and Bhagvat Puran.

The Rajput paintings are known for having absorbed many elements of the Mughal style mainly due to the growing alliances between the Rajput kingdoms and Mughals.

Around the same time, the hill regions of Northern India including Basoli, Guler, Kangra, Bilaspur, Kullu, and Mandi saw the emergence of Pahari School. Then, the Kangra School of painting becoming noticeable in 18th century. The Kangra School though influenced by Rajasthani and Mughal miniatures; had developed its own distinctive style.

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