(Last Updated on : 02/06/2012)
Tanjore Paintings have a very rich heritage. This style of painting has been followed in the southern parts of Tamil Nadu for the past two centuries. The pattern of art had flourished in Thanjavur, the capital of the Chola dynasty and since got such a name as Tanjore paintings. The premise of Tanjore painting is essentially religion and spirituality and the art is renowned for its artistic portray of legendary characters and themes. The Brihadeeswara temple, for instance, houses several illustrations of Thanjavur paintings in the form of Chola murals and Nayak paintings. Even the Maratha palace is an ideal place to explore these paintings.
History of Tanjore Paintings
Tanjore paintings had originated in Tanjavur in Chennai
during the reign of the powerful Chola Dynasty
. These paintings have been elaborated in the ancient text of Chithra Sutra. From 16 to 18th centuries, Maratha princes, Rajput communities of Tanjore, Nayaks of Vijaynagara Empire, Trichi and Naidus of Madurai
patronised the Tanjore painting. The rulers patronized the Tanjore art and so the latter prospered and developed during this time. During the Gupta Empire around 18th century Tanjore had reached the pinnacle of success. The Tanjore painting adorned the interiors of the palaces and soon found their place in every household. The "Saraswathi Mahal Library" in Tanjore built by the King Serfoji II displays the famous Tanjore paintings.
Types of Tanjore Paintings
The Thanjavur temples can be divided according to dynasties. From example, under the Chola reign the murals came into prominence. As time gave way to the rise of the Nayak dynasty, the Nayak paintings came to limelight. These paintings carried forward the aesthetic tradition of the Vijayanagara art. The Thanjavur
or Tanjore paintings once again revised itself under the Maratha rule. The Marathas continued the Nayaka tradition of patronising. However, paintings under them were influenced by the Mughal idiom. These paintings with stone settings were primarily found on walls.
Themes of Tanjore Paintings
The pastimes and life of Lord Krishna
are depicted in the Tanjore paintings. The uniqueness of the Tanjore paintings is their extraordinary gold leaf work; attractive jewellery with stones, dazzling colour design, and eye catching engraved glasses. The laissez-faire application of gold leaf and precious and semi-precious stones like rubies and diamonds speaks the greatness of the adroit artists of those times. Tanjore Paintings vary in their sizes. They may be as big that they can cover a full wall and at the same time it may be as small as six inches.
Style of Tanjore Paintings
The characteristic of Thanjavur painting is that the figures in the paintings have a round body and egg shaped effulgent eyes and are surrounded by curtains and arch. These paintings will illuminate in the dark room. The canvas used for Tanjore paintings was previously wood of the Jackfruit tree but the modern artist uses plywood. A layer of cloth is pasted over this plywood using the Arabic adhesive. A uniform coating of limestone paste and a binding material is applied and the cloth is let to dry. The artist then sketches the meticulous pictures on the canvas while the paste of limestone and fastening substance is used during adorning and engraving ornaments into the paintings. The pillars, dresses, arch and thrones of the Tanjore paintings are gilded with the gold leaves and gems of different colours. After this colours are painted on the sketch. For outlines dark brown is usually used. Red is preferentially used as the background colour but some times green is also used. The yellow colour is used for the Goddesses while for Gods it varies: blue for Lord Vishnu and while white for Nataraja
. Previously artists used the natural colours made from the vegetable dyes. The portfolios of the old Tanjore paintings were restricted to the drawings of the divine figures. But now days the modern artists explore new dimensions. They also started depicting the presiding deities of the famous temples.
Tanjore paintings were framed in two types of structures; the wooden type made of plain wood and the Chettinad type, which have an extra ornate design.
Tanjore paintings are the ultimate forms of expression of love of Godhead, truth, beauty and devotion. Hundreds of devoted artists from Tamil Nadu
have kept alive this beautiful form of art and have brought about new innovations to it.