Paintings in India

  • Earliest evidence of paintings on rocks.
  • Bhimbetka – 5000BC


  • Known from Primitive rock paintings of Bhimbetka, Mirapurs & Panchmarhi.
  • Then came the painted pottery of Indus valley civilization.
  • But the real beginning of paintings can be traced from Gupta times.

Pre – historic Paintings

  • Were rock engravings known as Petroglyps.


  • Bold lines
  • Used colors like Ache red, Yellow earth or Soot black colors
  • The rocks are first scratched with stone & then they were filled with colors.
  • Figures of Hunting, Animals, humans, Dancing scenes & Riding scenes etc were very common.

Ex:- Bhimbetka cave Paintings

  • Discovered in 1957 – 58 by an Archaeologist V.S.Wakantar.
  • They belongs to 3 periods i.e Upper paleolithic, Mesolithic & Chalcolithic.Paintings in India

Upper paleolithic

  • Used white, dark red & Green colors
  • Depicting Large animals like Bison, Elephant, Rhinoceros & Tigers etc…
  • Green used mainly for Dancing While red used for Hunting.


  • Used mainly Red color
  • Paintings are now smaller compared to Upper paleolithic.
  • Most common scenes: Group Hunting.
  • Also depicting Grazing scenes, Riding scenes etc..


  • Used mainly Green & Red colors
  • Themes: Battle scenes, Men riding Horses & Elephant, Bow & Arrow scenes.

Classification of  Paintings in India

  • Mural paintings & Miniature paintings

Mural paintings

  • Large works executed in form of paintings on the walls of large structures are known as Mural paintings.
  • Based on 3 religions; Buddhism, Jainism & Hinduism.
  • Influence of Persian paintings


  • Ajanta cave painting
  • Ellora cave painting
  • Bagh cave painting
  • Lepakshi painting
  • Sitannavasal painting

Miniature paintings

  • Very detailed & Very small paintings.
  • Executed on a very small scale like paper, palm leaf, cloth & Glass etc..
  • Composition, Perspective & colors are important.
  • The term Miniature derived from Latin & Minium means Red ledd paint used in illuminated manuscripts during Renaissance.

Pre conditions:

  • Must be larger than 25 sq. inch.
  • Subject must be painted not mere than 1/6th of its actual style.

Ex:- Pala school, Ragmala paintings, Kishangad, Mughal & Apabramhsa.

Features of Miniature paintings

  • Mostly human characters are seen with side profile.
  • Bulging eyes, pointed nose & Slim waist.
  • Skin colors painted in brown.
  • Women has long hair.
  • Color of hairs & Eyes painted in black.
  • Traditional Indian dress is painted.
  • Men has turbans on head.

Gupta age paintings

  • Kamasutra paintings was one of the paintings among 64 fine arts.
  • Vatsayana speaks about 6 principles or limbs of paintings called ‘Sadangas of paintings’


  • Rup Bheda; Knowledge of appearance
  • Praman; Correct perception, measure & structure.
  • Lawan Yogam; Inferior of grace & artistic representation.
  • Sadrisyam; Similarity.
  • Varnika Bhanga; Manner of Using brush & color.

Ajanta cave paintingsPaintings in India

  • 29 caves.
  • Mural & Fresco paintings on the walls of caves


  • Expression of emotions through hand postures.
  • Different hair styles for each female.
  • Even animals & birds are shown with emotions.
  • Fresco method i.e on wet plaster.
  • Tempera method i.e using pigments.
  • Exclusively Buddhist, excepting decorative patterns on the ceilings & the pillars.
  • Theme: Jatakas, recording the previous births of the Lord Buddha.
  • Principal characters in most of the designs are in heroic proportions.

Ellora cave paintings

  • Influence of 3 religions – Buddhism, Jainism & Hinduism.
  • Theme: Themes of Ramayana & Mahabharata etc..Paintings in India


  • Sharp twist of the head,
  • Painted angular bents of the arms,
  • Concave curve of the close limbs,
  • Sharp projected nose &
  • Long drawn open eyes

Lepakshi paintings in India

  • Located in Lepakshi, Hindupur (Andhra Pradesh)
  • Mural paintings executed on temple walls at Lepakshi during Vijayanagar period
  • Themes: Secular themes.
  • Complete absence of primary colors (particularly blue)Paintings in India

Sitanavassal paintings

  • Cave & Mural paintings inTanjore, Tamil Nadu.
  • Wide open eyes of all the figures as compared to Ajanta tradition of half closed drooping eyes.
  • Theme: Jain paintings.

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