Tanjore Paintings

Tanjore Paintings

Tanjore Painting or Thanjavur Oviyam is one of the most colorful traditional visual cultures of India, native to Thanjavur or Tanjore, the capital city of the Chola Dynasty of Tamil Nadu.

It is a distinct, miniature and ancient art form with its genesis during the 16th century A.D. This art evolved to a great repute under the patronage of the Nayakas of Vijaynagar dynasty, Raju communities of Tanjore and Trichi, Naidus of Madurai and the Marathas who encouraged arts like music, painting and even literature in Tamil as well as Telugu.

Tanjore Paintings are known for their richness of color of the surface, vibrant color contrasts and compact composition. Since these paintings are devotional in nature, the canvas is filled with the image of a particular figure of a deity, prominent round shapes and protruding divine eyes of the deities.


How does Tanjore Painting look like?

Tanjore Paintings are made on various materials like:

  • wood (traditionally used to be done on the wood of jackfruit, but now the artists prefer plywood for cost effectiveness
  • glass
  • mica
  • exotic media such as ivory
  • murals
  • manuscripts

The early Tanjore Paintings were adorned with precious and semi-precious gems and jewels like diamonds, rubies and others. Some of the noticeable features of the form are:

  • Exquisite fine detailing
  • Detailed craftsmanship
  • Use of myriad colors
  • Use of glowing and shiny objects like golden and silver motifs or background objects.
  • Experimentation with the anatomies of different kinds of animals.
  • Effect of emboss is a very striking feature in all the paintings.
  • Episodes of different types of myths and legends find its place in this sort of painting.
  • The central divine figure is kept at the centre of the frame.
  • Tanjore Paintings are panel paintings, exclusively done on wood. So it is also called palagai padam (palagai, meaning wooden plank and padam meaning picture) in local idiom.
  • Golden leaves and gems of various exotic colors are used to signify the pillars, dresses, arches and thrones.


Framing of Tanjore Paintings

Framing of the Tanjore Paintings are usually done in two types of structures:

  1. Wooden base

  2. Chettinad type base, with an extra ornate design in it. Transparent acrylic sheets instead of glass are more used in this kind of framing.


Themes of Tanjore Painting

Themes of Tanjore Paintings usually revolve around Hindu gods and goddesses. The popular themes on which this art form laid stress are:

  • Natya Ganesha: A rare posture of Ganesha as the Natya Ganesha is an important theme. It is traditionally believed that invoking blessings from this deity removes obstacles before the start of any work.

  • Dhanvantri: In Hindu mythology, this deity is known to be the god of medicine and is considered that he can heal human beings from all sorts of diseases.

  • Baby Krishna on Banyan Leaf: This is a popular pose of lord Krishna in the form of a baby portraying the deity putting his own big toe into his mouth. The myth behind this image says that during the great Deluge (pralaya) the baby Krishna would preserve all the good elements and human beings in his stomach lying down on a banyan leaf.

  • Lord Vishnu: Lord Vishnu, one of the principal deities of the Hindus, is the protector of the Hindu world. He is one of the Trinity, the others being Lord Brahma, believed to be the creator and Lord Maheshwar, the destroyer.

  • Lakshmi: Considered to be the goddess of wealth by the Hindus, this theme has special significance for the business community before embarking on financial ventures.


Secular Aspect of Tanjore Paintings

Tanjore paintings do not limit themselves to the themes of Hindu gods and goddesses. These paintings also cover some secular themes which are meant for a wider group of people. One of the rare and important instances of this is a 19th century painting depicting ten Sikh Gurus with Bhai Bhala and Bhai Mardana.


How are Tanjore Paintings made?

Tanjore paintings are not merely paintings, but is a cross-art taking different types of materials from all around the region. Materials used for Tanjore paintings include:

  • Round Stone
  • Square Stone
  • Tilagam Stone
  • Rice Stone
  • Rectangle Stone
  • A D Stone
  • Half Pearls
  • Gold Foil
  • Tanjore Painting Limestone Powder
  • Arabic Gum
  • Stone Clining Tool
  • A.D Stone Hand Dril
  • Black Lining Pen
  • Thanjore Painting Plain Board
  • Regular Frames
  • Chettinadu Frames
  • Emery Paper
  • Chettinadu Mani Frames
  • Mani Frames
  • Padmam Frames
  • Antique Finish Frames
  • Gold Finish Frames Ram
  • Gold Finish Frames Siva
  • Gold Finish Frames Vishnu

Tanjore Painting includes some complicated methods which is the key behind the durability of this art. The different parts of the method are:

  • Canvas Preparation: The patient procedure of Tanjore Painting starts off with the making of the canvas with the help of a clean cotton cloth, wood or ply. The edges are made smooth, and the canvas is made with the help of a mixture made from fevicol and water.

  • Tracing the Design: After choosing the design and with the help of a tracing paper the image is traced by the artists on the canvas.

  • Sculptural Stage: Embossing is done with a mixture of chalk, Arabic gum and fevicol in an ideal proportion. Gold foil and stones are also applied in this stage.

  • Decorating Stage: This stage is all about giving the touches to the embossed parts of the painting and then decorating it.

  • Improvise Stage: Penning the embossed areas, outlining the stones are the main functions of this stage.

  • Painting: The images in the paintings do not depict any movement or action. The main figure is painted in white or lighter shade. The backgrounds and the surrounding objects are dealt with dark hues of red, blue and green characterized by curtains, pillars and other compartments to incorporate other small objects and figures.

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