Tanjore Painting

Tanjore Painting or Tanjavur Painting:

Tanjore painting or Tanjavur painting is the classical and beautiful paintings which originated in Tanjavur district of Tamil Nadu India. It originated around 16th century during Chola period. The Nayakas of Tanjavur gave huge importance to Indian art, dance, music and also paintings of Gods in the temples.

The main theme of the painting was Hindu God and Goddess. There are also paintings from Hindu Puranas, and other religious texts with the main figure are placed at the centre of the picture. The rich vibrant colours used in Tanjavur painting makes it different from other Indian Paintings.

Tanjore Painting

Tanjavur Paintings are done on a wooden plank known as panel painting (a painting made on a flat panel made of wood either a single piece of wood or many pieces joined together). Hence Tanjavur paintings are referred to as Palagai Padam which means wooden plank picture. Tanjore painting uses very rich and vibrant colours with glittering gold foils spread on it. Over a period of time many changes have come in the paintings.

History and making of Tanjore Paintings

After the fall of Vijayanagara Empire in the Battle of Talikot and the fall of Hampi most of the painters who were present during Vijayanagara rule moved to different places. Some people moved to Mysore and some to Tanjore. Painters who moved to Mysore started with Mysore paintings and Painters who moved to Tanjore started with Tanjore Paintings. The painters who moved to Tanjore started to work under the Tanjavur Nayakas until the Nayakas were defeated by the Maratha rulers.

The Vijayanagara Empire which was founded by Harihara and Bukka were great lovers of art and literature. The art and literature reached its peak during Krishnadevaraya’s period. Tanjavur was established by Achutaraya who was the half brother of Krishnadevaraya. Sevappa ruled Tanjavur for many years along with his son Achyutappa.

During the reign of Achyutappa the mighty Vijayanagara Empire fell and most of the painters moved to Mysore and Tanjavur. Later on Achyutappa was succeeded by his son Raghunatha Nayaka and he was succeeded by his son Vijayaraghava Nayaka.

With the fall of Nayakas Venkoji who was the half brother of Chatrapati Shivaji went and captured Tanjavur and established Maratha rule in Tanjavur. Serfoji II Bhonsle who was the last ruler of Bhonsle Dynasty encouraged Tanjore paintings and under his rule Tanjore Painting flourished and reached its peak.

Style and materials used for making Tanjore Paintings

Beautiful Radha Krishna tanjore painting

It is important for us to understand the procedure of making this marvellous painting. It is little tedious and takes time to complete one painting but after it is done one can really see the efforts and of course the beauty of the painting. 

The painting is made on a canvas which is pasted on a wooden plank mostly of Jackfruit or teak. It is then evenly coated with a paste of limestone and a binding medium. It is allowed to dry. Ones the canvas is dried then it is ready for doing painting of your choice. The artist then draws a detailed sketch of the main and subsidiary characters in the painting.

For creating a gesso work a paste made of Limestone and binding medium is used on the painting. The next step is to beautify the painting for these gold leaves and gems are used to beautify the main and the subsidiary paintings. These are used mainly in the selected areas like pillars, arches, thrones and dresses. The painting is ornamented with cut glass, pearls and even semi precious stones. Laces or threads are also used to decorate the painting.

Finally bright colours are applied on the sketch. Earlier the artists used natural colours like vegetable dyes but now chemical paints are used instead of natural colours. Red colour is usually used for background and green and blue is also used. 

Different Hindu Gods were painted with different colours like Lord Vishnu was coloured blue and lord Nataraja was coloured Chalk White. It is believed that the red background is the trademark of Tanjore Painting. The portrayals in the paintings are breath taking and beautiful. Most of the figures in the paintings have rounded faces with Almond shaped eyes which is the unique character of Tanjore Paintings.

Tanjore Paintings in Modern times

Over the time Tanjore paintings are more improved and also the demand for this painting has increased. Various exhibitions are held regularly by the government to support the artists and the art. Even the materials that were being used in ancient times have been changed to more easily available materials like the plywood has taken the place of the Jack or teak wood that was previously being used. Instead of natural colours some artists have started using synthetic colours. Muck powder is used now to give 3D effect to the paintings.

Even though the Tanjore paintings have taken a transformation still it is most gifted item during the festival season in India. They are also used as a decorative item at home.

Artists of Tanjore Painting

Tanjore paintings were usually carried on by Jinigara community and the Nayudu community of Madurai. They originally belonged to Telugu speaking community of Rayalseema region in Andhra Pradesh. These artists later moved to Tanjore in Tamil Nadu after the fall of Vijayanagara Empire. One of the famous calendar artist and Tanjore painting artist was C. Kondiah Raju from Kovilpatti belonged to Raju community.

C. kondiah Raju was a popular as calendar artists who was famous for depictions of Hindu God and Goddess. He was born of November 7th, 1898, at Chennai. C Kondiah Raju belonged to Raju community which was famous for making Tanjore paintings. He worked for printers like Sivakasi, and Madurai Raju worked for he died in the year 1976.  His art mostly had the influence of Raja Ravi Verma’s and also of Tanjore painting. C. Kondiah Raju’s paintings do have the influence of Raja Ravi Verma’s paintings.

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