Kristian Bertel | Photography
Archive story
In this archive story we are learning about the Indian painting styles as seen in Varanasi, India.
Read the background story of this archive photo by the photographer.
The Indian wall paintings tradition is the product of the composite culture of the land of great physical splendor, a rich racial mix, a long history and a complex religious, social and economic ethos. A mural is any piece of graphic artwork that is painted or applied directly to a wall, ceiling or other permanent substrate as seen in this photograph from Varanasi in India.
The Indian wall paintings tradition is the product of the composite culture of the land of great physical splendor, a rich racial mix, a long history and a complex religious, social and economic ethos. A mural is any piece of graphic artwork that is painted or applied directly to a wall, ceiling or other permanent substrate as seen in this photograph from Varanasi in India.
Kristian Bertel, Photographer By Kristian Bertel, Photographer
– Updated on June 23, 2024

Indian painting styles

Murals are important in that they bring art into the public sphere. Due to the size, cost and work involved in creating a mural, muralists must often be commissioned by a sponsor. Often it is the local government or a business, but many murals have been paid for with grants of patronage. For artists, their work gets a wide audience who otherwise might not set foot in an art gallery. A city benefits by the beauty of a work of art.




What is the history of painting in India?

The portrayal of Indian diversities in a painting form reflected the ethos of Indian culture and tradition and paved the way for a surge in Indian traditional paintings. The modern Indian art movement in paintings of India is believed to have begun in Calcutta in the late 19th century.


Evolved over centuries
Indian painting style has evolved over centuries and has been a source of great pride and admiration for centuries. It is one of the oldest painting styles in the world, with its origins dating back to prehistoric times. The tradition of Indian painting has been passed down through generations and has become an integral part of Indian culture and its use of bright colors, intricate details and ornate designs has made it one of the most beloved forms of art in the world. It is an ancient art form that has been passed down through generations and its vibrant colors and intricate details are sure to captivate viewers for generations to come.


Madhubani style
The most common form of Indian painting is the Madhubani style. It is a popular form of folk art and has been practiced for centuries in the Indian states of Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh and this style is characterized by its intricate lines, bold colors and geometric shapes. It is often used to depict scenes from Hindu mythology and its geometric shapes are used to symbolize various gods and goddesses.

Mughal style
The Mughal painting style is another popular form of Indian painting. This style was developed during the Mughal Empire and is characterized by its use of bright colors, intricate details and ornate designs and this style often depicts scenes from court life and is known for its depiction of royalty and grandeur.

Rajput style
The Rajput painting style is another popular form of Indian painting. This style was developed during the Rajputana period and is characterized by its use of bold colors and elegant designs and this style is often used to depict scenes from battles and Hindu festivals and its vibrant colors and intricate details are used to create a sense of grandeur.

Kalamkari style
The Kalamkari style is a form of Indian painting that originated in the 16th century. This style is characterized by its use of bright colors, delicate lines and intricate details and this style often depicts scenes from Hindu mythology and is known for its depiction of gods and goddesses.

Tanjore style
The Tanjore style is another form of Indian painting that originated in the 16th century. This style is characterized by its use of bright colors, intricate designs, and elaborate details and this style often depicts scenes from Hindu mythology and its intricate details are used to create a sense of grandeur.

Social emancipation in India

Murals can be a relatively effective tool of social emancipation or achieving a political goal. Murals have sometimes been created against the law, or have been commissioned by local bars and coffee shops. Often, the visual effects are an enticement to attract public attention to social issues. State-sponsored public art expressions, particularly murals, are often used by totalitarian regimes as a tool of propaganda. However, despite the propagandist character of that works, some of them still have an artistic value. These murals can have a dramatic impact whether consciously or subconsciously on the attitudes of passers-by, when they are added to areas where people live and work. It can also be argued that the presence of large, public murals can add aesthetic improvement to the daily lives of residents or that of employees at a corporate venue.




"Indian painting has a very long tradition and history in Indian art, though because of the climatic conditions very few early examples survive"




Indian painting since prehistoric times
The earliest Indian paintings were the rock paintings of prehistoric times, such as the petroglyphs found in places like Bhimbetka rock shelters. Some of the Stone Age rock paintings found among the Bhimbetka rock shelters are approximately 10,000 years old.
India's ancient Hindu and Buddhist literature has many mentions of palaces and other buildings decorated with paintings the so-called 'Chitra', but the paintings of the Ajanta Caves are the most significant of the few ones which survive. Smaller scale painting in manuscripts was probably also practised in this period, though the earliest survivals are from the medieval period.

A new style emerged in the Mughal era as a fusion of the Persian miniature with older Indian traditions and from the 17th century its style was diffused across Indian princely courts of all religions, each developing a local style. Company paintings were made for British clients under the British raj, which from the 19th century also introduced art schools along Western lines. This led to modern Indian painting, which is increasingly returning to its Indian roots. Indian paintings can be broadly classified as murals as mentionede above, miniatures and paintings on cloth. Murals are large works executed on the walls of solid structures, as in the Ajanta Caves and the Kailashnath temple.

Different styles of painting
Miniature paintings are executed on a very small scale for books or albums on perishable material such as paper and cloth. Indian miniature paitings are small-scale, highly detailed paintings. They are a living tradition with many contemporary artists still pursuing the art form. The special thing about miniature painting is that is defined by delicate brushwork, a mélange of colors and graceful forms, miniature paintings are so delicate, that even today, with so much modernization, squirrel hair is used to create the brushes used in this art form. Each painting abounds with fine photographic details, capturing even the hair on a character. These miniature paintings of India, like their Persian counterparts, were made in sets to illustrate stories and were intended to be viewed at a close distance, usually by one person at a time.

Murals in India
Traces of murals, in fresco-like techniques, survive in a number of sites with Indian rock-cut architecture, going back at least 2,000 years, but the 1st and 5th century remains at the Ajanta Caves are much the most significant. Paintings on cloth were often produced in a more popular context, often as folk art, used for example by traveling reciters of epic poetry, such as the Bhopas of Rajasthan and Chitrakathi elsewhere and bought as souvenirs of pilgrimages. Very few survivals are older than about 200 years, but it is clear the traditions are much older. Some regional traditions are still producing works Kristian Bertel | Photography learned.

In the religious traditions of India, elephants symbolize royalty, majesty, strength, divinity, abundance, fertility, intelligence, keenness, destructive power and grasping power. The souls in elephants are said to be highly evolved and ripe for evolution. In India the elephant is a symbol for power, dignity, intelligence and peace.

In Hinduism, this right-facing symbol, clockwise is symbolizing 'Surya', the sun, prosperity and good luck. The word 'Swastika' comes from Sanskrit and it means 'Conducive to well-being', while the left-facing symbol, counter-clockwise is called 'Sauwastika', symbolising night or tantric aspects of Kali. In Jain symbolism, it represents 'Suparshvanatha' – the 7th of 24 'Tirthankaras', which are spiritual teachers and saviours, while in Buddhist symbolism it represents the auspicious footprints of the Buddha.

India renowned for its rich history and artistic traditions
"- During one of my journeys through this enchanting country, I had the privilege of delving into the captivating world of miniature paintings. This highly intricate and delicate art form, which has been honed and perfected over centuries, left me awe-inspired as I witnessed the true craftsmanship of Indian miniature painters. My quest for miniature paintings took me to the beautiful state of Rajasthan, often referred to as the heartland of this celebrated art form.What struck me the most was the unwavering dedication of the artisans, who passionately preserved this traditional art form, passing down the techniques and secrets of miniature painting from one generation to another. Many of these skilled craftsmen found solace within the walls of their modest studios, where silence was punctuated only by the delicate brushstrokes that brought life to their creations", the Photographer says.




"To understand the intricacies of miniature paintings, one must first grasp the essence of its materials. Traditionally, these artworks were crafted using natural pigments extracted from minerals and plants, such as indigo, saffron and even precious metals like gold and silver. Witnessing this commitment to traditional materials reaffirmed my belief in the authenticity and timeless beauty of these paintings"





See this video about miniature painting in India made by Asia Featured.




"- I was fortunate enough to witness the step-by-step process of creating a miniature painting. The artists would first prepare the canvas, meticulously grinding minerals to create vivid pigments. Their nimble fingers skillfully outlined the initial sketch using a fine brush. Then came layers of painstakingly detailed brushwork, creating vibrant figures, landscapes and intricate patterns. Every brushstroke in a miniature painting tells a story, often rich in cultural and historical symbolism. As I immersed myself in the intimate narratives captured by these artworks, it became clear that miniature paintings serve as a window into the past. Themes of love and devotion, mythological tales, and royal court scenes unfolded before my eyes, capturing the essence of Indian tradition and heritage", the Photographer says again.

"- It was heartening to see that despite modernity's encroachment, miniature painting remained a thriving art form. However, challenges in preserving this dwindling tradition were evident. Many artists shared their concerns about the declining interest and demand for traditional art, as people increasingly gravitated towards contemporary forms. Yet, the resilience and passion displayed by these painters gave hope for the preservation of this artistic gem", the Photographer says again.

"- My encounter with the world of Indian miniature paintings was a transformative experience. Witnessing the skill, patience and devotion of the artists brought forth a newfound appreciation for the artistry and cultural heritage of India. These miniature paintings not only reflect the creative genius and craftsmanship of their creators, but they also offer a glimpse into the soul of a nation deeply rooted in its vibrant history. As I bid farewell to Rajasthan, I carried the memories of these magnificent artworks, forever etched in my heart, knowing that this ancient tradition must be cherished and celebrated for generations to come", the Photographer says again.

Read also:  Hindu temples of India



Hindu temples of India


Read also:  Hindu temples of India

More archive stories

India is a land full of stories. On every street, on every corner and in the many places in India, life is rushing by you as a photographer with millions of stories to be told. In the archive story above, you hopefully had a readable insight in the story that was behind the photo of an Indian painting in Varanasi. On this website of Kristian Bertel | Photography you can find numerous travel pictures from the photographer. Stories and moments that tell the travel stories of how the photographer captured the specific scene that you see in the picture. The photographer's images have a story behind them, images that all are taken from around India throughout his photo journeys. The archive stories delve into Kristian's personal archive to reveal never-before-seen, including portraits and landscapes beautifully produced snapshots from various travel assignments. The archive is so-far organized into photo stories, this one included, each brought to life by narrative text and full-color photos. Together, these fascinating stories tell a story about the life in India. India, the motherland to many people around the world, a land of unforgetable travel moments. The archive takes viewers on a spectacular visual journey through some of the most stunning photographs to be found in the photographer's archive collection. The photographer culled the images to reflect the many variations on the universal theme of beauty and everyday life in India. By adding these back stories the photographer's work might immensely enhanced the understanding of the photographs.

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