In this hundred and thirty-ninth archive story by Kristian Bertel, we take a look at the indian painting 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.

Indian painting

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 nineteenth century.

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 seventh of 24 'Tirthankaras', which are spiritual teachers and saviours, while in Buddhist symbolism it represents the auspicious footprints of the Buddha.

Read also:  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.