Painting Arts of Rajasthan

Test Series: UPSC IAS Prelims Exam 2020

Ancient, Medieval and Modern History of Rajasthan

Geography of Rajasthan

Art, Culture and Heritage of Rajasthan

Polity and Administration of Rajasthan

Economy of Rajasthan

Art and Culture- Painting Arts of Rajasthan

Rajasthan is literally the land of kings. Various parts of the region have been ruled by various Rajput clans for centuries. They were known not only for their fighting skills and valour but also for their patronage of arts and culture. Their prowess in architecture is well known considering the massive forts, palaces and temples that attract thousands of tourists every year But Rajasthan also infinite riches in terms of paintings. While it is a vast field and cannot be explored completely even in one life time, let us try to have a brief introduction of historical Rajasthani paintings.

Painting is mentioned as 1 of 64 Kalas (arts) in ancient Indian texts. Historical art of Paintings in India can be classified into two different segments:

1. Murals or Wall Paintings

2. Miniature Paintings.

  • Mural Painting: A mural is any piece of artwork painted or applied directly on a wall; ceiling or other large permanent surfaceArchitectural elements of the given space are harmoniously incorporated into the picture.

Method of Paintings

1. True Fresco Method: The paintings are done when the surface wall is still wet so that the pigments go deep inside the wall surface. The Technique of mural painting executed upon freshly-laid or wet lime plaster, water is used as the vehicle for the pigment to merge with the plaster, and with the setting of the plaster and the painting becomes an integral part of the wall.

2. Tempora or Fresco-Secco: The Method of painting on the lime plastered surface which has been allowed to dry first and then drenched with fresh lime water.

Shekhawati Paintings:

  • It is covered by the two modern districts of Jhunjhunu and Sikar
  • Geometric and floral designs.
  • The interior work is usually painted Secco, using tempera, onto dry plaster.

B. Miniature Paintings of Rajasthan:

The art of Miniature painting was introduced to the land of India by the Mughals, who brought the much-revealed art form from Persia. In the sixteenth century, the Mughal ruler Humayun brought artists from Persia, who specialized in miniature painting. The succeeding Mughal Emperor, Akbar built an atelier for them to promote the rich art form. These artists, on their part, trained Indian artists who produced paintings in a new distinctive style, inspired by the royal and romantic lives of the Mughals. The particular miniature produced by Indian artists in their own style is known as Rajput or Rajasthani miniature. During this time, several schools of painting evolved, such as Mewar (Udaipur), Bundi, Kotah, Marwar (Jodhpur), Bikaner, Jaipur, and Kishangarh.

  • Besligre has supported the name of “Rajput School of Painting” for Rajasthani Painting.
  • Rajasthani Painting Themes – events of epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, Krishna’s life, beautiful landscapes, and humans
  • Precious stones, Gold and silver were used and Mughal Influence was also there.
  • Dominance of Chaurapanchasika group style in Indian Rajasthani Paintings.

These paintings are done with utmost care and in minute details, with strong lines and bold colours set in harmonious patterns. The miniature artists use paper, ivory panels, wooden tablets, leather, marble, cloth and walls for their paintings. Indian artists employed multiple perspectives unlike their European counterparts in their paintings. The colours are made from minerals and vegetables, precious stones, as well as pure silver and gold. The preparing and mixing of colour is an elaborate process. It takes weeks, sometimes months, to get the desired results. The brushes are required to be very fine, and to get high-quality results, brushes even to this very day are made from hair of squirrels. Traditionally, the paintings are aristocratic, individualistic and strong in portraiture, where the plush court scenes and hunting expedition of royalty are depicted. Flowers and animals are also the recurrent images in the paintings.

The Kishangarh province in Rajasthan is known for its Bani Thani paintings. It is a totally different style with highly exaggerated features like long necks, large, almond shaped eyes, and long fingers. This style of painting essentially depicts Radha and Krishna as divine lovers, and beautifully portrays their mystical love.

Kishangarh miniature painting reached a peak in the eighteenth century, during the rule of Raja Sawant Singh, who fell in love with a slave girl, Bani Thani and commanded his artists to portray himself and her as Krishna and Radha. Other themes of Bani Thani paintings include portraits, court scenes, dancing, hunting, music parties, nauka vihar (lovers travelling in a boat), Krishna Lila, Bhagavata Purana and various other festivals like Holi, Diwali, Durga puja, and Dussehra.

Today, many artists continue to make miniature paintings on silk, ivory, cotton, and paper. However, with the passage of time, the natural colours have been replaced by poster colours. The schools of miniature have also been commercialized, and the artists mostly replicate the work produced by the old painters.

Styles of Rajasthani Painting:

Starting from the 16th century, when the Rajasthani Painting originated, the main schools emerged, including:

Mewar School: Chavand, Nathdwara, Devgarh, Udaipur and Sawar

Marwar School: Jodhpur, Kishangarh, Bikaner, Nagaur, Pali and Ghanerao styles

Hadoti School: Kota, Bundi and Jhalawar styles

Dhundar School: Amber, Jaipur, Shekhawati and Uniara styles

Mewar Style

The Mewar School comprises of Nathdwara, Chavand, Udaipur, Sawar and Devgarh styles of painting.

Mewar School of painting is one of the most significant schools of Indian painting of seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It was developed in Hindu principality of Mewar. The works of the Mewar School are distinguished by simple vivid colour and straight poignant appeal. The relatively hefty number of paintings to which places of derivation can be attributed make probable a more inclusive picture of the expansion of painting in Mewar than any other Rājasthanī painting school. The primitive examples derive from Ragamala, a musical mode series highlighted in the year 1605 at Chawand. This communicative and energetic approach continued with some discrepancies through 1680, after which Mughal sway became more noticeable.

One of the dazzling painters of the untimely phase was that of the artist Sahibdin.

  • Considered to be place of origin of Rajasthani art of Painting.
  • Drawing is bold and the colours are bright and contrasting.
  • Text of the painting is written in black on the top against the yellow ground.
  • Maharana Kumbha contributed a lot to its development. After this Mewar style developed during Maharana Amar Singh-I (1572-1620), Karna Singh & Jagat Singh I (1628-52).

Shravak Pratikramansutra Chumi (1260):

It is the oldest painted volume of this style.

Chitron Ki Ovari (Tasviron ka Karkhana):

It was established during reign if Jagat Singh I.

  • – painted Kaliya Damana (most famous painting) during the reign of MaharanaSangram Singh II (1710-34).
  • – Nuruddin, Manohar, Sahibdin, Kriparam, Jivaram etc.

Famous Painters – Nuruddin, Manohar, Sahibdin, Kriparam, Jivaram etc


  1. Appearance of men & women in healthy & attractive height.
  • Pointed nose, round face, large eyes, small neck and open lips.
  • Imposing moustache, decorative figures of women with tender body.
  • Elegant display of Nature.

Nathdwara Style

Nathdwara Painting refers to a painting tradition and school of artists that emerged in Nathdwara, a town in Rajsamand district in the Western state of Rajasthan in India. Nathdwara paintings are of different sub-styles of which Pichhwai paintings are the most popular. The word Pichhwai derives from the Sanskrit words pich meaning back and wais meaning hanging. These paintings are cloth paintings hung behind the image of the Hindu god Shrinathji.

The Nathdwara School is a subset of the Mewar School of painting and is seen as an important school in the 17th and 18th century miniature paintings. The sub-styles of Mewar painting include Udaigarh, Devgarh and Nathdwara as important centers of miniature production. The temple of Shrinathji is believed to have provided a boost to the art activities in the town. It is recorded that to avoid the oppression of the iconoclast Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, the image of Shrinathji, a child manifestation of Krishna was installed in Nathdwara in 1670 by Goswami priests from Mathura. After this, many artists, including the famous Acharya Gopinathji, motivated by religious fervor came and created paintings of Shrinathji.

Pichhwai are intricate paintings which portray Lord Krishna. They exist in the holy town of Nathdwara in the Rajasthan state.

Krishna is shown in different moods, body postures, and attire more commonly found on a cloth or paper. It is a very ancient form of art passed on from generation to generation and it has a very devotional theme towards Lord Krishna.

The purpose of Pichhwai, other than its artistic appeal, is to narrate tales of Krishna to the illiterate. They have become the main export of Nathdwara and are in much demand among foreign visitors in the area.

These artists mostly live in Chitron ki gali (Street of paintings) and Chitrakaron ka mohalla (colony of painters) and make a close community with constant interaction. It is no wonder that many times a Pichhwai painting is a group effort, where several skillful painters work together under the supervision of a master artist.

  • Nathdwara style is a sub-style of Mewar School of painting, but as such it is a peculiar mixture of Mewar & Kishangarh styles.
  • Rana-Raj Singh-I brought idol of Srinath ji from Mathura during Aurangzeb reign, hence, artist from Mathura followed and gave birth to new style called as Nathdwara sub-style.
  • Depiction of natural scenery is a distinct feature of the Nathdwara style.
  • Nathdwara is famous for the Pichhwai paintings in Rajasthan. Pichhwai
  • Paintings are painted in permanent natural colors that do not lighten for years.
  • Famous painters included Ilaechii & kalma among women and Ghasiram,
  • Chaturbhunj, Udairaj & Champa lal among men.

Most works produced in this style revolve around the figure of Shrinathji as a manifestation of Krishna and refer to the incident of him holding the Govardhan hill on his last finger. Each Pichhwai painting is considered a seva or an offering to the deity and hence personifies Shrinathji as a prince with jewels and luxuries, surrounded by the milkmaids, gopis. These seva themes are based on different seasons and paintings are made to depict different moods of the season. There are also paintings that show the Lord in different costumes celebrating different festivals. Other themes like Mata Yoshoda, Nandlal and Bal-Gopal figures are also painted in this style.

Bundi Style

Bundi is one of the few places in India, which can lay its claim to an authentic School of Painting. “The Bundi School” is an important school of the Rajasthani style of Indian miniature painting that lasted from the 17th to the end of the 19th century in this princely state.

One of the earliest examples of the Bundi Paintings is the Chunar Ragamala painted in 1561. Bundi paintings emphasized on hunting, court scenes, festivals, processions, life of nobles, lovers, animals, birds and scenes from Lord Krishna’s life.

The Bundi School had a close association with the Mughal style yet it was never fundamental to the evolution and growth of Bundi paintings, however the delicacy of the Mughal style was also not abandoned.

The Chitrashaala, which is also known as the Ummed Mahal, is a part of the Garh Palace. It was built in the 18th Century, and forms a set of rooms on an elevated podium above the garden courtyard. The famous Chitra Shala in Bundi provides a colourful glimpse of history. The walls, ceiling of this palace are completely covered with paintings of the Bundi School which are still in very good condition. These splendid paintings in the Chitrashaala are par excellence and can be compared with probably the best anywhere in the world.

  1. Very close to the Mewar style of Paintings
  2. Rich and glowing colours, the rising sun in golden colour, crimson-red horizon, overlapping and semi-naturalistic trees.
  3. Mughal influence is visible in the refined drawing of the faces.
  4. Style flourished mostly during reign of Rao Surjan Singh.
  5. Chitrashaala (colored paintings) – made during reign of Maharao Ummed Singh depict this style clearly.

Main Features:

  • Pointed nose, receding foreheads, full cheeks, small stature
  • Use of red-yellow colors
  • Use of fine clothes.
  • Domes in background architecture, indicate Mughal influence.
  • In female figures in Bundi style, the upper & lower lines of eyes meet in parallel.
  • Lush landscapes painted in vibrant colors and massed with a variety of forms of trees and floral creepers, water ponds with lotus flowers in the foreground, fish and birds.

Kota / Kotah Style

The Kota style is considered another style of painting from the many among the Hadoti School of Art. The Kota style paintings, some of which are drawn on the walls of Palaces in Kota depict Mother Nature in all her glory. The Kota artists used attractive elements from hunting scenes and beautiful women. These paintings look very natural in their appearance and are mesmerizing.

  1. Though a distinctive Kota Style evolved in mid 17th century, similarities between Bundi and Kota painting continued in many respects. Later, visible variations appeared in details, costumes and methods of shading the faces.
  • Themes of tiger and deer hunt were very popular at Kotah.
  • During the period of Shatrusaal, a concise volume of Bhagwat was painted in Kota Style.
  • Credit for establishment of this style goes to Maharawal Ram Singh.

The Kota school of painting is a fine example of Rajput style of painting. Belonging to the erstwhile Kota kingdom of Rajasthan, it is renowned for the portrayal of battles, hunting expeditions, marriages and other major political events. It was a blend of Muslim and Hindu style of painting. Opaque water colors were usually employed and the themes are usually related to religion, politics and literature.

One of the preferred topics in these paintings was the favorite royal sport, tiger hunting. They portrayed the king, mounted on elephant during the hunt, and his followers amidst thick vegetation. The artists often accompanied the expeditions to record the events. They captured the movements of the animals, most prominent among them being the elephant. Stress was given on the energy and magnificence of the elephant rather than its adornment. Artists belonging to the Kota school were considered the best in depicting the elephant.

Features: Animals painted in this style include deer, tiger, lion and pig and Stout bodies, shining faces and bulging eyes.

Jaipur Style

The rulers of the state were closely allied to the Mughal dynasty, but paintings of the late 16th and early 17th centuries possessed all of the elements of the Rajasthani style. Little is known about the school until the opening years of the 18th century, when stiff, formal examples appear in the reign of Sawai Jai Singh. The finest works, dating from the reign of Pratap Singh, are sumptuous in effect and include some splendid portraits and some large paintings of the sports of Krishna. Although the entire 19th century was extremely productive, the work was rather undistinguished and increasingly affected by Western influences. Of the Rajasthani styles of this period, the Jaipur School was the most popular, examples having been found all over northern India.

  • This school of painting originated at Amber but later shifted to Jaipur, the new capital.
  • Because of close proximity to Mughals, the Jaipur style is strongly influence by Mughal School.
  • The style got patronage under reign of Sawai Jai Singh I (1622-88). Under Jai Singh II (1693-1743), Ishwari Singh (1743-1750) and Madho Singh I (1750-1767), a new style was adopted for the female face. Under Pratap Singh (1779-1803), there was a complete transformation of painting in Jaipur. The Mughal influence was eliminated and a genuine Jaipur- Rajpur style emerged.
  • There are a fairly large number of portraits of the Jaipur rulers.
  • Dominant themes of painting included Mahabharat, Ramayan, Krishna Leela and Geet Govinda & Kama Sutra.

Features: Large size canvas, ornate backgrounds and bright gorgeous borders and Female figures are depicted with large eyes, bunch of long hair, stout physique and pleasant mood.

Jodhpur Style

Jodhpur Shaili Miniature- Jodhpur inherited the art tradition of prior Marwar, which Pali, its sub-centre, revived in early 17th century in its Ragamala paintings. The initial idiom of Marwar art style defines these Pali paintings. This Pali idiom was replaced by Mughal elements in subsequent Jodhpur Ragamala paintings. Jodhpur excelled in the depiction of Baramasa, Ramayana, votive images of gods and the scenes of harem life.

  1. An independent Jodhpur style came into existence during reign of Rao Maldev. Paintings on Uttaradhyayan Sutra were made during his reign.
  2. Executed in a primitive and vigorous folk style Paintings in Mughal style developed under the patronage of Jaswant Singh (1638-1681), who served as the Viceroy of the Mughals for Malwa, Gujarat and the Deccan.
  3. Paintings of the legendary lovers like Dhola-Maru on camelback, hunting scenes are famous.
  4. Ajit Singh (1707-1724) & Abhay Singh (1724-1750) continued the patronage of painting.

The late Jodhpur style, characterized by the lavish use of yellow, blue and green colors, spiral clouds on the horizon, reached its climax in the reign of Man Singh (1823-1843). Beautiful and attractive paintings were painted in the palace of Nagaur during the reign of Bhakhat Singh.

Features: Despite being influenced by the Mewar School, the Jodhpur style has its own striking features and Males are stoutly built and tall, with curved mustaches, touching their throats.

Bikaner Style

Bikaner Shaili Miniature- Uniara, a sub-school of Kotah, is excellent in clubbing various festivals with conventional themes like Baramasa and in the depiction of Ragas and various myths. Indergarh, another Kotah sub-school, preferred portraits. Bikaner style is predominated by Mughal elements. It is partly because most of its master artists, Ali Raza, Ustad Sahibdin, Ruknuddin, Nuruddin and Murad, had come from the Mughal world and were adept in the Mughal style. But despite, in its themes Bikaner always inclined to Hindu myths and legends like Krishna-Lila, Ramayana, Bhagavata, Devi-Mahatmya and Ragamala Depictions of village life, Baramasa, festivals, processions, hunting and the like also have an indigenous touch. Perfect technical execution, maturity of form, elegance and soft colour effects, the widely known ‘neem-kalam’, is in contrast to Rajasthan’s bright deep tones, characterised Bikaner miniatures.

  • Some of the Mughal artists were given patronage by the Bikaner court. So, Bikaner style has more Mughal elements than other schools of Rajasthani paintings.
  • Apart from Mughal, there is considerable influence of Deccani style.
  • Bhagwad Purana painted during period of Rai Singh is considered to be an early painting of this style.
  • Developed peaked during reign of Maharaja Anoop Singh.
  • Most of the paintings are made on the Ramayana, on the Mahabharata, lord Krishna legends, Ragmala and love scenes of Radha and Krishna.


  • Slim and attractive females with eyes resembling those of deer.
  • Frequent application of blue, green and red colors.
  • Turbans of the style of Shahjahan and Aurangzeb along with the high turbans of Marwari fashion.

Marwar School of Painting

The Marwar School comprises of Kishangarh, Bikaner and Jodhpur, Pali, Nagaur and Ghanerao styles.

Marwar developed a suave and dissimilar School of Paintings. The Marwar School imitated the Mughal sway and nobles on durbar and horses scenes were well-known in Mewar School of paintings. Amid 1760 and 1780, the Mughal control departed and the Rajput elements became famous in Jodhpur, which are exemplified by linear pace and shimmering colors. In Marwar festivals, paintings, elephant fights, hunting expeditions and ceremonies are normally depicted. The themes also incorporate scenes collected from the life of Lord Krishna. Other admired themes were ‘Gita Govinda’ and ‘Raagmala

Kishangarh Style

Kishangarh Shaili Miniature- Kishangarh excelled in the sensuous rendering of mystic feminine beauty; an ideal realised in Bani-Thani. Its artists Bhawani Das, Surat Ram, Nihal Chand gave to the art world some of its timeless masterpieces. The Krishna-cult dominated the Kishangarh art scenario, but Ramayana episodes, hunting scenes and portraits were also rendered. Raja Sawant Singh, a great art patron, was often painted as Krishna.

Miniature art at Jaipur began during the reign of Sawai Jai Singh. Muhammad Shah and Sahib Ram were the principal painters of the Jaipur style. Jaipur excelled in life-size portraits, depiction of myths, ragas, astrological principles and different amusing and erotic themes. Jaipur generally used a large size canvas, ornate backgrounds and bright gorgeous borders. After the Govardhan Puja Krishna going to the jungle with gopas and cows

  • Developed under the patronage of Raja Sawant Singh (1748-1757 A.D.), who wrote devotional poetry in praise of Krishna.
  • Most common theme of this style consisted of the depiction of the love between lord Krishna and Radha.
  • Master painter Nihal Chand who, in his works, has been able to create visual images of his master’s lyrical compositions.
  • He is also credited with making Bani-Thani during Sawant Singh’s reign.

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