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Prabal Pramanik's Academy of Arts
Bhamlada, Punjab -145 022, India
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ISBN No. 978-93-81200-03-2
|Painting on miniature formal in Indian
subcontinent in context to Pahari painting
The traditional of
painting on small formats has prevailed in India from ancient times.
Hand written Manuscripts served the purpose of books in ancient India. In many places of
eastern India, Leaves of the toddy palm tree and at some other places birch bank were used
for manuscript making. Tad leaves (toddy palm leaves) are segmented, and each segment is
not much wide (two to three inches) but are much longer.
The manuscripts written on tad leaves were often illustrated with small yet colourful
pictures related to the text. The area of work was much smaller than that of Pahari
Tad leaf illustrations are found in manuscripts during Pal and Sen dynasties of Bengal and
It is quite possible that tad leaf illustrations were made much earlier too as it is quite
obvious that tad leaves, that was reality available to the local people there, were used
for manuscript writing from earlier periods.
In Orissa fine tad leaf painting and drawing exists even today, and this tradition like
Bengal tad leaf painting must have been prevalent from the ancient times.
Painting on terracota round surfaces, "sara" was common in Bengal from olden
times. These are small earthen surfaces about ten inches or less in diameter.
Mythological pictures were painted on them and these were used for decoration and also for
"Sara" painting is still done in modern times. Tad leaf painting and sara
painting are schools of miniature paintings that are likely have existed long before paper
was introduced in India.
I am not including pata chitra of Bengal amongst miniatures, as "Patas" or
paintings made on paper are not very wide but they can be very long and rolled-up.
Ganjifa cards are small round cards that were used for playing in India for centuries. The
format is generally much smaller than that of Pahari miniature paintings.
Ganjifa cards were painted in detail showing mythological subjects.
Jainistic miniature tradition is likely to be much older than Pahari paintings and the
story telling quality of these paintings is superb.
In Rajasthan many forms of miniature painting developed and these painting schools exist
It is quite possible that the Pahari miniature painters were originally from Rajasthan,
but exposure to Persian miniature paintings had changed their process and technique of
Persian painters who excelled in painting on small formats came to India worked in the
courts of Mughal kings.
Many of the annals of the Mughal kings were very well illustrated by these miniature
painters. A fusion of Rajasthani miniature painting schools and Persian miniature schools
created Mughal school of miniature painting.
The painters who worked in the court of Mughal emperors, whether Hindus or Muslims,
developed this school and many of these artists spread out to other principalities in
search greener pastures.
Lack of the patronization during the rule of Aurangzeb in Mughal durbar forced many
artists to leave the court and seek their markets elsewhere.
Many of them came to hill states and were instrumental in the development of Pahari
I infer that artists in Basholi came much earlier and they may not have been from Mughal
They may have come as migratory artists from Rajasthan. The style of work in Basholi is
strikingly different from that other miniature paintings.
In Punjab miniature painting styles developed at places like Patiala too. In Uttar
Pradesh, detailed work showing land and people of some areas were made on miniature
formats by artists who obviously received training from European artists.
Painting on miniature formats have continued in India both in traditional and contemporary
forms in later ages.
New experimentations in art introduced through the influence western and far eastern art
forms created new chapters in the History of modern Indian painting.
Painting on miniature formats have prominent places in Bengal school of art and also in
Patna school of art.
Creative experimentation of contemporary art has been done on different sized formats
including miniature formats in modern India.
It is interesting to note that the expanse and dimension of landscape painting has been
made on miniature formats too by artists like Bireshwar Sen from Bengal, adding new
aspects to the art of painting on miniature formats.
Prabal Pramanik ©
(from the published book
"My views on Pahari paintings")
ISBN No. 978-93-81200-03-2