Thanjavur Paintings: A Dying Art?

By Pratik Mantri:

Paintings have always been an object of admiration to me with their incisive art, meticulous preparations and finesse, there is something in it that makes you go ‘wow’ about it. India has had a very rich culture of varied forms of paintings in different parts of the country. One of those forms is Thanjavur (Tanjore) Paintings.

Thanjavur Paintings

These types of paintings originated in Thanjavur in the 16th century, the artists are mostly based in Tamil Nadu, India. The paintings were usually of deities in diverse themes. Thanjavur paintings are distinct from other Indian paintings in the manner that the embellishments are made over the basic drawings with precious and semi-precious stones as well as the relief work which gives them a three-dimensional effect. The paintings are normally very bright, colorful and breathtakingly beautiful. The impact in a darkened room is mesmerizing since it glitters and glows because of the various artifacts and gem stones that are embedded on the surface.

The Thanjavur paintings depict Indian culture to perfection and capture in them the country’s spiritual unity and national identity. The artists weave a very beautiful picture with their skill and ability to play with colours. In India, it is very rare to find people indulging in this form of painting and so we need to preserve this art lest it should fade away. These paintings of deities reflect the ingenious use of laces, thread and other materials in a concise arrangement. It also has centuries of history behind it and is essential for the revival of our ancient culture. Anyone having a bit of interest in the Hindu mythology would be easily enamoured by these paintings. They show the deep faith that people had in Gods and Goddesses; from an outsider’s view, this art reveals uncomplicated and dedicated effort towards religion.

With the changing course of time there are only a few of artists left to ply their trade in this type of painting. The rapid modernization has meant lesser opportunities for these artists as a wave of technological revolution has resulted in more people being glued to things other than paintings. This art is fading away with time which is a concern, there are museums but there have been no substantial additions to the paintings. Many of the famous artists are no more and the next generation has not shown any significant interest towards this dying art.

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