What do Kannadigas envy about Tamil Nadu

Thanjavur painting is a classic South Indian style of painting that was inaugurated by the city of Thanjavur (Anglicised as Tanjore) and spread across the adjacent and geographically adjacent Tamil land. The art form draws its immediate resources and inspiration from around AD 1600, when the Nayakas of Thanjavur, under the sovereignty of the Vijayanagara Rayas, encouraged art - mainly classical dance and music - as well as literature in both Telugu and Tamil, and painting by mainly Hindu religious subjects in temples. It is distinguished by its famous gold plating. However, it can be assumed that the Thanjavur painting as we know it today was created in the Maratha court of Thanjavur (1676 - 1855). It was recognized as a geographical indication by the Government of India in 2007-08.

Thanjavur paintings are characterized by rich, two-dimensional and lively colors, simple iconic compositions, glittering gold foils over filigree but extensive gesso works and inlays made from glass beads and pieces or, very rarely, valuable and semi-precious gemstones. In Thanjavur paintings one can see the influence of Deccani, Vijayanagar, Maratha and even European or Company styles of painting. Most of the images are based on religious icons, Hindu gods, goddesses, and saints. Episodes from Hindu Puranas, Sthala-puranas and other religious texts were visualized, drawn or drawn and painted with the main character or characters placed in the central part of the picture (mostly in an architecturally delimited space such as Mantapa or Prabhavali), several minor characters, subjects and topics. There are also many instances where Jain, Sikh, Muslim, other religious and even secular subjects have been depicted in Tanjore paintings.

Thanjavur paintings are panel paintings on wooden boards and are therefore called Palagai Padam (Palagai = “wooden board”; Padam = “picture”) in local usage. In this day and age, these paintings have become souvenirs for festive occasions in South India - colorful works of art to decorate walls and collectibles for art lovers, as well as, unfortunately, sometimes dozens of bells and whistles from street corner practitioners.


Thanjavur has a unique place in the history of Indian painting. It houses the 11th century chola wall paintings in the Brihadeeswarar Temple (Periya koyil or Pervudaiyar koyil in Tamil) as well as paintings from the Nayak period (often overlaid with the earlier chola paintings) from the 16th century. The fall of the Vijayanagar Empire and the sacking of Hampi at the Battle of Talikota in 1565 led to the emigration of painters who relied on the patronage of the empire. Some of them migrated to Thanjavur and worked under the auspices of the Thanjavur Nayakas. Subsequently, the Maratha rulers who defeated the Thanjavur Nayakas began to maintain the Thanjavur Atelier. Needless to say, the artists absorbed the local influences and individual tastes of their Maratha patrons, which helped develop the unique Thanjavur style of painting. In addition to decorating temples, the Thanjavur artists began painting and decorating the great buildings, palaces, chatrams, and residences of the Maratha kings and nobility.

Vijayanagara Rayas
The Vijayanagar Empire, founded by Harihara and Bukka, has long been a bulwark against the rapidly advancing Islamic influence from the nearby Deccan and further north. As foreign influences gradually seeped into the south of the peninsula, the Vijayanagar Empire ensured that the older Hindu artistic traditions were protected and preserved. The empire had reached its peak under Krishnadevaraya (1509-29). Its territory extended over the entire south Indian peninsula, from the Tungabhadra River in the north to Kanyakumari in the south and the Malabar coast on the Arabian Sea in the west to the Coromandel coast on the Bay of Bengal in the east at its tip. In the years 1521-22 Krishnadevaraya traveled to the Tamil land (Tamilagam), visited holy places and, as was his custom, made generous donations to temples and other religious institutions. It can be assumed that some of this generosity also flowed into art and artists.

Thanjavur Nayakas
The Vijayanagar Rayas administered their vast kingdom through Nayaka governors, who also administered the surrounding provinces or states under the supervision of the Raya. The third important Nayaka state in the Tamil country of Thanjavur (Senji and Madurai are the other) was founded under the rule of Krishnadevaraya's half-brother and successor Achyutaraya (1529-42). The Thanjavur Nayaka lineage began with Sevappa Nayaka (1532-72). Sevappa ruled for several years, supported by his son Achyutappa (1564-1614), who later succeeded him. During the reign of Achyutappa, the Vijayanagara Empire fell, leading to the exodus of numerous writers, philosophers, musicians and artists who immigrated to other neighboring kingdoms such as Mysore and Thanjavur. Achyutappa was followed by his son Raghunatha Nayaka, who in turn was succeeded by Vijayaraghava Nayaka. Possibly the most successful ruler of Thanjavur Nayaka, Raghunatha was also a great patron of the arts and artists and helped found the unique school of Thanjavur artists who later developed the Thanjavur style of paintings among the Marathas.

Due to internal disagreements in the Nayaka line, Ekoji, also called Venkoji (1676-83), half-brother of Chatrapati Shivaji, marched to Thanjavur on behalf of the Adil Shah of Bijapur, under whom he was general. He then conquered Thanjavur and established the Maratha rule. Despite temporary wars when Thanjavur was overrun first by the Nawab of Arcot and later by Haidar Ali, Ekoji and his successors like Tulajaji, Serfoji II (Sarabhoji in Tamil) and other great patrons of the arts and artists remained. By the time Serfoji II ascended the throne of Maratha at Thanjavur, the British had taken over complete administration of the state, keeping the king only in a nominal capacity to exercise power over the fort and a small amount of surrounding lands. Although Serfoji II faced vigorous competition against the fairytale uncle Amarasimha, the throne of Thanjavur on the Maratha throne, Thanjavur painting flourished during his reign and achieved the form and style in which we recognize it today. Serfoji II had to walk a difficult path throughout his reign. He was constantly challenged by Amarasimha, who even after his accession led a parallel court in Thiruvidaimarudur. But despite the troubled times, Serfoji's reign was a time of great innovation in Thanjavur's art and many other parallel fields.

The Maratha rule ended after the death of its last ruler Shivaji II (who only resembled his name after his more significant ancestor), who died without a masculine affair when the British were forced to rule under the infamous by the annexation of the Thanjavur state Doctrine of Time Lapse. After the end of the Maratha rule, the commercial Chettiar community continued to support the Thanjavur artists. The Chettiars, who were staunch Shaivites, encouraged Shaivite issues. One of their monasteries in Koviloor has large Thanjavur paintings about the life of the 63 Nayanmars (Saivaiten Saints) and the 64 miracles (Thiruvilaiyadal Puranam) of Lord Shiva, which are precisely designated in Tamil. Likewise, the Bhimarajagoswami monastery in Thanjavur has a large painting of 108 Vishnu temples. The British who came to Thanjavur in the wake of the Anglo-Mysore Wars were also Thanjavur artists and their paintings.

Style and technology
Tanjore's painting is recognized as a Geographical Indication by the Government of India in 2007-08. Thanjavur's paintings were made in different sizes, depending on the function, the subject and the client's choice. Large paintings of deities and the Maratha rulers, their courtiers and nobles were painted and installed to serve as architectural accents in the palaces and buildings of Maratha. To quote Dallapiccola, “The works, which were done on canvas on a wooden base, have been framed - a major departure from the Pan-Indian tradition where paintings are small in size - and designed to be on the walls of domestic puja - Rooms to be hung or in Bhajan halls. The subjects, as in painted albums (for European sponsors), were mostly gods and goddesses, holy places, religious personalities and occasionally portraits. Their dazzling palette generally consisted of vibrant reds, deep greens, chalk white, turquoise blue and the generous use of gold (foil) and inserted glass beads. Sometimes precious stones were also used in the paintings. The large format of the majority of such works and the relatively simple composition are the hallmarks of the style. This school was heavily inspired by European techniques and was the most popular in Tamil Nadu until the early 20th century.

Paintings were made not only on canvas but also on walls, wood panels, glass, paper, mica, and exotic media such as ivory. Small ivory portraits were typically worn as cameo pendants called rajaharam and were very popular.

Thanjavur stained glass made from reverse glass painting techniques in China became popular as a cheaper and faster craft during the reign of Serfoji II. The pictures were taken on the back of a sheet of glass, with metal strips wrapped in transparent spaces to simulate the effect of jewelry and precious stones. Most of the paintings were of Hindu deities and saints. Other courtly and secular portraits were also created.

A thanjavur painting was generally done on a canvas that was glued over a wooden plank (jackfruit or teak) with arabic gum. The canvas was then evenly coated with a paste of French chalk (Gopi) or powdered limestone and a binder and dried. The artist then drew or drew a detailed sketch of the main and secondary subjects on the canvas using a stencil. A paste made from limestone powder and a binding agent Sukkan or Makku was used for the Gesso plant. In selected areas such as columns, arches, thrones, clothes, etc., gold leaves and precious stones in different colors were inserted. Finally, paints were applied to the sketch.

In the past, artists used natural colors such as vegetable and mineral dyes, while artists today use chemical colors. Dark brown or red was usually used for outlines. Red was preferred for the background, although blue and green were also used. Lord Vishnu was colored blue and Lord Nataraja was chalk white, and his consort Goddess Sivakami was green. The sky was blue, of course, but black was occasionally used. The depiction of figures in the paintings was also typical, almost all of the figures had round faces with almond-shaped eyes and smooth, streamlined bodies. The composition is static and two-dimensional with the figures in arches, curtains and decorative borders. The main theme is much larger than the other themes and takes the center of the picture. Seraphs, or angels, similar to those in European paintings and Islamic miniatures, have also been shown flanking the main character. The figures were painted in bright, flat colors, except for the face where the shading was shown. The shading in Thanjavur art was more to create a sense of depth than to conform to European conventions of lighting and perspective.

There are some examples of this art in the Saraswathi Mahal Library in Tanjore, which was built by Serfoji II. The Sanskrit work Prabotha Chandodayam in the library has several pages of Tanjore art as well as Marathi translations of Mahabharata & Bhagavatham, in which the works of the painter Madhava Swami from the year 1824 AD can be found. On the walls of the Thiruvaiyaru Chatram, built by Serfoji after his pilgrimage to Kashi, there are slight traces of Maratha-style paintings. Many other buildings in and around Thanjavur have fine examples of the paintings on the roofs and walls, although many are gradually disappearing and dying due to severe neglect and silly acts of vandalism.

The Government Museum, Chennai and the Thanjavur Art Gallery, Thanjavur are also home to beautiful collections of Thanjavur paintings depicting the Maratha kings of Thanjavur and other related subjects. Many private museums and collectors also have enviable collections of Thanjavur paintings.

The British and Victoria & Albert Museums in England also house a large collection of Thanjavur paintings in company and traditional styles. The National Museum of Copenhagen also houses a fine collection of Thanjavur paintings from the 17th century. King Christian IV of Denmark had obtained permission to build a fort in Tranquebar (Tharangambadi in Tamil) which led to the construction of the Danesborg Fort, as well as a Danish relationship with Thanjavur which led to the museum's collection.

Tanjore paintings were published by "Moochys or Artists from India" after the British chronicler Charles Gold in his book Oriental Drawings in 1806. Traditionally, it is known that the Raju community of Thanjavur and Tiruchi, also known as Jingigara or Chitragara, and the Nayudu community of Madurai were the artists who made paintings in the Thanjavur style. The artists (Rajus & Naidus) were originally Telugu-speaking people from the artistically vibrant “Rayalseema” region of Andhra, who moved to Tamil Nadu after the fall of the Vijayanagar empire and the establishment of Nayak rule in Madurai and Thanjavur.

The artists produced a wide repertoire of paintings on various subjects and of varying quality, depending on the interest, urgency and, above all, the influence and financial capacity of the benefactor. However, the art was by and large a sacred task carried out by the master craftsmen with a reasonable level of ritual purity and humility, many of whom remained anonymous and never signed their paintings according to Indian art tradition. However, some works signed by the Thanjavur artists are also known. C. Kondiah Raju, the famous calendar artist from Kovilpatti, was one of the illustrious descendants who made a name for himself as an artist in the modern day of the Raju community.

Tanjore painting arises from a late phase of South Indian classical art when the society in which it originated was experiencing turbulent times of its own. Of course, Tanjore's paintings are characterized by a syncretic style characterized by the assimilation of various contemporary cultural influences - Tamil, Telugu, Maratha, European, Deccani, Folk, etc. The style was heavily inspired by the other South Indian styles of paintings, all of which were heavily influenced by the Vijayanagar school. The closest influences among these could be the paintings of Kalamkari and Tirupati.

Tirupati paintings in particular were made in the famous temple city using various media and techniques, such as painted terracotta reliefs, brass repusses, paintings on paper and canvas, etc. The most common examples were painted and gilded terracotta relief panels of the deity, framed and packaged in neat wooden boxes that could be carried as sacred mementos and that were venerated in the pilgrim room by the pilgrim devotee. Paintings of the main deity, gilded and set with precious stones, are known in a similar way to Tanjore paintings.

Tanjore's paintings were also closely related to the handicrafts of painted and carved wood on the one hand and gilded, stone-carved jewelry work that flourished in Thanjavur. It is also important to remember that Thanjavur art was functional because it was made for a specific purpose upon a specific request from a customer. And it is also in this context that one understands the iconic style of Thanjavur paintings as opposed to the Pahari miniatures or even Surpur paintings.

Tanjore and Mysore paintings
Tanjore and Mysore's paintings are both from the same source - first Vijayanagara paintings and later Nayaka paintings. The same artists, Chitragars and Naidus migrated to different locations including Thanjavur and Mysore. This is the reason for the remarkable similarity between the two styles. However, there are many differences that the discerning viewer can notice.

The differences lie mainly in the techniques used to create these works of art and in their distinctive iconography. The techniques of the Mysore artists are slightly different from those of the Tanjore school. While the Tanjore School brushed white lime powder and powdered tamarind seeds with gum arabic on a cloth on wooden plates, Mysore artists used white lead powder (Makhisafeda) or Makhi Gamboge (yellow), which came from the sap of the native tree (Revana Chinni halu) paper. The paper was sometimes glued to a wooden board, but mostly framed as it was. Since the high relief of Tanjore ‘Gesso's work was visible over large areas of the painting, the Mysore School preferred the relief in selected areas such as jewelry, clothing and braids. The Mysore School used pure gold leaf in lesser amounts than gold plated silver leaf, which Tanjore artists treated in larger areas on the painting. The use of glass beads, precious and semi-precious stones is also very rare in Mysore paintings. More extensive and detailed interior and exterior landscapes are shown in the paintings of Mysore, while Tanjore paintings are more iconic and static. In the paintings of Mysore, jewelry, costumes, architectural features, furniture, etc. reflect the contemporary style of the Mysore Palace. The throne on which gods and goddesses sit is a replica of the Mysore throne in many Mysore paintings.

However, both styles often feature traditional temple pavilions (prabhavalis) and towers to frame the main characters. However, the geographical proximity, the constant transmigration of artists and a strong cross-fertilization of ideas and techniques ensured that Tanjore's paintings could be seen using Mysore techniques and vice versa.

Company style Tanjore paintings
Many of the traditional Indian artists were also patronized by Europeans, starting with the Portuguese who landed on the west coast in 1498. Gradually the other Europeans followed suit and commissioned local artists to paint in the so-called corporate style. Although no specific figure or technique identifies the company's painting school, it can be understood to mean the large body of paintings by Indian artists in a mixed Indo-European style that attracts the Europeans who have been employed in the various East Indian companies.

Direct European influence on painting in Tanjore began with the stationing of a British garrison in Thanjavur in 1773 during the Anglo-Mysore Wars of 1767-99. During the 19th century, artists in and around Thanjavur by and large prepared a number of paintings for the company's staff. These sets were called albums or album paintings and were a collection of "native" or "Indian" subjects of interest adapted to English sensitivities and tastes. Common themes were gods and goddesses, episodes from Hindu mythology; Masses, ceremonies, processions and festivals; Castes, their occupations and clothes; Indian flora and fauna, etc. These paintings were done by the same Tanjore artists in a style adapted to Western preferences. The paintings were mostly done on European paper, without gesso work, little or no gold foil and no glass or gemstone inlay. The pictures would also contain a brief description (mostly extremely curious and so typically English) of the subject in English and sometimes in Tamil or Telugu. For the English patrons, paintings were also made on fabric with wooden panels. Many of them were brought to England, where they probably enlivened some evening tea! The British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum have an enviable collection of such paintings.

Although the paintings patronized by the British tend to be grouped under the corporate style of paintings, in spirit they were Tanjore paintings. In addition to being executed by the same traditional group of artists in Thanjavur and the neighboring Tamil country, the style and characterization in these paintings are typically Thanjavur as opposed to the style of corporate paintings in Calcutta or Lucknow.

modern times
Thanjavur paintings are still made today, but not with the rigor and virtuosity that characterized the paintings of yore. "Revival" programs, exhibitions, workshops and training camps on Thanjavur paintings are regularly held by many institutions, including state governments. The materials used have also changed according to cost, availability and the selection of individual artists. For example, plywood has generally replaced jack and teak. Synthetic paints and adhesives are preferable to natural and mineral paints and other traditional components. In addition to the traditional subjects, Thanjavur paintings depict a variety of popular and modern themes and subjects. While it is a fortunate development that this traditional art continues to hold its influence, the brazen commercialization and lack of aesthetics are troubling trends. However, Thanjavur paintings - the style and aesthetic continue to inspire many contemporary artists. The calendar prints of C. Kondiah Raju and his students, characterized by an iconic firmness in contrast to the western naturalism of Raja Ravi Varma, are examples of the enduring influence of Tanjore's painting on modern, popular, and academic arts.

Artists have taken this ancient form of art and combined it with other styles over the years to create mixed media art. For example, tanjores are also made on mirrors, glass, and canvas. The idea of ​​applying gold foil is unique to this traditional art, so this style is used on different media.

There are three types of Tanjore paintings: Embossed Tanjore paintings, Antique Tanjore paintings, and Flat Tanjore paintings