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Tanjore Paintings/Thanjavur Paintings

India is home to several art forms and paintings. Each type can easily boasts of a large fan base and has their own rich legacy and story to share. Each painting genre has its own set of uniqueness, heritage and lay out. One art form that can easily be labelled as one of the oldest yet famous form of painting, especially in south India is the Tanjore Painting.

Tanjore paintings can be traced to the town of Thanjavur in present day Tamil Nadu. Over time its popularity and adoption spilled across the adjoining and geographically contiguous Tamil state.

 Let us look at the rich legacy of one of India’s finest painting forms.

Tanjore paintings can be traced back to early 17th century. This period was dominated by the Nayakas of Thanjavur under the patronage of the Vijayanagara Rayas. They encouraged art—chiefly, classical dance and music—as well as literature, both in Telugu and Tamil. Additionally, they also significantly promoted paintings of chiefly Hindu religious subjects in temples. However, it can safely be surmised that Thanjavur painting, as we know it now, originated in the Maratha court of Thanjavur (1676 - 1855). The Government of India has recognized this as a geographical indication in 2007-08.

So what makes Tanjore Paintings so distinct and unique?

Tanjore paintings are characterized by vivid, flat and rich colors. Furthermore, their simple iconic composition, glittering gold foils overlaid on delicate but extensive gesso work add wonders to the main content of the painting. One can definitely overlook the inlay of glass beads and pieces or very rarely precious and semi-precious gems!

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Tanjore paintings clearly reflect the influence of paintings style, particularly of Deccani, Vijayanagar, Maratha and even European or Company styles of painting.

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This form of paintings is dominated by the depiction of Hindu gods, goddesses, and saints. Several instances of Jain, Sikh, Muslim, and even secular subjects have had the honor of being depicted in the heritage-rich Tanjore paintings.

Words would not do justice to describe the beauty of Tanjore paintings in mere 26 alphabets. Yet, if a fair attempt was to me made, Tanjore paintings undoubtedly can be described as a perfect reflection of the rich and age old culture of southern India. It is an amalgamation of south India’s legacy, presented on canvas by the imagination and ingenuity of its greatest practitioners and patrons.

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