Interesting facts about Thanjavur Paintings



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Thanjavur Painting known in Tamil as “Thanjavur Oviyam” is a classical South Indian painting style, which had its origins in the town of Thanjavur, anglicized as Tanjore, since then this classical style of painting has spread geographically across Tamil Nadu over several centuries now. The paintings are known for their rich heritage, this intricate form of art comprises chiefly of Hindu deities and draws its inspiration from way back to 1600 AD during the Nayakas of Vijayanagar dynasty.

Here are some interesting facts about Thanjavur Paintings.

-Thanjavur paintings are comprised of rich, flat and vibrant colors, simple iconic composition, glittering gold foils overlaid on delicate but extensive gesso work and inlay of glass beads and pieces or sometimes precious and semi-precious gems.

-The paintings are a beautiful combination of various dynasties and cultures, the influences of Deccan, Vijayanagar, Maratha and even European style of paintings can be seen in Thanjavur paintings.

-Thanjavur Paintings always have a story to tell, they predominantly portray Hindu gods, goddesses and saints. Episodes taken from Hindu Puranas, Sthala-puranas and other religious texts were visually interpreted, sketched or traced and painted with the main deity or saint placed in the central section of the picture, and surrounded by several other supplementary figures, themes and subjects.

-There are also many instances where Jain, Sikh, Muslim, and other religious and even secular subjects were depicted in Thanjavur paintings.

-Thanjavur paintings are referred to as “palagaipadam” where palagai means “wooden plank” and padam means “picture” hence they are panel paintings done on wooden planks.

-In today’s times, these paintings have become souvenirs for festive celebrations in South India, they have also become colourful artefacts to adorn walls. They continue to remain as a collectors’ item for all the art lovers.

-The art continues to be sacred and is deeply rooted in traditions and is innovative within limits; these paintings truly add beauty and culture to a variety of surrounding and decor.

-Thanjavur paintings not only have prominence in India, but also have their stand internationally, the British and Victorial & Albert museums in England house a large collection of Thanjavur paintings and the National Museum of Copenhagen also houses a fine collection of Thanjavur paintings.

-Truly crafted with meticulous care, Thanjavur paintings are unique, what certainly sets them apart from other Indian paintings are the embellishments made over the simple drawings with precious and semi-precious stones.

-Painters generally give a three dimensional effect to the pictures they paint, such paintings appear in various sizes ranging from huge works spanning an entire wall to miniatures no longer than 6-inches square.

-Before panels or even plywood were used, the bark of the jackfruit tree was used as the canvas for the paintings, today the most commonly used type of wood is plywood on which a paste of limestone is applied then bound and let to dry.

-Traditionally diamonds and rubies were used, they however are now replaced with semi-precious or glass stones. Similarly, vegetable dyes have now been replaced by chemical paints.

However, today there are still a large number of Thanjavur painters who stick to the traditional methods of paintings which preserves its antiqueness.

They say that the world’s first language is art, Thanjavur paintings are a magnificently beautiful form of painting unique in their own way. For centuries this rich form of art has brought to life a vibrant and cultural heritage.


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