Thanjavur painting or “Thanjavur Oviyam” in the Tamil language, is a classical South Indian painting style that originates from the town of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu. This style of paintings is characterized by iconic compositions and use of rich & vivid colors, gold foils, glass beads, and sometimes precious and semi-precious gems. Thanjavur painting was originally made on wooden planks and then on cloth canvas backed by a wooden frame.Today the painting style is now translated onto fabrics especially South Indian silk textiles. The paintings are known for their rich heritage and this intricate form of art comprises chiefly of Hindu deities and draws its inspiration from the Nayakas of Vijayanagar dynasty, dating back to 1600 AD.
In this article, India’s emerging and famous contemporary painter, Shantala Palat shares some amazing facts about Thanjavur paintings.
1. Thanjavur Paintings always have a story to tell. They predominantly portray Hindu gods, goddesses, and stories from Hindu Puranas, Sthala-puranas and other religious texts. The main story is 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.
2. Thanjavur paintings have beautiful influences from various dynasties and cultures- the Deccan, Vijayanagar, Marathi and even European style of paintings can be seen in these paintings.
3. Thanjavur paintings hold a prominent place in India as well as on in the Western world. The British museum and Victoria & Albert museums in England house a large collection of Thanjavur paintings and the National Museum of Copenhagen also boasts of a fine collection of Thanjavur paintings.
4. Traditionally, diamonds and rubies were used in Thanjavur painting. However today, they have been replaced with semi-precious or glass stones. Similarly, vegetable dyes have now been replaced by chemical paints.
5. In today’s times, these paintings have become souvenirs for festive celebrations in South India; they have also become colorful artifacts to adorn walls. They continue to remain as a collectors’ item for all the art lovers.