Origin: A reflection of the traditional South Indian style, Thanjavur painting was born in a small town known as Tanjore. This style of painting is bookmarked in the history of Indian paintings.
One of the oldest Tanjore paintings is the 11th century Chola wall paintings in the Brihadeeswarar temple. With the rise and fall of copious empires, artisans migrated to Thanjavur and started painting with the Thanjavur Nayakas. Temples, prominent buildings, palaces, nobility etc were painted by Thanjavur artists.
The Vijayanagar Empire came with Islamic influence yet it encouraged, protected and preserved the older Hindu artistic traditions. Under the Thanjavur Nayaka rule, Raghunatha, most successful Thanjavur Nayaka ruler, the school of Thanjavur artists was established.
Despite the troubles times in the Maratha rule, Serfojis reign remains synonymous with innovations in Thanjavur fields. After the Maratha rule ended, the mercantile Chettiar community supported the Thanjavur artists.
Present Day: Even today, Thanjavur paintings hold an integral place in the heart of culture lovers. Over the years, artisans have married the old art form with new styles to give birth to mixed media art. Artisans have started using mirror, glass and canvas as a base for this ancient art form. In addition to the religious subjects, Thanjavur painting have started portraying a wide range of popular and modern subjects.
Government and various cultural institutions have adopted various programs such as Revival programmes, exhibitions, workshops and training camps to keep Thanjavur painting art alive. Modern times have witnessed these paintings turn into a souvenir or gift item used for festive occasions.
Procedure: Thanjavur paintings give an inside into the history of Deccani, Vijayanagar, Maratha and even European or Company styles of painting. In the bygone era, gifted artisans would bring to their canvas episodes from Hindu Puranas, Sthala-puranas and other religious texts. All these episodes were visualised, sketched and painted in such a manner that the main figure/figures were always positioned in the central section. Most of the paintings revolved around Hindu gods, goddesses, and saints. With time, the materials used for these paintings has evolved to make it cost effective and easily available. Plywood has taken the place of Jack and teak wood and synthetic colours and adhesives are used instead of natural and mineral colours.
This process of Tanjore Painting begins with first making an initial sketch on the piece of cloth. This cloth base is later pasted over a wooden base. Next step is combing chalk powder or zinc oxide with water-soluble adhesive and painting it on the base. Post this drawing is made using ornaments such as glass, pearls, semi-precious stones etc. Painting is decorated with lace, threads etc. Sometimes, wafer thin gold sheets are pasted on some parts of the painting.
Bring Home: You can buy these paintings at a lot of art galleries in Rajasthan and different State Emporiums and Crafts centres. .