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Tanjore Paintings

Article of the Month - Sep 1999

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Tanjore paintings which depict mainly the scenes from the ancient scriptures of Hindu religion are one of the most famous style of paintings from south India. These paintings are unique due to the harmony of colours, the design and the traditional techniques used with meticulous attention to details.

Tanjore derives its name from the capital of Chola empire, Thanjavoor. This place has one of the beautiful temple of Lord Shiva-Brigadeeswara temple. This art form was developed with the patronage of the Maratha rulers in the 18th century.This type of art which is famous for its ornamental relief work flourished with the patronage of the kings. The process of making a Tanjore painting requires dedicated skilled labour. There are many stages during the making of this painting. The canvas is usually a plank of teak wood over which a layer of cloth is pasted. A paste is applied on top to soften the board. The surface is smoothened by rubbing it with a smooth emery paper. The artist draws detailed sketch on the board. Semi precious stones of different colours are used to decorate the painting. In earlier days, diamonds, rubies and other precious stones were used. To create three dimensional embossed effect, layers of paste prepared from the glue and limestone are applied. After carrying out detailed relief work, wafer like sheets of 22 carat gold are pasted on top. Bright colours are used to fill up the remaining areas. The main figures in the picture is large and the other figures may not be relative.

New techniques have been developed by skilled artist to keep this form of art alive. Chalk powder and modern synthetic pasting material have replaced the traditional materials. Modern day artists use chemical paints instead of vegetable dyes for colours and shades. But still enormous care is exercised in adhering to tradition while depicting the pictures.

Article contributed by Vidya Sridharan

About the Author: A renowned Tanjore artist, Vidya Sridharan has conducted a few exhibitions in different places in India, the recent one was in Pune during Ganesh Chaturti festival. Her paintings adore a lot of homes, restaurants and hotels. She is making sincere attempts to spread this form of painting by conducting workshops and classes.

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