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  • 03 Dec 2022 GS Paper 1 Indian Heritage & Culture

    Day 22

    Question 1. Discuss the main characteristic features of the Madhubani Paintings. (150 Words)

    Question 2. Discuss the evolution of the paintings from the mural form to the miniature style of painting. (150 Words)

    Answer 1


    • Start your answer by giving a brief about Madhubani Paintings.
    • Discuss the main characteristic features of Madhubani Paintings.
    • Conclude suitably.


    Madhubani paintings were traditionally done by the women of villages around Madhubani town, it is also called Mithila paintings. The art extends to the adjoining parts of the Terai region in Nepal. The origin of Madhubani paintings is believed to be during the period of Ramayana when the king of Mithila told the people of his kingdom to paint the walls and floors of their houses on the marriage of Sita and Rama. The people believed that doing so should please the Gods. Mostly women have passed on the skill of Madhubani painting from generations to generations.


    Important Characteristic Features of Madhubani Paintings:

    • The paintings are divided into horizontal and vertical sections to imply different time and space.
    • The qualities of paintings vary between frescos and miniature style.
    • The bodies of gods and goddesses are foreshortened and often distorted. Common amongst them are Radha-Krishna Madhubani, Ganesha Madhubani paintings, etc.
    • The faces are shown in profile; however, the eyes have a frontal view. The eyes are painted after the whole painting is completed.
    • The figures in the painting are symbolic, for example, fish depicts good luck and fertility.
    • The paintings are also made depicting auspicious occasions like birth, marriage and festivals. Flowers, trees, animals, etc. are used to fill any gaps in the painting.
    • Traditionally, these were painted on walls using rice paste and vegetable colours on a base of cow dung and mud. With time, the base changed to handmade paper, clothes and canvas, still the natural colours were used.
    • Since there is no shading, the paintings are two-dimensional. Some of the common features of these paintings include double line border, bold use of colours, ornate floral patterns and exaggerated facial features.
    • The paintings have a common theme and are usually drawn from religious motifs of the Hindus, including Krishna, Rama, Durga, Lakshmi and Shiva.


    Since the art of Madhubani Painting has remained confined to a specific geographical area, it has been given GI (geographical indication) status. Today, modern Madhubani paintings can also be found on sarees, stoles, bags, clocks, etc. The art of Mithila is unique, for here we can see a unique blend of comprehension, knowledge of Sanskrit and culture, vocabulary and iconography.

    Answer 2


    • Start your answer by giving a brief about Murals and Miniature styles of Painting.
    • Discuss the evolution of paintings from Murals to Miniature Style.
    • Conclude suitably.


    The works on the walls or a solid structure are referred to as Murals. The Mural paintings are unique because of their sheer size. They cannot be contained on paper and need to be executed on the walls of large structures, usually caves and temple walls. In ancient period, these were utilised by three major religions: Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. Some of the best examples are murals in the Ajanta- Ellora Caves.

    The word ‘miniature’ is derived from the Latin word ‘Minium’, which means red lead paint. This paint was used in illuminated manuscripts during the Renaissance period. It is generally confused with the word minimum, which would mean that they were small in size. The Indian subcontinent has long traditions of these miniature paintings and many schools developed that have difference in composition and perspective. Miniatures are small and detailed paintings.

    There are several preconditions that are necessary to be fulfilled for making Miniature paintings.

    • The painting should not be larger than 25 square inches.
    • The subject of the painting should be painted in not more than 1/6th of the actual size


    Evolution of Paintings from Murals to Miniature Style

    • Mural Paintings have existed in India since ancient times and can be dated between 10th century BC and 10th century AD. The evidence of such paintings can be found at several locations in India. The beauty and the exquisiteness of mural paintings can be seen in places like Ajanta, Armamalai Cave, Ravan Chhaya Rock shelter, Bagh caves, Sittanavasal caves and Kailasanatha temple in Ellora.
    • Most of the mural paintings are either in natural caves or in rock-cut chambers. The paintings follow a theme, the most common being Hindu, Buddhist and Jain. Apart from this, such paintings were also made to adorn any mundane premise. An example of such a work can be seen in the ancient theatre room in Jogimara Cave.
    • Miniature paintings originated in India around 750 A.D when the Palas ruled over the eastern part of India. Since religious teachings of the Buddha, accompanied by his images, were written on palm leaves, these paintings became popular. As these paintings were done on palm leaves, they had to be miniature in nature because of space constraint.
    • Around 960 A.D, similar paintings were introduced in the western parts of India by the rulers of the Chalukya Dynasty. During this period, miniature paintings often portrayed religious themes.
    • With the rise of the Mughal Empire, miniature paintings started growing on a level unknown before. Thanks to Akbar’s love for art, Indian miniature paintings combined elements of Persian style of painting, to give rise to the Mughal style of painting. These miniature paintings further evolved with the influence of European paintings in the Mughal court.


    Even after the decline of the Mughal Empire, miniature paintings and artists were patronized by the Rajput rulers of Rajasthan. Though influenced by the Mughal style of painting, the miniature paintings of Rajasthan had their own distinct features and often depicted the royal lifestyle and mythological stories of Lord Krishna and Radha. Most of these miniature paintings depicted the lifestyle of kings and queens and also narrated their tales of bravery. Some of these paintings were also created to showcase the contribution of various rulers towards their respective subjects and kingdoms.

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