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Current Affairs 2023

Mural Paintings - UPSC Current Affairs

Mural paintings in India have a rich history dating back to the 2nd century BC, with examples found in natural caves and rock-cut chambers. They are unique due to their enormous size and three-dimensional quality, and often depict themes from Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The Ajanta, Ellora, and Sittanavasal caves are known for their stunning mural paintings, which depict a range of subjects from Jataka stories to Buddha's life to complex flora and fauna patterns.

Apr 05, 2023

5 min read

Mural paintings have been an integral part of Indian art and culture for over two thousand years. The murals from the 2nd century BC to the 8th-10th century AD can be found in more than 20 locations around India, mostly natural caves and rock-cut chambers. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism are the major themes depicted in these murals. They are too enormous to fit on paper and must be painted on the walls of large structures, such as caves and temples. The use of colour, design, and theme treatment in mural paintings has the potential to drastically alter the perception of the building's spatial dimensions.


The Ajanta caves, one of the oldest remaining murals on the Indian subcontinent, were sculpted out of volcanic rocks in the 4th century AD. These caves are well-known for their stunning mural paintings, which were created during the rule of the Mauryan Empire and took four to five centuries to finish. The cave walls are adorned with graceful human and animal positions. Themes in these paintings span from Jataka stories to Buddha's life to complex flora and fauna decorative patterns.


Another example of Indian mural paintings is the Ellora caves, which may be seen in five caverns, with Kailasa temple being the most famous. All three religions, Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism, are represented in the artworks. Images of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu are two of the most famous Ellora cave paintings. Images of Lord Shiva surrounded by his devotees and Apsaras are other examples of Ellora cave paintings.


The Sittanavasal Cave paintings have a striking resemblance to paintings from Bagh and Ajanta. Not only is there artwork on the walls, but also the ceiling and pillars. Vegetable and mineral colors are utilized as the painting medium, which is applied on a thin layer of wet lime plaster. A pond with lotuses is the focal point of the paintings at Sittanavasal. Monks collect flowers in this pond, which also features ducks, swans, fish, and other creatures. This image depicts Samavasarana, an important Jain religious scene.


After Ajanta, very few sites with paintings have survived, but the tradition has been continued through various dynasties in South India.


One of the earliest examples of mural painting in South India is found in the Badami caves. The paintings in Cave No. 4, also known as the Vishnu Cave, depict palace scenes and were commissioned by Chalukya king Mangalesha in the 6th century CE. The faces of the king and queen in the paintings are reminiscent of the modelling seen in Ajanta, with their eye-sockets large, eyes half-closed and protruding lips.


The Pallavas succeeded the Chalukyas further south in Tamil Nadu and were great patrons of the arts. Mahendravarma I (7th century) built many temples in Panamalai, Mandagapattu and Kanchipuram. The temple at Kanchipuram was patronised by the Pallava king Rajasimha, and the paintings here depict Somaskanda. The Pandyas also patronised art, and examples are seen in the Thirumalapuram caves and Jaina caves at Sittanavasal.


The Cholas ruled over the region from the 9th to the 13th century CE and were at the height of their power in the 11th century CE. Chola paintings are seen in Narthamalai and the Brihadeswara Temple at Thanjavur. Two layers of paint were seen in the Brihadeswara Temple, with the original layer depicting narrations and various forms of Lord Shiva, Shiva in Kailash, Shiva as Nataraja, as Tripurantaka, and a portrait of Rajaraja.


After the Chola decline, the Vijayanagara Dynasty brought the region from Hampi to Trichy under its control, and Hampi was the capital. The early phase of the Vijayanagara style is represented in the paintings at Thiruparankundram, near Trichy (14th century). The paintings on the ceilings of the Mandapa of the Virupaksha Temple at Hampi depict events from dynastic history and also from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.


The Nayaka paintings, an extension of the Vijayanagara styles, were prevalent in the 17th and 18th centuries. Nayaka paintings showcase episodes of Mahabharata, Ramayana and Krishna Leela. In Thiruparankundram, paintings from two periods - 14th and 17th centuries are observed.


In conclusion, mural paintings have been a significant part of India's cultural heritage, showcasing the country's rich history and art forms. These artworks display the skillful hands and keen eyes of ancient painters, depicting different themes that are still relevant today. The grandeur and beauty of these murals are awe-inspiring and a must-visit for anyone who wants to experience the grandeur of Indian art and culture. Mural painting has played a significant role in the artistic heritage of South India. From the early examples in the Badami caves to the Nayaka paintings of the 17th and 18th centuries, the tradition has evolved and continued to showcase the cultural renaissance that forever changed the economic, social, and religious structure of South India. These paintings are a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of the artists who created them and continue to inspire generations of artists and art enthusiasts.

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