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Texts on Painting -Indian Painting

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 2:35 AM

Todi RaginiTexts on Painting


The technique and process of painting, the colours, the tools, the conventions and canons of art criticism are the theme of texts on painting. The Chitrasutra in the Vishnudharmottara is the one standard text in India. Most of the other books of the medieval period, like the Abhilashitartlzachintarnani, Sivatatvaratnakara, Silparatna, Naradasilpa, Sarasvatisilpa, Prajapatisilpa, are from South India.

The oldest text which has come down to us today is the Chitrasutra in the Vishnudharmottara. It is probably the same as that mentioned by Damodaragupta in his Kuttanimata as that mentioned by connoisseurs of art, bharatavisakhila-dattilavrikshayurvedachitrasutreshu patrachchhedavidhane bhratnakarmani pustasudasastreshu atodyavadanavidhau nritte gite cha kausalam tasyah, (Kuttanimatta, 124-25). It may thus be seen that painting was one of many arts like music, dance, medicine, etc., each with a standard book written on it by a specialist.

The Chitrasutra in the Vishnudharmottara has the most valuable material on the classifications of pictures, painting materials, merits and defects in painting as well as practical hints very useful to painters.

The Vishnudharmottara covers several subjects like dance, music, prosody, grammar, architecture, sculpture, etc. Painting is also included therein. There is a great stress laid on the close relationship among fine arts like dance, music and art. It gives a classification of painting into satya, natural, vainika, lyrical, nagara, sophisticated, and misra, mixed. The origin of art is attributed to the sage Narayana who created Urvasi, the beautiful celestial nymph, by drawing a beautiful figure on his thigh. This explain the origin of drawing. Narayana taught this to Visvakarma, who successfully interpreted the entire theme of the universe by imitating it in art.

A Prince and princess on horse
The Vishnudharmottara describes five types of man, hamsa, bhadra, malavya, ruchaka and sasaka, and corresponding types of women. Varieties of hair like kuntala, long and fine, dakshinavarta, curling to right, taranga, wavy, varidhara, straight and flowing, jutatasara, curled and abundant, are enumerated. Shapes of eyes are described like chapakriti, bow-shaped, utpalpatrabha, blue-lotus hue, mats yodara, fish-like, padmapatranibha, lotus-petal like, and sanakriti, globular. The iconography of gods is discussed. In this context the different sthanas or poses like rijvagata, anriju, sachikrita, sama, ardhavilochana, parsvagata, parivritta prishthagatta, parivritta and samanata are described. Then the principles of kshayavriddhi or foreshortening are explained. The text then proceeds to describe bhittisamskara or the preparation of the wall for painting. Primary and secondary colours are enumerated, as also their preparation and application.

The classification of pictures as satya, vainika, nagara and misra comes next. There are three types of vartana or shading in a picture recognised patraja raikhika and binduja. The next topic for discussion is merits and blemishes in pictures. This and the subsequent exposition of the philosophy of painting including propriety in painting, the number of rasas or moods that can be portrayed in pictures, with illustrations for each, constitute, as it were, the rhetoric of art.

Indian Painting
The Samaranganasutradhara is another text on art by the Paramara king Bhoja, but its main theme is architecture. It contains a small section on painting, specially from the point of view of rasas to be portrayed in pictures. The Abhilashitarthachintamani by king Somesvara of the Western Chalukya dynasty of the twelfth century has an interesting chapter on painting. Paiiiting is described in the context of the decoration of the natyamandapa. The preparation of wall, bhittisamskara, is first taken up. Vajralepa for mixing colours is discussed next. The number of colours, the brushes, their variations and other art materials like tulika, lekhini, vartika are mentioned. Light-and-shade effects produced by colours and their combinations, application of gold, burnishing, etc., are discussed. The variety of poses, the preparation of forms of icons, varieties of painting like rasikachitra, dhulichitra, bhavachitra, viddhachitra and aviddachitra are all discussed in this text.


The Sivatatvaratnakara in the seventeenth century text which closely  follows the Ablimishitarthachintamani.

Taxt on Painting
 The Silparatna, a sixteenth century text by Srikumara, has a section on painting styled chitralakshana. It gives a threefold classification of chitra into chitra, ardhachitra and chitrabhasa, figure in the round, relief work and painting. Five primary colours, i.e. white, yellow, red, black and blue, are recognised. Varieties of vartikas or brushes, varieties of pose, modes of light and shade, mixing of colours, application of gold and its burnishing are explained. This text gives a classification of pictures into rasachitra and dhulichitra. This rasa is nothing but the bhavachitra of the Abhilashitarthachintamani.

The Naradasilpa has two chapters. One deals with the chitrasala and the other with chit ralankritirachanavidhi. The former describes art galleries, while the latter gives a classification of pictures like bhaumika, kudyaka and urdhvaka, related to the floor, the wall and the ceiling. The first corresponds to the rasachitra and dhulichitra of the Abhilashitarthachintamani which is the same as the temporary decoration on the floor like kolam, ran goli and alpana; the painting on the wall is mural decoration; the third is almost the same, except that it is on the ceiling. Pictorial themes and their appropriate location are also a topic of discussion.

Indian Minitaure Painting Raga Kumbha
The Sarasvatisilpa is another text on painting which repeats a classification already known, viz., chitra, ardhachitra and chit rabhasa. Varnasamskara or preparation of colours and enumeration of murtis and their iconography are other subjects treated here.

Many texts like Prajapatisilpa are now lost. Apart from all these Silpa texts, the most valuable references to painting are from general Sanskrit literature, which contains innumerable passages, indirectly and unconsciously and almost casually referring to the methods in vogue, to the idea in the air. These, studied carefully, have more to reveal than the texts themselves.


Writer - C.SIVARAMAMURTI
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