Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 2:00 AM
The tradition of murals has been strongest in India, and the book illustration, however well executed, still stands out as something different from the Persian where it is an integral part of the manuscript and the pictures drawn are homogeneous with the text. In India, illustrations on board, canvas and wall have all had a common tradition, and if miniature paintings were introduced in books, they look as if they were taken out reduced in size from the wall and put alongside the text. Nevertheless, since paintings of a period beyond the Rashtrakuta are lost or have not yet been found north of the Deccan, except the stylised murals of the thirteenth century A.D., in the temple of Vishnu at Madanpur, in the Lalitpur district of Uttar Pradesh, the Jain illustrated manuscripts like the Kalpasutra, the Siddahemalaghuvritti, the Kumarapalacharita and the Kalakacharyakatha, the earliest ones on palm-leaf and the rest on paper, along with similar Pala manuscripts of eastern India, happen to be almost the only examples of paintings earlier than the miniatures contemporaneous with those of the Mughal school that come later.
The western Indian illustrated palm-leaf manuscripts, the earliest of which date from the eleventh century, continued for a few centuries, while rich and colourful paper manuscripts with gold and silver lettering and decoration of paintings became more varied, and there are texts like the Vasantavilasa, the Balagopalastuti, the Salibhadracharita and others.
The simplicity of colour and stylised form, the austerity and, above all, the three-quarters profile of the face with angular nose, peculiar bulging of the eyes and the pupils appearing in the centre even in the profile of the eye, one of the eyes appearing outside the contour of the face, a projection of the chin, and certain other features of anatomy, point to the development of the Western Indian Gujarati school from the earlier Rashtrakuta tradition as found at Ellora. It is interesting to compare the beginnings of this type of representation of figure at Ellora, but the lapse of centuries has created naturally a highly stylised mode in these later book paintings. The calligraphy of the letters, though artistic, is austere, compared to Persian calligraphy in manuscripts which, like the Chinese, gives a distinction to illuminated manuscripts, and while the illustrations in the Persian books blend with the calligraphy, the pictures tend to stand apart in the Gujarati texts.
These pictures are distinctive in that the artists were inspired by a religious fervour, a spirit of dedication and the thought of a theme in terms of its nobility and universal appeal, rather than the appeal for the individual and the sophisticated, and the delicate delineation of earthly power in all its splendour, as in the case of the paintings at the Mughal court.
Probably to a greater extent in these paintings than even in the later religion-inspired, unsophisticated, tradition loving Rajasthani art, there is an asceticism portrayed by the artist. This is no wonder, as Jainism, which had its greatest stronghold in western India, could not have failed to impress the mind of the painter, especially with austere themes like the lives of the Tirthankaras, which are imbued with this asceticism. It is indeed interesting to compare these paintings with somewhat later murals from Tirupparuttikunram where the same spirit is observed to a great extent. Nevertheless, the life around has had a profound impact on the painter who has brought out a complete picture of the culture of the .period in all its grandeur with every detail of dress and ornamentation, architecture and life portrayed. In these paintings, the text almost makes up the border on either side, while the principal place is given to the illustration where it occurs, and vermilion predominates, with white and black liberally standing out in lines and curves composing contours drawn on it. This is a distinct deterioration from the earlier classical style and presents a highly folk-ridden or prakrita type.
Writer Name: C. Sivaramamurti