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Miniature Paintings : Pala And Apabhramsa School Of Painting

Miniature Paintings : Pala And Apabhramsa School Of Painting

Miniature Paintings

  • Miniature is derived from word – minimum which means, red lead paint.
  • They are small & Detailed Paintings.
  • The miniatures are developed indigenous as a reaction to wall paintings
  • They are developed in 9th & 11th centuries in eastern & western regions


  • Preconditions to be met before drawing Painting should not be larger than 25 square inch The Subject of the painting should not be more than 1/6th of the actual size
  • Detailing: The Detailing can concentrate on 1 aspect like eyes, pointed noses or slim waist
  • Figure in Side Profile / Front Profile
  • Skin Color: Skin color gives meaning to various characters Brown – Human Blue – Krishna Women figures have long hair & color of eyes & hair is black

Miniature Schools in India

Pala School

  • During 9th to 12th century Palas of Bengal and Bihar patronised this school and this is considered the earliest example of miniature painting.
  • The symbolic use of colour which was taken from tantric ritual was highlighted by this school of painting and almost all illuminations were inspired by Vajrayana Buddhism.
  • The Pala school used natural colour for painting human skin.
  • They developed pictures on paper manuscripts, wooden covers and palm leaf.
  • Flat heads, sinuous finishing lines, attention on mostly lone human figure, paintings with no name are the features of this school of painting.
  • During the first half of 13th century the Buddhist monasteries were destroyed at the hands of the Muslim invaders which led to the abrupt end of the Pala school of miniature painting.
  • Although some of the artists and monks escaped to Nepal and assisted in strengthening the prevailing art tradition there.

Apabhramsa School   | Miniature Paintings : Pala And Apabhramsa School Of Painting

  • Apabhramsa is the word used by Sanskrit Grammarians referring to Ganges (East & West) since patanjali
  • The Apabhramsa School of Art or Jain School of Art or simply known as Western Indian School of Art is a predominant school of art in western India i.e. Gujarat & Mewar Rajasthan during 11th to 15th century. It grew as a reaction to the great mural paintings of Ajanta along with Pala school of art.
  • Apabhramsa school was inspired by the great Ajanta murals. It can be also said about Apabhramsa miniature paintings, they were nothing, but the great murals of Ajanta in reduced dimensions.
  • It is also the time when the base of paintings was changed from palm leaf to paper. In the early phase, Apabhramsa painters used palm leaf but later, they moved to paper.
  • The word “apabhramsa” means corrupt or mixed. So, one can observe a much stylistic difference between the early and later phase of Apabhramsa school of art.
  • The Kalpasutra and Kalakacharya-Katha are two heavily illustrated Jain text by Apabhramsa artist. The Kalpasutra contains the biographies of the Jain Tirthankaras, notably Parshvanatha and Mahavira.
  • Apabhramsa artist also started depicting human figures with fish-shaped bulging eyes, a pointed nose, and a double chin; angular faces in third and fourth profile and female figures have large hips and breasts.

Difference Between Pala And Apabhramsa School Of Art

  • The main difference between Apabhramsa and Pala school of art was the difference of their patrons’ faith.
  • The Apabhramsa school was patronized by Jain Solanki rulers of Gujarat and Rajasthan, so these paintings were dominated by Jain iconography, whereas Pala school was patronized by Buddhist rulers, so their paintings were dominated by Buddhist imagery.

Ajanta Paintings

The world famous paintings at Ajanta also fall into two broad phases.

  • The earliest is noticed in the form of fragmentary specimens in cave nos. 9 & 10, which are datable to second century B.C. The headgear and other ornaments of the images in these paintings resemble the bas-relief sculpture of Sanchi and Bharhut.
  • The second phase of paintings started around 5th – 6th centuries A.D. and continued for the next two centuries. The specimen of these exemplary paintings of Vakataka period could be noticed in cave nos. 1, 2, 16 and 17.

Theme of the Ajanta paintings

  • The main theme of the paintings is the depiction of various Jataka stories, different incidents associated with the life of Buddha, and the contemporary events and social life also.
  • The paintings were executed after elaborate preparation of the rock surface initially. The rock surface was left with chisel marks and grooves so that the layer applied over it can be held in an effective manner.
  • The paintings at Ajanta are not frescoes as they are painted with the aid of a binding agent, whereas in fresco the paintings are executed while the lime wash is still wet which, thereby acts as an intrinsic binding agent.
  • The ceiling decoration invariably consists of decorative patterns, geometrical as well as floral.
  • A second coat of mud and ferruginous earth mixed with fine rock-powder or sand and fine fibrous vegetable material was applied over the ground surface.
  • The ground layer consists of a rough layer of ferruginous earth mixed with rock-grit or sand, vegetable fibres, paddy husk, grass and other fibrous material of organic origin on the rough surface of walls and ceilings.
  • The colours and shades utilised also vary from red and yellow ochre, terra verte, to lime, kaolin, gypsum, lamp black and lapis lazuli. The chief binding material used here was glue.
  • Then the surface was finally finished with a thin coat of lime wash. Over this surface, outlines are drawn boldly, then the spaces are filled with requisite colours in different shades and tones to achieve the effect of rounded and plastic volumes.

Ellora Paintings

  • Paintings from Ellora are not very significant. They too like Ajanta are murals and depict both religious and secular images. Important among these is an early painting of Vishnu and Lakshmi being borne out of a cloud by a Garuda.


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