Category Archives: Mural paintings of India

Panchatantra in art : some depictions

           Panchatantra literally means five treatises. It is an ancient collection of animal fables. The animals have human virtues and vices. The original text is believed to be in Sanskrit prose and verse.  It has been dated to 300 B.C  and attributed to Vishnusharma, an octagenarian Brahmin who is mentioned in the prelude of the text of many translations that are available. Some sources mention Vasubhaga as the creator of the inter-related animal fables. The illustrations depicted below show some fables from the sub books of the Panchatantra.

Panchatantra manuscript, The Birds Try to Beat Down the Ocean, watercolor on paper, Rajasthan, India, 18th century. 

By Artist/maker unknown, India (18th century) – Philadelphia Museum of Arts:, Public Domain,

        The Panchatantra has been widely translated into as many as 50 languages across the world. Most European versions of the text are derivative works of the 12th-century Hebrew version of Panchatantra by Rabbi Joel. In 550 A.D it was translated into Pahlavi by Burzoa. In 750 A.D an Arabic translation Kalila wa Dimnah was done by Abdullah Ibn-al-Muqaffa. In the 12th century a Persian translation by Rudaki was titled  Kalileh-o-Damneh. In the 15th century Anwar-i-suhayli in Persian by Kashefi was done which was known as The fables of Bidpai in European languages. It was translated into English by Arthur Ryder in 1925.

18th century Panchatantra manuscript page, The Elephants Trample the Hares picture.jpg

Panchatantra manuscript, The elephants trample the hares, watercolour,18th century.

By Artist/maker unknown, India (18th century) – Philadelphia Museum of Arts:, Public Domain,

     The Panchatantra is for the learning of niti or appropriate moral conduct by three ignorant princes. The Panchatantra consists of five parts, each having a main story. Each story contains sub-stories. The titles of the sub-books are Mitrabheda, Mitralabha, Kakolukiyam, Labdhapranasam and Apariksitakaram.

Mitrabheda is the story of Damanaka who is an unemployed minister in a lion’s kingdom. Along with Karataka he conspires and breaks up aalaiances of the king. The book has over 30 fables.  Mitralabha is a collection of the adventures of a crow, a mouse, a turtle and a deer. This book focuses on the importance of friendship and alliances. It has ten fables.

8th century Panchatantra reliefs at Mallikarjuna temple, Pattadakal Hindu monuments Karnataka.jpg

Panchatantra reliefs, Mallikarjuna temple, Pattadakal, Karnataka, 8th century.

By Ms Sarah Welch (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

     Kakolukiyam is  a treatise which focuses on war and peace. It points out that a battle of wits is more powerful than a battle of swords. it has 18 fables. Labdhapranasam is a compilation of ancient fables full of moral teachings. It is a guide on what not to do. It has 13 fables in the translation by Arthur Ryder.  Apariksitakaram  is acollection of moral filled fables. The characters are human beings. It has 12 fables in the translation into English by Arthur  Ryder. The stories are titled The loss of friends, The lion and the carpenter, The unteachable monkey, The monkey and the crocodile among many others in the five sub books.

8th century Panchatantra legends panels at Virupaksha Shaivism temple, Pattadakal Hindu monuments Karnataka 2.jpg

Panchatantra panel, Virupaksha temple, Pattadakal, Karnataka, 8th century .

By Ms Sarah Welch (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

 ‘Panchatantra’ relief ,Mendut temple, Central Java, Indonesia.

By Original uploader was BesselDekker at nl.wikipedia – Transferred from nl.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Shreevatsa using CommonsHelper., CC BY-SA 3.0,

A page from the 18th-century Panchatantra manuscript, Rajasthan India.jpg

Panchatantra manuscript, Rajasthan,18th century.

By Artist/maker unknown, India (18th century) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons






Posted by :

Soma Ghosh




Art of Kerala : magnificent murals

     Kerala is at the southern end of the Indian peninsula.  It is a part of the Western Ghats of India. Verdant with copious rainfall it is home to many trees, spice plantations, an amazing amount of flora and its well-known backwaters in the south.  Kerala, often referred to as God’s own country has a very interesting history of mural making. Believed to have started in the 7th and 8th century; majorly influenced by Pallava art. The oldest Kerala style murals have been found at a rock cut temple of Thirunandikara, now in Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu which was probably made in the 9th or 10th century. There is some doubt about mural making in between 10th and 13th centuries but from the 14th to 16th century many were made and continue to this day after continuing  revival efforts.

    The content of the murals are mostly religious and mythological depicting legends. Flora and  fauna also figure in the wall paintings. Magnificent murals are found all over Kerala. Murals have been made at palaces, termples, churches and also some other spaces. The Kanthaloor temple, Thiruvananthapuram, The Mattancherry palace, Cochin, Vaddakumnathan temple, Thrissur to mention a few. Murals have been made at churches at Alappuzha, Thiruvella, Angamly and Akkaparambu. Some temple murals   are highlighted here.  Also some depictions from Kalyana bhavanam or marriage halls.

Ananthasayanam, mural, 21st century, by artist Sastrasarman Prasad, Sree Karthyayani Temple,  Kunnamkulam, Thrissur,Kerala.

By Mural paintings (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

    The Mattancheri palace was built by the Portuguese in 1555. It is commonly called Dutch palace since 1663 after the Dutch made additions and renovations to it. there are shrines in the palace compound. Next to the palace is the Cochin synagogue built in 1567. On the west of the palace are murals painted in 1000 square feet in four chambers and two low ceilinged rooms from the 17th to mid 19th century. The depictions are from the Ramayana and some Krishna-lila scenes. The eastern chambers have Lord Shiva and Vishnu depictions. The scenes are dominated by browns,golds and red browns with touches of jewel-like green. There are many paintings which include Lord Vishnu as Anantasayana, Lord Krishna lifting Mount Govardhan, Lord Shiva with Parvati on Kailasa, Krishna with gopis, marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Also Lord Shiva with Vishnu as Mohini.

File:Mattancherry Palace DSC 0899.JPGMattancherri Palace, Cochin,Kerala.

By Ranjith Siji (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

File:Mattancherry palace murals.jpg

Mural, Lord Shiva with Mohini, Parvati looking away in anger, Mattancheri palace, Cochin, Kerala.

By Mark Hills (originally posted to Flickr as mattancherry palace) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

    The Padmanabhapuram palace is located 40 kilometres from thiruvananthapuram, now in Tamil Nadu though historically a part of Kerala. This palace was a royal site, a centre for contact between the ruler Maharaja with visitors from abroad and for discussions with his advisors.  The murals at the palace are from the 17th and 18th centuries mostly found on the upper floor of the 4 storey tower, in a sacred bedroom devoted to Lord Vishnu. Deities and tales from the Puranas  are depicted on all four walls. The colours are light with uses of pastel shades and white as well. an are of 900 square feet is painted with murals. Lord Shiva resting with Parvati, Lord Krishna playing on his flute with gopis around him; are also depicted in the palace.

     The Krishnapuram palace, built in the early 18th century at Kayamkulam is located north of Kollam (Quilon) and has a mural of Gajendramoksham of 154 square feet made around 1725-40.  There is also an image of Ganesha. At some places European influences can be seen.

Krishnapuram palace1.jpg

Krishnapuram palace, Kayamkulam, Kerala.

By Appusviews at Malayalam Wikipedia – Transferred from ml.wikipedia to Commons by Sreejithk2000 using CommonsHelper., CC BY-SA 3.0,

Gajendramoksham, Krishnapuram Palace, Kayamkulam, Alappuzha, Kerala. 

By Essarpee1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

    The magnificent art of mural painting is well depicted in many temples across Kerala. The Vaddakumnathan temple at Thrissur, the Chemmanthita Siva temple, Thrissur, Kudamaloor, Kannur, Thodeekkalam, Kannur, the Sreevallabha temple, Thiruvalla the Mahadeva Siva temple, Ettamanoor, Pallikarup Mahavishnu temple, Mannarkad, Palakkad, the Padmanabhaswamy temple at Thiruvananthapuram, Guruvayur temple, Guruvayur, Vaikom temple, Kottayam,  among many others.

           The Sreevallabha temple at Thiruvalla, Pathanamthitta is dedicated to Lord Sree Vallabham  and is very old. It is built on the banks of the Manimala river. The temple has fine stone-wooden carvings and grand architecture. There are  superb murals paintings in the  sreekovil (sanctum sanctorum) of Matsya avatara, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Sudarshana, Parashurama, Venugopala, Lord Krishna, Kaaliyamardana episode,  Balarama, Dakshinamurty, Purusha sukta, Lord Rama, Lakshmi, Ganapati,  Kalki avatara.

Sree Vallaba Temple 1.JPG

Sreevallabha Temple, Thiruvalla, Kerala.

By Ssriram mt – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Garuda picture sreevallabha temple.JPG

Garuda, mural, Sreevallabha temple, Thiruvalla, Kerala.

By Dvellakat (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

   The Vaikom Mahadeva temple in Kottayam is an elliptical plan temple founded in the 11th or 12th century. The murals here are dedicated to the story of Lord Shiva. The paintings are bright and the colours are intense. At the Mahadeva temple at Ettamanur in Kottayam is an awesome panel of Lord Shiva as Nataraja  on the inner wall of the gopura, 12 feet by 8 feet in size from the 16th century ! Lord Shiva is seen trampling the demon apasmara.

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Vaikom Mahadeva Temple, Kottayam, Kerala.

By Sivavkm (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

       The Thodeekkalam Shiva temple at Kannur is believed to be 2000 years old ! It is having much admired murals which depict stories of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Also the rural life from the 16th to the 18th centuries. The two-storied temple associated with the Pazhassi royal family of Kottayam, has 150 murals  painted over an area of 700 square feet  on the walls of the garba-griha or sanctum sanctorum. The splendorous murals are painted with naturally sourced pigments and red, saffron-yellow, green, white, blue, black, golden yellow hues dominate the panels.

Mural painting of Ganesha, Thodeekkalam Shiva temple, Kannur,Kerala.

By Vijayakumarblathur – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,


Mural painting, Thodeekkalam Shiva temple, Kannur, Kerala. 

By Vijayakumarblathur (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

       The Pundareekapuram temple near Thalayolaparambhu in Kottayam has Lord Vishnu as the main deity on his Garuda along with Bhoodevi. The murals of this temple were made most probably in later 18th century. The themes include Mahisasuramardini, Krishnalila, Sri Rama-pattabhishekam among others. The murals are bold and striking with accurate lines. Many images of Nagaraja along with Garuda are found in the temple.



Pundareekapuram temple.jpg

Pundareekapuram temple, Kottayam, Kerala.

By Sivavkm – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Pundareekapuram temple  mural, Kottayam, Kerala.

By Sivavkm – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Kalyana-bhavanam mural painting, Achikanam, Kasargod, Kerala.

By Vijayanrajapuram – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

File:Murals in Palakkad Junction railway station.jpg

 Mural at Olavakhode Railway Station, Palakkad, Kerala.

 By Prof tpms (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


References :

  • Temple arts of Kerala/Bernier,Ronald M, New Delhi : S Chand & Company Ltd, 1982.
  •  Murals of Kerala/Shashibhushan,M.G, Tvm : Department of Public Relations. (article)


Posted by :

Soma Ghosh







Mughal miniatures : some fauna depictions

   Mughal miniatures are much admired across the art and history world and the artworks have captured the Mughal times and the opulence related with the Emperors and their reign.The Mughals ruled in India 1526 – 1857 A.D. The Mughals were patrons of art and maintained ateliers of their own. They had their own court artists.  The Mughal atelier included artists like  Abu’l Hasan, Farrukh Beg,Manohar, Govardhan, Inayat, Muhammad Nadir among others. Mansur was a 17th century painter under Emperors Akbar and Jahangir. He excelled in painting flora and fauna. Animal subjects were his passion and he earned the title of ustad or master during Akbar’s reign. He used to travel with the emperor recording natural subjects. He earned the title Nãdir-al-’Asr, someone who is unparalelled in his time.

Nilgai (blue bull).jpg

Nilgai, by Ustad Mansur, from the Shah Jahan Album, Mughal painting, 17th century.

Ustad Mansur [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.


Dodo bird along with others, Mughal painting, 1625.

Ustad Mansur [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Ustad Mansur Truthahn.jpeg

Turkey-cock, Mughal painting, 17th century.

By Ustad Mansur, Public Domain,

Siberian Crane.jpg

Siberian crane, Mughal painting, Indian Museum, Kolkata.

By Ustad Mansur – Indian Museum, Kolkata, Public Domain,

Ustad Mansur Chameleon.jpg

Indian chameleon, Mughal painting, 17th century,British Royal Collection,U.K.

By Ustad Mansur – The Royal Collection, Public Domain,

Spotted Forktail, by Abu’l Hasan, Shah Jahan Album,1610–15 A.D. Metropolitan Museum, New-York.

By Abu’l Hasan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


        Ustad Mansur  was a colourist for pages in the  Akbarnama. His animal paintings earned him a place in history of painting. He also drew some birds and animals from his own imagination or world of fantasy. He used floral borders around his compositions. His attention to detail make his works mesmerising to the viewer. There were copies of his works made. His portrayal of the dodo bird (now extinct) is an important source for zoologists. He remains the most celebrated; he mixed objective naturalism with artistic creativity and depiction.

        Ustad Mansur made portraits in his early career. He painted birds like the dipper described by Emperor Jahangir in his memoirs Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri. His last painting was that of a zebra which had been gifted to emperor Jahangir. It is now in the V & A Museum, U.K. Jahangir was a keen naturalist like Emperor Babur. Emperor Jahangir has left amazing descriptions of fauna. As a prince Jahangir had his own studio in the 1580s with Aqa Riza, a  painter from Herat, as his chief artist.  He  made  Ustad Mansur copy all the flowers in the valley of Kashmir during his visit. During Emperor Akbar’s reign Mishkin was a talented artist. He has painted Laila-Majnun surrounded by many animals. Artists Abu’l Hasan, son of Aqa Riza and Manohar Das or Manohar, son of Basawaan during the reign of Emperor Jahangir were also good at making paintings of fauna.

Squirrels in a Plane Tree, by Abu’l Hasan, 1610, India Office Library and Records, London,U.K.

By Abu’l Hasan and Mansur (scan from book) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

"Akbar Hunting with Cheetahs", Folio from an Akbarnama MET sf30-95-174-8a.jpg

Akbar Hunting with Cheetahs, By Manohar Das, from an Akbarnama, Metropolitan Museum, New-York.

By Creator:Manohar [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

"Black Buck", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album MET DP246551.jpg

Black buck, by Manohar, folio from a Shah Jahan album, early 17th century, Metropolitan Museum, New York.

By Creator:Manohar [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons



Peacocks, illustration, Mughal painting,17th century.

By Ustad Mansur, Nãdir-al-’Asr (Ustad Mansur, Nãdir-al-’Asr) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Two Cranes - Ustad Mansur

Two cranes, Mughal painting, 17th century.


Zebra, 1621 - Ustad Mansur

Zebra, by Ustad Mansur, Mughal painting, 17th century.


References :

  • Court paintings of India/Pal, Pratapadiya, New Delhi : Kumar Gallery,1983.
  • Animals and birds in Mughal miniature paintings/Khanam, Zaheda,New Delhi : D. K Print world, 2009.


Posted by :

Soma Ghosh




The Barahmasa : depictions in Indian miniature paintings

         The twelve months or Barahmasa correspond to the length of a year which is a span of time. During these months various seasons happen in nature. Human activities change and so does the scenery with its various elements, the sky, birds, water bodies, animals and vegetation. The various months are Chaitra (March-April). starting in the spring season.  The following months are Vaishakha(April-May), Jyestha (May-June, Asadha (June-July), Sravana(July-August), Bhadon (August-September), Ashvin (September-October), Kartikka (October-November), Margasirsa (November-December), Pausa(December-January), Magha ( January-February) and Phalguna (February-March).

    The folio from a Hindu calendar, Vikram Samvat is seen below. The left column shows the ten avatars of Vishnu, the center-right column shows the twelve signs of the Hindu zodiac. Top middle panel shows Ganesha with two consorts. The second panel shows Krishna with two consorts. The seasons are well recognized and has been depicted in all forms in India’s art and literature and it’s overall cultural landscape. Poetry, painting and sculpture have awesome portrayals and descriptions of the seasons. Seasons in India are part of her ethos and life. Festivals are also celebrated in connections with seasons.  The Barahmasa is a genre of poetry, a concept to which there have been many contributions. Indian paintings have been closely associated with literature. Many important literary works right from ancient times have been depicted  in art and sculpture. The Jataka tales have been depicted in many Buddhist sites of India.


Hindu calendar/almanac corresponding to Western years 1871-1872, Rajasthan. 

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

              Coming to the subject at hand, this theme has been depicted mostly from late medieval period.  An Indian treatise Chitrasutra composed by Vishnudhrmaottara, sometime during the interval of the Kushana and Gupta times has a set of guidelines on how the seasons are to be depicted in art. Painters have followed the guidelines in ancient and medieval India.

   The Barahmasa was popular in Hindi literature during 13th to 16th centuries and also was a part of Sufi poetry. However, Barahmasa in miniature paintings were mostly done or executed in the 17th and 18th centuries.  The paintings had writings in Devanagari on top or behind the painting. Many royal courts had their own painters and ateliers. This theme has not found much favour with Mughal miniatures and Deccani painting though nature by itself has been a subject of composition in these schools. Many animal and bird portraitures have been made in the Mughal paintings; the Deccani schools depict clouds, ponds and lotuses.

        The Rajasthani painting evolved in the courts of Rajputana. They were done in the mniature format. and also on walls of havelis(mansions), palaces and inner chambers of forts. The pigmetns were derived from minerals,plants, conches and precious stones too ! Gold and silver were used at places. The paintings depicted avrious themes from the social viewpoint, also stories form the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Nature was depicted too’; these paintings were representative of a rulers legacy. The Rajasthani school has many sub-schools. like Jaipur,Bikaner, Bundi, Kota, Mewar. Alwar and Jodhpur. The style of painting has been influenced by Persian, European, Mughal and Chinese art of painting.The paintings are rich, mostly due to the arid desert landscape, dry hills and less vegetation.

     The Barahmasa theme has been depicted in Chamba, Garhwal, Guler, Kangra, Mandi and Nurpur schools from among the Pahari school. The Pahari schools developed in the hilly regions of North India during 17th to 19th century. From Jammu to Almora and Garhwal,Himachal Pradesh. the range is wide,varied and very interesting. Basohli school is from Jammu which is known for its bold colours. Kangra is famous for its Radha-Krishna depictions and its lyrical quality.; being greatly inspired by Jayadeva’s Geeta-govinda. Central India has the Malwa, Datia and Bundelkhand schools.

     The Chitrasutra as already mentioned has given guidelines for the seasons and they seem to be followed by artists across India. Summer is indicated by the sun in the sky, spring with its seasonal trees in bloom, humming bees,cuckoo depictions and men and women going around happily ! Further, summer depicts fatigue experienced by men,animals, dry pools,birds hiding in trees,lions and  tigers resting in their mountainous hideouts. The rainy season has its dark, laden clouds and streaks of lightning in the sky. Autumn has trees full of fruits,corn ripe in the fields, pools full of swans and lotuses. The winter has its dew and fog, the earth is a bit bare and misty. Crows and elephants are joyous.  There is snowfall in some places.

    Depicted below are some Barahmasa paintings from different schools. The month of Chaitra is depicted with the seasonal trees in bloom and men and women joyous and in conversation. Birds and sarus cranes are seen in the background and where the lotuses are abounding in the pool nearby.

1 The month of Chaitra. Barahmasa series. March-April. 1675-1700 (circa) Bundi. British Museum.jpg

Chaitra (March-April), Barahmasa, Bundi, 1675-1700 A.D, British Museum,U.K.

By Unknown – British Museum, Public Domain,

       The month of Jyeshtha is hot and humid, people are seen using hand fans reclining under shades and birds are hiding in the trees. The sun is scorching the earth and there is bright light around. Tree ahve shed their leaves due to the heat. The animals are resting in shade or retreating to the forest.

2 Jestha (may-june). Barahmasa series. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum.jpg

Jyestha (May-June). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800s, British Museum,U.K.

By Unknown – British Museum, Public Domain,

 Jyestha (May-June), Folio from a Barahmasa,  Uniara, Rajasthan, 1775, LACMA- public domain image.

      The Asadha month is the pre-monsoon month and clouds are seen to start arriving in the sky with sporadic rain. In Shravan the sky gets laden with rain bearing clouds and the opens with lightning and thunder ! Peacocks are happiest during this time and dance to full glory with their splendorous tail spread out. Nature all around is green and verdant. Pangs of separation are felt more strongly in this season. Forlorn heroines are eager to meet their beloved !

 Ashadha (June-July), Folio from a Barahmasa, Kota, 1700-1725.

LACMA- public domain image.

File:4 Sravana (july-august). Barahmasa series. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum.jpg

Sravana (July-August), Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British  Museum,U.K.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bhadon (August-September), Folio from a Barahmasa ,LACMA ,U.S.A image by Ashley Van Haeften

          The painting below shows a forlorn heroine trying to go out to meet her beloved and her sakhi or friend refraining her as the sky is full of menacing clouds during the month of Bhadon.

'Virahini' (Lovesick Heroine), India, c. 1740, Honolulu Museum of Art, 10689.1.JPG

Virahini (lovesick heroine), Bhadon (August-September)1740, Barahmasa,  Honolulu Museum of Art,U.S.A.

By Unknown – Own work, Public Domain,

Bhadon (August-September), Barahmasa, Malwa, 1640-1650, LACMA- public domain image.
Bhadon (August-September). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum,U.K.
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

6 Asoja (september-october). Barahmasa series. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum.jpg

 Ashvin or Asoja, (September-October). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum,U.K.
 See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
 7 Kartikka (october-november). Barahmasa series. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum.jpg
  Kartikka,(October-November). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum,U.K.
 See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
8 Margasira (november-december) Barahmasa series..jpg
Margasirsa or Agrahayana,(November-December) Barahmasa series,1800, Rajasthan. British Museum, London,U.K.
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
         The month of Pausa is depicted with people warming their hands over fire and  sleeping under blankets to face the biting cold. Shawls are worn around the head and shoulders. People seem to be suffering from fever and are making visits to the vaidya or doctor for treatment.
Pausa, (December-January). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum,U.K.
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
References :
  • Barahmasa/Dwivedi,V.P, Delhi : Agam Kala Prakashan,1980.
Posted by

Soma Ghosh


Lord Mahavira : painted images

      Lord Mahavira is the 24th tirthankara in Jainism. He lived in 6th century B.C and was born in Kundagrama in present day Bihar in India. He  was born to King Siddhartha and his queen Trishala of the Ishkvaku dynasty. In his childhood he was called Vardhamana. He was given the name Mahavira or Great hero because of his heroic deeds in his childhood. He is believed to be consecrated by Indra on Mount Meru. His previous births are mentioned in Mahapurana.

   At the age of thirty Mahavira left the comforts of his palace and left to lead the life of an ascetic. His aim was spiritual awakening. He gave up everything he had including his clothes. He went to various places and meditated; underwent rigorous hardships. The places included Nalanda, Mithila,Shravasti and Vaishali.  He attained enlightenment or kevalajnana under a sala tree. Jaina texts Harivamsa-purana and Uttara-purana have described this event. He  became all-knowing and all-seeing. After this he travelled all over India to spread his message. He had thousands of lay followers, sravakas(male) and sravikas(female). His royal followers included King Bimbisara of Magadha and King Kunika of Anga. His teachings are brought together in Agamas, canons. His chief disciple Gautama Swami compiled many of his teachings.  Lord Mahavira preached ahimsa or non-violence, satya or truthfulness, brahmacharya  or chastity, for monks, aparigraha or non-attachment and achaurya  or non-stealing.

   Lord Mahavira attained to nirvana from samsara or the cycles of birth and death at 72 in Pawapuri (in Bihar). The funeral rites are done by heavenly beings of tirthankaras and only the hair and nails are left behind, the rest of the body dissolving into air, as said in the Pravachana-sara.

File:Detail of a leaf with the birth of mahavira.jpg

Birth of Mahavira, Kalpasutra, late 14th century, gouache on paper, India.

By Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The depiction below shows  Mahavira  on the left decked in jewellery, probably during his consecration.

File:The Consecration of Mahavira.jpg

Mahavira in a miniature from Kalpasutra, early 15th century,Gujarat, British Museum, London.

By Jaina manuscript [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

        Depicted below is Mahavira’s nirvana, the crescent shaped siddhashila,a place where all siddhas reside after nirvana is clearly seen.

File:Kalpasutra Mahavira Nirvana.jpg

Mahavira’s nirvana or moksa, Folio from Kalpasutra series, loose leaf manuscript,15th century, Patan, Gujarat.

By Anishshah19 (15th Century art) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Mahavira attaining enlightenment in goduhasana posture,painting.

By Amitjain80 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons


Mahavira,manuscript, early 15th century,Gujarat.

Public Domain,

References :

  • The peaceful liberators : Jain art from India/Pal,Pratapaditya,Los Angeles : LACMA,1996.

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh


Shakuntala’s story : painted depictions


The story of Shakuntala and King Dushyanta is from the Indian epic Mahabharata and retold by poet Kalidasa in his Abhignanashakuntalam . It is a very popular story in India.

        Shakuntala was born to apsara Menaka and Sage Viswamitra. Viswamitra however refused to accept the child. Sage Kanva found her in a forest and surrounded by shakunta birds. He named her Shakuntala; on who is protected by shakunta birds. Shakuntala grew up to be beautiful damsel. One day King Dushyanta who the son of Ilina and Rathantara and king of Hastinapur and ancestor of the Kurus;  was travelling through the forest with his entourage and trying to hunt down a male deer. He meets Shakuntala and both fall in love with each other. He spends time with her and they have a Gandharva marriage. Before leaving back for his royal duties, he gives  Shakuntala his royal ring, promising he would return to take her to his palace.

      During Dushyanta’s absence Shakuntala kept dreaming about him. One day while she was lost in thoughts of Dushyanta, Sage Durvasa came to the ashram where she lived, but Shakuntala did not greet him properly. He cursed her saying that the person she was thinking about would forget her. Immediately her friends came and intervened and the sage modified his curse saying that he would remember on showing a personal token given to her.

       Much time passed but King Dushyanta did not come to take her. She along with some companions set out for the city along with age Kanva. On the way they had to cross ariver by a boat and finding the blue water, Shakuntala ran her hand through it. The ring given by Dushyanta slipped out of her finger without her realising it. She reached Dushyanta’s court but he failed to recognise her. Her ring too had gone missing so Shakuntala had to return. She was devastated by the happenings and in grief settled in the wild forest along with her son Bharata. Bharata, surrounded only by wild animals, grew to be a strong youth and made a game of opening the mouths of tigers and lions to count their teeth.

  However fate had other plans. The ring was swallowed by a fish. A fisherman was surprised to see a royal ring in the stomach of  a fish and took it to the palace. On seeing the ring, King Dushyanta recalled everything !

   He set out for the forest and came to the ashram where Shakuntala used to live. On not finding her, he started roaming in the wild forest looking for her. He came upon a young boy who was playing with lion cubs. He asked him his name. He replied saying he was Bharata, King Dushyanta’s son. The king was very happy and the boy led him to his beautiful bride Shakuntala and the family was reunited.

         Some different versions of the story too exist and has been retold by many authors. According to one version apsara Menaka takes Shakuntala to heaven after Dushyanta fails to recognise her and Bharata is born there. King Dushyanta then had to fight with the devas to get her back along with his son Bharata. Bharata is believed to have become the emperor who founded the Bharata dynasty of India and the name Bharatvarsha is after the same dynasty.

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Birth of Shakuntala,painting, Raja Ravi Varma,19th century.

Raja Ravi Varma [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Shakuntala,painting, Raja Ravi Varma,19th century.

Raja Ravi Varma [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Dushyant and Shakuntala in a landscape, folio from a Mahabharata, 1800, Kangra,Himachal Pradesh.

By India, Himachal Pradesh, Kangra Valley, South Asia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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Dushyant and Shakuntala, print, 1940s.

By vinatge Pints [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Shakuntala,painting,Raja Ravi Varma, 19th century.

By Raja Ravi Varma –, Public Domain,


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Sage Durvasa cursing Shakuntala, lithograph, 1895.

By Chore Bagan Art Studio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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Shakuntala writing letter to Dushyant,painting, Raja Ravi Varma, 19th century. 

Raja Ravi Varma [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Shakuntala in grief, painting,1919.

By Sunity Devee, Maharanee Artist – S. N. Das (Nine ideal Indian women (1919)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

File:Raja Ravi Varma, Menaka and Sakunthala (1891).jpg

Apsara Menaka taking her daughter Shakunthala to heaven, painting,Raja Ravi Varma,19th century.

Raja Ravi Varma [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

File:Bharat plays with lion cubs.jpg

Bharat playing with lion cubs,illustration,20th century.

By Ramnadayandatta Shastri Pandey [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons




References :

  • Epics, myths and legends of India/Thomas, P, Bombay : D.B. Taraporevala and Sons.


Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

© author




Ram-Sita in art : varied depictions

      Rama is the main protagonist in the great Indian epic, Ramayana of Hinduism. Rama is believed to be  the seventh avatar of Vishnu from the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.The Ramayana is the story of his ideals, his greatness, his life events,  his marriage, his exile, the abduction of his wife Sita and his battle with Ravana.  Scriptures and texts based on the Ramayana exist in many cultures in south Asia.

   Rama was the eldest son of King Dasaratha and Kaushalya of  Kosala (area in present day Uttar Pradesh). Rama is considered to be a perfect man and Sita is considered to be an avatar of Goddess Lakshmi  and a great woman. Rama is revered for his exemplary courage and devotion to religious values, dharma.  Lord Rama faces many obstacles and hardships in his life, serves an exile of fourteen arduous years in the forest along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana. During this time ,Sita is abducted by Ravana, the king of Lanka. After a long search and with the help of Hanuman, his devotee, she if found there and after a colossal battle with monkey armies where Ravana is killed, he frees Sita. He finally returns to Ayodhya and is crowned to rule with justice and prosperity ; the period is called Rama-rajya.

  Lord Rama is known by other names as Raghava, Raghunandan, Siyavaara, Dasarathaputra, Maryada-purushottama among others.

Lord Rama,painting, probably Thanjavur or Tiruchirapally,Tamil Nadu,early 19th century.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

              The epic Ramayana is composed by the sage  Valmiki. The Bhagavata purana retells the events up to the defeat of Ravana and Rama’s coronation in Ayodhya. As per the  Vishnu purana, Lord Rama is the seventh  avatar of Vishnu.The stories of Rama are mentioned in the Mahabharata too. In Buddhist texts the Dasaratha Jataka mentions Rama.

  Sita,also known as Siya, Vaidehi, Janaki, Maithili or Bhoomija, is the wife of Rama in Ramayana. She is the daughter of King Janaka of Videha and his wife Sunaina. She is revered for her feminine virtues,dedication, self-sacrifice, courage and purity.Sita has been a much revered figure amongst the Hindus. She has been portrayed as an ideal daughter, an ideal wife and an ideal mother in various texts and stories. Sita is often worshipped with Rama as his consort, as Ram-Sita.

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Marriage of Rama and his brothers,Mandi artists,1750.

By Mandi Artists [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsFile:Rama taking leave of Dasharatha.jpg

Rama taking leave of Dasaratha,painting,late 16th century.

By Asian Art at the San Diego Museum of Art [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Rama,Sita and Lakshmana in exile,painting,19th century.

By Raja Ravi Press [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Ravana visiting Sita as an ascetic,oleograph,19th century.

By Raja Ravi Varma ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Ravana approaching Sita during her captivity,painting,20th century.

Nina Paley [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

            Various versions of the Ramayana exist in major Indian languages. In Tamil the epic poem Ramavataram by 12th century poet Kambar, the Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas in the 16th century in Hindi  have been celebrated. Some contemporary versions too have gained importance like Shri Ramayana darshanam by Kuvempu in Kannada and Ramayana kalpavriksham by Viswanatha Satyanarayana in Telugu. 

   Ancient sources say that Rama was born in the end of Tretayuga ,880 thousand years ago. However Ramayana in its current form is dated to 7th-4th century B.C.


Rama,Sita and Lakshmana at Rishi Bharadwaj ashram, painting, Kangra,Himachal Pradesh,18th century.

By Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Lakshmana and Sita leave Ayodhya,painting,Kangra, early 19th century, Honolulu Academy of Arts,USA.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Sita during agnipariksha, painting, Mughal school,1600s.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Ram-Sita, bazaar art image,1950.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Rama,Lakshmana and Sita setting up their house at Panchavati, illustration,Mewar,17th century.

By Sahib Din – he Mewar Ramayana manuscripts, Public Domain,


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Rama and Sita, Kalighat painting, 19th century,Kolkata.

By Unknown – The Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, CC BY 4.0,



References :

  • Epics, myths and legends of India/Thomas, P, Bombay : D.B. Taraporevala and Sons.


Posted by :

Soma Ghosh


© author



Sheshasayi in art : images of Lord Vishnu

  Lord Vishnu is known as Sheshasayi or Anantasayana when he is recumbent on the the king of nagas (serpents), Anantashesha. He is also called anantasayana in this recumbent posture.

      Lord Vishnu is part of the Hindu trinity of gods along with Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva. He is a lovable deity, considerate towards his devotees. He is depicted with his wife Goddess Lakshmi at his feet, recumbent on the coils of serpent Shesha. He is dark, blue skinned. A lotus stem shoots up from his navel on which Brahma is seated. His vahana or vehicle  is Garuda, the man-bird. Lord Vishnu has a thousand names,  sahasranama. His abode is Vaikuntha with lotus filled pools. His devotees are called Vaishnavas. He is worshipped in his different avatars; Matsya,Kurma,Varaha,Narasimha,Vamana,Parasurama,Rama,Krishna and Buddha as believed in Hinduism. It is believed that he will be reborn as Kalki, his last avatar according to the Vishnu Purana,.when the world will probably be destroyed and rebuilt.

  Lord Vishnu  is seen in different contexts and moods when he is reclining on Anantasesha.He is called yogasayana when he is meditative and the sages Bhrigu and Markandeya are with him. Brahma is seen emerging from his navel. He is Bhogasayana when he has four arms and is bejewelled. His consorts Sridevi and Bhudevi are seen along with sages Bhrigu and Markandeya. He is Virasayana when he is holding a sankha or conch, a chakra or discus in two of his four hands. The demons Madu and Kaitabha are depicted at his feet.In Abhicharikasayana, he is depicted in a weak and emaciated form with no attendants. The Padmanabhaswamy temple at Thiruvananthapuram is an important shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu in Kerala. Lord Vishnu as Ranganatha is also a recumbent Vishnu but does not depict Brahma rising on a lotus from his navel.

        The recumbent Lord Vishnu has been depicted both in sculpture and painting as seen in the magnificent images from different centuries.

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Sheshasayi, rock-cut sculpture,5th century,Udayagiri, Madhya Pradesh.

By Zippymarmalade (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons

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Sheshasayi, Mahishasuramardini Cave,7th cenutury, Mahabalipuram,Tamil Nadu.

By Jenith (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons
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Sheshasayi,Ku Phra Kona temple,11th century,Roi Et,Thailand

By Ddalbiez (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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Sheshasayi,sculpture,13th century,South India, LACMA,USA.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons,LACMA,USA.

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Sheshasayi,painting, Kashmir, 1800.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Sheshasayi,painting,18th century, India.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

File:Sheshsayi Vishnu and Lakshmi enjoying festivity, National Museum, New Delhi.jpg

Sheshsayi enjoying festivities,painting, Chamba,1810, National Museum, New Delhi.

By Yann (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Sheshasayi,painting, late 18th century,Mehrangarh Museum Trust,

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons,attributed to the Durga Master.

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M. V. Dhurandhar [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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Sheshasayi,sculpture, 5th century,Dasavatara Temple, Deogarh,Uttar Pradesh.

By Bob King [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

References :

  • Epics, myths and legends of India/Thomas, P, Bombay : D.B. Taraporevala and Sons.

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author

Indra in art : Lord of the heavens

      Indra is a Vedic deity in Hinduism ,a guardian deity in Buddhism and also the king of the first heaven in Jainsim. He has been represented in sculpture and paintings. In Hindu mythology too he is the Lord of swarga or heaven. He has been highly mentioned in the Rigveda. Indra is the destroyer of Vritra who is against human happiness. Indra is not mentioned much in post-Vedic literature as he is known to disturb monks and sages who meditate because he thinks they will develop powers more than him.

   In Buddhism he is referred to as Shakra as someone paying homage to Buddha.He rules over the realm of devas with the samsara doctrine of Buddhism.In Jainism he is the king of Gods and a part of Jain rebirth cosmology. He is seen with his wife Indrani to celbrate auspicious moments with Jain tirthankaras.

  Indra wields the thunderbolt known as Vajra, riding on his white elephant Airavata. The rainbow too is considered the visible symbol of his mighty bow. In Buddhism Airavata has three heads, an in Jainsim he is shown with five heads. His heaven is called Amaravati and pious mortals go there to be reborn again on earth.

High-relief of Indra, god of the firmament. Wellcome M0009457.jpg

Indra, wood relief, Wellcome images, U.K.

By, CC BY 4.0,

File:Chaitya Window - Indra - Circa 5th Century CE - Bhumara - Madhya Pradesh - Indian Museum - Kolkata 2013-04-10 7797.JPG

Indra, chaitya window, 5th Century, Bhumara, Madhya Pradesh, Indian Museum, Kolkata

Biswarup Ganguly [GFDL (, CC BY 3.0 (, GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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Battle between Indra and Lord Krishna,painting,mid-19th century, ,Jaipur,Rajasthan.

By Unknown –, Public Domain,

       This beautiful Jaipur painting above  portrays the grand finale in the fierce battle between Indra the God of heaven and Lord Krishna who was aided by Arjuna. Agni, the god of fire wanted to eat the Khandava forest. But Indra, the God of heaven stopped the process with torrential rain to protect a friend of his. Thus the battle between fire and rain continued. A tired Agni finally approached Krishna and Arjuna for help. A battle ensued between Indra and his supporters on one side and Krishna and Arjuna on the other. In this scene one can see a blue sky with thundering clouds. Indra is seated on Airavata with his allies seated on horses. All of them are seen making a humble retreat. They are surrounded by celestial beings seated in their respective chariots. Manama Daitya, a bare-bodied demon in a short tight lower vestment, stands with folded hands before Krishna and Arjuna. The vast, undulating landscape and the forest on fire add to the beauty.  The chariots also have very fine motifs. The main figures have been identified with inscriptions. On careful observation one can even see the pearl settings on the headgears of the charioteers, peacock feathers adorning Krishna’s crown and hair on the body of the demon, Manama Daitya. This Jaipur painting is one based on themes from the epic, Mahabharata. 

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Indra sculpture  in Indrasabha, cave no 32, Ellora, Maharashtra.

By J. Johnston [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Indra,Chennakeshava temple,13th century, Somanathapura, Karnataka.

By Hemanth M Y – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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Indra, painting,19th century, South India.

Autor: Unknown –, Voľné dielo,

          The Harivamsa , was a continuation of epic, Mahabharata. The Mughal emperor Akbar ordered it to be translated into Persian so that it could be read by non-Hindus. In this illustration to the text done in about 1590, Krishna sweeps down on the bird Garuda to triumph over Indra,  riding on his white elephant Airavata, watched by gods and other celestial beings. The swirling fabrics, billowing clouds, and the boat in the lower part of the scene, are all the result of the influence on Mughal court artists of European style  of painting. The original manuscript was dispersed and some pages were remounted for later albums, as here. The borders were probably added in Lucknow in the 18th century.

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Indra on Airavata ,Mughal painting, late 16th century.

By Unknown (production) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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 Indra on Airavata, Banteay Srei Temple,10th century,Cambodia.

By Anandajoti (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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Indra and Indrani , sculpture, Musée des arts asiatiques, Nice, France.

By Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France (Indra et Indrani (Musée des arts asiatiques, Nice)) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


Indra and Sachi riding the elephant Airavata, folio from a Panchakalyanaka (Five Auspicious Events in the Life of Jina Rishabhanatha [Adinatha]),17th century,painting, Amber, Rajasthan.

By Unknown, India, Rajasthan, Amber, South Asia (from LACMA [1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Indra on Airavata, Banteay Srei temple, 10th century,Cambodia.

By Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France (Indra sur Airâvana (Banteay Srei, Angkor)) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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Indra paying homage to Krishna, folio from a Bhagavata Purana,1640,Malwa,  Madhya Pradesh.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Indra with Lord Vishnu,illustration,20th century.

By Ramanarayanadatta astri ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Indra on Airavata, his elephant,sculpture,12th century, Halebidu, Karnataka.;Image by Ankur P.

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Indra conveying Jina Rishabhanatha (Adinatha) on Airavata, early 19th century,folio from a Bhaktamara Stotra (Hymn of the Immortal Devotee),LACMA,USA.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons



References :

  • Epics, myths and legends of India/Thomas, P, Bombay : D.B. Taraporevala and Sons.

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author

Radha-Krishna is art : splendorous images

      Radha-Krishna is worshipped in Hinduism as the combination of the male and female principles and many temples are dedicated to them. Works of art on this divine couple have been produced in the past and still continue to grip the imagination of artists.  Their coming together is held as the symbol of the individual’s desire for union with the Supreme or Universal soul. Krishna was first mentioned in the Chandogya upanishad. He is a main character in the epic Mahabharata. In the Vishnu Purana and the Bhagavata purana we further understand his divine nature. The Gita-govinda  in Sanskrit,composed by Jayadeva Goswami in the 12th century, gave the cult worship of Radha-Krishna a mystic and soulful impetus along with the presence of the gopis, the cow-maidens, Radha being the favourite gopi of Krishna. Radha was the wife of Ayanagosha. She is also believed to be the origin of all the gopis who are divine beings who participate in the rasaleela. During the rasaleela it is believed that Krishna took on multiple forms and danced with with each gopi, thus each gopi thought that Krishna loved her the most ! The deseration of the gopis of their husbands and parents signify their liberation from worldly attachments.

       The Radha-Krishna theme has been depicted in Indian art in different schools of art. The images are typical of the school they represent and are vibrant and colourful. The backdrop could be the bank of the Jamuna river at Vrindavan, with gopis and cows. Verdant foliage in idyllic groves are frequently seen. Radha is a doe-eyed beautiful damsel while Krishna is the dark, blue-skinned God with the peacock- feather, garland(vanamala), pearl necklaces and flute.The paintings are akin to visual poetry; depicting scenes from Radha-Krishna episodes by the use of different colours conveying feeling and form. The romantic dalliance of Krishna with Radha and the other gopis including rasaleela is the main subject in the paintings. Gita-govinda is a major inspiration for these paintings. Bhanudatta also composed poetry in Sanskrit on Radha-Krishna. Surdas, Bihari, Keshavdas and Vidyapati’s compositions brought out the romantic persona of Krishna.

      Radha was a shringara rasa nayika, an embodiment of beauty and love. In the Kishangarh paintings Savant Singh (who was a total Krishna bhakt or devotee)and his wife Bani Thani were represented as Radha-Krishna by the court painter Nihal Chand. Bani Thani was an accomplished beautiful dancer and poetess.This influenced the paintings of Nihal Chand though the paintings are not an exact replica of how she looked but more of an idealised form. The nayika has arched eyebrows, elongated nose and a doe-eyed representation. This became the signature style of Kishangarh paintings.

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Radha-Krishna, 18th century,Kishangarh painting, Rajasthan.

By Nihal Chand (Madison Avenue Gallery) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Attributed to Nihal Chand. Savant Singh and Bani Thani as Krishna and Radha. Kishangarh, ca. 1760..jpg

   At Bhim Vilas in Udaipur’s City palace  which was built over 400 years starting in 1559, by different rulers of the Mewar dynasty, a fresco depicts Radha-Krishna. The image  is resplendent with a prominent Krishna and Radha slightly behind him. She is less of a gopi but is seen in a mature lady-like demeanour.

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Radha-Krishna, Fresco, 16th- 20th century, City Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan.

By Pebble101 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Radha-Krishna in a bower,folio from Gita-govinda, Mewar school, Rajasthan17th century.

By Sahibdin (fl. 17th century) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

        The Rasikapriya was composed by Keshavdas which inspired many paintings on the Radha-Krishna theme. The Rasikapriya was a pioneering work of the Ritikaal period of Hindi literature.In these ritikavyas Radha is not depicted as rustic gopi, but a heroine of courtly love. Ritikavyas in Brajbhasha inspired painting in Rajput courts and Himalayan kingdoms.

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Radha- Krishna, page from Rasikapriya, Amber, 1610, Metmuseum, USA.

By anonimus (Metropolitan Museum) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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Radha-Krishna,page from  Rasikapriya, Amber, 1610, Met Museum, New York, USA

By anonimus (Metropolitan Museum) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Radha-Krishna in a Rasikapriya manuscript, 1634.

By Anonymous – V&A Museum [1], Public Domain,

Rajasthani miniature painting centred in Malwa and Bundelkhand in central India flourished in the 17th century; called Malwa miniature painting. The school is typical with its fine brushwork and flat compositions, figures shown against a solid colour patch,the subject painted in vibrant colours.

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Radha-Krishna, Malwa painting, 1620, Rajasthani school.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Krishna and Radha dancing the Rasalila, Jaipur, 19th century.jpg

Radha-Krishna and gopis in Rasaleela, Jaipur, 19th century.

By Anonymous –, Public Domain,

              Kangra painting from Himachal Pradesh belongs to Pahari school of painting. The Pahari schools have Mughal and Rajput influences on their work. Radha-Krishna paintings in the Kangra style express piety and are visually evocative. Krishna’s sweetness is captured as a  romantic hero or nayaka. Joy, longing, separation are all represented deftly using colour, feeling and movement amidst nature in Vrindavan in different seasons.

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Krishna is playing on his flute while a companion persuades Radha , folio from Gita-govinda, Kangra painting, 1825, Himachal Pradesh.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Krishna flirting with other gopis to Radha’s dismay, Kangra, 1760, Himachal Pradesh.

By Attributed to Purkhu [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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Radha-Krishna during a thunderstorm, Kangra painting late 17th-mid 18th century.

See page for author [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Collection of Brooklyn Museum.


File:Radha and Krishna Exchange Clothes LACMA M.80.232.4.jpg

Radha-Krishna exchange clothes,Kangra, 1800, Himachal Pradesh.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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Radha-Krishna looking into a mirror, Kangra painting, 1800.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Basohli style of painting is characterised by a vigorous style in which strong primary colours were used. Mostly made in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in the foothills of the Western Himalayas and Punjab. Rasamanjari, a Sanskrit text by Bhanudatta on Indian aesthetics,from the 15th century was an inspiration for Basohli paintings. This poetic work classifies young damsels, the nayikas, in love.


File:Radha and Krishna in Rasamanjari by Bhanudatta, Basohli, c1670.jpg

Radha-Krishna in Rasamanjari by Bhanudatta, Basohli, 1670.

By Anonymous (Victoria Albert Museum [1]) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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Radha and Krishna in conversation, Basohli painting,  Gita-govinda, 1730.

By Basohli School –, Public Domain,

          Chamba is well-known for its exquisite miniature paintings and murals. The paintings have  a strong Mughal influence. Its main patrons were Raja Udai Singh and Raja Jai Singh. Radha-Krishna,gopis, Shiva Parvati, nature representations with deer, birds were common themes.

Radha Rejecting Krishna LACMA M.77.19.25.jpg

Radha rejecting Krishna, Chamba painting,Himachal Pradesh,1760.

By Image:, Public Domain,

    The Awadh(Oudh) school of painting which flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries at Awadh in Northern India was a combination of Mughal and Rajput styles, with lot of Persian influence, representations are seen in the canopies and shamianas, ground covered with flowers etc. The Rajput influence can be recognised by the stylised nature of the painting. Niddha Mal was a painter of this time and is known for his Radha-Krishna paintings. The later Awadh styles showed major European influence. Meer Chand was a noted artist during this period.

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Radha-Krishna, with gopis, at the Holi festival, Awadh, 19th century.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

       Kalighat painting is a mix of tradition and modern styles. The artists evolved a typical style of paintings in the vicinity of the Kali temple during the nineteenth century at Calcutta (now Kolkata). The paintings are simple yet modern but striking.

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Radha-Krishna,Kalighat painting,late 19th century and early 20th century.

By Unknown – Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2000.98.3_IMLS_PS4.jpg, Public Domain,

     Madhubani painting is done on walls or paper mostly by women of Madhuban,part of ancient kingdom of Mithila, now in  Bihar. Mostly done in natural colours, these paintings are a form of visual education and enrichment. The subjects are many including scenes from the epics, the Radha-Krishna theme, flora and fauna etc. The paintings are rustic and vibrant with the use of bold lines and colours.

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Radha-Krishna, Madhubani painting by Sita Devi, 2oth century.

By Sumanjha1991 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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Radha-Krishna, print of painting by Sri Gopal Rao, 1927.

By Gopalarao ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

      Pattachitras are from Odisha and have been traditionally made using natural ingredients like china clay, chalk,conch shell, red stone etc. Lord Krishna is Lord Jagannatha at Puri and there are many pattachitras with Subhadra and Balaram and Lord Krishna. However Radha is not forgotten and Radha-Krishna; inspired by the Chaitanya movement and Gita -govinda too is depicted in pattachitras.

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Radha-Krishna, pattachitra, by artist Shakti.

By Shakti (Own work) [CC BY-SA 1.0 ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


Radha-Krishna, modern depiction, drawing by artist Subhash.

By Subhash – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

References :

  • Thomas, P/Epics, myths and legends of India, Bombay : D. B. Taraporevala and Sons.
  • Dehejia, Harsha.V/Radha: Gopi to Goddess,New Delhi :Niyogi Books,2014.
  • Aryan, Subhashini/Kala Chintan New Delhi : Rekha Prakashan,2008.



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Soma Ghosh

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