Hyderabad school of painting : depictions of Deccan


       The Hyderabad school of Deccani painting had started evolving in early 18th century with the foundation of the Asaf Jahi dynasty. They were the Nizams of Hyderabad; seven rulers have governed the region. Mir Qamaruddin Khan, Nizam-ul-mulk a Viceroy or subedar of the Deccan under the Mughals declared independence in 1724 A. D. He being a patron of the arts along with the rich influence of the Golconda school and Mughal styles; helped in creating many works of art under the Hyderabad-Deccani genre in Aurangabad and Hyderabad.

       The school was influenced by other styles but  had its own charcteristics.  They can be seen in its treatment of subjects,costumes, landscape, flora, fauna and the general colouring have Deccani influence. Scenes from gardens and courtyards have been captured other than the main themes which included portraits of the rulers and their families,noblemen, women on terraces, saints and Raga-raginis.

After the death of the first Nizam and subsequent rulers like his son Nasir Jung and Muzaffar Jung, grandson and another son Salabat Jung, Mir Nizam Ali Khan became ruler as Asaf Jah II in 1762. He too was a patron of the arts and during his reign poets, musicians and artists came to his court. His biography Tuzuki-Asafi was written and illustrated by Tajalli Ali Shah in 1793. His court painter was Rai Venkatachalam. Raja Chandulal also patronised the arts and many works were made for Raja Nanak Ram, Rai Rayan and other Hindu noblemen. The political condition during the 18th century was not very stable and this affected the character of the paintings. However lot of portraits were made between the fall of Golconda in 1687 and the beginning of the Asaf Jahi rule in 1724, when the area was under the Mughal governors.


    Paintings of the Hyderabad school depict flowers and trees like the palm tree, coconut,plumeria, champa etc. Flowering plants, terraces and parapets made of marble with jaali (trellis) work, doors in brown are seen. Some paintings depict peacocks, ducks and fishes. The sky is blue or blue-green with touches of indigo  to depict clouds. Carpets and rugs are seen in some works. The human figures are tall and have sharp features. Women are shown wearing stringed pearl necklaces. 

     Sikandar Jah succeeded Nizam Ali Khan as Asaf Jah III(1803-1829) and paintings were still being made. Under Asaf Jah IV and Asaf Jah V paintings depicting gardens and harem scenes were made. By the mid-nineteeth century the demand for these paintings reduced and the paintings went into history but give us a glimpse into the life of that time.File:Woman and Attendants with a Bird.jpg

Woman with  her attendant, Hyderabad, late 18th century.

By Deccan School [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons



File:Ladies on a Terrace.jpg

.Women on a terrace,18th century, Hyderabad.

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


References :

  • Mittal, Jagdish/Deccani Kalams/Bombay : Marg Publications, Vol XVI,No : 2, 1963.

  • Zebrowski, Mark/Deccani painting, New Delhi : Roli Books,1983.

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author


Golconda in art : images of royalty

          Golconda was one among the Sultanates of the Deccan during 16th -18th century India. Known all over the world for its fortifications, big arsenals, ruined palaces, gardens, fountains, pools, mosques and terraces and leader in diamond trade with expertise in cutting an polishing the stone; as it was available in the mines in the bed of the river Krishna. The hill fortress at a height of 400 feet above the ground, housed the king’s soldiers, harem, treasury, courtiers and followers. The area within the fort also housed a population which grew too large and a new capital for the kingdom was made at Hyderabad by Sultan Mohammad Quli in 1591. The kingdom extended over the Southern peninsula starting from the Godavari river upto the Cape Comorin and up to the Indian Ocean in the east.

   The art of the Golconda kingdom and some of it’s representations are elucidated for an idea of the art of the Golconda and Hyderabad school of Deccani painting. Deccani painting evolved when the Deccan Sultanates namely, Ahmadnagar, Bijapur and Golconda started producing paintings of great quality. There was a strong Persian influence on their art. However their art was distinct and has earned itself a unique place in the history of Indian painting. Deccani paintings were not dated or inscribed with the name of the painter as the Mughal ones.

  Coming to the subject at hand, namely Golconda, it can be said that the Persianate character of their painting can be attributed to the fact that the first king, Sultan Quli had migrated from Persia to Bidar in 1478. The Qutub Shahis maintained close ties; which included matrimony with the Safavids and patronised poets and painters from Persia.The typicality of Golconda paintings lies in its opulence and vitality which has an Indian flavour of richness.

File:Abdullah Qutb Shah.jpg

Portrait, Sultan Abdullah Qutub Shah of Golconda.

By Unknown – , CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24570593

      The Kulliyat-e- Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah , a collection of the Sultan’s poetry contains many illustrations which depict the Golconda school of painting. Iridiscent colours including bluish-purple, salmon-red,pricked gold surfaces are typically Golconda style.There are other astonishing and splendorous  examples too.

File:Illuminated Manuscript of the History of the Qutb Shahi Sultans of Golconda LACMA M.89.159.4 (2 of 5).jpg

lIluminated Manuscript of the History of the Qutb Shahi Sultans of Golconda LACMA , 17th century.


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

File:Illuminated Manuscript of the History of the Qutb Shahi Sultans of Golconda LACMA M.89.159.4 (3 of 5).jpg

lIluminated Manuscript of the History of the Qutb Shahi Sultans of Golconda LACMA , 17th century.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AIlluminated_Manuscript_of_the_History_of_the_Qutb_Shahi_Sultans_of_Golconda_LACMA_M.89.159.4_(3_of_5).jpgSee page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Illuminated Manuscript of the History of the Qutb Shahi Sultans of Golconda LACMA M.89.159.4 (1 of 5).jpg

Illuminated Manuscript of the History of the Qutb Shahi Sultans of Golconda,LACMA , 17th century.

By Image: http:/collections.lacma.org/sites/default/files/remote_images/piction/ma-2794559-O3.jpgGallery: http://collections.lacma.org/node/177837, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27254257


After the death of Sultan Abdullah Qutub Shah. Abul Hasan ascended the throne. He was the son-in-law, ie. husband of the second daughter of Abdullah Qutub Shah. He was a follower of Shah Raju, and used to live in Gulbarga. Both of them came to Hyderabad. Shah Raju was a mystic and influenced the new court. Madanna, a Hindu became prime -minister and farmans (royal diktats) began to be issued in both Telugu and Persian. Urdu, Telugu and Arabic literature was patronised. There were influences in art too. Abul Hasan was nicknamed Tana Shah meaning king of taste. Many paintings of the Golconda school can be attributed to his time. The school was kept alive even after the defeat of Tana Shah in 1687 to Aurangzeb.The Mughal governors and local aristocracy engaged painters to work for them.

*Portrait of Navab General Firoz Khan, c.1670.jpg
Firuz Khan,nobleman, 17th century, Golconda.

By Unknown – http://www.artsmia.org/viewer/detail.php?v=12&id=2734, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19044933

Visit of Sufi singer Shir Muhammad to Abul Hasan Qutb Shah, later Golconda school,1720.

By Govardhan II – http://expositions.bnf.fr/inde/grand/exp_031.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19082077

Akbar Shah, son of the Deccani saint Shah Raju (6124544567).jpg

Akbar Shah, Son of saint Shah Raju,17th century.

By thesandiegomuseumofartcollection – Flickr, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38309515

Lady with the Myna Bird.jpg

Lady with a myna bird, early 17th century,Golconda.

By Deccan School – http://www.harekrsna.com/sun/features/12-11/features2319.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21077969





References :

  • Khan, Nazirul-Islam/Guide to Golconda, Bombay : Thacker & Company Limited,1941.
  • Zebrowski, Mark/Deccani painting, New Delhi : Roli Books,1983.



Posted by :


Soma Ghosh


Samavasarana depictions : some images

       Samavasarana is an assembly hall for imparting of wisdom gained after kevalajnana by the Jina or tirthankara. This is built by heavenly beings. The word literally means equal opportunity to all to gain wisdom The tirthankara addresses all creatures . He sits on a throne but two inches above it.  Though he sits facing east it seems that he looks in all directions. He teaches Jaina philosophy is a simple and clear way, after listening to which beings become less violent and greedy.

 The ganadharas or chief disciples sit around the tirthankara.  In the later halls, the ascetics,aryikas or Jaina nuns, heavenly beings and lay women are present. In the eleventh hall men and lastly animals. Animals also can understand the discourse, so it is believed.

Samosarana Mahaviras enlightenment.jpg

Samavasarana, manuscript,15th century,Patan,Gujarat.

By Anishshah19 – 15th Century art, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10723234

Jain manuscript page with Mahavira teaching to all creatures, western India, c. 1500-1600, gouache on paper, HAA.jpg

Lord Mahavira teaching all creatures, manuscript,16th century, Western India, Honolulu Academy of Arts,USA,

By Hiart – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17620530

Samavasarana painting from 1800 AD Rajasthan.jpg

Samavasarana,painting, 1800, Rajasthan.

By Unknown – Painting, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18780461


References :

  • wikipedia.org
  • jainpedia.org

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh



Jaina kalpasutras: some manuscript images

        Kalpasutra literally means book of rituals. Some say it is a wish-fulfilling book  It is a sacred Jaina text, one of the Cheda sutras. They mainly contain the biographies of the Jain tirthankaras Mahavir and Parshvanatha. Bhadrabahu  is the author who composed the text one hundred and fifty years after the nirvana of Lord Mahavira in the sixth century. They were illustrated with miniature paintings from the 14th century; and written on paper mostly in Gujarat in India. The Kalpasutra is an important text for the Svetambara sect of Jainsim.

      The Kalpasutra has three sections. The first  deals with the lives of 24 Tirthankaras, the Jain spiritual teachers. The second is about the life of Lord Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara. The third part deals with rules for ascetics and laws during four months of the rainy season, when they temporarily abandon their wandering life and settle down amidst the ordinary people. This is the time of the year  when the Kalpasutra is recited and the festival of Paryushan is celebrated.

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Rishabhanatha, Kalpasutra, 15th century,Gujarat, LACMA,USA.

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

  The Kalpasutras depict the events in a Jina’s life. The folio below depicts how Parsvanatha endures torments from evil God Kamatha and is protected by serpent god Dharnendra and his consort Padmavati.

File:Parsva and Dharnendra.jpg

Parsvanatha, Kalpasutra ,manuscript, 15th century,Patan, Gujarat.

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

A depiction of Queen Trishala’s dream is shown  in the folio below. She had 14 auspicious dreams before Mahavira’s birth. They are depicted as an array of emblems above her in the illustration.

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Queen Trishala’s dreams, Kalpa Sutra ,15th century, Jaunpur,Uttar Pradesh, Metmuseum, USA.

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=628466

In order to decode the dreams King Siddhartha, father of Mahavira summoned dream interpreters. This is depicted in the manuscript folio below.

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King Siddhartha summons  dream interpreters, Kalpasutra LACMA, USA.

Source : flickr.com/photos/wikimediacommons/16386642566 Image by :Ashley Van Haeften

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Birth of Mahavira, Kalpasutra, Prakrit Manuscript,1503, Wellcome images, U.K.

See page for author [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 The manuscript below depicts varsidana or Mahavira giving away his personal belongings for a year, before his enlightenment.


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Mahavira’s varsidana, Kalpasutra, manuscript, 15th century,Patan, Gujarat.

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

File:Captive Gardabhilla. Kalpasutra. C.1375, Western India.JPG

Gardabhilla presented before Kalakacharya, folio,Kalpasutra and Kalakacharya Katha, 14th century, Western India, CSMVS, Mumbai.

By Ismoon (talk) 14:57, 25 February 2012 (UTC) (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons





References :

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

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh


Goddess Ambika : images in sculpture

     Goddess Ambika is a Jain goddess; the mother goddess. She is also called  Ambai, Amba, Kushmandini and Amra Kushmandini. She is the yakshi, sasana devi or protector deity of the 22nd tirthankara Neminatha.  Goddess Ambika is of a golden colour and her vehicle is the lion. She is depicted as a four armed goddess. In her two right hands she carries a mango and in the other a branch of a mango tree. In one of her left hands, she carries a rein and in the other she has her two sons, Priyankara and Shubhankara. This underlines her connection with motherhood and children. Many temples are dedicated to her in Rajasthan and other places across India.

         As per Svetambara tradition Ambika  is a wife and the mother of two children in Gujarat. Her husband makes her leave the house because she gives food to a Jain monk.  She goes to a nearby forest with her children and settle down under a withered mango tree. But the mango tree provides fruit and a dried-up lake fills with water for them, so they survive. When her repentant husband comes to look for them, she misunderstands and escapes him by jumping into a well with her sons. She is reborn as the yakshi to Neminatha and her husband is reborn as her lion vahana or vehicle. This account is from the Ambikadevi-kalpa.

       File:Arte indiana da bihar, dea ambika, VI VII sec.JPG

Goddess Ambika, sculpture,6th-7th century, Bihar.

I, Sailko [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons


        The image of Goddess Ambika shown below at Kalugumalai in Tamil Nadu displays the attributes commonly associated with this goddess, namely the mango tree, her two male children and the lion. Ambika here is depicted as a two-armed goddess and stands with her right hand placed on the head of a small female attendant. The male figure on her right has been identified as Ambika’s agitated husband prior to his transformation into a vahana, the lion. 


Goddess Ambika, sculpture,8th-9th century,Kalugumalai, Tamil Nadu.

By Balajijagadesh – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21456326

           The sculpture at the south end of the verandah of the Indra Sabha rock-cut temple at Ellora,  a group of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain cave temples which extend for over 2 km on the west face of a basalt cliff in Maharashtra. Indra Sabha is the largest of the Jain caves, excavated under Rashtrakuta patronage in the 9th century. Depicted below is a carved figure of the Goddess Ambika with two hands, with a male child seated on her lap and a lion beneath. The mango tree is also represented.The columns next to her image have foliate motifs.

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Goddess Ambika, Cave 34, 9th century,Ellora, Maharshtra.

By Henry Mack Nepean [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ambika at V&A.jpeg


Goddess Ambika,12th century,grey chlorite, V & A Museum, U.K.

By Jonathan Cardy – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16276702

File:Goddess Ambika - Mediaeval Period - Rataul - ACCN 88-16 - Government Museum - Mathura 2013-02-23 5193.JPG

Goddess Ambika, medieval period,Rataul ,Government Museum, Mathura.

Biswarup Ganguly [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons


References :

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

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh


Parshvanatha in art : various depictions

File:Shrine of Parshvanatha, 1097 AD, Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, India, brass and copper alloy - Freer Gallery of Art - DSC05191.JPG

Parshvanatha,brass and copper. 1st century,Khajuraho,Madhya Pradesh.

By Daderot (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

             Parshvanatha is the 23rd Jaina tirthankara.  He was born at Varanasi, into a royal family to King Asvasena and his queen Vamadevi of the Ishkvaku dynasty. He renounced the world to become and ascetic at age thirty. He meditated under a Dhaataki tree and attained enlightenment or kevalajnana after 84 days.  His first disciples were his mother and wife. He attained moksa  on Shikharji after preaching for 70 years, at the age of 100. He was much loved  and called purisadaniya.

           As per Svetambara texts of Jainism Parshvanatha taught four vows. They are ahimsa,aparigraha, achaurya and satya, The  Digambara  sect insist on it as including the fifth namely brahmacharya. He had previous births as Marubhuti, a prime minister, and as an elephant named Vajraghosha in the forests of Vindyachal, Sasiprabha, Prince Agnivega. As a prince he saved two snakes who were reborn as Dharnendra and Padmavati who sheltered Parshvanatha from a severe storm sent by Meghamali.

    Parshvanatha had thousands of followers; sravakas and sravikas, sadhus(monks) and sadhvis (nuns). and eight ganadharas or chief monks. He is depicted either standing in kayotsarga posture or depicted seated meditating in lotus posture. He has a snake crown; symbolising the protection of Dharnendra and Padmavati.

Mathura (Uttar pradesh), tirthankara parshvanatha, II sec.JPG

Parshvanatha, 2nd century,Mathura,Uttar Pradesh.

By I, Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12403493

         The biographies of the tirthankaras mainly Mahavira and Parshvanatha are the Kalpasutras and they are depicted in the illustrations relating to incidents in their life or concept-depictions. The images are seen in other Jain texts too, like the one below is from a Jain Sanskrit grammar text, the Siddhahema-shabd-anushasana by Hemachandra.


Worship of Parshvanatha, Folio from a Jain text of Sanskrit Grammar, the Siddhahemashabdanushasana by Hemachandra (1089-1172) LACMA M.88.62.1.jpgWorship of Parshvanatha, folio,14th century,Gujarat,LACMA,USA.

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

Parshvanatha,15th century,Rajasthan.

By Internet Archive Book Images – Image from page 29 of “The light of the world : a brief comparative study of Christianity and non-Christian religions” (1911), No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39823982

File:Indian - Jina Parshvanatha with Attendants - Walters 543013.jpg

Parshvanatha,brass,16th century,Karnataka.

Walters Art Museum [Public domain, CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons



References :

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

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 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons


Mahavira,manuscript, early 15th century,Gujarat.

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6698017

References :

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

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh