A Classic Gold Leafed Opus - Tanjore Painting

A Classic Gold Leafed Opus - Tanjore Painting

India is a country known for its rich and diverse cultural heritage. The culture of India is an amalgamation of several cultures each having its own profound impact holding the remnants of its past. The Southern part of India has incised its footprints on the history of Indian culture with the different forms of art singing the glory of its civilization. Thanjavur (or Tanjore) is an epitome of these art forms that stands the test of time. It is known as South India’s cradle of arts. This piece of land is not only known for its art and architecture but is also agrarian and is called the “Rice bowl of Tamilnadu”. Thanjavur was under the rule of several kingdoms, the Cholas, the Marathas, the Nayaks, etc. Under each reign, there was a prominent contribution to the origin and evolution of art. The very name of the district instantly reminds us of the bobblehead dolls, colloquially known as “Thanjavur thalaiyatti bhommai”. These dolls are adorned for their rhythmic bobbling heads. The next thing that pops up our head is in fact the famous Cholas temples like Brihadeeswarar temple which is acknowledged by UNESCO as one of the World heritage sites.  This region is also the “birthplace of Carnatic music” where the trinity (Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, Syama Sastri, and Muthuswami Dikshitar) who made a massive contribution to Carnatic music lived. 

Artisans are livewires of holding up the traditional activities in developing economies. India is estimated to have around 3500 artisan clusters producing varieties of items. Most of which are centuries old. The Tanjore cluster consists of around 315 plus Artisans and 9 SHGs supporting the strong work force. Despite the downslide on the advent of modern technology, they still adhere to their traditional activities.

Thanjavur also has a unique style of painting which is famously known as Tanjore paintings. This piece of art is acclaimed as its geographical indication by the Government of India in 2007-2008. It was originated during 16 century AD and evolved through the years. It is known as Palagai padam, as it is etched on the wooden planks. Originally the base was made from the planks of the jackfruit tree. Ethnic version of the base was created by pasting cotton cloth on the wooden plank by using tamarind seed paste. Some artisans follow it even today.  The theme of paintings was mostly based on divine figures and deities. It also covered the illustration of significant Hindu mythological events. The paintings were made in a grandiose way.  

The colour opted were rich and vibrant making it stand out from other styles of painting. The background is made from shades of white, yellow, green, and blue. The prime figurine is painted with deeper hues of green, blue, and red. Earlier versions of the colours were natural dyes and lamp black (black pigment obtained from lamp soot). The painting is layered giving it a three-dimensional look and appears to be more realistic. The final layer of the painting is smeared with the foil of 22-carat gold and heavy ornamentation is done using precious gems as a part of the decoration. 

The deities had plump, round faces and eyes which were the beautiful part of the painting but the style has evolved over time. These meticulously adorned pieces of art are masterpieces that are still inspired by modern-day artists. Though initially they were made based on only holy figurines, it has evolved to cover all the subjects in recent times. There seems to be a peak in the resurgence of interest towards this modest art form in recent days. They are a part of home decor and professional venues. They also serve as the best souvenirs to be gifted on occasion. Some paintings hold an invaluable part in people’s life, that they are even possessed as heirlooms. The paintings are also available at an ease of access these days on online, where you can customize the theme and the frames according to your needs.

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Crafted by Artisans of Thammampatti