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Legacy of B.N. Goswamy in Indian Miniature Paintings


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Miniature Paintings of India

Mains level : Not Much

Central Idea

  • N. Goswamy, a Padma Bhushan recipient and former IAS officer, left an indelible mark on the realm of Indian miniature paintings.
  • His groundbreaking work in the field uncovered the rich history and family lineages of artists who contributed significantly to this intricate art form.

Indian Miniature Painting: A Rich Tradition

  • Characteristics: Indian miniature painting is known for its intricate, highly detailed artwork on a small scale. It features vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and elaborate detailing.
  • Historical Roots: The tradition traces its origins to the Buddhist Pala dynasty, which ruled Bengal and Bihar from the 8th to the 11th century. Initially, these paintings illustrated religious texts on Buddhism and Jainism and were crafted on palm leaves.
  • Mughal Era: The art form flourished with the rise of the Mughal Empire in the early 1500s, becoming synonymous with sophistication and elegance. Mughal miniatures, often no larger than a few square inches, depicted bright and accurate paintings used for illustrating manuscripts and art books.
  • Post-Mughal Period: With the decline of the Mughal Empire during Aurangzeb’s reign, skilled miniaturists migrated to regions like Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu, Tehri-Garhwal, and the plains of Punjab, giving birth to the Pahari painting tradition. Deccan painting, influenced by European, Iranian, and Turkish styles, also emerged in the Deccan region between the 16th and 19th centuries.

B.N. Goswamy’s Contributions

  • Family-Centric Approach: In his 1968 article on Pahari painting, Goswamy revealed that the style of these paintings depended not on the region but on the family of painters. He emphasized the role of family networks in shaping artistic styles.
  • Reconstructing Family Networks: Goswamy embarked on a mission to reconstruct the family networks of renowned Indian miniature painters. Notable examples include Pandit Seu and his sons Nainsukh and Manaku, who dominated the Pahari painting scene. Goswamy used a blend of detective work and intuition, leveraging inscriptions on the back of miniatures and 18th-century pilgrim records from Haridwar.
  • Expanding Research Scope: Over time, Goswamy broadened his research to encompass various regions across northern to southern India. His work resembled that of Bernard Berenson, who unearthed historical bills of exchange to attribute anonymous canvases.

Back2Basics: Miniature Paintings in India

History Characteristics Prominent Schools/Regions Notable Patrons
Rajput Miniature Painting Centuries-old tradition in Rajput courts Vibrant colors, intricate details, gold leaf Mewar, Marwar, Bundi Rajput rulers, nobility
Mughal Miniature Painting Flourished during the Mughal Empire (16th-19th century) Realistic portrayal, fine lines, historical themes Mughal Empire Emperors like Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan
Pahari Miniature Painting Emerged in the Himalayan region, centuries-old Lyrical, delicate, Radha-Krishna love stories Basohli, Chamba, Kangra Regional rulers and nobility
Deccani Miniature Painting Developed under the Deccan Sultanates (late 15th-17th century) Fusion of Persian and Indian styles, court scenes Deccan Sultanates Golconda, Bijapur, Ahmadnagar
Bengal Patachitra Traditional art form of West Bengal Scroll painting, mythological stories, folklore West Bengal Traditional artists
Kangra Miniature Painting Flourished in the Kangra region, 18th century Soft colors, lyrical compositions, love stories Kangra Rulers of Kangra, Nainsukh
Tanjore Painting Originated in the Maratha court of Thanjavur (17th century) Gold leaf, semi-precious stones, Hindu deities Tamil Nadu (Thanjavur) Maratha court of Tanjore
Mysore Painting Flourished in the Kingdom of Mysore, 17th-19th century Intricate details, bright colors, religious themes Mysore Kingdom of Mysore
Gond Painting Traditional art of the Gond tribal community Vibrant depictions of nature, tribal folklore Central India (Madhya Pradesh) Gond tribal community
Kalamkari Painting Centuries-old art form from Andhra Pradesh Hand-painted or block-printed fabric art Andhra Pradesh (Tamil Nadu) Traditional Kalamkari artists

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