Traditionally used to decorate the prayer rooms, attics and other places of worship, Tanjore paintings have begun to find a place in plush living spaces as well as corporate offices. Owing to the newfound love of art enthusiasts as well as collectors and nouveau riche buyer, demand for eye-catching Tanjore paintings particularly Ganesha is increasing rapidly.

Characterized by a blend of religious grandeur and earthy sensuality, these timeless paintings have hardly been well understood. Unlike other traditional Indian art forms, it follows a different and unique pattern with dense composition, surface richness and vibrant palette. Broadly, Tanjore paintings have two essential themes: the first being the compositions or scenes from the Puranas and religious epics, and the second is the images of deities as consecrated in the temples.

Let’s delve deeper to know more about this exquisite genre of art:

History of Tanjore Paintings

One of the most popular forms of traditional south Indian style of paintings, it is the native art form of  Thanjavur (also known as Tanjore), a city in Tamil Nadu.

Originated in the 16th century during the supremacy of Marathas. Apart from the Nayaks and Marathas, it is believed that the Rajus communities of Thanjavur and Trichi and Naidus of Madurai also patronized this stunning art form between 16th to 18th centuries.

With a simple layout, imposing figures, clear outlines, and vibrant colours, Tanjore paintings were primarily made on seasoned wooden planks of mango or jackfruit trees that signified prosperity as well as on some unusual mediums like murals, ivory, and manuscripts.

Later on, embellishments of rubies, diamonds, semi-precious stones, pearls and glass pieces were also done to give a three-dimensional effect to the paintings.

Making of Tanjore Painting

Mainly done on solid wood planks, Tanjore paintings are locally also known as Palagai Padam (‘palagai’ meaning wooden plank and ‘padam’ meaning picture).

The first step of making Tanjore painting starts with the base preparation, which is usually made from a piece of cloth and pasted over a wooden base.

Further, the base is primed with a mixture of white lead, copper-sulfate, and kanji (rice gruel) or mixing zinc oxide, chalk powder with a water-soluble adhesive like Arabic gum (usually obtained from the bark of Karuvelam trees).

The drawing is made and painted in bright colours which are predominantly vegetable dyes (such as red ochre, yellow ochre, chrome yellow and indigo). The backdrop is usually are rich tones such as deep green, deep blue or red, or combinations of red and green or red and blue.

The painting is then ornamented with precious stones, cut glass, pearls, diamonds. Laces and threads are also used to decorate the paintings. Relief decoration covered with gold-leaf or the gilded paper is done to make it dazzling.

Lastly, embossing is done to add depth and highlight the embellishments.

Types of Ganesha Tanjore Paintings:

Tanjore paintings essentially revolve around the theme of Hindu Gods and Goddesses including Ganesha, Radha-Krishna, Ranganathan, Balaji, Perumal, Lakshmi and more. However, Lord Ganesha is the most popular figure in this traditional art form.

Revered as the remover of all obstacles, a Ganesh Tanjore painting is much in demand for both home decor and for prayer rooms.

Typically, Ganesha Tanjore painting depicts Him as the main figure usually with almond-shaped eyes and a well-rounded body in bright colours and decorative 22-carat and 24-carat gold foil surrounded by an arch.

Gold embellished Tanjore paintings of Ganesha portrayed as dancing, yoga postures, sitting down on an elevated golden throne, standing, seated in the middle of a hexagon, or inscribed in an octagon is created.

Kalpaga Ganesha’ (image above) is a popular painting in Southern India. With lavish use of semi-precious stones and glistening 24-carat gold foils framed in teak, this Ganesha Tanjore painting has a striking finish.

Final Words

Read More: Tanjore Paintings: The Most Magnificent Portrayal of the Almighty

With the use of synthetic colours and ornamentation of gilt, semi-precious stones, and glass bits, Tanjore painting has evolved over the years.

Though the style has changed, the purity and basic technique of working with rich palettes remain the same and so is the aesthetic appeal of the painting that can mesmerize everyone!