Miniature Paintings



The origin of Indian miniature paintings can be traced back to the 6 th and 7 th centuries. However, it was during the medieval period that this exquisite form of art flowered under the patronage of the royalty and aristocracy.

In the western valleys of the mighty Himalayas, in the 17 th century, the Miniature School of Painting flourished in the form of both illuminations and independent pieces of art. An illumination is a drawing that is included in a book; the Indian miniature paintings were included in medieval manuscripts.

The artists who created Indian miniatures used various materials to give their paintings a unique and attractive appearance. For instance, minerals, vegetables, precious stones, indigo, conch shells, pure gold and silver were used to detail finely executed drawings.

The themes most popular with Indian miniature painters are the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagvata Purana, Rasikpriya and Rasamanjiri, among others. Ragamala paintings are also painted in the miniature style.

Miniature paintings from India tell the story of days gone by, of a way of life and habit, of splendid kingdoms and lavish court life, in a manner that is perhaps unmatched by any other genre of Indian painting.


Indian Miniature Paintings can broadly be divided into three schools:

  • Rajput School
  • Mughal School
  • Deccan School

Mughal School of Indian Miniature Painting

The miniature paintings of this school are defined by a strong and definite narrative content. They are characterized by the use of bold contrasts such as red, green, blue and yellow. They give the effect of glowing from within.

The Mughal miniatures gained sophistication during the reign of Jahangir. They became smaller and more intricate.

Rajput School of Indian Miniature Painting

The literature of the Bhakti cult (a revolutionary religious cult movement) seems to be the primary source of inspiration of these paintings. The most popular theme is Krishna legends. The emphasis is on the emotion of love, and the perspective of women.

Radha and Krishna were the models of an ideal couple. These paintings are known for the aesthetic depiction of various love acts of the divine couple.

Rajput Miniature painters mainly used vegetable and mineral dyes. The striking use of yellow and blue in these paintings is noteworthy.

Some important Rajput miniature painters are Keshav Das and Bhanudutta.

Deccan School of Indian Miniature Painting

This school of painting flourished in Ahmadnagar, Bijapur, Golconda, and Aurangabad. The influence of the Persian and Turkish painting traditions is evident in paintings of this school.

The synthesis of these styles with indigenous traditions produced a fascinating hybrid. Lively themes and bold execution are the trademarks of a Deccan School painting. Some interesting examples of this school are Husayan Shahi Manuscript, Ragamala, Nujum al-Ulam, Portraits of Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah II and Kulliyat from Golconda.

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