Of all the South Indian painting forms, Thanjavur's style of painting is probably one of the most popular and classical forms of art for all the right reasons. Native to Thanjavur, which is also known as Tanjore in Tamil Nadu, this great southern art form took its inspiration way back in time. Its origin is said to be traced back to around 1600 AD. It is said that their dense artistic work along with the vibrancy of the various colors coupled with the rich surface makes these Thanjavur paintings highly distinct from almost all other forms of Indian paintings. It goes without a doubt that Tanjore paintings hold a very rich heritage and was a treasured possession of the Nayakas of Thanjavur and were proudly introduced by the Chola Dynasty in the 16th century, under the supreme reign of Vijayanagar Rayas. Nowadays, these paintings have even become a delicate but dedicated part of the souvenirs held high on several festive occasions.

But these aren't the only reasons that classify Tanjore paintings as priceless art. They come with so much history, fine intricacy, and soul that the reasons would surely kindly your spirits to purchase one of your own.

(Image source: D’source Design gallore)

Reason #1-The making
The making of the Tanjore painting is from another dimension. The most significant feature of a Tanjore Painting is its 3D property. It is a lesser-known fact that the Tanjore Painting is the only painting to have an embossment on it. That is, the painting comes with areas that are slightly or prominently elevated from the surface. The capacity to which the painting can be diversified is an endless list. The composition of a traditional Tanjore painting can range anywhere between a wooden plank to the pastings made of Arabic gum. Powdered limestone acts as the binding medium which gently coats the canvas evenly and is then left to dry. The artist then begins to add details to the sketch. Semi-precious gemstones and bright vibrant hues are embedded in particular areas, many that of pillars, arches, thrones, etc. Finally, to add that pop of color, In those days, most artists used natural colors that were produced out of vegetables and mineral dyes. Another interesting fact about products used is the real gold foil used to stick on the embossed areas of the painting. This prevents it from fading and provides lasting authenticity.

(Image source: D’source Design gallore)

Reason #2- The detailing
While these paintings are made up of a rich splash of colors along with glittering gold overlaid on it to make it look delicate yet extensive in its working. They are also beautifully embedded with glass beads and tiny intricate pieces of precious gemstones. The dense composition invariably encompasses the surface richness making it stand tall among so many other forms of art. Artists these days have taken this old form and combined it with other art styles to create what is known as mixed media arts. While a Tanjore painting can ideally be designed and created on mirrors, glass, and even empty canvases, this creative idea of applying gold foil is unique to its nature as traditional art and is taken to recreate the same on different mediums.

Reason #3- The diversity
The subjects that these adorable paintings cover mostly revolve around the Hindu gods, goddesses, saints, several episodes from the Hindu mythology; small fairs, certain auspicious ceremonies as well as processions and highly elaborate festivals; The classification of castes, their diverse occupations and style of dressing and lastly the Indian flora and fauna, etc. These paintings are then carefully and meticulously executed by the same Tanjore artists in a style suited to meet the amplified western taste. There are in fact several instances from history that showcased the awe-inspiring subject fascination shown in perfect detail by these paintings especially the Jain, Sikh, Muslim as well as other religions and secular subjects. Nowadays, these Tanjore paintings have the greatest preference among art lovers who fancy adorning their walls with these elaborate paintings.

Reason #4- The history
The birth and conception of a Tanjore painting can be traced back to when the Marathas invaded Thanjavur. This then led to the migration of several skilled and individual artists to work under the Nayaks of Thanjavur. While the Maratha rule lasted for over two complete centuries, this art form continued to flourish under their patronage in the 16th to 18th century. The RAJUs in Thanjavur and the TRICHY as well as the NAIDUS in Madurai were the two major communities that stood to practice and promote this art. After the decline of the long-ruling Maratha empire, the Chettiar community patronized these brilliant Tanjore artists. Following all this, the Britishers who had come to Thanjavore found value and potential in these artists and began to support them in producing more paintings.

Reason #5- The journey

In 2007–08, Thanjavur paintings cam to be recognized and validated as a Geographical indication by the Indian government. Though this great art style is still being practiced and promoted throughout the nation and abroad, the actual virtuosity and rigor of these treasured Indian paintings are still under-appreciated in the present day. however, these artists have kept the art alive by incorporating this conventional form of art and blending it with several modern styles. Today, Thanjavur art is also widely and popularly used on mirrors, glasses, and in so many other artistic places. The idea of having the traditional art of Thanjavur decorated with gold foil is what adds to its uniqueness; therefore the same style is now taken and recreated on other mediums these days.

Tanjore paintings are deeply rooted in the tales and truth of tradition while still staying innovative within its limits. It is undeniable that this amazing and distinct cultural heritage needs to be preserved and properly protected. All these reasons and more add depth of home, heart, and history to the style and aesthetics of Tanjore paintings that continue to inspire many contemporary artists.