South Indian Paintings

Item Code: IDG835
Author: C. Sivaramamurti
Publisher: Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India
Language: English
Edition: 1994
ISBN: 8123000529
Pages: 147 {107 Illustrated in Colour & B/W}
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11.0" X 8.6"
Weight 530 gm
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Book Description


The present book by Mr. C. Sivaramamurti on the South Indian paintings is the thorough knowledge of art in his native South India and of his intimate familiarity with Sanskrit texts, both those concerned primarily with the arts and those on other themes, referring incidentally to painting, painters and their methods. He has provided a framework of history within which to place the evolution of painting in the South, citing epigraphical evidence when pertinent. He often explains subject matter and iconography and points out as well examples of continuation of traditions, and parallels in sculpture of earlier or later periods, of which he fears the significance might otherwise be overlooked.

Some of the illustrations here have been reproduced elsewhere, and many of the paintings have been reported in earlier accounts of a place or a period, but this book for the first time brings together examples of paintings in the upto the paintings on walls, in albums and on panels of the recent past. It provides a coherent survey through periods and styles of painting in a part of India where art developed over a long period of time, according to indigenous canons and requirements, unaffected, and then only superficially and at a late period, by outside influences.

The introductory chapters, based on a considerable number of Sanskrit sources, provide much information useful to the student of art, and not previously easily available, certainly not to be found in any one place, the references to the widespread use of painting in the South from early times, as an enrichment, not only of places of worship and religious use, but also of the luxurious interiors of palaces and of resorts of different types, for the cultivated, rich and elegant, give some indication of its contemporary importance as an art form, now mostly forgotten because so little survives as compared to the more durable sculptural adornment of ancient monuments, the descriptions of the painter as a member of this society, of the appreciation accorded to him and his art by connoisseurs of his time, and of his tools, materials and professional and technical practices, and the summing up of the art of painting of the final chapter provide an approach in the terms of history of art sure to be appreciated.

He has considered himself a guide to his subject. He has endeavoured to give abundant and characteristic visual evidence in his illustrations of the successive periods and styles of painting in the various regions of South. Where the survivals are meagre and difficult to decipher in the best possible photographic reproductions that could be obtained, he has, by his own sensitive draughtsmanship, retraced the significant outlines and the illegible gestures and details indispensable for understanding the work.

The book must be taken as an invitation to review art in the South with a learned mentor, devoted to his subject, who can portray for it, from his vast knowledge of history, of traditional literature and of the specific circumstances, social and environmental, in which the paintings were done, an intimately known background which he is striving to share with his readers. It is a book that is peculiarly an expression of the knowledge, experience and personality of the author, as scholar, as lover of art and as museum man, teaching others about the art of his own land.

All those who study and admire Indian art have reason to be grateful to the author for his generous effort to open to them his own particular point of view and his appreciation for the painting of the South, through almost two thousand years. It gives me pleasure to commend to his readers attention an Indian subject interpreted through Indian vision and Indian sensibility, by a colleague from whom I myself have learned so much more about Indian art than can easily be described.

Grace Morley


SEVERAL years ago, when I had just emerged from the Presidency College and was working as University Research Student under our revered Professor Mahamahopadhyaya S. Kuppuswami Sastri on 'Painting in Sanskrit Literature' I visited Tanjavur at the invitation of my friend Dr. V. Raghavan, now a distinguished Professor of Sanskrit, and saw the Chola paintings then recently discovered by Mr. S.K. Govindaswami. I copied them and wrote a short paper on Chola painting in the Triveni at the instance of my friend Mr. Manjeri S. Isvaran, who was selflessly devoting himself to the cause of this magnificent quarterly. Later I set out to see the fragments of painting in the Kailasanatha Temple at Kanchipuram and identified the Somaskanda after copying it. Professor Jouveau Dubreuil, the discoverer of the paintings, was so happy that he specially came to Madras to assure me that my identification was right. My archaeological guru, Mr. T.N. Ramachandran, took me to Tirumalaipuram when he went there to see the then newly discovered Pandya paintings at Tirumalaipuram and we both wrote in the Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art, Calcutta. Later still I was informed of the Lepakshi paintings by my cousin Dewan Bahadur V.N. Visvanatha Rao, who was then Collector of Anantapur and invited me to study them. I copied the Vijayanagara paintings and published papers on them in the Vijayanagara Sexcentenary Commemoration Volume and in the Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art, Calcutta. At the instance of my friend Mr. Karl J. Khandalavala I contributed a paper on the Badami paintings to the Lalit Kala. The pictures on the palm leaf manuscripts representing Hoysala painting are very rare ones of which I was supplied some colour films by my esteemed friend Mr. Chhotelal Jain who, realising that they were not good enough, kindly arranged for the original manuscripts themselves being brought over to Delhi for the Manuscripts Exhibition arranged in the National Museum on the occasion of the Oriental Congress, when they were photographed in colour, with the kind permission of the authorities of the Jaina Basadi at Moodbidri. At the invitation of Professor Malalasekhara I wrote on Ajanta paintings in the Buddhist Encyclopaedia. His HolinessJagadguru Sri Sankaracharya of Kanchi graciously invited my attention some years ago to the Nayaka paintings in the Kapardisvara Temple at Tiruvalanjuli.

It has been my desire to write a book specially devoted to South Indian Paintings, and it was long unful- filled, till I was invited by Dr. Grace Morley to write on this subject for the publication series of the National Museum. I am glad it has been possible for me to complete this task. I have here tried to give an introductory study to what is a great mass of material requiring several years of research and presentation of each of the different schools separately in many volumes. I cannot adequately express my indebt- edness to several valuable earlier books in the field that I have listed in the Bibliography. I have received friendly help from several sister organizations like the Archaeological Survey of India, the Departments of Archaeology, Andhra Pradesh and Travancore, and the Boston Museum in the form of photos in monochrome and colour for which I am most grateful. To my friend Mr. Douglas Barrett of the Brit- ish Museum I am specially thankful for arranging with SKIRA to supply us with blocks for six of the paintings published in his book, Painting of India, from colour film specially pre- pared in India. To Dr. Morley, who was formerly the Director of the National Museum and is now Adviser on Museums to the Government of India, and who evinced inordinate interest in my research and publications, I am unable to find words to express my sense of indebtedness for her very careful reading of my text and offering valuable sugges- tions that have greatly enhanced its value. I am equally grateful to her for her kind foreword. To Dr. A.M.D'Rozario and Mr. T.S. Krishnamurti, Joint Secretary and Deputy Secretary respectively, Ministry of Education, and Mr. V.P. Agnihotri, formerly of the Ministry of Education and now Director of Estates, I am deeply indebted for their special interest in expediting the publication. In this the help and cooperation of Mr. T.N. Bahel, Chief Controller of Printing and Stationery and Mr. R. Ramaswamy, Controller of Print- ing and Stationery, has been most effective and I am beholden to them for this. I am happy in expressing my thanks to Dr. P. 8anerjee for all that he has done to see the book through the Press, attending to every detail of a labo- rious process. The lay-out was carefully arranged by Mr. B.S. Bist and the Index was quickly prepared by Mr. G.D. Khullar, who have both my best thanks. I take this opportu- nity to thank one and all who have contributed towards the speedy publishing of this book in a form worthy of the Na- tional Museum standard of book production.

I am most thankful to Mr. Lal Chand Roy and Mr. K.C. Mullick for their personal cooperation and help in expedit- ing the production of the book.


INDIA has a great tradition in art. In common with the rest of the country South India has magnificent examples to represent this tradition.

Art has a softening influence on the mind and the senses of man. The remark of Kalidasa that even the happiest person feels elated when he sees beautiful things or hears melodious notes is singularly true. Music, like art, deeply stirs the heart; and probably the impression of beautiful form has an even greater effect.

In Chinese art the representation is as the eye sees; in Indian art it is not only as the eye sees but also as the touch feels, as there is always effort to portray the volume of the figure. Paintings in India make an attempt at model- ling. This is to be explained by the fact that the concept of the highest portrayal in India is in terms of the figure in the round, called, chitre. The figure in relief, high or low, is ardhachitra and the painting resembling sculpture is chitrabhasa. The very term chitrabhasa shows that this aim of the artist is to portray some kind of modelling in order to suggest volume. It is interesting to note in this connection the remark of Kalidasa, through the mouth of Dushyanta, skhalativa me dtistnimlmnonnetesnu, 'my eyes seem to roam over depths and elevations', meaning thereby the modelling of the body portrayed in the picture.

Of the "six limbs" of painting, shadanga, modelling, occupies an important place; others are: variety of form, rupabheda, proportion, pramana; bhava-yojana, the infu- sion of emotions; lavanyayojana, creation of lustre and iridescence; sadrisya, portrayal of likeness; varnikabhanga, colour mixing to produce the effect of modelling.

There is a further elucidation of the process in the Vishnudharmottara, where the strong points in paintings are described. The line sketch, the most important, firmly and gracefully drawn, is considered the highest achieve- ment by the masters': rekham prasamsantyacharyah; 'there are others who consider shading and depiction of modelling as the best': vertenem apare jaguh; 'feminine taste appreciates decoration in art': striyo bhushanamichchhanti; 'but the common taste is for the splendour and glory of colour' : varnadhyamitarejanah. This vartana or shading is of three kinds: bindujavartana, patravartana and raikhikavartana. The first is stippling, the second, cross-hatching and the third, fine line-shading.

, Excellent delineation was achieved with the mini- mum of drawing, api laghu Iikhiteyam drisyate purnamurtih, as remarked by the Vidushaka in the Viddhasalabhanjika, with almost the full form of the figures suggested. This is the greatness of powerful line drawing. Excessive decoration and loud colouring were considered almost a blemish. In the enumeration of chitragunes and chitradoshas, i.e. merits and defects in paintings, an excess of anything was considered a fault.

The very fact that there was a classification like viddhachitras and aviddhachitras, i.e., portraits and stud- ies from life in general, shows that special care was taken to produce faithful portraits. We have several instances of portraits, like the famous painting from Qyzyl, Chinese Turkistan, depicting the gentle mode of breaking the news of the Master's passing away to Ajatasatru with the aid of a chitrapata, or painted scroll, with several scenes from the Master's life, including his parinirvana which shows how early such paintings were used. In the Dutavakya of Bhasa (3rd-2nd century B.C.), a painting of Dussasana, molesting Draupadi in the court, is presented and unrolled to be seen. The Pratimanataka also by the same author describes portraits. It is a portrait that constitutes the theme of the Viddhasalabhanjika. In the Kavyaprakasa, a pathetic verse depicting the pet parrot in the deserted household of a fallen king, begging of painted figures of the princess and her attendants on the walls to give him food, mistaking the pictures for the living persons suggests the ability of the ancient Indian painter at portrait work. But taking the historic period, we have several portraits both in sculpture and painting. The paintings of the king and queen at Sittannavasal (9th century AD.), Rajaraja Chola with his consorts (1000 A.D.) at Tanjavur, Viranna, and Viruspanna at Lepakshi (16th century A.D.) are fine examples of kings and noblemen responsible for covering vast wall space with wonderful paintings of the period.

The painting of emotion in pictures is best illustrated in such masterpieces as the mother and child before Buddha or the subjugation of Nalagiri, from Ajanta. Karunarasa (the feeling of pity) is effectively presented in the former, while in the latter there is first bhayanakarasa (the feeling of terror) in the stampede of the elephant Nalagiri, and santarasa (the sense of tranquility) is where the furious animal lies humble at the feet of the Master. Bhavasabalata or the commingling of emotions is pre- sented in such pictures as the host of demons fighting with Tripurantaka, portrayed in the Brihadisvara Temple at Tanjavur; the fierce aspect of rakshasas determined to fight and win or die, in contrast to the tearful wives, clinging to them, and dissuading them from fighting an impossible opponent, is an instance of bhavasabalata or the commin- gling of more than one emotion, here raudra, karuna and sringara (fury, pity and love).

Suggestion as an important element in art has been specially stressed in the vishnudharmottara, where vari- ous methods for suggesting various aspects of nature are enumerated, like portraying lotuses in bloom, rishis hurry- ing for a bath and so forth, to suggest day-break; prowling thieves, amorous damsels going to the place of their tryst and so on to suggest night; lotuses and aquatic beings to indicate water; over-cast clouds and white cranes flying in the sky to recall the rainy season; pleasant flower-decked forests and gardens to suggest spring; travellers oppressed by heat and greatly fatigued to mean summer and so on. All these means are carefully followed in paintings and are to be understood in order to comprehend fully the meaning of a picture, especially in the later-day miniature paintings from Rajasthan; in baramasa paintings and those present- ing the loves of the nayakas and nayikas, in scenes of tryst with sukla or Krishna abhisarika, utkantha and viraha, over- cast cloudy sky or the moonlit night, when the pang of separation is most acute, all is depicted in the most elo- quent language of the brush.

1 Introduction 17
2 The Indian Painter 19
3 Painter's Tools and Materials 22
4 Chitrasalas 23
5 Canons of Art Criticism 25
6 Texts on Painting 26
7 The Process of Painting 28
8 Satavahana, 2nd century B.C-2nd century A.D. 32
9 Vakataka, 4th-6th centuries A.D 36
10 Early Western Chalukya, 6th-8th centuries A.D 44
11 Pallava, 7th-9th centuries A.D 48
12 Early Pandya, 7th-9th centuries A.D 53
13 Early Chera, 8th-9th centuries A.D 58
14 Rashtrakuta, 8th-9th centuries A.D 59
15 Chola, 9th-13th centuries A.D 63
16 Hoysala, 11th-13th centuries A.D 72
17 Kakatiya, 11th-13th centuries A.D 78
18 Vijayanagara, 14th-17th centuries A.D 79
19 Nayaka, 17th-18th centuries A.D 100
20 Medieval Kerala, 16th-18th centuries A.D 113
21 Mahratta, 18th-19th centuries A.D 130
22 The Schools and Their Styles 133
23 Bibliography 135
24 Index 139

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