Why is Tanjore Painting called an Ancient Art of India?

Tanjore (or Thanjavoor or Thanjavur) painting is an ancient and unique art form of India with a very rich heritage. It originated in Tanjore, around 300 kms from Chennai. The first known paintings are around 40,000 years old. 

Tanjavhur was the capital city of the Chola dynasty, and the art flourished here, and hence the name. The Chola rulers were not only great warriors but were also great patrons of arts and builders of magnificent temples. This highly specialised form of art flourished against this setting with its typically fine-looking decorative relief work. 

The art of Tanjore painting was patronised by Maratha princes, Rajus communities of Tanjore and Trichi, Nayaks of Vijaynagar dynasty, and Naidus of Madurai from the 16 to 18th centuries. 

Though the Tanjore School of Paintings dates back to the 16th century, there are only a few paintings that date back that far. Most of the paintings that exist today are not even a hundred years old. 

Tanjore paintings are considered sacred as their main theme revolved around Hindu Gods and Goddesses and saints. These paintings are deeply rooted in tradition. It has seen only a few innovations over these years.

What makes Tanjore paintings different from other paintings is the use of gold, silver, pearls, semi-precious stones and glass pieces for their adornment. These paintings are characterised by rich vibrant colours, semi-precious stones, dashes of gold, and fine artistic work. They look ethereal as they glow in the dark because of the use of precious and semi-precious stones. 

This art flourished at a time when striking and fine-looking temples were being constructed by rulers of several dynasties and hence the theme of the paintings was mostly of Gods and Goddesses. The figures in these paintings were rounded and looked divine, although the modern versions look more realistic.

Tanjore artwork is considered as one of the many original art forms in India. Originally, only images of Lord Krishna featured in the paintings, but over the years, they have evolved to include other gods and goddesses. Some paintings depict scenes from Indian mythology too.