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When we come to a later period, we find a definite established tradition of paintings on various objects, particularly floors, walls and on intimate objects of everyday use, and in most instances the act being associated with some ritual. The origin of painting is traces to a moving  legend recorded in the Chitralakshana- the earliest Indian treatise on paintings. When the son of a king’s high priest died, Lord Brahma (the Creator) asked the king to paint a likeness of the boy so that he can breathe life into him again. This is how the first painting was made.

The Chola rulers in the south, made extensive use of kolam, floor designs. These decorations done only women are amongst the most expressive of folk-arts. 

They are known by different names in different parts of the country, alpana in Bengal and Assam, aripana in Bihar, mandana in Rajasthan, rangoli in Gujarat and Maharashtra, chowkpurana in Uttar Pradesh (except the Kumaon region) and kolam in the South.

The Rajasthani mandana is equally rich. Floor paintings in Andhra are known as muggulu and Himachal Pradesh ahs its own distinctive floor paintings with geometrical patterns.


The paintings on walls have deeper themes, also narratives in a series of panels. Apart from their decorative purpose, they also constitute a form of visual education like picture books from which one learns of one’s heritage.

Wall paintings in Punjab, outer Delhi and Rajasthan are usually made at festivals and special occasions like marriages.

Folk paintings in Rajasthan attained a high standard and artists won great fame in this art. The themes are from epics and heroic Rajput tales. In the Kumaon, the usual wall pictures are known as bar-boons (dash and dot). The pattern is done by first putting down a number of dots to make the outline of the design, then joining them together by lines in different colours. This calls for intense concentration and immense patience, for an error in a single dot or dash can upset the entire composition. Each pattern is known by the number of dots used. One is known as masti-bar-mat design, a composition of ten dots and the colours used are yellow, violet and green. There are all-over designs of roses and jasmines covering the entire wall.


Phad paintings are predominantly yellow, red and green coloured long scrolls carried by the ‘Bhpoas’ itinerant balladers of Rajasthan, who narrated in song the legend of Pabuji- a local hero- on auspicious occasions to the accompaniment of the folk instrument ‘Ravanhatta’ made by the Joshis of Shahpur, near Bhilwara. Phads are now also available in smaller panels portraying single incidents or characters from the epic.


Of all the art forms in the Mughal period, miniature paintings are painstakingly painted creations that depict the events and lifestyle of the Mughals in their magnificent palaces. Other paintings include portraits or studies of wildlife and plants. This art is still alive and popular in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.


The wall paintings of Madhubani are joyous expressions of the women of Madhubani, Bihar . The lively compositions and the vibrant colours used to paint them are generally drawn from Indian mythology.


Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Bengal .

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