India….. A Land of rich cultural heritage….! A land as diverse as its people…! A land which is gifted with unique blend of religions, traditions, languages, faiths, cuisines, arts, cultures and so on….!
The Indian culture is one of the oldest and unique. It is known for its rich values and huge tradition. Indian culture has a lot of diversities. It is this diversity which is a special hallmark of India. Almost every state in India is carved out its own cultural niche; Mysore traditional painting being one among them.
Mysore painting is one of the classical South Indian paintings. It has originated in Mysore, the cultural capital of Karnataka, during the reign of Wodeyars. The fall of Vijayanagara Empire resulted in the displacement of the artists who were dependent on the patronage of Empire. It was Raja Wodeyar who provided the vital support to the artists and thus laid a sound foundation of Mysore traditional painting. The paintings done with royal patronage showcases strong influence of palace and its environments. The royal court, the audience given to dignitaries, the throne, the expensive carpets, the elegant drapery, the embellishments of the rooms and enclosures, the decorated halls and pavilions, ornamental gardens and the attendants of various types all figure in paintings done during this period.
Mysore painting is very different from other ancient arts in many aspects. Hindu deities or the scenes from Hindu mythology are usually illustrated in these paintings. These not only serve decorative purpose but also invoke feelings of devotion and modesty in the beholder. The Mysore style paintings are best known for their elegance, intense vegetable colors and attention to detail. Delicate lines, intricate brush strokes, glossy gold leaf, stylish delineation of figures make these paintings unique.
In the traditional Mysore paintings, the artists used to prepare all the materials required for painting by their own. This would include brushes, paints, board, gold foil etc. In earlier days, the artists used layers of newspapers to prepare the base on which they would paste the drawing sheet upon which they put maida. The paper board was made of paper pulp or waste paper, which was dried in the sun and then rubbed smooth with a polished quartz pebble. The sketching was made with charcoal prepared by burning the tamarind twigs in an iron tube. Nowadays, they use mount board on which they put ivory sheet and start drawing. After the preparation of board, the required sketch is made on the paper using pencil. If trace is available, the sketch is carbon copied on to the sheet.
This is followed by the gesso work. Gesso is a paste of zinc oxide and Arabic gum, which is used to give a slightly raised effect of carving to those parts of the painting that require embellishments. The surface is allowed to dry. Gold foils were then pasted on to the surface using Arabic gum and it is left for 6-8 days for the drying of foils. Excess of gold was removed using brush or cotton. The next step was to paint the farthest objects such as sky, hill and river and then gradually animal and human figures were approached in greater detail. Brushes were made with hairs of squirrel, goat, horse or camel for delicate work. For superfine lines brush made of pointed blades of special variety of grass had to be used. The colors were made from natural sources like vegetables or minerals or even organic origin such as leaves, stones and flowers. After the painting is fully dried, it is covered with a thin paper and rubbed lightly with a stone to bring richness in the gold foil work. Due to the ever-lasting quality of earth and natural colors used, the original Mysore paintings still retain their luster and freshness.
Currently, the Mysore paintings form much preferred memento in South India. These are available in Mysore, Narasipura, Shravanabelagola, Thumkur, Bengaluru and Nanjanagoodu. In sum, the Mysore traditional painting which is a unique blend of theme and technique showcase the rich heritage of the land of Mysore.