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Thanjore - An Art of Elites

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How about a piece of jewelry for your home? Have you ever thought of anything like this? Well, if not, this art will make you think so. 

This article is to draw your attention to the art that comes from the era of the royals when the colors were not enough to show the magnificence of their lifestyles. However, the gold sheets and the precious stones would do. Yes, you read it right! This art form is a combination of inlay work of precious and semi-precious stones, glass pieces, beads and pearls, gesso work overlaid with thin gold foils and painting with rich natural dyes.

This style of painting flourished under the shelter of the royal family of Thanjavur and it is popularly known as the Thanjore or the Thanjavur painting. It was effectively encouraged and sustained by Chola rulers and later by Maratha rulers of Thanjavur.

Being a classical south Indian art form, these paintings are known as Palagai-Padam in Tamil, where ‘Palagai’ means a piece of wood. Traditionally, Thanjore paintings are prepared on a wooden board covered with a cotton cloth. This board is then covered with a paste of rock powder to make it suitable for inlay work as well as painting. 

In order to make it extensively available for the people and affordable, these paintings are made with the help of gesso on the wooden board with inlay work of glass beads and Kundan. Instead of gold foils, golden and silver color sheets are used. The subjects of these paintings are inspired by the Hindu epics and Puranas and can even find the influence of Sikh, Muslim and European styles. The birds and animals like peacocks, horses and elephants are also among the most cherished themes of Thanjore paintings. 

The colorful and projecting borders, traditionally known as ‘Mantapa’ or ‘Prabhavali’ gives these paintings an authentic and antique appearance. The popularity of this art form has extensively grown in the last few decades. As such, the apparatus for making these paintings are easily available in the markets. This has contributed to a simplified method for making Thanjore paintings.

Traditionally, this art form is also considered a sign of abundance and prosperity. Today, even some of the members of the royal family of Thanjavur practice this art form and own a collection of heritage paintings that are worth lakhs. 

A Thanjore art piece is coming face to face with the rich historical heritage and literary epics of southern India…

A reminder of the kingly and majestic era…

A celebration of lush beauty and plethora of riches….

Thank you!



Have any comments or questions, please email us at info@vibrnz.com. Checkout our beginner's on-demand lesson on Thanjore Art.
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By Surabhi Thakur
Surabhi Thakur wants to draw our attention to Thanjore art - an art form that comes from the era of the royals.
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