Pal style (10th to 17th century)
The earliest examples of miniature painting in India exist as illustrated Buddhist religious monasteries executed under the Pala dynasty of East India and illustrated examples of Jain monasteries executed in Western India during the eleventh-twelfth century AD. The Pala period is the last phase of Buddhism from 750 AD to the middle of the twelfth century and India bears witness to Buddhist art. Nalanda Odantpuri Vikram-Shila and the Buddhist Mahavihara of Somarup were great centers of Buddhist education and art. Numerous manuscripts on palm leaves related to Buddhist subjects were written and illustrated at these centers, including statues of Buddhist deities. Workshops were also organized about the casting of bronze statues at these centers. Students and pilgrims from all over Southeast Asia used to gather here for education and religious teaching. They took with them examples of Pal Buddhist art in their country as bronze and manuscripts, which helped the Pala style to reach Nepal, Tibet, Burma, Sri Lanka and Java etc. Most of the surviving examples of manuscripts illustrated by Pal belonged to the Vajrayana branch of Buddhism. The specialty of Pala painting is its roundish line and light tone of varna. It is a natural style that resembles idealized forms of contemporary bronze stone sculpture and reflects some of the expressions of Ajanta’s classical art. A fine example of a typical manuscript on the palm-leaf of the Buddha, illustrated in the Pala style, is available in the Oxford Library of Bodleian. This “Ashta Sahasrika” Prajnaparamita is a manuscript of high-quality knowledge written in eight thousand lines. It was executed in the last quarter of the eleventh century in the monastery of Nalanda in the fifteenth year of the reign of Pala Raja Raj Pal. This manuscript contains illustrated examples on six pages as well as on the insides of both poetic verses. Pala art came to an abrupt end after the destruction of Buddhist monasteries by Muslim invaders in the first half of the thirteenth century. Some of the monks and artists escaped to Nepal, which helped to strengthen the existing art traditions there.