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.
West Indian style / Jain style
The West Indian style of painting was prevalent in Gujarat Rajasthan and Malwa region. Jainism was the driving force of artistic activities in Western India. Like Buddhism in the case of Ajanta and Pala arts, Jainism was patronized by the kings of the Chalukya dynasty, who ruled Gujarat and parts of Rajasthan and Malwa from 961 AD to the end of the thirteenth century. The princes, their ministers and the prosperous Jain merchants had built a large number of manuscripts of Jainism from the twelfth to the sixteenth century to obtain religious merit. Many such manuscripts are available in such Jain libraries stores which are found in many places in Western India.
The illustrated examples of these manuscripts are in a highly distorted state. In this style certain characteristics of the body are able to see the expansion of an exaggeration of the eyes, chest, and buttocks. The shapes, including the angularity of the nose-map, are flat and the eyes are pointed out towards the sky. This primitive life force is an art of strong lines and powerful characters. From about 1100 to 1400 AD, palm leaves were used for manuscripts and paper was subsequently brought for its purpose. Two of the most popular Jain texts, namely Kalpasutra and Kalkacharya-Katha, were written repeatedly and illustrated through paintings. Some notable examples of manuscripts of Kalpasutra are in the Dewasno Paado Bhandar in Ahmedabad. The Kalpasutra and Kalkacharya Katha of about 1400 AD are in the Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai. The Kalpasutra executed in 1439 AD at Mandu is now in the National Museum in New Delhi. Kalpasutra was written and painted in Jaunpur in 1465 AD.
CENTRAL INDIAN PAINTING
Central Indian painting was developed in present Madhya Pradesh state from 11th to 16th century A.D. this miniature art style excelled as the fusion of all existing miniature art styles from all parts of the country. Malwa was its main center and Mandu was its main seat. Mandu’s Kalpsutra illustration of 1439 A.D. are the earliest examples of the dated miniature in India. Mandu’ artist also illustrated ‘Niyamat-Nama’ in 1505 A.D. Which reflect the effect of Islamic art on it. Similarly, we find richer and mature art style of miniature painting in Mandu Ragmala and Ramayana illustrations of 1634 A.D. they are excellent in execution drawing color scheme and style .in generally this style the small space has been divided into compartments. bright basic colors, huge protruding eyes, angular faces, men and women of moderate height with highly charged faces, abundance of motifs and profusion of gold etc. are the characteristics of Malwa miniature painting. The other centers of this style of art were at Dhar, Ujjain, Narsinghpur and Narsinghgarh. besides that, Orchha, DaitIa in Bundelkhand and Raghogarh in Malwa we the flourished centers of this style. Orchha was initiated as fresco and Danita was known for its excellent and elaborate instructions of Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagwat Purana and other portraits. a large bulk of miniature based on the poetry book of ‘Rasik -Priya’ by Keshav das, the eminent court poet of Orchha Naresh has also enriched its treasure.
When Muslim rulers took over the central region ,artist took shelter in Mewar in Rajasthan where great miniature are developed separately. Thus, central school became the fountainhead for later miniature schools of India.