Jaina Painting (2/2)

Published: 12.06.2008
Updated: 09.06.2015

Jaina Painting

In 15th century the intrinsic beauty of the Jain miniatures begins to fade. There is a perceptible decline in execution - the line loses its verve, the rendering becomes markedly angular and the protruding farther eye becomes very pronounced. The miniatures strike as being reduced to formulae, repeated over and over again with little variation. The polychromatic palette is now narrowed down to two basic colours red and gold. For gold the gold-leaf was used instead of gold paint. The painter began to work covering the entire area of miniature with a thin sheet of golden-leaf, then proceeded to outline the human figures and other motifs in black ink. After the completion of drawing the ground area is painted in red and the figures and the motifs were treated as negative spaces in the compositions. The whole painting was enlivened with a few accently in other colours. Occasionally, the folios of the manuscript were adorned with decorative designs such as floral and geometrical motifs in the margins and the panels above and below the text.

Around the middle of the 15th century, blue-ultramarine as well as lapis-lazuli superseded red as the favoured colour in Jain miniatures. The folios of the manuscripts were embellished with intricate scrollwork. In 15th century there was progressively increasing activity to enrich the manuscripts with border decorations. The border decorations become more complex, depicting flowering creepers, birds and animals, geometrical designs and other interesting subjects like dancers, musicians, wrestlers, foreign soldiers and animal trainers etc. Most of these scenes may be seen in the manuscript of the Devāsāno Pāòo Kalpa-Sūtra and Kālakācārya-Kathā. In the closing years of the 15th century, the art of Jains began to take new directions. The farther eye had gradually lost its organic hold and it had become merely a decorative feature. The style of painting in Western India deteriorating in terms of line and compositional values and became dull and fatigued, although it maintain blue and gold palette.

Between A.D. 1350 to 1550 Indian miniature painting also found articulation in another pictorial mode - the Caurapancāśikā style that presents a sharp contrast to the exoteric and iconographic preoccupations that characterise the style of Jain painting. The Jain tradition employed both the style of Jain painting as well as the Caurapancāśikā style for illustrating its religious texts (The Caurapancāśikā, containing fifty verses, is a Sanskrit lyric written in the 11th century by a poet named Bilhaīa). Many verses of the lyric was illustrated by the painters in a peculiar style related to Jain painting with local peculiarities as well as influenced by the current idiom of the Mughal ateliers. The Caurapancāśikā style of painting evolved during the latter part of the 16th century.

One of the important developments during the period was the extensive use of the paper as a carrier of illustrated manuscripts. The introduction of paper for writing and painting allowed more room for painting and more elaborate composition than the palm-leaf. The paper manuscripts adhered to the system followed in palm-leaf manuscripts in aspects such as the division of the folio into two columns with narrow vertical margins, the writing of the text in lines across the folio, and the placement of page numbers. Similarly, the practice of marking string holes was threaded together. Later, during the 15th century, when the potential of the new material was realised and fully grasped, the conventional forms of manuscript presentation changed. During the 15th century the folios of the manuscript became shorter and broader without abandoning the pothī format. The string hole performed a decorative function and page numbers now indicated in the lower right hand corner of the folio. The paper manuscripts were protected between two wooden boards in the beginning with string but afterwards without string. The practice of using wooden pāţalīs has been replaced by the use of hard cardboards, often decorated with painted or printed cloth pasted on them. During the latter half of the 15th century, a number of Jain manuscripts were illustrated, the text being written in gold and silver ink on a red or black background. Wealthy bankers and merchants ordered such works.

In 16th century Jain painting made further strides. In this period Malwa and places in Uttar Pradesh became important centres of painting. There were two phases going on in art - one classical and the other folk. Māņdu became an important centre of the classical phase. It may be further noted that even though the traditional Jain features continue, the general tendency is towards the elimination of the farther eye.

In the 16th century, however, the Digambaras had also developed their individual mode of expression. First they patronised the prevailing Jain painting style though their emphasis on movement was quite different from the static poses of the figures in the Śvetāmbara manuscripts. The area near about Delhi became a centre for illustrating Digambara Jain manuscripts. The Mahāpurāņa, dated A.D. 1540 painted at Palam shows a different approach to painting where the farther eye is eliminated but in composition, in colours scheme and in the representation of human figures the legacy of the old tradition is present. The illustrations have been ambitiously extended through the lines are weak. The figures are not confined to covering the entire folio. Regional elements can be seen in the costumes and other decorative details. The legacy of the old tradition was not only shown in Jain paintings of the Hindu illustrated manuscripts like Gītagovinda and Bālagopālastutī. The Āraīyaka Parva of the Mahābhārata displays the same characteristic. The painting in Uttar Pradesh was not confined to religious texts alone. The works of the poets in Avadhī such as Laur-Candā, Mŗgāvata became favourite subjects of the Jain painting.

The Jain patrons invited such artists from Mughal capital cities to execute the Jain manuscripts. The manuscript Yaśodhara-carita is one of the examples, which mentions in its colophon that the scribe hailed from the neighbouring town of Ajmer. Similarly the painters were also engaged. Such artists transported their style wherever they worked with little bearing of the place of execution.

Among the documents, which exemplify the various sub-styles of the Gujarat style is a manuscript of poet Haidhu’s composition the Yaśodhara - carita. It was painted at Ahmedabad in A.D. 1712 and the artists of this manuscript based their paintings on prototype. They copied the compositional formulae from the prototype but were free to use their own style as well as to select colours. The Upadeśamāla, dated A.D. 1708, to another manuscript from Gujarat school. The style of its miniatures is quite charming specially its landscape.

In A.D. 1606, near Amer, a copy of the Ādi Purāņa was painted but could not be completed. The illustrations of the manuscript show folksy expression, which can be traced to the Caurpancāśika style. In the manuscript the methodology in illustrating the scenes differs from the practice followed in the foregoing periods when the painter after completing one miniature proceeds to next. In completion of the painting there are stages - the master artist first wrote the captions on the folios, thereafter the artist - draughtsman drew the figures and at the third stage the colours were applied to the composition. At the last the finishing touches were added. In this way in the completion of any illustration a group of artist or family were required.

In Gujarat towards the closing decades of 16th century the developments and departures from the earlier style are most noticeable in the delineation of the human figures, which have shed the farther eye and are now shown without the characteristic angular body distortions. Wide range of colours was used including some unusual and novel hues such as lilac and dull green. Costly gold and silver were not employed. Certain stylistic devices, such as the red ground and the ornamental designs, which serve to fill in vacant areas of the composition, linger on from the preceding period - though in different form - and can be identified as stylistic components of the school of Gujarat.

In 17th century the popular religious Jain and other themes in Western India were well known. Different Jain stories became popular with the illustrations, which are generally of folk variety. There was a large demand for illustrating manuscripts from the Jains of Gujarat and therefore painters started working at many centres to satisfy the ever-growing demands. There were several centres in Gujarat such at Pāţan, Cambay, Swat, Vadnagar, Idar, Jamnagar, Bhuj, Matar, Ahmedabad etc. indicating a flourishing state of painting in Gujarat. Painters of Gujarat played an important part in the Mughal atelier of Akbar. In the courts of Akbar and Jahangir a number of artists worked for the art of books. The pupils of these painters spread out in search of their livelihood to Gujarat and Rajasthan. Several of them worked outside the courts for the patrons and nobles blending the style of Mughal court with indigenous traits. In this style, however, with older traditions both in colour and landscape indebted to the Mughal style through the figure drawing, costumes and to some extent the landscape. The paintings and manuscripts were painted in the Popular Mughal style.

Towards the end of 17th century miniature painting in Gujarat loses its integrated character. It fragments into various sub-styles, which are held together by certain general characteristics, such as animated puppet like figures, flower strewn backgrounds, dull colours and monotonous compositions.

In early 18th century Jain paintings reflect two types of pictorial expression one is a Rajasthani idiom - crude and folksy and the other idiom appears to be a local regional style. In Rajasthan Jaina painting followed a similar course to that of Gujarat. In Amer and its vicinity during A.D. 1590 - 1610, two idioms were at work - one rooted in the style of Jain painting - the northern version of it - and the other direct extension of the Caurapancāśikā style. Both these styles are represented in the illustrated texts of the Digambara Jains.

International School for Jain Studies
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  1. Ahmedabad
  2. Ajmer
  3. Akbar
  4. Bhuj
  5. Body
  6. Delhi
  7. Digambara
  8. Digambaras
  9. Gujarat
  10. Idar
  11. International School for Jain Studies
  12. JAINA
  13. Jain Painting
  14. Jain Paintings
  15. Jain Stories
  16. Jaina
  17. Jaina Painting
  18. Jamnagar
  19. Mahābhārata
  20. Malwa
  21. Parva
  22. Pradesh
  23. Rajasthan
  24. Rajasthani
  25. Sanskrit
  26. Uttar Pradesh
  27. Śvetāmbara
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