Origin of Thanjavur paintings

Tanjore Painting is a peculiar, ancient, miniature type of painting named after the place Thanjavur (called Tanjore in English) in Tamil Nadu, a Southern state of INDIA
Tanjore (or Thanjavur or Thanjavoor) paintings have a very rich heritage. This style of painting has been followed widely by the people in Southern Tamil Nadu for the past two centuries. The art flourished in Tanjavoor, pronounced Tanjore, the capital city of the Chola dynasty, and thus got its name. Maratha princes, Nayaks of Vijaynagar dynasty, Rajus communities of Tanjore and Trichi and Naidus of Madurai patronized the art of Tanjore painting from 16 to 18th centuries. Tanjore paintings are deeply rooted in tradition and still innovative within limits. This art is sacred and dedicated.

Tracing its roots to the historical golden era of the early 18th century, Tanjore artwork is one of the many indigenous art forms for which India is noted. Originating in Tanjore about 300 kms from Chennai( Madras), which was the then capital of the Gupta empire, this form of art developed at the height of cultural evolvement achieved during that period.

Theme Of Tanjore Painting

The paintings are mostly of Gods and Goddesses because this art of painting flourished at a time when fine-looking and striking temples were being constructed by rulers of several dynasties. The figures in these paintings are large and the faces are round and divine. While most of the paintings would depict the Child Krishna and his various pranks, paintings of other deities were also created. Over a period of time changes have occurred in the stylization - for example, the figures are no longer round. Presiding deities of various famous temples are also being depicted in the paintings. The technique is now more in use than the style.


Crafted with meticulous care the Thanjavoor (Tanjore) pictures are unique. What sets them apart from Indian paintings in general are the embellishments made over the basic drawings with precious and semi-precious stones as well as the relief work which gives them a three dimensional effect. The painting would be bright and colorful and breathtakingly beautiful. The impact in a darken room is that of a glowing presence The rich vibrant colors, dashes of gold, semi-precious stones and fine artistic work are characteristics of these paintings. They add beauty and culture to a variety of surroundings and d├ęcor..
The paintings decorate the puja rooms in residences, arcades in major hotels and lobbies in Corporate Offices. They also make nice gifts for Diwali, Weddings and other special occasions.

The Heritage

Tanjore paintings are the ultimate forms of expression of love ofGodhead, truth, beauty and devotion. Hundreds of devoted artists from Tamil Nadu have kept alive this beautiful form of art and have brought about new innovations to it.


Make you own Tanjore paintings

Materials Required.

01. Plywood above 6 mm thickness.
02. White cotton cloth.
03. Chalk power.
04. Fevicol.
05. Flat Brush (above 3" width).
06. Sand Paper (emery sheet).
07. Arabic Gum.
08. Coloured Jaipur Stones.
09. Gold foil (paster on papar)
10. Poster Colors.
11. Rounded Brushes (000, 0, 2, 4, 6,8)
12. Black Pilot Pen.
13. Multi colours transparent ink (photo color).
14. Cutter, Ruler, Yellow carbon paper, pencil.
15. Reference art to trace


This is divided into
I Canvas preparation
II Trace the design
III. Sculptural Stage
IV Decorating Stage
V. Improvise Stage

VI. Painting

I Canvas preparation

1. Take a clean cotton cloth.(Cloth size should be wider than the plywood
at least 1 inch in all the sides. If your plywood size is 14 x 18 inches
then your cloth should be wider than 16 x 20 inches)

2.Take the Plywood and soften the edges with sand paper.

3. Now let us prepare the first paste for pasting the cloth on the Plywood.
Ratio – Water:Fevicol - 4:1

4.Filter the paste by coffee filter & Immerse cotton cloth in it for few minutes.

5. Now Lift wet cotton cloth from the first paste, rinse the cloth gently. Hold it for a while so that extra paste to get drained.

6. Now spread, wet cloth on top of the plywood and wipe the cloth gently from centre to edge horizontally & fold extra cloth to the other side.

7. Pull the folded extra cloth for wrinkle free surface in the front side and paste backside cloth strongly with fevicol only.Keep the wet canvas to dry on the newspaper for couple of hours.

8. Lets prepare the second paste for layering the canvas for this Make a paste of ratio Chalk powder: Water: Fevicol - 2: 1: 1

9.Take a clean wide flat brush (preferred size is 2-3 inch brush) Apply the second paste on the canvas horizontally and leave it for 10-15 minutes to dry. Then go for applying vertically. Repeat the same until completion of the layering paste. Leave it to dry in shade for one day.

10. Now take a piece of emery paper, and fold that as a longer stripe. Gently rub the canvas circularly. This is done for smooth even surface.Clean it with a dry flat brush.

Now the canvas is ready for Tajore painting. If you want a glassy look you can add some portion of Arabic gum with the layering gum (step 3) itself.

(Tracing of design)
II Trace the design

1. Choose a design

2. Now trace the design using yellow carbon paper on the canvas. Do not trace the image in detail. For example while tracing the ornaments just trace the outlines only. Not in details of the shapes. The trace is for only the judgment of the area of the decorative areas and shapes of the figure. Care should be taken at this stage to provide a margin recess on all the four sides of the board to accommodate the frame, once the painting is completed

III. Sculptural Stage

1) By using round/flat brush, apply a smooth layer of embossing gum in the
decorative areas. The ratio of embossing layer is
Ratio – Arabic Gum: Chalk powder : fevicol - 1:2:1
Leave the Canvas with Emboss effort to get for more than a day.

2) If you want more embossment for certain area repeat the above process.

3) Now mark the correct places using a pencil/pen to paste the stones & pearls.
After the exact confirmation of the location for Stones & pearls, Mix Few dropsof fecivol with some water. Stick the stones starting with bigger stones first.
Leave it to get fix for a day.

(putting gold foil)

IV Decorating Stage

1) To get a smooth effect on the glittering area of the
tanjore art. You need to apply one more layer of embossing
gum over the stones/pearls.

2) Wait for one hour. Now pick a bowl of water & cotton. Dip a piece of cotton in the water, and squeeze it to remove extra water.

3) Now with the wet cotton, gently rub circular manner on the embossed area.

4) Keep in mind that you need to maintain the neatness on the painting area too.

V. Improvise Stage of the Tanjore Art

1) Mark the design with the help of Ball-point pen over embossed area.

2) In a cone fill a mixture which contains
Arabic Gum : Chalk powder : fevicol in ratio of - 2:2:1/2

3)Carefully do cone work in filling area (like side corner / pillar) with good traditional design. Also give boundaries to the stones and pearls with the help of the cone. And let it dry.

4) Now cut a gold foil sheet from the Gold foil booklet. Place the gold foil sheet over the design and mark an edge impression with your thumb for approximate shape.

10) Cut the require shape of gold foil by leaving 3 to 4 mm extra on all the sizes of the require shape.

11) Apply glue (fevicol with water mixture) to the back side of the gold foil & place over design area.

12) Remove gold foil pasted over stones in tanjavur painting. For this Groove the shape with Safety-pin gently. Just apply wet brush in the centre of stone.
Use safety-pin to remove the soften wet gold foil. You can use johnson buds instead of brush. Shape of the stone can be adjust using safety-pin itself

(complete picture)
VI. Painting:

Now paint the figures and background carefully with poster colours . The painting is normally done using white colour for the key figure and slightly shading it with blue or the normal body colour. The depiction is normally static and the painting does not reflect any action or movement. The usage of the background colours is mostly striking - it is a dark hue of red, blue or green. The paintings are characterized by pillars and curtains in the side, and some smaller compartmentalization at the bottom or top to accommodate small figures.

The Frames
Tanjore paintings were framed in two types of structures;
the wooden type made of plain wood
and the Chettinad type, which have an extra Ornate design .

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