Guiding Light of The Month

All is light, all is love, ignorance and egoism are but vain phantoms, they can be dissolved. And over all things spreads Thy sovereign peace, Thy fecund calmness. - The Mother

The Beauty of Tanjore Paintings

Tanjore artwork by Sandhya

Tanjore art originated in the ancient town of Tanjore. Inscribed mostly on the walls of sacred temples, this painting is also done on a wooden plank or a palagai as it is traditionally called. Various forms are extolled in Tanjore paintings - peacocks, elephants, beautiful designs and mostly, pictures of gods and goddesses. Mother Yashodha with Krishna on her lap being the most popular one.

This art form involves several stages of precise work starting with board preparation. The plank is scrubbed clean with sand paper and a soft cotton cloth is stuck on it. The board is further smoothened by applying coats of a paste made of yellow oxide, fevicol (white, glue paste) and chalk powder. On this board, a sketch of the picture is done.

The parts that bring Tanjore paintings into light are the gold work and the intricate gem stone work. The designs drawn on the board are embossed with a paste made of chalk powder. This paste is filled in a cone and just like how mehndi designs are drawn the designs are filled and embossed with the cone. It takes a conscious effort to press the gold foil on top of these embossed designs. The careful work of the designs with the cone is turned golden in this stage.

Almost every Tanjore art involves arches and pillars. Gem stone work is done on these places and on the border of the board. Sometimes, when the painting is of gods and goddesses there are crowns and jewels to be adorned with coloured gem stones. There is intricacy involved here when we have to choose the stone of the right colour, right size and shape for each place, and position it accurately. Especially the crowns are decked beautifully with gemstones. The painting is done on the background and on parts that require colour. The background painting looks like a velvet or a satin cloth stuck behind the picture.

This type of art requires skill in both painting and craft work. Slowly, step by step, the picture is grown into a beautiful gold filled, colourfully painted picture designed grandly with rich gem stones or sometimes even American diamonds.

I got an opportunity to practice this art at a centre here at Bangalore. I drew a picture of a dancing Ganesha in the Tanjore painting form. This article is just an expression of the experience I had while I worked on it. - Sandhya

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