At the village level art has always played an important role in everyday life. Whether it is the white geometric designs found surrounding the doors and windows of the Rajasthan village houses or the beautiful hand woven carpets that covered the floors, art was and continues to be part of the fabric of daily life in the villages. Whilst folk art has an important place in the culture and history of India, it was the artwork in the palaces of the Maharajas, Sultans and nobles that new styles developed and spread out to rural areas.
The history of Indian Miniature Paintings can be traced to the 6-7th century AD. Miniature Paintings have evolved over centuries carrying the influence of other cultures. The miniature artists gave self-expression on paper, ivory panels, wooden tablets, leather, marble, cloth and walls.Indian artists employed multiple perspectives unlike their European counterparts in their paintings. The idea was to convey reality that existed beyond specific vantage point.
Miniature Paintings received an impetus in the 16th century under Mughals, Muslim kings of the Deccan, Malwa and Hindu Rajas of Rajasthan. The paintings were aristocratic, individualistic and strong in portraiture where the plush court scenes and hunting expedition of royalty were depicted. Flowers and animals were also the recurrent images in the paintings. Mughals also commissioned number of manuscripts with fine illustrations.
The colors used in the miniatures were derived from minerals, vegetables, precious stones, indigo, conch shells, pure gold and silver. The preparing and mixing of the colors was an elaborate process and it took sometimes, months to get the desired color. Very fine brushes were used for the paintings, which were executed on handmade paper.
The Bikaner School - This school originated in the times of Prince Rao Bika of Jodhpur (1488). It developed its recurring style with figures having an air of kindness and tenderness. This style has a habit of exquisitely detailed finish.
The paintings are characterized by countless variations of patterns and symbols depicted in thin, watercolor-Li school. The subjects are taken from Indian Mythology and often includes an elephant's trunk in various forms. The colorful illuminations, which captured the fancy of the royalty and aristocracy, emerged in the medieval period. The illustrated manuscripts of Jains and Buddhists, and the flowering of the Mughal, Rajput, and Deccan Miniatures are noted for their meticulous execution and artistic skills. The fine stroke of brushes conveyed the themes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagvata Purana, Rasikpriya, Rasamanjiri, etc.