History of Miniature Paintings of India


There is no denial to the fact that India is a land of traditions and heritage and as art is one of the most ancient forms of expression, it isn’t astonishing to witness the beauty of numerous kinds of traditional Indian art. One such genre of art which clearly depicts the splendour of Indian art styles has to be miniature paintings. These are magnificently colourful paintings which are handmade, but their beauty lies in their small size. With the intricate and elusive brushwork, miniature paintings are known for their small, yet powerful, detailing. They are handmade and only natural substances are used in creating these.

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History of Miniature Paintings in India:

The evolution of this traditional Indian art style began in the 17th century in the area of Western Himalayas. In the initial times, due to the absence of any kind of equipment, they were made on palm leaves. There are numerous subjects which are displayed by means of these miniature paintings. However, mostly the paintings depicted the lives of religious icons and the kings who were reigning the throne at that time. The themes revolved around subjects such as Krishna Lila, different seasons, and Panchatantra. These paintings were used as a medium to give valuable insights into the lives of the royalty as well as the common individuals. Simple daily life activities were also given due importance and their brilliance was beautifully showcased by means of art. Right from the captivating beauty of women to the devotions of artists, every single aspect was displayed with utmost splendour.

In certain areas, music was also associated with the paintings and all the different ragas were considered as seasons. And the result of the amalgamation of these two beautiful genres were beautiful miniature paintings which have become one of the most vital elements of traditional Indian art. The 17th century witnessed the peak of this art form in the state of Rajasthan.

Miniature paintings drew strong inspiration from the mural paintings. During the rule of Mughals, this art form saw great heights of success. In fact, the credit of introducing the beauty of Persian tradition in the miniature painting has to be given to the Mughals as they are the ones who introduced it. In addition to this, the recognition for the western influence also rests with the Muslim kings as they gave due recognition to this celebrated traditional Indian art while working towards carving its bright future.

Schools of Miniature Paintings:

Miniature paintings witnessed the influence of numerous schools. There are a total of six schools in Miniature paintings of India and they are mentioned below.

  • Pala School
  • Orissa School
  • Jain School
  • Mughal School
  • Rajasthani School
  • Nepali School

The aforementioned schools of paintings were a result of hothouse cultivations which was skilfully practiced generations after generations. The initial examples of Indian Miniature paintings belong to the Pala School and belong to the 11th century. The stress of this school was on the symbolic usage of colours in the paintings which were strongly influenced by tantric rituals. The other features of this school included the usage of elegant lines and displaying forms by means of delicate variants of pressure, use of natural colours, etc.

The Jain School of Miniature paintings, on the other hand, placed immense emphasis on elegance and style. The distinct characteristics of this school included robust colours, heavy outlines made from gold, big eyes and stylish female figures. The effect of Jain miniature paintings can be witnessed on Rajasthani and Mughal paintings.


Undoubtedly, Miniature paintings are one of the most ancient, yet beautiful, part of India’s heritage. While talking about traditional Indian art, the discussion would be incomplete without mentioning the details of this painting style.