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A Profile in Colour And Tradition

All My Life Colours, Paintings Brushes And A Blank Paper Have Given Me The Greatest Joy.

I graduated in fine arts with a distinction and gold medal. In between I got married and I found myself in the interiors of Tamil Nadu. There I discovered my vocation in life. I met a group of senior master artists who used to gather under one roof to create spectacular Tanjore paintings. I persuaded them to let me just sit with them for a part of the day. They agreed to the idea with some reluctance. I realized later it was because traditional Tanjore art is passed down within the framework of the traditional guru-shishya parampara (teacher-disciple tradition) and only amongst the men folk. I went to these traditional artists. I did not know their language Tamil. But there I discovered that colours speak their own language. A few days turned into 3 short years. I learned from them and then worked with them. We were continuously making paintings for prayer rooms, private collections and Institutions.

Antique painting often arrived in a neglected and dilapidated condition and we did the restoration work painstakingly. This part I loved the best. It is a test of our skills, patience and perseverance.

After spending 3 deeply enriching years it was time to move on. We arrived in Delhi. A few months went by. I looked around and saw everywhere that the Tanjore paintings available for sale were extremely poor examples of this fine art.

I thought that I could put my fine arts background to good use here. I started working with the artists. I decided on the colours, tones, themes and compositions and the work details of the finest nature. For inspiration we went back in time. We researched on the old paintings, visited the museums and recreated some of the grand old depictions that had not been replicate din recent times with the same degree of depth and detail. Paintings that were so fine that they came to life – thus was born the Tanjore Room.


The Tanjore Room was set up to bring the finest Tanjore paintings directly to people who appreciate the rich heritage of India’s traditional art. It gave these artists a direct platform for selling and marketing in the Capital.

My background in fine arts has stood all of us in good stead. I guide them with fine detailed work, pleasing colour combinations alive expressions and the best of raw materials. The genuine Tanjore painting is bought on faith and grows in elegance and value with each passing year.

We create paintings that can stand the test of time – easily a 100 years! We still make the painting boards in the old traditional way. We take a teak board, cut in according to sizes laid in the ancient texts. Paste a sheet of paper on top of it, then we paste a piece of cotton cloth on it after that we apply a herbal paste 3 times allowing each coat to dry up thoroughly. Finally we polish the board with a smooth stone, sprinkling some water on the surface. Now this board can last forever. We trace the drawing and after that the stones area arranged and relief work is done. Then a real gold leaf is applied. The colours are then filled and when the painting is finished it is framed suing teakwood that is hand hewn even today.

A noteworthy feature of these paintings is the eyes of the deity! These are painted in such a way that no matter where one stands in a room the eyes of the gods always follow you. The colour schemes are bright and gay. The whole canvas is extremely ornamental and full of grandeur with the lavish use of gold, multi hued stones and real pearls. The Tanjore paintings can also lend a home tranquil vibrations and create a positive aura.

At the Tanjore Room we even restore old paintings. We also advise people on how to take good care of their precious paintings. We work with interior designers to create the specific colour schemes required for these paintings. We can also create a special Tanjore painting for a connoisseur who is one the lookout for something unique. We have books and catalogues that make it easy to commission/decide for specific requirements. Sometimes we have rare antique Tanjore paintings for the serious collector – paintings that have great historical value.


This form is a grand admixture of Craft and Art. It is dominated by an iconic style that lays stress on pure colours and untinged mixtures. Special care is laid on ornamentation and background architectural frames which are slightly raised and yet relieved by the use of special paste and wrapped in ‘gold leaf’ after setting in stones of multiple hues. The principal figures in the paintings are Gods and Goddesses depicted in bold and larger than life proportions. Krishna in his many facets is a favourite as is the enigmatic Ganesha along with the bountiful Lakshmi and the erudite Saraswati. Depictions of Ranganatha, Shiva, Rama and other deities are fewer but with greater grandeur and complexity. Only the most talented and mature master artists can do justice to such intricate and complex compositions. These are much sought after by art collectors.


The Tanjore school of art was born on the banks of the river Kaveri in South India. It developed out of the Bhakti Movement, long after the unification of the two great factions of Hinduism, the Shaivites and the Vaishnavites. However it is to be noted that even the Vedas have a mention of Ratan Jadit chitra or jewel encrusted paintings.

The Tanjore school flourished under the royal patronage of the Maratha kings of Tanjore (in itself a historical accident!) and reached it’s pinnacle during the rule of Sarfoji Maharaj, a great patron of the art. Later it fell on bad days during which the workmanship suffered.

As Jaya Appaswamy recounts in her well known treatise (Tanjavur Painting of the Maratha Period) on the Tanjore art that as the royal patronage faded “…the role of the patron changed considerably. The new patron was merely a shopkeeper or a customer, interested in profit rather than in the excellence of the work; thus the decline of the arts was also due to the growth of commercialism.

My efforts are to reverse the tide by encouraging others to make the finest Tanjore paintings in India with a strong emphasis on detail and fine brushwork to rejuvenate this traditional art form of the Gods.

To this end I have actively worked in the making of two programs televised on Doordarshan. One was anchored by me and other was about the ‘Tanjore artist at work’ in which I took the viewer through the various stages and details of creating a Tanjore painting. I hold exhibitions to popularize the Tanjore art where I also have interactive sessions to increase the awareness of the art form.

The Tanjore painting is now beginning to move out of the puja (prayer) room and into the living room. We need to accelerate this trend. After all it is the only surviving paint based art form of ancient India.

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