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Hues of Moody romanticism in Local Art: The Tradition of Deccani Paintings

Art that drives beyond our imaginations is actually an art of success. The Deccan painting style of miniature paintings flourished in the southern part of India in the late 18th century. The name Deccan is a modified form of the Prakrit word derived from Sanskrit dakṣiṇa. The Deccan population was extremely mixed. It was composed of Indian Muslims and Hindus and large communities of Turks, Persians, Arabs, and Africans. There are distinctive styles in Deccani paintings but still have local variations. The Deccan paintings are inspired by northern traditions of the pre-Mughal paintings. These inspirations are evident in the treatment of female types and costumes. The influence of the Mughal painters who migrated to the Deccan during the period of Aurangzeb was responsible for the development of various other centres of paintings in Deccan such as Hyderabad. The volume of Islamic elements in Mughal and Deccani painting was almost similar but their chemistry was completely different. In Mughal art, these elements blend, dissolve and undergo a chemical transformation and acquire a new elemental status, while in the art of Deccan, they retain their identity, distinguishable from their Indian counterparts. Deccani landscape with rich vibrant nature gave the Indian art some excellent miniatures. With its highly charged compositions, fine line-work, great sense of geometry, pleasing perspectives, faces and eyes brimming with sensuality, well-defined nature and landscape and intense colours, this Deccan art reveals a kind of moody romanticism, which evens the Mughal paintings often lack.

Deccani paintings of the 18th and 19th centuries are observed in the treatment of the style that is a sensitive, highly integrated blend of indigenous and foreign art forms. The floral sprigged backgrounds, high horizons and general use of landscape show Persian influence. The tradition of the early Deccan painting continued long after the extinction of the Deccan Sultanates of Ahmadnagar, and Bijapur.


Painting in the Nizam Shahi court at Ahmadnagar (1490-1636) took place under the three Sultans. Husain Nizam Shahi I, his sons Murtaza I and Burhan II. The art mainly lasted for a short time and only some illustrations have survived for the future. The illustrations include that of the court, the queen and a shalabhanjika/dohada theme of a tree bursting into flowers at the touch of a lovely maiden. Ragamala paintings were produced in Northern Deccan which is mostly assigned to Ahmadnagar. Ragini Pathamsika, Bijapur/Ahmadnagar, circa 1595 A.D., National Museum, New Delhi.

 This portrait of Ragini Pattahansika of Rag Hindol was painted by an anonymous painter, in Bijapur-Ahmadnagar style with a better combination of red, blue, green yellow (golden), black and white colours. Based on Indian music, Ragini Pattahansika of Rag Hindol has been shown, sitting on a seat, in the middle of a pavilion, playing on the musical instrument. She, wearing fully decorated blue and transparent white clothes, is sitting in a self-enraptured countenance. Two female attendants, in a dance pose, are standing one on her right side and the other on her left side. Their costumes and form adoring are preferable. In the front part of the painting are put a toy elephant and a golden coloured water pot. The front part of the pavilion sees beautiful multicoloured geometrical shapes and has painted a vermilion coloured dome. On both sides are black-coloured domes on which are painted beautiful structures with golden colours.

BIJAPUR PAINTINGS: Influences of both Islam and Hinduism

Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah II was a mystic, a calligrapher and a composer himself, he transformed Bijapuri painting. Highly sensitive, it was influenced by both Islam and Hinduism. The work produced during his reign is very strong on emotion; the word nauras meant everything to him which translates as ‘nine flavours of life’. His writings are collected in Kitab-i-nauras. Maulana Farookh Hussain was an important painter in his court who influenced all the artists of the time. Bijapuri painting had paintings either with the garden of paradise setting or an idealized form of a human figure. The clothes were reflective of the era. Muslin robes, Kashmiri shawls, golden slippers, conical headgear are all seen on royalty and noblemen. During Sultan Ali Adil Shah reign floral and abstracts too were produced in addition to portraiture. 

Portrait of Ibrahim Adil Shah II holding castanets, menu script folio, C. 1610, Bijapur, British Museum, London. In the portrait, the Sultan is holding the pair of castanets in his left-hand wondering figure in search of his beloved or union with God. The Sultan also held a handkerchief in his right hand which is the symbol of kingship. He has a full beard, wide hips and conical turban that reveal Ibrahim’s identity. He was a spiritual person and believes in both Hinduism and Muslim mysticism which is from the fact that he is wearing a rudraksha necklace. He is standing in a garden, with the white palace in the background. Most of the middle ground is painted black which emphasizes the pale white and gold of his costume. He is not wearing pyjamas rather than he is wearing breeches. He is also wearing matching juti and dupatta, he is wearing transparent jama. It is a very lyrical painting.

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