Exploring the Diverse World of Indian Religious Paintings: A Comprehensive Guide

Understanding Religious Paintings of India
Art Log

Indian religious art is a rich tapestry that reflects the many spiritual traditions and cultures in the country. These paintings are often visual representations for religious stories, deities and philosophical ideas. This article will give you a detailed look at Indian religious paintings.

1. Hindu Religious Paintings

Mughal paintings

  • Description Mughal paintings depict court scenes and battles. They also have Hindu religious themes. These paintings are characterized with detailed brushwork and naturalism. They also use vibrant colors.
  • Example: Scenes of the Ramayana or Mahabharata depicting Hindu gods and Goddesses.

Rajput Paintings

  • Description These paintings, which originated in the Rajputana Kingdoms, often depict Hindu epics and legends. They also illustrate love stories. These paintings are known for the bold colors, intricate detail, and themes of romance and heroism.
  • Styles: Includes Pahari, Mewar, Marwar, and Bundi styles.
  • Examples include: Rajasthani miniaturs of Krishna's life and paintings of Radha Krishna and scenes from Mahabharata and Ramayana.


  • Description A traditional cloth based scroll painting from Odisha or West Bengal. Pattachitras are known for the intricate details and vivid colors of their paintings.
  • Themes Focus on Hindu deities such as Jagannath Krishna and Durga.
  • Example: Images of Lord Krishna, scenes from Bhagavad purana and the Jagannath Temple.

Tanjore Paintings

  • Description These paintings, which originate from Tamil Nadu are known for the rich colors, surface richness and compact composition of their paintings, as well as the use of gold foil. These paintings often feature Hindu gods and Goddesses.
  • Themes Focus on Hindu saints and deities.
  • Example: Pictures of Krishna, Rama and other deities.

Madhubani paintings

  • Description These paintings are also known as Mithila Art, and feature geometrical patterns in bright colors and motifs from nature and mythology.
  • Themes Hindu gods, religious events and scenes from epics such as the Ramayana.
  • Example: Images of Durga and Lakshmi. Scenes from the Ramayana.


  • Description Type of block-printed or hand-painted cotton textiles, originally from Andhra Pradesh. It is known as a textile with earthy colors and intricate patterns.
  • Themes Stories based on Hindu mythology (especially the Mahabharata & Ramayana).
  • Example: Scenes of the Mahabharata and Ramayana.

2. Buddhist Religious Paintings

Thangka Paintings

  • Description These Tibetan Buddhist paintings are usually Tibetan Buddhist scenes or mandalas, depicted on silk or cotton applique.
  • Use: As teaching aids, meditation tools, and offerings at temples.
  • Examples Images: Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Mandalas.

Ajanta Murals

  • Description The Ajanta Caves, located in Maharashtra, feature ancient Buddhist murals dating back to the second century BCE. These paintings are known for their vivid colors, narrative style and intricate details.
  • Themes Show Jataka stories, which tell the story of Buddha's past lives.
  • Examples Scenes of Buddha's life, various Bodhisattvas and decorative patterns.

3. Jain Religious Paintings

Kalpasutra Illustrations

  • Description Manuscript illustrations that illustrate the Kalpasutra (a Jain text detailing Tirthankaras, spiritual teachers).
  • Styles Miniature paintings in western Indian style are often richly colored and detailed, with many details.
  • Examples: Illustrations of Mahavira's life, the 24th Tirthankara and other important figures in Jainism.

Jain Miniature Paintings

  • Description These small-scale paintings are often found in manuscripts and depict Jain cosmology rituals, stories, and Tirthankaras.
  • Themes : A focus on Jain cosmology and religious ceremonies, as well as the lives of Tirthankaras.
  • Example: Images of Mahavira and Parshvanatha.

4. Sikh religious paintings

Sikh Miniatures

  • Description These paintings depict scenes from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book, as well as the lives of Sikh Gurus and significant events in Sikh History.
  • Styles Inspired by Mughal painting and Rajput styles.
  • Examples Portraits and events in Guru Nanak's Life, as well as depictions of battles fought during Guru Gobind Singh.

Janamsakhi Images

  • Description These illustrations accompany the Janamsakhi text, which tells the story of Guru Nanak and his teachings.
  • Themes Important events in Guru Nanak's Life.
  • Examples Guru Nanak’s travels and teachings.

5. Islamic Religious Paintings

Mughal paintings

  • Description While Mughal art is more secular, it does depict religious themes such as Islamic calligraphy and Sufi saints.
  • Styles Characterized with Persian influences, naturalism and fine details.
  • Examples include: Calligraphy of the Quran, paintings of Sufi Saints, and Islamic art.

Deccan Minatures

  • Description These paintings, from the Deccan region, combine Persian and Indian themes and include Islamic themes at times.
  • Themes Islamic religious tales, portraits and courtly life.
  • Examples include: Illustrations of Sufi Saints, Quranic Stories, and Islamic Calligraphy.

The conclusion of the article is:

Indian religious paintings reflect the rich artistic and spiritual diversity of India. Each tradition and style provides a unique look into the religious and culture of different communities. These artworks continue, whether through the vibrant colors of Pattachitra or the intricate details of Mughal miniatures, to inspire and captivate audiences around the globe. Understanding the context, themes and techniques of these works will help you appreciate the artistry and spirituality that they embody.


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