The Paintings Of South India
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Mural and album paintings from the last two or three centuries survive in some quantity from the South Indian paintings; Hindu paintings from the more remote past survived to much lesser degree. Pallava period painting are known to us from slight fragments recorded in the tiny shrines to set into the enclosure wall of the Kailashnath temple at Kanchivaram.

That most frequently depicted Pallava Shaiva image, the Somaskanda, has been identified as the subject of one of these small murals. Of more substance, though still restricted to one major site, are Chola period paintings- again murals. These have been discovered beneath later Nayaka murals in the circumambulatory walkway of the Brihadeshvara temple at Tanjore. Subject matter is given Shaiva (Dakshinamurti and Nataraja), but includes a figural group which has been identified as depicting Rajaraja and his guru.

All of these early painting styles are noted for a high degree of naturalism, linking them, at least broadly, with the Buddhist paintings at sites in the western Deccan, such as Ajanta. It is, however, for the Nayaka and the subsequent Maratha periods that we have by far the greatest amount of evidence for South Indian wall painting. Many of the Chola-period temples had mural paintings added during these later periods, especially where long stretches of wall space were available, such as in the outer cloisters. Nayaka period painting can still be seen at Madurai, Alagarkoil and Chidambaram.

The Brihadishvara at Tanjore boasts a long sequence of paintings, though these are probably to be dated to the succeeding Maratha period, or even later. Yet other examples are to be seen in the Tyagaraja temple at Tiruvarur (see map on P. 229), where well preserved and still brightly coloured ceiling paintings are preserved in one of the later mandapas. This style of painting is closely linked with nineteeth century album painting from south India.

Paintings on European watermarked paper of deities - almost iconographic manuals - were produced in large numbers during the first decades of the nineteenth century and mounted in albums. Many are captioned in Telugu, suggesting a Tanjore provenance; Telugu-speaking brahmins were settled there during the Maratha period. Many of these albums are now found in European museum collections, which suggests that they were made for Europeans resident in India. If this is so, the use of Telugu captions is unexplained.

Finally, a word is required concerning the rich painting tradition of Kerala. Early examples are almost entirely wanting; the earliest now known probably date only from the sixteenth century and later. Several outstanding sequences are preserved in palaces, such as the exquisite Padrnanabhapuram complex south of Trivandrum, once the residence of the Maharajahs of Travancore.

Examples are also recorded in temples, though the difficulty of access to temples in Kerala for non-Hindus has long been a stumbling block to their complete evaluation. The schemes tend to fill the entire wall surface and use bright and vibrant colours. Harle (I987) recalls the similarity between this style of painting and the theatre tradition of Kerala - the Kathakali.

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