National Museum, New Delhi – Paintings

India has always delighted in the use of colour, from the ancient murals and frescoes that adorn the Buddhist caves at Ajanta, the richly decorated temples and monuments (many now whitewashed), it’s a tradition that has persisted throughout the centuries and perhaps most noticeable today with textiles of the most vivid hues. I don’t think anyone who has been to India would argue against it being easily the most colourful country on the planet.

After the mural, the most important form of painting in India is the illustration of religious and secular texts. No illustrated manuscripts survive in India prior to circa 900 A.D, with the earliest surviving examples having been applied to leaves of the talipot palm, known as palm-leaf manuscripts.

Paper was introduced to India in the late 14th century, and slowly many of the themes and styles derived from earlier Hindu and Jain palm-leaf manuscripts were applied to this new medium. Miniature paintings are most closely associated with the Mughal and Rajasthani artistic traditions. Mughal miniature painting emerged as an important artform during the reign of Akbar and was used as a way to illustrating story books and recording life at the Mughal court (and immortalising imperial triumphs).

The National Museum in New Delhi houses a vast collection of paintings from the various artistic traditions, one could easily consume a day focusing on just these galleries alone. What follows is a brief virtual tour, showcasing pieces that I personally found the most interesting. Although I haven’t specifically ordered these photographs, they broadly start with Hindu works, progressing through to Mughal miniatures, and concluding with a couple of Jain pieces.

Below each piece is a short description, origin within India, and date.
Please click on any of the following images to view them in a larger format.

That concludes my short virtual tour of the paintings at the National Museum in Delhi. Further posts on some of the other galleries (e.g. bronzes) will be appearing over the next few weeks, which combined will hopefully give a reasonably comprehensive account of what can be seen there.

If you are planning on visiting this museum, I would suggest at least a full day is set aside and that you arrive early.

The National Museum opening times are usually :

Tue – Fri (10:00 AM to 6:00 PM)
Sat & Sun (10:00 AM to 8:00 PM)
(Closed on Mondays and National Holidays)

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16 replies »

  1. These are lovely. If I did nothing for a month but study all of this art, I would learn so much history. It’s tempting. Can’t wait to get back to India to visit the National Museum. Thanks so much for sharing these.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Simply outstanding Kevin. Just out of curiosity – was this just one session at the museum, or where you there on multiple days for this photo shoot?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My first time visiting your blog site. Impressed by the wealth of information, pictures, and just as importantly your attention to detail and expression of a lovely Indian Heritage. Will be coming here often ! Thank you.

    Holmdel Prasanna, NJ

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, it is a labour of love for sure. I usually travel to India for two months at the start of each year, so most of my blogging output is from March – June, then for the summer I’m supervising archaeological excavations in the UK. It looks like my travels will be impossible in early 2021, but I have a places from the last few years that I have yet to blog about. Stay safe, and thankyou for visiting my site!


  4. Hello Kevin

    Love your work. Absolutely awesome.
    Thank you.

    Do you have the full picture of Varanasi Pilgrimage Pata?
    The picture you posted is just half.

    Liked by 1 person

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