Thanjavur painting is a beautiful art work, which dates back to 1,600 A.D., a period when the Nayaks of Thanjavur encouraged the art form.
With a view to popularising this art form among younger generation, Kalai Ayam, a cultural organisation in Thanjavur organised a week-long training for school children at Thanjavur.
Twenty students from various schools underwent the training at Sambaji Traditional Art Centre in the palace complex. Interestingly, the trainer was Sambaji Rajah Bhonsle, a descendant of Raja Serfoji II, the Maratha King, who ruled Thanjavur and patronised the art form.
Sambaji Rajah Bhonsle is the only person from the royal family who is involved in this art form and has sketched many Thanjavur paintings.
Other than him only four to five Telugu speaking families are involved in the art form in Thanjavur. 'If children know this art, then it is in safe hands. They should also be exposed to our rich heritage,' said Sambaji. He was assisted by his brother Raghava Rajah Bhonsle in the training.
The students who underwent the training said 'We are happy to learn this ancient art. We can now prepare Thanjavur paintings and besides being a leisure activity it gave us an opportunity to know more about this art.'
The children explained the preparation. 'First we made a preliminary sketch on the base, which is a cloth pasted on to wood. Then we applied an adhesive made of chalk powder and zinc oxide. After the drawing is made, we decorated jewellery and apparel with precious stones. Then we applied a ‘muk’ prepared using chalk powder and African gum. This is called embossing. Gold foil is then ornamented and colours were given.' Many children said that they will continue this art at home.
Unique feature of the Thanjavur painting is the gold foil and vivid colours. They have a compact composition. Most of the Thanjavur paintings depict deities of the Hindu Pantheon. Popular among them is ‘Vennaithazhi Kannan. They are also made to depict episodes in Bhakti literature and puranas.
S. Muthukumar, honorary secretary of Kalai Ayam said that response from students to learn the art was encouraging. Interested children among those who underwent training will be given a six months training so that they can learn the nitty-gritty of the art form. 'If a professional artist emerge from them, that serves the purpose of this training,' Muthukumar said.