Temple Arts of India

by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)

Mural Paintings

Mural Paintings are the most common temple paintings and its evolution in temples can be traced from Ajanta to Kerala. Linked intrinsically with Indian painting traditions, the Murals are the earliest evidences unearthed from the remnants of ancient civilization. The famous Mural temple paintings can be seen in the temples of Sittanavasal, Badami, Lepakshi, Tanjavur, and Vijayanagar. The traditional Panchavarna murals are created in five colours of yellow, red, green, black, and blue. Usually, white will be the base and the remaining colors were pigments derived from various stones, leaves and dyestuffs.

Kavi Art

The Kavi Art is a popular temple art of coastal Karnataka and Goa. The term Kavi is the local name for Indian red pigment which is the only color used in this painting. Artistically drawn and well executed, reddish brown murals against white sandblasted backgrounds are the specialties of Kavi art. For geometrical designs, rulers and compasses are used. For large and complicated motifs, they are first drawn on paper, perforated with pinholes and then traced on the wall by dusting the pinholes with dry lime. Kanthas or the steel bodkins of different sizes and dimensions are used for etching. The ridges, platforms and niches are decorated with the rows of spirals, spades, semi-circles and curves. The V-shaped parallel bands are used for twin pseudo-pillars.


Rangoli also known as Alpana and Kolam is a traditional art of decorating courtyards, walls of Indian houses, temples, and places of worship. The powder is usually made of white stone, lime, rice flour and other cheap paste. Each state of India has its own style of Rangoli. Most of the Rangoli designs are motifs of plants, flowers, leaves such as coconut, lotus, mango, and peepal leaf, the animals such as cows, elephants, and horses, and the birds like eagles and swans. Even the images of deities are drawn using Rangoli.


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