Painting The history of painting in Assam can be traced back from I the 7th century. History says that besides other valuable presents E3haskar Varman sent ‘Paat aaru Tulika’ (Leaf and Brush) with other equipments of painting to his friendly peer Harshavardhan. The practice of painting in ancient Assam is mentioned in ‘Harshacharit’ by Banabhatta and in the account of Hiuen Tsang. However, the golden era of painting in Assam was initiated by Sankardeva, the doyen of Assarnese art, culture and literature. Sankardeva, the artist with extraordihary talent, illustrated the vision of seven heaven (Saat Baikuhtha) on papers made of cotton (Tula Paat) for his drama(Bhaona) ‘Chihnayatra’. Once he had drawn an elephant on cotton made paper using the colour of yellow orpiment (Hengul-Haital) and pasted that on top’ of the wooden box Mich he offered to the Koch King Naranarayan as a gift, Sankardeva’s ‘Dashamskandha Bhagawar which was found at Balisatra in Nagaon district is an excellent example of vividly illustrated religious book. The Satras or Vaishnavite monasteries were the nerve centres of drawing and painting in ancient Assam. We find the use of local colour, style and -form in these religious paintings. The artistic quality and skill is evident in the paintings that are found on the pages of Bhagavat and Purana. Colours are used sufficiently in these paintings and the mixture of colour is done very deeply. Nandalal Bose said that these paintings bear similarities with the painting schools of Jain, Nowari and Orissa. The frequent use of red, blue and yellow colour can be noticed in these books. With these three primary colours, colours were put from Hengul-Haital (yellow orOment), indigo, carbon of earthen lamp, Silikha (Terminalia citrina) juice and chalk (Khari mati). Perhaps egg yoke, the viscid. substance of.Outenga (a kind of acid fruit) seed and gum from’ temarind tree were mixed with colours. Generally red, blue, brown and ash colour is used in the background. The significant features of Assamese painting are the cordiality of the artists and clarity and movement of the pictures. Another feature is the style of drawing profile of the characters like gods, human, animals and demons. Other such features are the use of dark primary colours, deep blue colour for sky, white lines on blue for water, numerous white lines for rain and putting beard on evil male characters. The pictures drawn in semi-circle shape on cotton made papers are not realistic. It is difficult to isolate one picture from another which are arranged in the shape of half-moon or. curved line. The body posture is remarkable. Eyes resemble fish, nose is clear and eyelashes are arrow shaped. The pictures of birds and animals are realistic. Religious stories took the forefront in the paintings of ancient Assam. These paintings can be divided into two types : (1) the paintings done at Satras on religious books and (2) the painting works done for religious books on royal Oatronage. Such paintings found on religious books bear significance. It had become a character of Assamese painting to draw beautiful pictures on religious books and decorate their surroundings brightly. Creepers and flowers were drawn on all four sides of such paintings and therefore, books containing such pictures are called ‘Latakata Puthi` (Creeper curved book). Many such books are found in various places of Assam. The Assamese painting gained a new life during the 17th and 18th century with the help of royal patronage from the Ahom and the Koch Kings. Darrang Raaj Bangshavali (geneological details of the royal family of Darrang),,compiled and painted by Suryakhori Doivagya at the court of Darrang, Hasthividyamava by Sukumar Barkath, Sankhachur Badh by Kaviraj Chakravarty, Geet Govinda and Battle of Lava-Kusha by by Harihar Bipra are some of the books composed under the Ahom royal patronage which contain beautiful paintings. The paintings
Darrang Raj Bangshavali are based on religious ideals. The battle scenes are-remarkable in this book. The dresses flowing to the ground and glittering ornaments of Hasthividyamava drawn by Dilbor and Doshai. are really eye catching. The 1 Eith century is famous for bringing out books pictured with small paintings. Besides delineating the history of Assam these picturesque books also illustrated the stories from the Hindu epics and Puranas. According to the Scholars, the Rajput and Mughal school influenced the Assamese style of painting. In some paintings the influence of China and Tibet is also seen. Most of the Assamese paintings are the gift of the 18th century. An indigenous style of painting started developing at the religious environment of Majuli at that time. But Moamoriah revolt and such other political and social instabilities disrupted the practice of fine arts. Painting • 183 Old Assamese books and pictures were written or drawn on Sanchi Paat (bark of Sanchi tree) or Tulapaat (Cotton made paper). Sanchi Paat was prepared through a tremendous Inbourious process. Above all, they were conditioned with many things for dazzle and durability. Dark black ink of permanent character was used in writings and paintings. Thinly sliced bamboo and Bhojpaat (leaf used as plates in feasts) were also used as leaf of books. The shape of the letters were named after the community and occupation of the writers or painters of the book such as Bamuniya, Kaitheli, Lohkori etc. Though the western ideologies and influences of paintings have entered into Assam with modernity the indigenous fine arts and paintings bf Assam have not yet developed much.