Try and resist the unique appeal and staggering skill showcased in the miniature paintings from Udaipur.
Udaipur is an enchanting city. It is unlike any other place I have been.
It has palpable energy and serenity. You can feel the city.
And it's not just the beautiful lakes. The local people have the energy too. It's a great Indian story.
I have written about the charms of Udaipur here, in seemingly mundane items such as doors!
It's All in the Detail
I love the colours and the deer in this one!
I remember the first time I met some miniature painting artists in Udaipur.
The husband and wife team were sitting on the floor in the workshop, surrounded by their creations and paint pallets.
Imagine painting a picture in fine detail - people's faces, clothes, animals, landscapes, decorative borders.
Now imagine painting that picture with a hair! A tiny "brush" made with a camel eyelash or squirrel hair?
It sounds impossible, right?
But in front of our eager eyes, a scene began to form. A woman's appeared, sitting near a river near an Indian palace, with a bright moon.
The fine detail began to appear - hair, facial features and expression, mood.
And all in minute detail, barely visible without a magnifying glass.
I don't think my eyes or shaky hand could attempt this miniature challenge!
Fine Indian Art
The artists worked as they explained to us the heritage of their talent.
Their respective families had also been artists and handed down their considerable knowledge and skill.
Their son was also a gifted artist.
The artists told us that the miniatures in Udaipur tell stories of the Royal Kingdom and life within. They also create beautiful depictions of love stories and mythology through the Ages.
Without reading words, people could learn through the artistic depictions made by these gifted storytellers of time.
The materials used are mainly natural substances (from ground stones, vegetable sources, metals, minerals etc.).
Mediums like paper, silk and synthetic plates form the backdrop to these tiny artworks.
After our session with the artists, they showed us their training school in an adjoining room.
It was fantastic to see the tradition being carried forward to members of the 'new India.'
The Return Visit
I was once again drawn back to the city.
This time I was living in India; an Overseas Citizen of India who was now a permanent pest to the locals!
On this occasion, I visited a very friendly shop near Ghangour Ghat.
I was shown a picture of one of their famous customers - Dame Judi Dench no less!
The owner's son showed me a variety of artworks, from pieces created by his grandfather to his own miniatures.
The truth is, it's very hard not to buy all of them! I am attracted to the tiny elements and depictions so much that the miniature painting shops are a dangerous place for me to be.
Tiny animals, kings and queens, nature scenes and palaces, all drawn in stunning colour and precise, fine strokes.
It's a true 'luxury' to me to view and own a tiny piece of Indian history.
Will the Miniatures Survive? The Future
Sadly many factors are working against traditional arts and crafts in India, namely low demand and the lure of more lucrative careers for the artists.
Tourists remain enchanted by the work and provide a much-needed source of support for the sector in India.
I would rather have a piece of art and history created by a generational artisan than a manufactured treasure any day.
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