Though no pre-Mughal painting from the Deccan are so far known to exist, yet it can safely be presumed that sophisticated schools of painting flourished there, making a significant contribution to the development of the Mughal style in North India. Early centres of painting in the Deccan, during the 16th and 17th centuries were Ahmednagar, Bijapur and Golconda. In the Deccan, painting continued to develop independently of the Mughal style in the beginning. However, later in the 17th and 18th centuries it was increasingly influenced by the Mughal style.


The earliest examples of the Ahmednagar painting are contained in a volume of poems written in praise of Hussain Nizam Shah I of Ahmednagar (1553-1565) and his queen. This manuscript known as the ‘Tarif-in-Hussain Shahi and assigned to a period 1565-69 is preserved in the Bharat ltihas Samshodaka Mandala, Poona. One of the illustrations depicts the king sitting on the throne and attended by a number of women. The female type appearing in the painting belongs to the northern tradition of Malwa. The Choli (bodice) and long pigtails braided and ending in a tassel are the northern costume. But the long scarf passing round the body is in the southern fashion. The colours used in the painting being rich and brilliant are different from those used in the northern paintings. The Persian influence can be seen in the high horizon, gold sky and the landscape.

Some other fine examples of the Ahmednagar painting are the “Hindola Raga” of about 1590 A.D. and portraits of Burhan Nizam Shah II of Ahmednagar (1591-96 A.D.) and of Malik Amber of about 1605 A.D. existing in the National Museum, New Delhi and other museums.

Pahari, Kangra School, Hindola Raga, 1790-1800 A. D

Prince of Bijapur ., Deccani School of painting


In Bijapur, painting was patronised by Ali Adil Shah I (1558-80 A.D.) and his successor Ibrahim II (1580-1627 A.D.). An encyclopaedia known as the Najum-al-ulum (Stars of Sciences), preserved in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, was illustrated in 1570 A.D. in the reign of Ali Adil Shah I. This manuscript contains 876 miniatures. The ladies appearing in the illustrations are tall and slender and are wearing the South Indian dress. One of the miniatures illustrated here shows the “Throne of Prosperity”. There is influence of the Lepakshi mural painting on the female types. The rich colour scheme, the palm trees, animals and men and women all belong, to the Deccani tradition. The profuse use of gold colour, some flowering plants and arabesques on the top of the throne are derived from the Persian tradition.

Ibrahim II (1580-1627 A.D.) was a musician and author of a book, the Naurasnama., on the subject. It is believed that a number of the Ragamala paintings were commissioned in various museums and private collections. A few contemporary portraits of Ibrahim II are also available in several museums.


The earliest paintings identified as Golconda work are a group of five charming paintings of about 1590 A.D. in the British Museum, London, painted in the period of Muhammad Quli Quta Shah (1580-1611) Golconda. They show dancing girls entertaining the company. One of the miniatures illustrated shows the king in his court watching a dance performance. He wears the white muslim coat with embroidered vertical band, a typical costume associated with the Golconda court. Gold colour has been lavishly used in painting the architecture, costume, jewellery and vessels etc.

Other outstanding examples of the Golconda painting are “Lady with the Myna bird”, about 1605 A.D. in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, an illustrated manuscript of a Sufi poem (1605-15 A.D.) in the British Museum, London and a couple of portraits showing a poet in a garden and an elegantly dressed young man seated on a golden stool and reading a book, both signed by a certain artist Muhammad Ali in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Early Deccani painting absorbed influences of the northern tradition of the pre-Mughal painting which was flourishing in Malwa, and of the southern tradition of the Vijayanagar murals as evident in the treatment of female types and costumes. Influence of the Persian painting is also observed in the treatment of the horizon gold sky and landscape. The colours are rich and brilliant and are different from those of the northern painting. Tradition of the early Deccani painting continued long after the extinction of the Deccan Sultanates of Ahmednagar, Bijapur and Golconda.

Lady smokingHooka, Golconda painting

A lady with made, Vilaval Ragini, 18th century A.D.


Painting in Hyderabad started with the foundation of the Asafjhi dynasty by Mir Qamruddin Khan (Chin Qulick Khan) Nizam-ul-Mulk in 1724 A.D. Influence of the Mughal style of painting on the already existing early styles of Deccani paintings, introduced by several Mughal painters who migrated to the Deccan during the period of Aurangzeb and sought patronage there, was responsible for the development of various styles of painting in the Deccan at Hyderabad and other centres. Distinctive features of the Deccani paintings of the 18th and 19th centuries are observed in the treatment of the ethnic types, costumes, jewellery, flora, fauna, landscape and colours.

A miniature showing a princess in the company of maids is a typical example of the Hyderabad school of painting. The princess is reclining on richly furnished terrace covered with a canopy. The style of the painting is decorative. Typical characteristics of the Hyderabad painting like the rich colours, the Deccani facial types and costumes can be observed in the miniature. It belongs to the third quarter of the 18th century.


A style of painting characterised by bold drawing, techniques of shading and the use of pure and brilliant colours flourished at Tanjore in South India during the late 18th and 19th centuries.

A typical example of the Tanjore painting, in the collection of the National Museum, is an illustrated wooden panel of early 19th century showing the coronation of Rama. The scene is laid under elaborately decorated arches. In the middle Rama and Sita are seated on the throne, attended by his brothers and a lady; In the left and right panels are seen rishis, courtiers and princes. In the foreground are Hanuman, Sugriva who is being honoured and two other vanaras opening a box probably containing gifts. The style is decorative and is marked by the use of bright colours and ornamental details. The conical crown appearing in the miniature is a typical feature of the Tanjore painting.

Source: CCRT

Krishana, Tanjore painting, 18th century A.D