Mural paintings in Kerala remains the most prominent symbol for culture and artistic traditions. Word Mural is derived from Latin word ‘murus’ which means wall. Murals are representation of paintings illustrated on visual components like wall, ceiling and other long-lasting surfaces. These painting stand fit clarity, beauty and symmetry. These paintings have derived inspiration from Ajanta caves. Buddha monks took it to various parts of the world wherein art form had evolved.
Kerala is known as god’s own country. It has a rich blend of religious influence in the crafts which is secured for traditional and cultural retention. The mural art form has a higher religious influence which is practiced in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala. These art forms stand as highest in artistic tradition. These paintings are known for technical excellence, interesting and enchanting storytelling through clear strokes with bright and beautiful colors.
Initially, people used to express their ideas, and thought in various ways or day-to-day observations on cave, walls, and temple walls. These stores depict mythological stories. People used to express themselves from some age to the present day. The only change one can see is the form of expression. Artists used to depict mythological characters like Vishnu, Lord Shiva, and Ganesha in various personifications. These art forms started flourishing under various rulers of Kerala and these art forms were depicted on royal households and palaces. A few examples are –the Pallimanna Shiva temple with various illustrations which describe Ramayana on the walls of Mattancherry palace. Padmanabhapuram Palace is decorated portraying puranic themes from the 17th and 18th centuries. Mural paintings are not just restricted to depicting deities. These paintings depict Ayurvedic processes, different styles and traditional dance forms. Different deities are shown in different colors. Each differentiation was based on the character of each deity as described in the literature. Mural painting takes 41 to 60 days to get complete. The outlines are drawn in yellow and then filled with colors. Now, the usage of this art form has changed. Designer career are introduced in Kerala where Pallu of careers are decorated with traditional murals of Kerala.
Role of Raja Ravi Verma –
Raja Ravi Verna was instrumental in taking mural painting to the masses. He draped the characters in a gesture called as ‘Saree’ which is found in Maharashtra. The artists even clothed his gods in saree in his paintings.
Themes of Paintings –
Artists used mural paintings to portray Hindu deities and moral themes. Painters use different and specific techniques for creating murals. These murals make use of different colors- White, black, yellow, green and red. These colors are made from plant materials and minerals. Use of these colors are used in different contents to make the painting alive, unique and interesting. The colour red is used to represent wealth and strength. Green is used to represent gods and black for devils and monsters. Paintings are no longer drawn on temple walls. They make use of canvas, paper, clay and cloth. Despite blend of classical and contemporary expression, the art style is referred to as mural art of Kerela. Kathakali, Theyyam and Koodiyattom deeply influences mural artists.
Themes are based on –
Different incarnations of Vishnu, Ganesha and Lord Shiva.
Characters and some scenes derived from Christian Mythology
Few scenes from battle of Tipu Sultan and English East India company
Common themes of Gopi, Nataraja and Anantasayanan, Krishna with Gopi as Dakshinamurthi, Laxminarayan on hunt.
Color Depiction –
White Colour – positive aspect or satvauna of deity
Red colour is used to represent power and materialistic wealth.
Yellow colour used to represent rajoguna and satvaguna.
Black colour used to represent evil forces or characters.
Blue or green shades used to represent dharmic character.
Depiction of deity as in large eyes, prominent ornamentation and curvy circular art style form.
Women depicted with long faces and well-built bodies in Padmanabha Puram palace.
In Mattancherry palace drawings, women have round faced and bulky appearance.
Feminine attributes given to male God and vice versa. Only some saints, kings, Parasuraman and Vettakorumakan had moustaches.
Thick lines indicate closeness while thin lines indicate distance, flowing line and rotation.
Artist brings the elements if time, seasons and age through various methods.
Ajanta murals are known for colour schemes and Kerela murals are known for splendid sketching.
There is massive popularity of mural paintings among the masses. But there is change in process, techniques and canvas. Due to the course of time, the value and respect of this original art form had been lost. The current need is the revival of an art form. This will help preserve old techniques and cultural heritage, unique traditional values. Art forms can be revived by spreading knowledge and awareness about these art forms to the preservation of great history and its restoration.