15 Must-See Murals Across India

A unique part of India’s rich cultural art heritage includes the beautiful mural paintings seen in architecture across India. From ancient caves to temples and palaces, the walls have long been adorned with visually distinct mural paintings that showcase the country's artistic brilliance. These murals are not just decorative pieces of art but also carry historical and cultural significance. 


Mural paintings are large-scale works of art that are created directly on a wall or a ceiling. They have been an integral part of human expression and art for thousands of years, and can be found in various cultures and civilizations around the world. 


In India, mural paintings have been used to decorate temples, palaces, caves, and public spaces since ancient times. The creation of a mural painting requires a unique set of skills and techniques and the process of painting a mural is a long one that requires dedication and patience but the end result is a piece of art that is absolutely breath-taking.


If you visit a site with mural paintings, one of the unique features of them is that they are often site-specific. That means that the design of the mural is created to suit the specific architecture and surroundings of the building or space in which it is being painted. This helps to create a harmonious relationship between the painting and its surroundings and it would be interesting to note the cultural context behind them depending on the geographical location of the mural paintings.


Here is a list of famous and noteworthy mural paintings across the country that you have to visit! 

 

1. Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra - The Ajanta Caves, located in Maharashtra, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contain some of the most famous murals in India. These murals date back to the 2nd century BC and depict scenes from the life of Buddha. However, more specifically many of the mural paintings depict Jataka tales. Jataka tales are stories from Buddha’s previous lives and are like moral-based stories that teach us more Buddhist virtues.  The tales seen in the Ajanta caves include the story of the selfless Monkey King who sacrifices himself for his fellow monkeys, the compassionate Deer King who willingly becomes prey to a ruthless ruler, the Bodhisattva Prince's spiritual journey of renunciation and enlightenment, and the Hare's Sacrifice, highlighting the virtue of selflessness and compassion. These captivating narratives etched on the cave walls transport visitors into a world of ancient wisdom, illustrating moral virtues and teachings through the vibrant and timeless art of the Ajanta Cave Murals. These murals are a beautiful representation of ancient Indian art and are a must-visit for any art lover.

 

Indian Wall Murals: 15 Must-See Murals Across India

 

2. Ellora Caves, Maharashtra - Although often mentioned in conjunction with the Ajanta Caves despite being 100 km apart - form a unique UNESCO World Heritage Site! Filled with captivating murals celebrated for their intricate detailing and vibrant colors, they represent an extraordinary example of Indian cave architecture. The site comprises a total of 34 caves that house an array of exquisite murals, sculptures, and carvings, embodying the essence of Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain religions. The Ellora Caves stretch back over several centuries, with each set of caves signifying a different era. The Buddhist Caves (Caves 1-12) are among the earliest, dating back to the 5th-7th century AD, and are adorned with murals portraying various Jataka tales and episodes from Buddha's life. The Hindu Caves (Caves 13-29) are famed for the Kailasa Temple in Cave 16, dated to the late 8th century. This magnificent temple is predominantly recognized for its intricate sculptures, although it also boasts its own collection of murals. The murals in these Hindu caves span from the late 6th to late 8th century AD. The Jain Caves (Caves 30-34), believed to date from the 9th to the 12th century AD, conclude this religious timeline. Their murals frequently depict the teachings of Jain tirthankaras. Tirthankaras in Jainism are spiritual teachers who have achieved liberation and guide others on the path to enlightenment. There have been 24 Tirthankaras, with the last being Lord Mahavira.

 

Indian Wall Murals: 15 Must-See Murals Across India

  

3. Sittanavasal Cave, Tamil NaduCarved into the time-weathered rocks of Tamil Nadu, the Sittanavasal Cave is a 2nd-century Jain complex steeped in rich spiritual and artistic history. Its name, echoing 'the abode of great saints,' is apt for a site revered as the Arivar Koil - the rock-cut temple of the Arihants. Here, captivating frescoes from the 7th century chronicle the zenith of Jain influence in the region, each mural a vibrant narrative painted with vegetable and mineral dyes in hues of black, green, yellow, orange, blue, and white. Applied onto a thin wet surface of lime plaster, these colors have withstood the test of time, their stories as vivid now as they were centuries ago. The Sittanavasal village, dating from 1st century BC to 10th century AD, was a significant epicenter of Jainism, and the cave temple's creation is credited to the Pallava King Mahendravarman I (580–630 AD) during his early years as a Jain before his conversion to Shaivism. Notably, the murals prominently feature the Tirthankaras - the enlightened spiritual guides who form a central part of Jain philosophy. Their teachings and imagery, deeply imprinted on these ancient walls, turn the Sittanavasal Cave into a living tapestry of Jain history, philosophy, and art.

  

Indian Wall Murals: 15 Must-See Murals Across India

 

4. Mattancherry Palace, Kerala - Immersed in a rich historical setting, the Mattancherry Palace in Kerala is renowned for its splendid murals and what sets these murals apart is their representation of the distinct Kerala mural painting style, characterized by detailed and vividly colored depictions on a grand scale. Remarkably, the Mattancherry Palace, also known as the Dutch Palace, houses one of the largest collections of these murals, which spans over 300 sq km of its walls. Even more intriguing is the fusion of cultures within the palace's architecture; despite its name, it was actually the Portuguese who originally gifted it to the Raja of Kochi in the mid-1500s. The Dutch merely renovated the palace a century later, contributing to the amalgamation of architectural styles that we see today. This intriguing blend of cultures and artistry truly makes the Mattancherry Palace a significant historical and artistic landmark in Kochi, Kerala.

 

Indian Wall Murals: 15 Must-See Murals Across India

 

5. Meenakshi Temple, Tamil Nadu - The Meenakshi Temple, a crown jewel in the city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu and the temple walls come alive with vibrant depictions of scenes from various Hindu epics and puranas. These exquisite murals narrate the celestial love story of Lord Shiva (Sundareswarar) and Goddess Parvati (Meenakshi), chronicled in the revered 'Tiruvilaiyadal Puranam'. The portrayal of Shiva-lilas, depicting sixty-four episodes as painted murals around the temple walls depicting Lord Shiva's cosmic dance of destruction, Tandava, and his divine sports, known as 'Thiruvilayadals', which showcase his benevolence and omnipotence. A good time to visit this site would be during the grand 'Chithirai Festival', a month-long celebration that brings to life the divine wedding of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarar. This spectacular event, held annually in the Tamil month of Chithirai, which falls between mid-April to mid-May, enchants devotees and tourists alike. The vibrant festivities and elaborate rituals lasting for an entire month immerse the temple and its surroundings in a palpable atmosphere of devotion and celebration, while it may be crowded then, it would also be an adventurous time to visit deep-south India!

 

Indian Wall Murals: 15 Must-See Murals Across India

 

6. Padmanabhapuram Palace, Kerala - The Padmanabhapuram Palace, located in Kerala, features beautiful murals that showcase the unique style of Kerala mural painting. These murals date back to the 18th century and the inner walls of the room showcase intricate paintings depicting gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon, creating a serene atmosphere for meditation. The central theme on the western and eastern walls revolves around two paintings of Anantha Padmanabha, a form of Lord Vishnu, believed to be sanctified by divine presence. The eastern wall mural, a re-painting of the original, measures 224-cms by 152-cms and features a three-dimensional illusion. Personifications of the Sun and the Moon adorn the top corners, worshipped by sages and celestials. Flanking the deity at the bottom are two Dwarapalakas as guardians. Moving to the northern wall, paintings depict the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu, eleven forms of Rudra, and various divine scenes, including Lord Shiva's cosmic dance, Krishna's playful antics, and more. The central theme on the eastern wall is a repainted version by Saris Katchadourian, featuring Vishnu and his consorts. These mesmerizing murals add to the beauty and spiritual ambiance, immersing visitors in the captivating world of Hindu mythology and divine grace.

 

Indian Wall Murals: 15 Must-See Murals Across India

 

Vishakha, a member of our team, had the privilege of personally visiting this place and was astounded by the breathtaking examples of mural paintings. You can delve into her immersive experience and read about it in detail here.

 

7. Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu - The Kanchipuram Murals, located in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, offer a captivating artistic journey through history. While the mural heritage of Ajanta, the mural capital of India, has faded over time, the artistic features found in Ajanta blossomed in the Pallava Court at Kanchipuram, 1000 km away. Unfortunately, only a small portion of Pallava murals have survived, with the Vijayanagar and Nayaka rulers also contributing to the mural tradition in Kanchipuram. The Pallavas, known for their patronage of art, introduced rock-cut architecture in Tamil Nadu in the 7th century CE. Although none of Mahendra Verman I's murals have survived, Rajasimha's period towards the end of the 7th century left some traces on the walls. The remains include fragments of Shiva, a beautiful depiction of Shiva and Parvati, and a Samakanda mural showcasing the artist's excellence. Kanchipuram, located on the banks of the Vegavathi River, has a rich history and is known for its temples and hand-woven silk sarees. The mural tradition was revived during the Vijayanagar Period, and the Jain Temple at Kanchi displays murals commissioned by Nayaka rulers illustrating Jain themes. Although many of the murals have faded, the outlines still depict prominent figures and animated movement.

 

Indian Wall Murals: 15 Must-See Murals Across India
Source: Virasat-e-Hind/Wordpress

 

8. Shekhawati Murals in Rajasthan, India - Shekhawati is a region located in the north-eastern part of the Indian state of Rajasthan. It encompasses the districts of Jhunjhunu and Sikar. Many murals in Shekhawati revolve around religious, folk and historical themes, predominantly focusing on Hindu deities. These include depictions of gods and goddesses such as Lord Krishna, Lord Rama, Lord Shiva, and Goddess Durga and some of the murals often draw inspiration from Rajasthani folk tales and legends. Stories of heroic characters like Dhola-Maru, Heer-Ranjha, and Sohni-Mahinwal come to life through vibrant and expressive paintings. These murals narrate significant events and highlight the cultural heritage of the region. Some murals in Shekhawati also showcase historical events and personalities. Rajput rulers, local princes, and even British monarchs find their place on the walls. Paintings depicting battles, royal processions, and portraits of notable figures offer insights into the historical context and the region's interaction with external influences.

 

Indian Wall Murals: 15 Must-See Murals Across India

 

Today, efforts are being made to preserve and promote these murals, as they serve a reminder to the region's artistic legacy. Visitors to Rajasthan have the opportunity to explore and appreciate the captivating Shekhawati murals, which have become an important part of the state's cultural heritage.

 

9. Jogimara and Sitabenga Caves, Chhattisgarh - The Jogimara and Sitabenga Caves, located in the Ramgarh hills of Puta village, Chhattisgarh, India, are ancient cave monuments that hold great historical and artistic significance. These caves date back to the 3rd century BCE to the 1st century BCE and are known for their unique features. The Sitabenga Cave is considered by some scholars as the oldest known performance stage on the Indian subcontinent. The Jogimara Cave, on the other hand, is a natural cave that has been adapted and sculpted for visitors. It does not have outside benches or other sculpted features. Both the Jogimara and Sitabenga Caves contain inscriptions in Brahmi script and Magadhi language. The inscriptions are poetic in nature and provide insights into ancient artistic and cultural practices. What makes these caves truly remarkable are the fresco murals found within them. Although faded and partially repainted, these murals are among the oldest colored frescoes in Asia. The paintings originally featured three colors: red, yellow, and black. The panels depict various scenes, including dancing girls, musicians, couples dancing, and processions of elephants and chariots. The artistic style and non-religious nature of the murals set them apart from other ancient cave paintings in India.

 

Indian Wall Murals: 15 Must-See Murals Across India

 

10. Maratha Palace, Thanjavur - In the Maratha Palace, located in Thanjavur, the main  highlight of the Thanjavur Maratha Palace Complex is the stunning murals that adorn its walls. These murals, which date back several centuries, provide a glimpse into the rich artistic heritage of the region and the Mahratta Darbar Hall, in particular, features colorful murals that depict the grandeur of the Maratha rulers which showcase scenes from royal life, including portraits of the rulers themselves.

 

Indian Wall Murals: 15 Must-See Murals Across India

  

12. Hampi, Karnataka - Dedicated to Lord Virupaksha, a local name for Shiva, the Virupaksha Temple in Hampi is a captivating attraction that has been an active temple for centuries. One of its remarkable features is the exquisite murals adorning the ceiling of the Ranga Mantapa, the main hall before the inner sanctum. Created over 500 years ago during the glorious reign of the Vijayanagara Empire, these murals offer a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the time. Inspired by folklore, ancient Indian texts, Kannada literature, and epics like the Girija Kalyana by Harihara, the paintings beautifully depict the traditions and legends of that era. Although the passage of time has faded many of the murals, efforts have been made to restore and preserve them in recent years. The mural artwork in the temple's ceiling is divided into three distinct sections: the west, middle, and east sections. As the Virupaksha Temple faces east, the west section is located near the sanctum sanctorum, while the east section is closer to the entrance. The west section of the murals primarily focuses on Shiva and portrays the joyous celebration of his divine union with Parvati. In the middle section, a captivating lotus flower medallion takes center stage, surrounded by two narrative paintings illustrating captivating stories related to Shiva. The east section is dedicated to Vishnu, showcasing his various avatars and significant scenes from the epic tales of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Visiting the Virupaksha Temple allows you to marvel at these ancient murals that not only enhance the temple's architectural grandeur but also provide insights into the artistic and cultural heritage of the Vijayanagara Empire.

 

Indian Wall Murals: 15 Must-See Murals Across India

 

13. Kollur Mookambika Temple, Karnataka - The Kollur Mookambika Temple, located in Karnataka, features beautiful murals that showcase the unique style of Kerala mural painting. These vibrant and intricate artworks add to the temple's visual splendor and create a captivating ambiance for visitors. In addition to its artistic treasures, the temple holds a significant place in Hindu mythology. It is believed that Devi Shakthi, also known as Mookambika, triumphed over the demon Mookasura in this very place. This captivating story adds a sense of awe and wonder to the temple experience, making it more than just a place of worship. The Kollur Mookambika Temple is not only a spiritual destination but also a center of knowledge and art. Devotees come to seek the blessings of the Goddess as Vagdevathe, the deity associated with speech and letters. If you visit, an interesting point to remember is that the idol of Mookambika is made of Panchaloha, a composite of five metals - gold, silver, copper, iron, and lead, which requires advance knowledge of using these metals and incorporating them.

  

Indian Wall Murals: 15 Must-See Murals Across India

Source: playingwithmemories/wordpress

 

14. Mehrangarh Fort, Rajasthan - Zenānā Dyodi, located within the Mehrāngarh Fort, holds a significant place in the history of Mārwār and Indian art. Serving as the area for the queens and females of the royal family, the murals in Zenānā Dyodi have remained undocumented for a long time. Covered with layers of traditional plaster, these murals have recently been revealed and admired. Although the Zenānā part of the fort has never been open to the public, it showcases remarkable artistic compositions. The murals can be found on walls, ceilings, arches, cornices, and pillars, reflecting various architectural segments of the rooms. One of the most notable rooms is the Shree Nāth ji temple, which houses a variety of artwork, including murals, architecture, colored glass work, mirror work, and stone jālis. The murals in Zenānā Dyodi display a range of artistic techniques, including lime-based plaster known as Kaudi plaster. The paintings were directly applied to the smooth plaster without any preparatory ground, and the technique used is believed to be tempera. The murals have a distinct color palette, and the examination of pigments used, such as blue, can provide insights into their dating of when these murals were made.

 

 

Indian Wall Murals: 15 Must-See Murals Across India

Source: Danita Delimont Prints

  

15. Armamalai Cave Paintings, Tamil Nadu - Located in the Vellore district of Tamil Nadu, Armamalai Cave is home to a Jain temple adorned with ancient paintings, petroglyphs, and rock art. Dating back to the 8th century AD, this cave complex consists of three interconnected shrines known as trikūta. The walls and ceilings of the cave were once adorned with vibrant color paintings depicting stories from Jainism, although many of them have been lost over time. Similar to the murals found in Sittanavasal Cave, located 250 kilometers south of Armamalai Cave, the paintings in Armamalai depict intricate and detailed artwork. The western part of the cave's ceiling is particularly notable, showcasing beautiful floral designs dominated by lotus motifs, reminiscent of the artwork found in Sittanavasal. If you find yourself travelling south anytime soon, these places would make a great visit!

  

Indian Wall Murals: 15 Must-See Murals Across India

 

As you embark on your journey through the vibrant tapestry of murals across India, remember that each stroke of paint carries the legacy of our rich cultural heritage. These magnificent artworks are not merely decorative expressions but windows into our diverse traditions and stories. So, plan your vacations with an artistic agenda, and let these murals guide your path. And for those seeking a deeper connection with art, Memeraki offers a gateway to immerse yourself in everything related to art, from workshops to paintings!

References

0 comments

Leave a comment

MEDIA COVERAGE