5 Trees in Indian Miniature Paintings You Need to Know About

Indian miniature paintings are renowned for their intricate details and stunning beauty, and trees play a prominent role in these works of art. From the grand banyan tree to the delicate flowers of the mango tree, the types of trees depicted in Indian miniature paintings are as diverse as they are beautiful. In this article, we will explore the different types of trees found in Indian miniature paintings and their significance.


1. Parijaat Tree

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis, commonly known as the Parijaat tree or night-flowering jasmine, is a sacred plant in Hindu mythology and has a rich cultural significance in various parts of India. The tree is known for its fragrant, white, star-shaped flowers that bloom at night and fall off in the morning. One such tale is about Lord Krishna's attempt to please his two consorts, Satyabhama and Rukmini. He brought the heavenly tree into his palace from the abode of Indra and planted it in a way that it grew in Satyabhama's house but bloomed its flowers in Rukmini's courtyard. Additionally, traditional Ayurvedic treatments have often used Parijaat flowers for their diuretic and antioxidant properties.


Folio from a Bhagavata Purana: Krishna and Satyabhama steal Indra's Parijata tree.


2. Mango Tree

The mango fruit is widely consumed and used in traditional Indian cuisine and is also considered a symbol of love and friendship. Additionally, mango leaves are used in various Hindu rituals and ceremonies, and the tree is believed to be a symbol of fertility and prosperity. Mangoes, blooming mango trees, and mango groves were a common subject in the scenic miniature paintings of North India. These paintings depicted the lush greenery of mango groves with the backdrop of clear blue skies, often evoking a sense of tranquility and harmony. Mangoes themselves were portrayed with vivid colors and intricate details, reflecting their status as a highly valued fruit in Indian culture.


Two Women and a Peacock, Gujara Ragini


3. Banana Trees

Banana trees have a distinctive appearance, characterized by their long, slender trunks made up of tightly packed layers of leaves. The large, broad leaves of the banana plant are a vibrant green color and are shaped like an elongated heart. The usage of banana plants in many religious and marriage ceremonies indicates the auspiciousness associated with this plant. In miniatures, the banana tree is easy to identify, with its large leaves and pale green trunk. In Rajasthani miniature art, the depiction of Radha-Krishna along with other gopinis is incomplete without the display of feathered animals, ponds, and luxuriant plants that include banana trees and their foliage, reflecting the cultural and aesthetic importance of this plant.


The Devi under a banana tree


4. Banyan Tree

Banyan trees, with their sprawling branches and extensive roots, hold a significant place in both Hindu mythology and miniature paintings. According to Hinduism, the tree possesses spiritual powers and is believed to fulfill human desires. These trees can reach a diameter of 200 meters and a height of 30 meters, and their ability to regenerate enables them to survive for up to 2500 years, which is why they are also considered immortal by Hindus. The name 'banyan' is derived from the baniya merchant caste, who used to rest under these trees to discuss their transactions and plans in ancient India. In miniature paintings, the banyan tree is often featured in scenes of devotion, spiritual mysticism, and asceticism. It is also depicted as a standalone subject, exploring the intricacies and beauty of the tree itself.


Rana Sangram Singh Worshipping a Linga under a Banyan Tree


5. Ashoka Tree

The Ashoka tree is a compact, upright evergreen tree with dark green leaves that grow closely together in dense clusters. It's highly revered in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, and its Sanskrit name, "Ashoka," translates to "without sorrow." The Ashoka tree is known for its beautiful clusters of fragrant, bright orange-yellow flowers that bloom throughout the year. It is closely associated with yakshis and yakshinis, mythological beings in Hinduism, with images of these spirits often shown holding a branch of blossoming Ashoka. The Ramayana epic also mentions the Ashoka Vatika, a garden of Ashoka trees in Lanka where Hanuman went to assuage Sita at the request of Ram.


Sita at Ashokavana


In the end, Indian miniature paintings are a treasure trove of artistic representation of flora and fauna, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the Indian subcontinent. The examples mentioned in this article are just a few of the many trees depicted in different schools of Indian miniature paintings. There is still so much to learn and study about the intricate details and symbolic meanings associated with each tree depicted in these paintings. The portrayal of trees in Indian art is a fascinating subject that provides a unique insight into the cultural and spiritual beliefs of ancient India.


To delve deeper into the world of Indian miniature paintings, such as Rajasthani, Mughal, Pahari, Assamese, and more schools, visit our workshops page or join our masterclasses for a comprehensive art course.



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