The birth of the Indian Monalisa in Indian Arts and Culture

Art Bani Thani Indian Art Indian Traditional Art Painting Rajasthani Art

Indian paintings can be broadly classified into murals and miniatures. Murals are the large works that you see on the walls of Ajanta Caves and places of worship like the Kailashnath temple. Miniature paints are paintings done on small pieces of cloth or paper. The Pala's of Bengal were the pioneers of miniature painting in India, and they introduced it between 9th-10th century. The art form represented the way of living at the time: the practices of the society, the people and the political systems. The art of Miniature painting reached its glory during the Mughal rule (16th – 18th century).

Mughal Court Scene, Miniature Painting

The Rajput's of Rajasthan succeeded the Mughals who were also great admirers of art and culture. With the decline of the Mughal dynasty, many artists sought refuge under the Rajput rulers. Thus the paintings made during the period were heavily influenced by the Mughal art. The tradition of miniature paintings were carried forward by the artists of different Rajasthani schools of painting like the Bundi, Kishangarhg, Jaipur, Marwar and Mewar.  

Kishangarh Painting

Kishangarh Painting is an 18th-century school of the Rajasthani style of Indian painting that arose in the princely state of Kishangarh (central Rajasthan). The school is clearly distinguished by its individualistic facial type and its religious intensity.

The artists of Kishangarh were masters of creating beautiful, intricate miniature paintings under the rule of the 18th century Rajput King, Maharaja Savant Singh. He was a poet, also, who wrote under the name of Nagari Dās, as well as a devout member of the Vallabhācārya sect, which worships the lord in his appearance on Earth as Krishna, the divine lover. During his rule, most of the miniature paintings were inspired by the romantic stories of Krishna and his companion Radha. The Radha Krishna in these paintings used to represent Maharaja Savant Singh and his mistress, later his wife, Vishnupriya or most popularly known as Bani Thani(“Well-Decked Woman”).

Radha-Krishna painting representing Maharaja Savant Singh and Vishnupriya

The sensitive, refined features of the men and women are drawn with pointed noses and chins, deeply curved eyes, and serpentine locks of hair. It is speculated that the features of Bani Thani might have been the influence behind Kishangarh facial types. The action is frequently shown to occur in large panoramic landscapes.

The Bani Thani Painting or the Indian Monalisa

Maharaja Savant Singh’s step mother employed Vishnupriya as a court singer, whose beauty enchanted the Maharaja. Due to her beauty, singing talent, and devotion to Lord Krishna, the king got drawn to her. Their shared interest in art, poetry, and singing grew them closer, and the two married in 1740. It was Bani Thani’s special way of carrying herself that inspired painters to immortalize her via paintings. The master artist largely responsible for transmitting the romantic and religious passions of his patron into new and fresh visual images was Nihal Chand. In 1760, both the king and his queen Bani Thani breathed their last.

Bani Thani Painting

Intricate details of Bani Thani Painting

In this miniature side-profile portrait painting, Bani Thani portrays deeply curved eyes with pointed noses and chins and serpentine locks of hair. These features inspired by Bani Thani may have been the model for the Kishangarh facial type or a representation of the epitome of beauty at the time.

The miniature portrait is so exquisite that it is often compared to that of the Mona Lisa.

Nihal Chand

Nihal Chand (1710–1782) was an Indian artist and poet who produced some of the best known works of Rajput painting. He was the chief painter at the court of Kishangarh during the time of the ruler Savant Singh . He is attributed with a small group of paintings in a distinctive style, produced for Raja Savant Singh, and mostly depicting the raja and his mistress Bani Thani as Krishna and Radha.

Chand was a Muslim who had worked in Delhi, though it is not known if this was in the imperial painting workshop. He arrived in Kishangarh between 1719 and 1726.

An 18th century Rajput painting by Nihâl Chand


In a growing technology driven world, we are increasingly leaving behind the traditional arts and crafts and embracing industrialization and modernization. Due to this artists and artisans who were practicing these art forms are moving to alternative income generation methods, for instance the daily wage labor. Hence the people are moving from rural to urban cities in search for new opportunities, leaving behind their rural homes and culture. The recent reverse migration during the 2020 pandemic might have made us realize the sheer volume of people who have moved to urban cities creating new problems for us to solve.

Preserving and protecting the skills and knowledge of traditional artisans and crafts men/women is an ever-growing challenge. Government and NGO’s working in this area are conducting reforms to keep these art forms alive. But until we the public are aware and lend a hand to revive the sector its going to die soon.

Some shocking truths

  • There are around 8 million artisans as per official records and around 20 million artisans as per unofficial records in India
  • The average household income of an artisan family is INR 8000 a month

What can you do?

  • Replace your machine-made products with handmade or handicraft products.
  • Learn the art and share it with others.
  • Create your own home décor with these traditional art forms.
  • Make it fashionable – Do your part to make these hand made products fashionable.

Courses we have for you with this theme




Learn the art of miniature painting with Award winning Artist Mohan Prajapati from Rajasthan. Create this intrinsic art popularly known as "Bani Thani" or "The Indian Monalisa".

With our artist's in-depth 3 hour guidance, someone even without any previous art experience will be able to create this lovely painting and reconnect with the art practiced by our ancestors. Let's indulge in some cultural conversations during the session, discussing about the history of miniature art in India, and the influence of it in Mughal and Rajput cultures.

Being an excellent stress reliever, the sheer experience of creating something beautiful like "Bani Thani" can be very uplifting emotionally & psychologically.

Its just a myth that Artists are born skilled, and like any other skill art can be learned too. We will help you bring out the artist in you !!!

Radha Bani Thani Art

Krishna Bani Thani Art



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