Vishnudharmottara Purana (Art and Architecture)

by Bhagyashree Sarma | 2021 | 59,457 words

This page relates ‘The Story Behind the Origin of Painting’ of the study on the elements of Art and Architecture according to the Vishnudharmottara Purana: an ancient text whose third book deals with various artisan themes such as Architecture, Painting, Dance, Grammar, etc. Many chapters are devoted to Hindu Temple architecture and the iconography of Deities and their installation rites and ceremonies.

3. The Story Behind the Origin of Painting

According to the Indian culture and belief, each and every art form generally has a divine and mythological origin. A divine origin of Painting is admitted in the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa through the narration of a story. That story recognises the sage Nārāyaṇa and Viśvakarmā as the main authorities in the field of citra i.e., Painting. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, Painting was created by the sage Nārāyaṇa while he was making the picture of the damsel Urvaśī.[1] It is related in this book that extracting the juice from sahakāra i.e., mango tree[2] , the sage Nārāyaṇa created the most beautiful woman in this world.[3] Through the application of Painting, she became the most beautiful damsel.[4] After that the sage Nārāyaṇa gave this knowledge of Painting to Viśvakarmā[5] and thus this art form had received momentum through the ages.

Footnotes and references:


urvaśīm sṛjataḥ pūrvam citrasūtram nṛpātmaja/ nārāyaṇena muninā lokānām hitakāmyayā// Ibid., 3.35.1-2


V.S Apte, The student’s Sanskrit English Dictionary, p.594


sahakārarasam gṛhya urvyām cakre varastriyam/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.35.3


citreṇa sā tato jātā rūpayuktā varāpsarā/ Ibid., 3.35.3


grāhayāmāsa sa tadā viśvakarmāṇamacyutam/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.35.5

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