Vishnudharmottara Purana (Art and Architecture)

by Bhagyashree Sarma | 2021 | 59,457 words

This page relates ‘Preparation of Canvas before 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.

5. Preparation of Canvas before Painting

Canvas is a kind of surface on which a painter can draw a picture. In ancient time walls are seen to be plastered with different substances and these were prepared for Painting. The plastered wall which was used as canvas is known as kuḍya or bhitti.[1] The process of preparing those walls for Painting was called as kuḍyanirmāṇa or bhittinirmāṇa. In the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, it is suggested that before going to start Painting on walls one should plaster a wall. For the process of kuḍya i.e., plastering on a wall,[2] the painter needs iṣṭakācūrṇa i.e., powder of bricks[3] and mṛd i.e., clay[4] as basic ingredients. To prepare this at first the powder of three kinds of brick and one third of clay should be mixed.

Along with this mixture, some more ingredients viz., guggula i.e., a particular fragrant gum resin[5] , madhūcchiṣṭa i.e., wax from bees[6] , madhuka i.e., liquorice[7] mudga i.e., a kind of kidney bean[8] , guḍa i.e., molasses[9] and kusumbha i.e., saffron[10] mixed with oil should be mingled.[11] After that, one third part of sudhācūrṇa i.e., powder of lime[12] and double amount of bilva should be mixed with the former mixture and then the mixture should be transferred to a touch stone mortar for the process of pounding.[13]

In the Mānasollāsa also, lime is prescribed to make a canvas.[14] The mixture, thus prepared for canvas is mixed with vālukā i.e., sand[15] and it should be soaked in water having śakala i.e., the scales of a fish[16] and then the mixture should be kept aside for a month for drying.[17] When the paste is completely dried up, it will be ready for use as plaster and the painters can apply this on a wall according to their necessity.

The Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa states that the coating of the paste should be very smooth, even and finely distributed and the proportion should not be either very thick or thin.[18] It is also mentioned in this book that if the coating is not perfectly set on a wall, it should be smoothened by the paste made with clay, oil and sarjarasa i.e., the resinous exudation of the sāla tree[19] and again the wall should be polished with the constant sprinkle of milk.[20] The Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa advices that after plastering the wall, the painter should proceed to start the Painting work.[21]

Footnotes and references:


kuḍyaṃ bhittiḥ/ bhit devāla ityādi bhāṣā…../ Śabdakalpadruma, vol.2, 138


V.S Apte, The student’s Sanskrit English Dictionary, p.152


Ibid., p.96 & 210


Ibid., p.446


Ibid., p.187


Ibid., p. 420


Arthur A. Macdonell, A Sanskrit English Dictionary, p.215


V.S Apte, The student’s Sanskrit English Dictionary, p.442


Ibid., p.188


Ibid., p.156


triprakāreṣṭikācūrṇaṃ tryaṃśaṃ kṣiptvā mṛdastataḥ/ guggulaṃ samadhūcchiṣṭaṃ madhukaṃ muḍgaṃ guḍaṃ/ kusumbhaṃ tailasaṃyuktaṃ kṛtvā dadhyātsamāṃśakaṃ/ Ibid., 3.40.1-2


V.S Apte, The student’s Sanskrit English Dictionary, p.210


tribhāgamagnidagdhāyā sudhāyāstatra cūrṇayet/ bilvajaṃ dvyaṃśamiśraṃ tatprakṣipya maṣakaṃ kaṣaṃ/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.40.2-3


sudhayā nirmitāṃ bhittiṃ…../ Mānasollāsa, 2.132


V.S Apte, The student’s Sanskrit English Dictionary, p.503


Ibid., p.543


vālukāṃśaṃ tato dadyātsvānurūpeṇa buddhimān/ tataḥ śakalatoyena plāvayetpicchilena tam/ pariklinnaṃ samagraṃ tanmāsamātraṃ nidhāpayet/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.40.3-4


ślakṣṇaṃ samaṃ svavaṣṭabdhaṃ nimnonnatavinā kṛtam/ na cātighanatāṃ yātaṃ na cātitanutāṅgatam/ Ibid., 3.40.6


V.S Apte, The student’s Sanskrit English Dictionary, p.593


yadā śuṣkaṃ bhavetkuḍyaṃtatpraliptamasatkṛtam/
tayā mṛdā sarjarasā tailabhāgāviyuktayā//
ślakṣṇīkuryātprayatnena lepanaiḥ ślakṣṇamañjanaiḥ/
muhurmuhuśca kṣīreṇa siktvā mārjanayatnataḥ// Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.40.7-8


kuṇḍye śuṣke tithau śaste rūkṣe ca guṇasaṃyukte/ citrāyoge viśeṣeṇa śvetavāsā yatātmavān// brāhmaṇānpūjayitvā tu svasti vāsya praṇasya ca/ tadvidaśca yathānyāyaṃ gurūśca guruvatsalaḥ// prāṅmukho devatādhyāyī citrakarma samācaret/ Ibid., 3.40.11-13

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