Manuscript painting flourished in Assam from the 16th century onwards with the rise of Neo-Vaishnavism under the Vaishnava saint Sankaradeva. The tradition of manuscript painting underwent changes over the last six centuries due to various social and economic transformations that took place in Assam. Decline of dynasties, the Moamoria rebellion, Burmese and British occupations, apathy of the public, the advent of the printing press and natural calamities led to the damage of many old manuscripts and a gradual decline in the practice of manuscript painting. However, different scholars simultaneously initiated a study of the old manuscripts which helped in documenting the age-old painting processes and techniques. Currently, there are very few practitioners who still continue this tradition. This module throws light on the historical and current approaches of this form of miniature painting bringing into focus artists who are presently involved in preserving and promoting the art form. The attempt is to provide a wider perspective of the context within which painting along with other forms of art such as dance and songs evolved as a form of communication. The documentation covers works of artists of the past as well as those of the present.
Meghna Baruah is a freelance graphic designer and illustrator. She hails from, lives and works in Assam. Her area of special interest has been learning about local cultures especially traditional forms of visual art and communication.