Five hundred years ago when the Moghuls ruled India there being no camera, history was captured and recorded as paintings.
The painted records of the Emperors Babur, Akbar and Shahjahan form the volumes Babarnama, Akbarnama and Padshahnama. The royalty of the Rajput states, who also turned to this art form were Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Kotah and Bundi, yet each state developed a distinctive style of their own.
However, this art was also transposed onto the walls and ceilings of their temples, forts and palaces lending a special beauty to the monuments we see in Rajasthan. At the time of the Moghuls, many artists worked together in a Karkhana. Each artist contributing his specialised skill, like drawing only the hands or the faces or just the animals and filling in the background. It was for this reason the paintings were not signed for they belonged to a group or school of artists.
Miniature painters usually sat on the ground while working, with one knee flexed to support a drawing board. Their technique was simple, using opaque water colours on handmade paper. Artists learnt the secrets of making colours from their fathers or uncles, as this craft was frequently a family occupation. As children they were taught how to make balanced finger-fitting paintbrushes of birds quills, set with fine hairs plucked from kittens or baby squirrels. They also learnt how to grind mineral pigments, such as, green and blue, in a mortar, how to sort them grain by grain for acquiring purity and brilliance and how to prepare the aqueous binding medium of a glue.
Other pigments were made from earth, insects and animal matter and metals. To make metallic pigments, gold, silver and copper were pounded into foil between sheets of leather, after which the foil was ground with rough salt in a mortar. The salt was then washed out leaving behind the pure metal powder. This technique and process is still used by contemporary artists.