Bharat Mata (Painting): A Holy Depiction of Mother India

Bharat Mata painting by Abanindranath Tagore, one of the first depictions of Mother India to exist. Here’s an explanatory read.

Bharat Mata painting

Values and Humility were always an essential part of the Indian culture for generations. I remember my childhood days when my mother always called me to bow to mother earth as the first thing in the morning before I stepped out of bed. In her defence, we present numerous problems to the mother earth for our actions, giving her the first place before anyone or anything in our day. And every time we are about to do something terrible, the simple namaskar in the morning reminds us of that fact. In the same way, our minds are full of beliefs and actions that draw us closer to nature. Considering nationalism, you see recently when the unfortunate Galwan Valley incident killed our soldiers, their wives enlisted to pay homage to their country out of patriotism. And it is not new for us to see and believe it as from present to dating to the earliest empire, India has always been a mother figure to its residents. And no other region treats their places the same. As a result of this patriotism, love, and affection, we modelled our country into a divine figure that is nothing less than an expression of respect. And unquestionably, whether we live under communalism or something more ominous, India will always be our mother. She loves us tenderly, and we will continue to care for her as one of her beautiful children. Now, it has always been easier to forecast one’s feeling better with a treat of images, so let me show you one of the famous artworks of Mother India, the Bharat Mata painting by Abanindranath Tagore. We are here to analyse the painting and know more about it.

General Information.

1. Artist’s Statement.

There is a bengali text which Abanindranath wrote,

“মানুষ হিসেব চায় না, চায় গল্প। হিসেবের দরকার আছে বৈকি, কিন্তু ঐ একটু মিলিয়ে নেবার জন্য, তার বেশি নয়। হিসেবের খাতায় গল্পের খাতায় এইখানেই তফাত। হিসেব থাকে না মনের ভিতরে, ফুটো দিয়ে বেরিয়ে যায়, থাকে গল্প।”

It translates into,

“People don’t want calculations; they want stories. Counting is needed, but not more than that. This is the difference between the accounts and the stories. The calculation does not stay inside the mind; it leaks out there is a story.”

2. Subject Matter.

The beautiful painting Bharat Mata shows an adorable woman with saffron coloured saree, having divine eyes. The figure has four hands with four different elements, each having a meaning behind them. Furthermore, there are white lotuses on her feet, with a simplistic background and glow.

Bharat Mata Painting by Abanindranath Tagore
Bharat Mata Painting by Abanindranath Tagore | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

3. Artist.

Abanindranath Tagore, the nephew of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, painted Bharat Mata. He was an artist who lived in the urban centre of Calcutta when India had the British Raj over it. He is the founder of an art movement which declares nationalism, to be later called Bengal School.

Abanindranath Tagore in his young age
Abanindranath Tagore | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

In the early 20th century, Abanindranath and his disciples gained prominence cause of this dual promotion and patronage by British Orientalists and Indian nationalists, representing a “national style,” closely related to the accepted establishment of Indian Art History as a discipline.

4. Date.

The artwork dates back to 1905.

5. Provenance.

We did not have a proper account of the knowledge that inspired Abanindranath to make this composition. But we know that as a matter of fact, the artist selectively engaged Indian classicism with the Japanese origin regional and cultural history. To prevent the norms of Westernisation and espouse spiritually enlightened Indian art, he managed to open the Bengal School of Art. And he carefully took those components in his painting to claim national authority and display the Indian nationalist struggle for liberation from British forces.

6. Location.

The Bharat Mata painting locates in Victoria Memorial Hall in Kolkata, India.

7. Technique and Medium.

The artist reflects the use of Japanese wash-style techniques with Chinese ink painting. Earlier, the artist modernised the Mughal and Rajput miniature art forms, but the Bharat Mata painting does not showcase this style. There is no doubt that Burne-Jones’ late pre-Raphaelitism and the modern adaptations of mono-no-aware of the Japanese nationalist Nihonga school had a huge influence on Abanindranath’s artistic subjectivity and, by extension, the Bengal School as well. The medium of the artwork is Chromolithograph on paper.

Please don’t worry if you don’t understand the terms. I will give you a brief explanation.

The Japanese wash style involves applying a fine layer of colour to a broad surface employing diluted ink or watercolour with a wet brush. Firstly, a pen or pencil forms the outline, and then this wash is applied to give the form colour, depth and volume.

Indian Miniature art is a form of traditional artwork, which includes small-scale paintings made with a blend of natural colours on paper, ivory and silk. These practices were famous in Rajasthan in the 9th century.

And finally, the Pre-Raphaelite was an art movement which included brilliant lightening,

ArtistAbanindranath Tagore
Year Painted1905​
MediumChromolithograph on paper
GenrePatriotism, Portraiture
WorthPriceless, Not on sale
Where is it housed?Victoria Memorial Hall in Kolkata, India

Bharat Mata (Painting) | Fast Knowledge

Bharat Mata by Abanindranath Tagore is a Modern Indian artwork painted in 1905. The famous portraiture of Bharat Mata (English: Mother India) is inspired by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s address, “Banga Mata,” to bind every countryman against the fight for freedom.

In-Depth Information about Abanindranath’s Bharat Mata Painting.

About the Artist: Abanindranath Tagore.

Born in Jorassanko, Calcutta, on 7 August 1871, Abanindranath’s father was Gunendranath and grandson of Girindranath Tagore. The formal training that he received was in pastels, watercolours and life study under Signor Gilhardi. Further, he attended the studio of Charles Palmer, an English painter, who taught him oil paintings and portraitures. Hence, in 1895, with all these lessons and blending the European and Indian styles, he formed the Krishna-Lila series, by which E.B Havell, Principal of the Calcutta School of Art, was so impressed that he offered the position of Vice-president to Abanindranath. As he accepted the position, under the guidance of Havell, he mastered the Mughal and Rajput miniature paintings.

Abanindranath Tagore in his old age
Abanindranath Tagore | Source: The Art of India

Then in the early days of the twentieth century, Abanindranath met Okakura, who taught him the technique of wash through simple shapes to provide an organic unity in art. And in 1903, the artist further learnt the evocative powers of gestures the Okakura’s pupil Taikan. It made him make his own art movement. The Indian Society of oriental art provided Abanindranath with a national plan to form a modern art movement.

It was his lectures as Bageswari Professor of Art at Calcutta University that were considered rare aesthetic illuminations; they were both simple and informatics. Banglar Brata, Bharatshilpe Murti, Bharatshilpa, and Bharatshilper Sadanga are some of the books he has written on art. Around all of them have the imprint of his great depth, profundity, and simplicity. Abanindranath writes with a simple, unassuming style that reveals the essence of his genius, even when the subject matter is complex. Besides being an artist, he was also an author of children’s books like Kshirer Putul, Buro Angla, Raj Kahini, and Sakuntala.

History and Background of the Artwork.

Before I tell you what inspired Abanindranath to paint this composition, let me tell you a few things about the subject itself.

Firstly, unlike historical references and literary sources, there is no information on Mother India as a deity or a goddess. It was in the nineteenth century that Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay gave the name “Banga Mata,” which means Mother Bengal. And the artist took this inspiration and produced the composition in 1905 but as Mother India.

Now during the freedom struggle of India, in 1905, Bengal faced a partition into two states- one for Muslims and Hindus. It was because of the fact that the mass was gaining recognition of freedom, and the British government knew the consequences. To overpower them and keep them distributed, Bengal got partitioned, and during the repulsion, there was a Swadeshi movement which grew vastly. It was during this period that to combine all the religions with a national identity, and a part of an effort that there is always love between the two groups, Abanindranath drew the painting.

Understanding the Meaning of Bharat Mata Painting.

The painting portrays nationalism and a binding force for it. Further, it projects a continental ‘spiritual‘ identity of India, rejecting the materialism as told from the previous centuries in Indian philosophy and culture.

Subject Matter Analysis of the Artwork.

Bharat Mata painting lays the foundation for the Swadeshi movement. The subject includes Bharat Mata, the young-full-figured four-armed ascetic holding sheaves of cloth, paddy, palm leaves, and a prayer lotus. The female wears a saffron saree with no drapery, and each element in her hand gives meaning. For instance, the white cloth represents the swadeshi or made-in-India clothing, which was cotton. A paddy in her hand emblematizes food, a paperback from Ancient India represents education, and a pair of prayer beads represents spiritual strength, which India was renowned for.

Bharat Mata painting Abanindranath Tagore
Bharat Mata by Abanindranath Tagore | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

Now the face of the lady remains calm and divine. To the viewer, the glance of the figure is the first thing which relates to his identity. In addition to the halos behind her head, the white lotuses symbolize peace and divinity.

You have learnt about the masterpiece from Abanindranath, which united India with love and compassion and is a sign of historical reference. Now let us move towards the following section to understand the elements in the Bharat Mata painting.

Formal Analysis of the Patriotic Modern Artwork.

1. Line.

There are clear rhythmic lines which outline the body of the figure. And it also follows the outlines of facial features. Next, the diagonal vision and an arm showcase the stability of motion inside the canvas. There are no lines to show a 3-D image, which means it is like a flat figure, like Byzantine art, representing symbolic divinity and beauty.

Bharat Mata painting by Abanindranath Tagore Analysis
Line analysis of Bharat Mata painting, Diagonal lines (white), Sight (blue dotted line)

2. Light and Value.

The artwork does not represent realism but has sharp contrast and brightness. However, the painting does not have lights and darkness at different parts, as it is uniform. The backlight creates a symbolic highlight of the divinity and unity of the artwork. There is the presence of enough space for each element of the hand, which does not let overpower anything, representing equal importance.

Light and value of Bharat Mata Painting
Light and value of the artwork

3. Colour.

The most crucial colour chosen is yellow, a form of expressiveness. Using warmer colours like yellow and saffron, the artist fills exciting energy in the canvas. And not to forget, there is the presence of a cool colour, blue, which adds a fusion of two colour themes.

Opinions and Conclusions.

The canvas of the Bharat Mata painting is not only a mere nationalist representation but a reality to our imagination and a binding force among the citizens of India. As a goddess, it shows India as more than a country which suffers for her children’s pain and has equal love for them.

The composition is a rich-coloured canvas with a great sense of symbolism through its elements and is also a reference to the people’s feelings through the Bengal partition.


1. The Alternate Nation of Abanindranath Tagore by Debashish Banerji.
2. Abanindranath Tagore, Visva-Bharati.

Frequently Asked Questions.

Who painted Bharat Mata?

Abanindranath Tagore painted Bharat Mata in 1905 to show his support for the Swadeshi movement that grew vastly to unite all religions with a national identity.

What type of painting is Bharat Mata by Abanindranath Tagore?

Patriotic portraiture painted during the Modern era.

What is the Bharat Mata painting description?

The beautiful painting of Bharat Mata depicts the young and divine full-figured four-armed ascetic holding sheaves of cloth, paddy, palm leaves, and a prayer lotus. She wears a saffron saree with no drapery and carries each element representing symbolism. The white cloth in one hand represents the swadeshi or made-in-India clothing, which was cotton, the paddy emblematizes food, while the paperback and prayer beads represent education and spiritual strength respectfully.


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