The Lineage of Murals
The tribal paintings and the folk paintings, only with varying social affiliations, justify the continuation of rock shelter painting tradition. But the continuum is disassociated from the original context of rock shelter paintings and is more of a decorative nature mixed with rituals. Though not a part of classical painting tradition, the tribal and folk painting tradition embody several motifs which constitute the classical art tradition. This process of influences and cross influences not only exists among tribal, folk and classical paintings but also extends to the realm of sculpture. This proves that no painting tradition has grown in isolation and Odishan painting is no exception to it. It has emerged out of the common Odishan art tradition which have existed since past in India, the mural paintings are considered to be the oldest classical paintings from the point of their antiquity. In Odisha existence of mural is traced from the faded out pigment coatings in the caves of Khandagiri and Udayagiri as noticed by Sir John Marshall and supported by inscriptional evidences as mentioned in the Hatigumpha inscription of emperor Kharavela of the 1st century B.C.
The next available mural is on the ceiling of Ravanachhaya projecting rock-boulder at Sitabinji in the district of Keonjhar belonging to later Gupta period. This painting, the lone survival of its kind in the whole of eastern India, is attuned to the Ajanta style. Though there are certain basic differences which can be attributed to the local variations like the laying of the ground for painting, provision of a painted inscription, the colour scheme and composition, the painting depict the vigor which was the essence of the Ajanta style of paintings of the period. The lack of evidence fail to build up a connected history of paintings which otherwise would have started with the Jain school of painting at Khandagiri and Udayagiri passing on to the Buddhist style and terminating in Saiva-Sakta and Vaishnva painting as is the case with the evolution of Odishan sculptural art.
The next phase of Odishan murals stand a gulf apart in time and depict a completely different style from the early plastic traditions. This phase is marked by a pronounced linear character and belongs to a period between 17th and 20th centuries. The painting of Buddha Vijaya in the Jagamohana of Lakshmi temple inside the Jagannath temple complex at Puri and the paintings of Kanchi Vijaya said to have been in the Jagamohana of Jagannath temple at Puri.
Authentic evidence of the later style of mural paintings exists in the Biranchinarayana temple, Buguda, in the district of Ganjam; Srikurumum temple, Andhra Pradesh and Dadhivamana temple inside Kosaleswar temple complex in the district of Keonjhar.