Kerala has a tradition in the field of painting which goes back to the post Ajanta period. Art in Kerala has always been the expression of religious ideas and sentiments. Temples have been the center of its origin and growth. The murals in the temples of Kerala are remarkably expressive of the religious outlook of the people. Most of the murals now seen in Kerala temples belong to the period from the fifteenth century onwards.
The murals of Tirunandikkara, now in Tamil Nadu and Tiruvanchikulam are among the earliest specimens of Kerala painting. The Brahma temple, Mitranandapuram contains mural paintings depicting Vishnu. The murals in the Sri Padmanabhaswami Temple, Trivandrum, depicting puranic themes are noted for their remarkable skill in workmanship. Names of temples that may be specially noted include Aranmula Parthasarathi temple, Panayannarkavu Bhadrakali temple near Mannar, Sri Vallabha temple, Tiruvalla, Vishnu temple at Trikkodithanam etc.
Mural paintings with Hindu religious themes may be seen in the many palaces. On the topmost floor of the Padmanabhapuram palace there are more than fourty murals depicting religious themes. The bed chamber and four other chambers in the Dutch Palace, Mattancherri, are decorated with paintings depicting scenes from the Ramayana and Hindu mythology. The Krishnapuram palace at Kayamkulam also comes in this group. The Natyagriha recently built in the Kalamandalam at Cheruthuruthi, near Shoranur contains the latest specimens of mural paintings in Kerala.
The churches of Kerala contains paintings, which depict characters and scenes from Christian mythology. Some of the paintings are of deep religious significance to the devotees. To this category belong the paintings of Virgin Mary in the churches at Edappalli and Vechur. In the Orthodox Syrian Church at Manarcad there is a beautiful Italian painting representing Virgin Mary holding infant Jesus in her hand. The Orthodox Syrian Churches at Cheppad and Mulanthuruthi contain some interesting murals. Among the church murals the huge one on the outer walls of the Kanjur Church which depicts the scene of a battle fought and those of the English East India Company aided by the bare footed local militia on the other deserves special mention. It has been executed in the indigenous style typical of Kerala.