Indian Art

Indian art, as we know it now, has its roots spread across thousands of years, the earliest forms coming from around 3500 BC. As a country, India gained massive respect from it's broad cultural heritage acquired over this period.

Art and artists in India have had an astounding affect on Indian culture, traditions and history. on the other side of the coin it is this fascinating history which has resulted in one of the most complex and varied art histories of any country.

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On this page I aim to cover all aspects of art in India in all of it's glory, right from it's humble beginnings as ancient wall paintings over 6000 years ago to Indian temple art, erotic art, Indian Body Art, dance, Indian Paintings, all the way through to Modern art, present and future.

Three Women, Indian art
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Art and Mythology in India

After it's beginnings as basic wall paintings and it's role in Temples, monasteries, and shrines , Art saw a great transformation in the form of materials used and the message conveyed around 3000 BC. The focus slowly shifted towards the great epics and myths being portrayed on canvas using various and vibrant colours. The primary components are usually of Ramayana & Mahabharat.

Indian art and Mythology, putana vadha
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Along with paintings and sculptures, people started presenting these as plays and dramas to spread the messages of the great epics. These were very popular in fairs, villages and small cities.

Indian art, Krishna statue
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Indian Miniature Paintings

One type of art that really thrived in India was miniature art. This period of history, between 16th and 17th century was a golden age for Indian art and her artists and made the country a true forerunner on the emerging international art stage.

The paintings generally depicted the lives of the royalty at that time, perhaps most notably the kings of the Mughal and Rajput eras. The paintings were originally intended for use in stories and manuscripts in an effort to help highlight key ideas and concepts and explain subjects and themes.

One for the most surprising and disappointing things about miniature art in India is the fact that, despite being an incredibly popular medium, very little original art remains.

This type of art can be traced back to the Persian immigrants who brought the style from their homelands. Miniature art in India then went through a series of changes as Rajput Maharajahs became independent and broke away from the Mughal reign causing miniature art to go through a sort of renaissance period. As the Maharajahs divided the lands and peoples and separated into separate kingdoms, so did miniature art evolve differently from state to state, leaving each with their own unique style.

Art and Dance

Dance forms such as Kathakali, Odissi, Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Kathak are some of the most famous Indian dances and are brilliantly supported by music and various instruments. The prevalence of various Raga’s and instruments spread all over ancient India and many students were trained in these forms. Despite being centuries old, many Indian dances can still be seen today and the roots of modern Indian dances like bollywood dance, can be traced back hundreds of years to these traditional dances.

Temples acted as the primary grounds of learning and grooming the students. Dancers and musicians were given very high respect in Indian society and were felicitated by the rulers of the country.

Indian art dance, sunset dance, india
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Almost at the same time, Indian folk Art was gaining considerable popularity. The country started to develop various dialects and people used these dialects to communicate. Translations of the great epics to the local dialects also played an important part of Rural Art in India. Folk dances, Music and all related art were groomed well within their regions. The plays and concerts became an integral part of people’s lives.

During the countries Independence, people saw yet another great transformation in India Art.

Moving forward: Indian art in the 21st Century

In my mind, one of the most interesting periods of art on the subcontinent is actually during the colonial period which saw the blending of western and Indian art. Or rather artists using a western sense of perspective, realism and composition but in a wholly Indian way. By 1947 and the independence from Britain, modern concepts, methods and ideas where widely practised and taught. The result of this rich art history mixed with modern western techniques gave birth to what we now know as modern art.

Post independence Indian Art greatly was heavily influenced by western culture. Dance forms like rock, disco, salsa and others became very popular quite popular, especially towards the end of the century. A majority of the local instruments were replaced by drums, Jazz, Guitar and so on meaning that India was starting to move to a whole new rhythm.. Although the impact of these various forms continues to increase to this day, India has done amazingly well at preserving it's own cultural heritage and the majority of the Indian population continue to maintain these traditions and teach them to their children. Along with preserving, a lot of art exhibitions and shows are conducted to keep the new generation aware of the ancient art forms, which was a unique identity of the country.

Rameshwar Singh, modern Indian art

Rameshwar Singh

Rabindranath Tagore, a scholar and artist and often said to be the true father of modern art in India truly embraced the idea of oil and canvas and it was not long before it was being embraced in universities and art schools across the land.

Sohan quidri, modern Indian art
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Sohan Qadri

Antia Dube, river disease, modern Indian art

Anita Dube

All in all, Indian Art has seen a huge variety of diversions and evolutions throughout it's long history. With it's roots way back in approximately 3500 BC, primarily with cave paintings, the nations art evolved into a myriad of styles and forms from paintings, sculptures, body art and various dance forms with musicians and instruments and then finally, along with the turn of the 20th century, the usage of canvas and oil paintings emerged.

Hopefully I have covered most aspects of Art in India on this page and its development through the past centuries. As for the future, well who knows!

With great pride in the past and hope for the future, Indian Artists stand strong with their head held high.

Further Reading

Art in Indian Temples

This page covers one of the earliest forms of Indian art. It was the art on caves, monesteries and temples that really got the whole thing moving all those thousands of years ago.

Indian Body Art

Still an extremely widely practised art form in India, this form of art has a fascinating heritage.

Indian paintings

Another very popular page on this website, this page covers everything about the paintings in India, again from the early beginnings to the intriguing and fast paced present.

Indian art, women dancing
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abstract Indian art
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