The Rich Ancient Indian Art History

Review by : WorthITT Team
Date: 04 Feb 19

India has, for centuries been a country that is rich in cultural diversity. Right since the ancient ages to the 21st century, people following hundreds of unique cultures and traditions have inhabited the country. As such, it has a huge impact on the kind of art you see in the country. India has a rich and beautiful heritage when it comes to art and it is important to understand and acknowledge it for anyone and everyone who takes art seriously.

Indian art is seen in almost every single aspect of Indian culture from architecture to clothing, entertainment, traditions and many more. The earliest traces of Indian Art date back to the beginning of the Ancient Era which was around 75,000 years ago. It is during these years that one can assume Indian art finds its origins. The Indus Valley Civilizations of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro ruled the northwest regions of the country for around 3,500 years from 5000 BCE to around 1500 BCE. These civilizations were quite sophisticated for their age and technologically advanced and it reflects on their art. They also reflect a deeply prevalent religious culture and this can be observed in the rock art and the sculptures that have been preserved from the era. A lot of them depict Hindu and Aryan deities and depict various kinds of performance art like dance and theatre.

After the fall of the Indus Valley Civilization, the next major artistic influence came from the Mauryan Empire led by Chandragupta Maurya. During this era, one can observe a transition in artistic influence from Hinduism to Buddhism. This is because the Mauryan emperor Ashoka adopted Buddhism around halfway through his 40-year reign. It is notable that the Maurya Civilization wasn?t as sophisticated as the Indus Valley Civilization and not much of the art from this era has survived.

1) Dance

It would be blasphemous to talk about Indian art and not mention dance. Dancing has been an indispensable part of Indian heritage and culture. The origins of dance in India can be traced back to ancient times. Dance scenes are shown in many Palaeolithic and Neolithic cave paintings such as the UNESCO world heritage site at Bhimbetka rock shelters. Various sculptures found in the Indus Valley Civilization also show dance figures.

2) Paintings

On the Indian subcontinent, the tradition of painting has been existing since the ancient period. A testimony or proof to this statement are the beautifully painted walls of the Ajanta caves.

Yet another famous painting style is Madhubani painting. The earliest mention of Madhubani paintings can be found in the Ramayana. An important characteristic of the Madhubani painting is the presence of complex geometrical patterns and the use of natural colors. Twigs, matchsticks or fingers are used to paint Madhubani painting, instead of using a brush.

3) Pottery

Evidence of pottery in India dates to the Indus Valley civilization. It is said to be one of the most iconic elements of Indian art. This art is practiced till date in India. Not just the Harappan civilization, but even the Vedic period witnessed a growth in the different types of pottery, like Painted Grey Ware or the Non-Black Polished Ware. Over time, the style of simply molding clay developed into attractive pottery???glazed, unglazed etc.

4) Music

Music is the language that binds all souls. If you want to trace back the origin of music in India, we will have to first chronologically arrange all the ?Granths? (treatises) from that period. All the Vedas consist of hymns, which are to be read with melody and tune. Musical instruments dating to the prehistoric period have been recovered from archaeological excavations. By the sixteenth century, the division between North Indian (Hindustani) and South Indian (Carnatic) music was also being more sharply delineated. India is blessed with a rich tradition of Hindustani ?Gharana?. Each gharana has a distinct style of itself. It was during the reign of Guptas that music diversified and assumed the role of entertainment or recreational practice.

5) Literature

Though the majority of the surviving literature from ancient Indian literature; it would be wrong to assume that these writings are only concerned with religion and god. Ancient Indian literature includes everything that can be called literature. The Vedas and the Upanishads are a part of the Ancient Indian Literature. The two Indian epics???Ramayana and Mahabharata also belong to this time period. The Gupta age witnessed the growth of poetry and drama, alongside literature. The literature in Southern India can be found written in four Dravidian languages???Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam.

6) Architecture

The earliest evidence of architectural marvels in ancient India are the sites of Indus Valley Civilization. Though the architectural design during this time was minimal, the town planning, and designing and engineering of buildings are simply remarkable. After the influx of travelers and conquerors from Middle Asia and Arabia, the architectural style of India began to change. Certain elements of Persian and Arabic art and architecture were seamlessly mixed with the existing styles. During the 400 odd years of Mughal Rule, they had a huge influence on clothing, painting, and architecture across India. A lot of their influences are largely prevalent even in Modern India, especially in places like Delhi and Hyderabad. The Taj Mahal, the Qutub Minar, the Charminar and the Red Fort are all noteworthy examples of Mughal influence on art and one can even observe their influences on modern clothing and there are many preserved paintings and scriptures from the Mughal era.

Thus, to understand the true beauty of Indian art, it is important to understand the several different cultural influences and traditions that have been observed in the country throughout the course of its history. Indian art is seen in almost every single aspect of Indian culture from architecture to clothing, entertainment, traditions and many more.

Photo Credits:

1) Dancing Girl???"); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dancing_Girl_(sculpture)#/media/File:Dancing_girl.jpg

2) Ajanta Paintings???"); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bodhisattva_Padmapani,_cave_1,_Ajanta,_India.jpg

3) Madhubani Painting???"); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Madhubani_painting,_Bihar.jpg

4) Harappan Pottery???"); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Storage_jar._Mature_Harappan_period._Indus_civilization.jpg

5) Vedas???"); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vedas_palm_leaf_manuscript,_Tamil_Grantha_Script,_Sanskrit,_Tamil_Nadu.jpg

6) Mughal architecture???"); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taj_Mahal

Link copied