Indian Art Forms

Art Forms In India

Art Form In India. Indian art consists of a variety of art forms, including painting, sculpture, pottery, and textile arts such as woven silk. Geographically, it spans the entire Indian subcontinent, including what is now India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and eastern Afghanistan. A strong sense of design is characteristic of Indian art and can be observed in its modern and traditional forms.

The origin of Indian art can be traced to pre-historic settlements in the 3rd millennium BC. On its way to modern times, Indian art has had cultural influences, as well as religious influences such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and Islam. In spite of this complex mixture of religious traditions, generally, the prevailing artistic style at any time and place has been shared by the major religious groups.

In historic art, sculpture in stone and metal, mainly religious, has survived the Indian climate better than other media and provides most of the best remains. Many of the most important ancient finds that are not in carved stone come from the surrounding, drier regions rather than India itself. Indian funeral and philosophic traditions exclude grave goods, which is the main source of ancient art in other cultures.

Artist styles historically followed Indian religions out of the subcontinent, having an especially large influence in Tibet, South East Asia and China. Indian art has itself received influences at times, especially from Central Asia and Iran, and Europe.

The Types Of Art Forms Are:

  • Painting
  • Sculpture
  • Music
  • Dance
  • Architecture
Art Forms In India

Painting

The earliest paintings found in India were scratched onto the walls of caves. There are also the famous wall frescoes at the Kailash temple at Ellora, which showcase the advancement in aesthetic techniques as well as sensibilities in the Indian subcontinent. Ellora is considered the finest examples of rock-cut architecture, and comprises Hindu, Buddhist and Jain caves that were chiselled between the 4th and the 9th century. 

The focus of the much more nuanced visual art tradition of India through the ages has similarly been one of the most important and prized aspects of culture. There are many schools of paintings throughout the country and even if one spends a whole lifetime exploring these aesthetic cultures, one can barely begin to scratch the surface. But for a beginner, here are some of the most historically prominent schools that one should admire.

Miniature Paintings, as the name suggests were small in size but wonderfully detailed. The Mughal painting techniques were inspired by the Persian rulers in North India and this school of painting had a lot of impact on the genre of miniature paintings as well.

Another school of painting which has some overlapping features is the school of Pahari painting. It was mostly practiced by Rajputs and because a number of their kingdoms were either overtaken by the Mughals or were always in close connect with them, one can see the influence of Mughal painting seeping into this technique as well. 

For any art enthusiast, Mysore paintings are a treat. Traditionally created from organic sources and embellished with gold foil, these paintings look divine, to say the least. And that is not just because they are primarily depictions of religious figures.

Tanjore painting is another art form which finds its home in the southern part of the country. It is also primarily religious in its inspiration and is known for its vivid colours, gold foil work as well as in the inclusion of glass beads to create a rich effect. 

Another important painting technique is the folk art of Madhubani from central India. The paintings are done either on cloth or on paper and include a lot of nature-inspired motifs and designs. Art Form In India

Art Forms In India

Sculpture

The first known sculpture in the Indian subcontinent is from the Indus Valley civilization (3300–1700 BC), found in sites at Mohenjo-daro and Harappa in modern-day Pakistan. These include the famous small bronze male dancer. However such figures in bronze and stone are rare and greatly outnumbered by pottery figurines and stone seals, often of animals or deities very finely depicted. After the collapse of the Indus Valley civilization there is little record of sculpture until the Buddhist era, apart from a hoard of copper figures of (somewhat controversially) c. 1500 BCE from Daimabad.

Thus the great tradition of Indian monumental sculpture in stone appears to begin relatively late, with the reign of Ashoka from 270 to 232 BCE, and the Pillars of Ashoka he erected around India, carrying his edicts and topped by famous sculptures of animals, mostly lions, of which six survive. Large amounts of figurative sculpture, mostly in relief, survive from Early Buddhist pilgrimage stupas, above all Sanchi; these probably developed out of a tradition using wood. Indeed, wood continued to be the main sculptural and architectural medium in Kerala throughout all historic periods until recent decades.

During the 2nd to 1st century BCE in far northern India, in the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara from what is now southern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, sculptures became more explicit, representing episodes of the Buddha’s life and teachings. Although India had a long sculptural tradition and a mastery of rich iconography, the Buddha was never represented in human form before this time, but only through some of his symbols. This may be because Gandharan Buddhist sculpture in modern Afghanistan displays Greek and Persian artistic influence. Artistically, the Gandharan school of sculpture is said to have contributed wavy hair, drapery covering both shoulders, shoes and sandals, acanthus leaf decorations, etc.

The pink sandstone Hindu, Jain and Buddhist sculptures of Mathura from the 1st to 3rd centuries CE reflected both native Indian traditions and the Western influences received through the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara, and effectively established the basis for subsequent Indian religious sculpture. The style was developed and diffused through most of India under the Gupta Empire (c. 320-550) which remains a “classical” period for Indian sculpture, covering the earlier Ellora Caves, though the Elephanta Caves are probably slightly later. Later large scale sculpture remains almost exclusively religious, and generally rather conservative, often reverting to simple frontal standing poses for deities, though the attendant spirits such as apsaras and yakshi often have sensuously curving poses. 

Carving is often highly detailed, with an intricate backing behind the main figure in high relief. The celebrated lost wax bronzes of the Chola dynasty (c. 850–1250) from south India, many designed to be carried in processions, include the iconic form of Shiva as Nataraja, with the massive granite carvings of Mahabalipuram dating from the previous Pallava dynasty. The Chola period is also remarkable for its sculptures and bronzes. Among the existing specimens in the various museums of the world and in the temples of South India may be seen many fine figures of Siva in various forms, Vishnu and his wife Lakshmi, Siva saints and many more. Art Form In India

Architecture

India, one of the oldest civilizations on the planet, with the most diverse cultural history and inhabited by multiple races, religions, and languages is a goldmine for the study of architectural evolution throughout history. Each transition or inclusion of new culture has created an impact on Indian architecture and art. One can easily see the different architectural styles reflecting in the buildings all over the country. This unique development of assimilating a wide variety of cultures enable us to learn how such a diverse society has evolved.

In the words of Mark Twain,“So far as I am able to judge, nothing has been left undone, either by man or nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked.”

This article is just a minuscule attempt at displaying the diversity with which Indian architecture has been blessed. The following are ten most iconic yet totally independent and different architectural masterpieces having their own style of architecture. These styles have developed according to the geological conditions, cultural inclinations as well as technological advancements in their own era.

Indian Architecture: What Kind of Buildings are Popular in India?
1. Taj Mahal
2. Lotus Temple
3. Amber Fort, Rajasthan
4. Ajanta-Ellora Caves
5. Chand Baori
6. Sun Temple, Konark
7. Sanchi Stupa
8. Victoria Memorial
9. IIM Ahmedabad
10. Thikse Monastery

Dance

Dance is an eloquent form of expression. From classical and traditional to folk and tribal, there are various dance forms in India. The most popularly recognised classical dance forms are eight, which find themselves steeped in a rich mythological and religious history and have been mentioned in the ancient Hindu text of Natya Shastra. These are Bharat Natyam (Tamil Nadu), Sattriya (Assam), Manipuri (Manipur), Kathak (northern and western India), Odissi (Odisha), Kuchipudi (Andhra Pradesh and Telangana), Kathakali (Kerala), Mohiniyattam (Kerala).

Bharat Natyam

Considered to be the oldest dance and an inspiration to all other styles, Bharat Natyam, a temple dance of Tamil Nadu, is an enchanting performance that relates scenes from religious texts and myths. In a series of quick and complicated neat motions, dancers dressed in vibrant attires and ornamented heavily from head to toe, execute moves that are a sight to behold. The continuously varying tempo and the stunning synchronisation of the dancers is a breathtaking sight.

Sattriya

A dance-drama performance, native to Assam, Sattriya dance was created in the 15th century and has been a living tradition since. A regale of religious sagas, it is generally performed in monasteries, where the dancers dressed in stunning pat silks and adorned with traditional Assamese jewellery weave magic to the beats of cymbals, drums, flutes and even harmonium and violin.

Manipuri

Manipuri dance, originating from the state of Manipur, is a spiritual experience that transcends art and seems more like a divine dance. Mostly revolving around Goddess Radha and Lord Krishna, this soft, mild and modest dance form sees dancers execute graceful and delicate movements to lyrical undertones. While the women are clad in a wrap-around skirt called sarong, the men wear a dhoti and a turban.

Kathak

Said to have introduced by the bards travelling around the regions of north India, Kathak involves the recounting of religious tales and legends in a rhythmic fashion. From tapping of feet and hand gestures to eye movements and facial expressions, Kathak leaves one reeling with wonder at the finesse and skill of the dancers clad in a long embroidered skirt, complemented with a choli (blouse) and chunni (a long scarf).

Odissi

Dancers dressed in brightly coloured silk sarees, decked in silver jewellery and musical anklets (ghungroo), perform Odissi, which originated in Odisha. A dance illustrating mythical stories and legends, Odissi involves the use of impressive body movements and excellent expressions.

Kuchipudi

Largely featuring scenes and stories from the life of Lord Krishna, Kuchipudi, from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, is essentially a temple dance. While a female dancer wears a pleated sari that opens like a hand fan, a male dancer is clad in a dhoti. The dancers are adorned with traditional jewellery and dance to the rhythmic beats of cymbals, flute, veena, tambura etc

Kathakali

A classical dance-drama native to the state of Kerala, Kathakali is believed to be almost 300 years old. It recounts the tales of the past, from epics, legends and myths, and while the dance and music resound with devotion, what really awes is the striking make-up of the dancers. The participants are clad in elaborate attires and don vibrant hues of make-up. Every flicker of the eye, twirling of the fingers or the quivering of lips has a special significance.

Mohiniyattam

Mohiniyattam is a gentle, graceful and feminine form of dance that originated in the state of Kerala. The dance derives its name from the word ‘Mohini’, which means the female avatar of Lord Vishnu. Usually performed by a solo female dancer, the performance emotes a play through music and elegant movements. The song is generally a mix of Sanskrit and Malayalam languages.

Music

Music has been as integral a part of the socio-religious expressions of cultural values as dance in India. The most important classical traditions of music in India are the Hindustani classical tradition which finds home in the northern and western parts of the country and the Carnatic classical tradition, which is practiced primarily in the southern parts of the country. Other important as well popular musical traditions involve the Sufi tradition (throughout Northern and Western India), the Rabindra Sangeet (West Bengal) and Bihu (Assam) among others. If one wants a more local and folk flavour in one’s music, India has a lot to offer even there. One can choose from the Marathi Lavani, Uttarakhandi music, North Indian Thumri, Dadra, Ghazal, Qawwali or even the Tamang Selo, a musical tradition prominent in Nepal but equally popular in many parts of India. 

A number of these musical formats and traditions have now fused with each other and with more western musical patterns to create what is popular as Bollywood music. 

A music enthusiast should savour the wildly different musical forms though musical festivals like the Dover Lane Music Conference in Kolkata, Ruhaniyat across the country, Sankat Mochan Sangeet Samaroh in Varanasi, Udaipur World Music Festival, Ziro festival of Music in Arunanchal Pradesh and Sunburn and Sula Fest in Maharashtra.