Indian Heritage

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Despite the great gap in our knowledge of continuous history, the story of Indian paintings can begin with art of the primitive man in rock shelters and caves. Indian art has been one of the oldest and omnipresent through out the passage of different cultures that India has survived. Though influence of each culture can be seen on the Indian arts. The Indian art has evolved and changed as one era changed into another. All this thus evolving and influencing by way of social, political and religious upheavals even then Indian paintings and sculptures have carved their own niche in the World of Art.

A fine blend of emotion, colour, beauty and nature , woven together to give an Art immortal dimension which prevailed over the centuries. Every state of India has its own distinctive cultural influence on the art which in return makes India one of the most outstanding examples of display of different eras which India experienced under various dynasties.

{Murals} {Manuscripts} {Contemporary Art}


The fine examples of Indian painting tradition is found in the Ajanta Caves. These Caves are in the modern Maharashtra. The theme is of the compassionated Buddha which is their inspiration. Jataka tales pertaining to Buddhist mythology form the themes of these paintings. Anonymous artists painted them collectively in sinuous line and sensitive colours.

The entire Ajanta is covered with sensitive characters from the various former lives of the Enlightened One, the Buddha. There is mixture of tropical vegetation, insects, birds, animals, human and angelic forms, textiles, Jewellery and architecture all shown in various colours. The themes are in form of continuous narrative story portrayed on the walls. The stream of shapes, as if encompassing the manifest world, frequently congeals into groups held together with the tension of the inner relationship of being to being. There is an elaborate language of gestures intensifying the expression. The murals also formed the basis of an entire artistic tradition which later spread to other countries.


By the 11th century, the size of murals had been reduced down from the extended mural surface to the the size of a palm leaf strip. Quality in painting declined over the time and the drawn line became brittle and angular. These manuscript paintings came from Bengal and Nepal, again telling the Buddhist stories. This style spread to western India and one can see it on many illuminated manuscripts dealing with Jain texts during the period of 12th-15th century. Manuscript paintings diversified their theme by illustrating the lyricism of the well known romantic poems. Symbolism was at the heart of the Indian miniaturists' visual expressions, relationship with nature, beyond just the primary function of lines and pigments, which is what caught their interest. The beauty of expression of these ideas inspire wonder, enchantment and pleasure.

Before the Mughals came to India, Indian paintings had established and stabilized a fine tradition of pictorial style. It was subsequently influenced by the tradition of Persian miniature art.

Muslims came to India and drove the Hindu artistic tradition to dust. In their obsession to build empires and to convert Hindus to Islam, they had little time for art or culture. It was only Akbar the Great after the Mughals were firmly established India took patronage to arts. His encouragement of miniature paintings took a blend of Persian and Islamic styles. Both Indian and Persian artists, together wove a spell of art , one drew while the other filled in the colour and details. This further received momentum when Akbar commissioned the translation and illustration of Hindu Epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The artists in Akbar's court primarily painted portraits, courtly life, battle scenes, exquisite wildlife, the nature. The tradition received more encouragement under Jehangir, Akbar's son, who was also a great patron of arts and architecture. Now along with the paints artists' were known to also use malachite, lapis lazuli, gold, silver and an ingenious substance called Peori, a yellow dye extracted from the urine of cows, on mango leaves.

Later the artists went to the courts of Rajput princes. They improved upon their techniques and skills. Emergence of several new schools of miniature paintings took place, each having its own distinctive style. Among these are Rajasthan or the Mewar School of Paintings, Jammu or the Pahari School and Basohli or the Kangra School. In the hill states, the artists could work undisturbed by the political upheavals of the plains of northern India. The mythical sources of music are depicted in the Tanjore Paintings of the South.

Contemporary Art

With arrival of the British Raj, it's East India Company commissioned Indian artists to paint picturesque landscapes in oil and water colours. These painters were often referred to as the Company school. Resulting in the loss of originality of Indian art for a while. However this lasted for a while and soon political awareness was seen all around the country.

Bengal School was the movement which had Abanindranath Tagore, Gaganendranath Tagore and Nandalal Bose as among the most important painters of this movement. Abanindranath developed a highly sophisticated style with a leaning towards portraiture. Gaganendranath showed a flair of being a successes as a cartoonist-critic of social and political (mis) happenings of that time. Nandalal, more of a technical revivalist than the two Tagore brothers, became known for his epic themes and later developed into a bold explorer of vast fields of Asian art.

With advent of nationalism, some of the few painters involved in the folk forms . Some of the contemporary painters are Jamini Roy, Amrita Sher-Gill, Benode Mukerjee and Ram Kinkar were among the more significant artists of the time. And among the present genre of new painters we can add the names of M.F. Hussain and Krishan Khanna and Satish Gujral.

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