Indian art consists of a variety of art forms, including painting, sculpture, pottery, and textile arts such as woven silk. The origin of Indian art can be traced to pre-historic settlements in the 3rd millennium BC. Raja Ravi Varma, also known as ‘The Father of Modern Indian Art’ was an Indian painter of the 18th century who attained fame and recognition for portraying scenes from the epics of the Mahabharata and Ramayana.
The 35 states and union territories sprawled across the country have their own distinct cultural and traditional identities, and are displayed through various forms of art prevalent there. Every region in India has its own style and pattern of art, which is known as folk art. Folk art in India apparently has a great potential in the international market because of its traditional aesthetic sensibility and authenticity. The rural folk paintings of India bear distinctive colorful designs, which are treated with religious and mystical motifs. Some of the most famous folk paintings of India are the Madhubani paintings of Bihar, Patachitra paintings from the state of Odisha, the Nirmal paintings of Andhra Pradesh, and other such folk art forms.
1.Tygore Paintings: Religious paintings with a royal heritage’ is the best definition for Thanjavur paintings, now better known as Tanjore paintings. Tanjore painting ranks among the greatest traditional art forms for which India is noted worldwide. Their themes are fundamentally mythological. These religious paintings demonstrate that spirituality is the essence of creative work
2. Madhubani Painting: Madhubani painting, also referred to as Mithila Art (as it flourishes in the Mithila region of Bihar), is characterized by line drawings filled in by bright colours and contrasts or patterns. This style of painting has been traditionally done by the women of the region, though today men are also involved to meet the demand. These paintings are popular because of their tribal motifs and use of bright earthy colours. These paintings are done with mineral pigments prepared by the artists. The work is done on freshly plastered or a mud wall.
3. Warli Folk Painting: Maharashtra is known for its Warli folk paintings. Warli is the name of the largest tribe found on the northern outskirts of Mumbai, in Western India. Despite being in such close proximity of the largest metropolis in India, Warli tribesmen shun all influences of modern urbanization. Warli Art was first discovered in the early seventies. While there are no records of the exact origins of this art, its roots may be traced to as early as the 10thcentury A.D. Warli is the vivid expression of daily and social events of the Warli tribe of Maharashtra, used by them to embellish the walls of village houses. This was the only means of transmitting folklore to a populace not acquainted with the written word. This art form is simple in comparison to the vibrant paintings of Madhubani.
4. Pattachitra Painting: Pattachitra style of painting is one of the oldest and most popular art forms of Odisha. The name Pattachitra has evolved from the Sanskrit words patta, meaning canvas, and chitra, meaning picture. Pattachitra is thus a painting done on canvas, and is manifested by rich colourful application, creative motifs and designs, and portrayal of simple themes, mostly mythological in depiction.Some of the popular themes represented through this art form are Thia Badhia – depiction of the temple of Jagannath; Krishna Lila – enactment of Jagannath as Lord Krishna displaying his powers as a child; Dasabatara Patti – the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu; Panchamukhi – depiction of Lord Ganesh as a five-headed deity.
5.Rajasthani Miniature Painting: The art of Miniature painting was introduced to the land of India by the Mughals, who brought the much-revealed art form from Persia. In the sixteenth century, the Mughal ruler Humayun brought artists from Persia, who specialized in miniature painting. The succeeding Mughal Emperor, Akbar built an atelier for them to promote the rich art form. These artists, on their part, trained Indian artists who produced paintings in a new distinctive style, inspired by the royal and romantic lives of the Mughals. The particular miniature produced by Indian artists in their own style is known as Rajput or Rajasthani miniature. During this time, several schools of painting evolved, such as Mewar (Udaipur), Bundi, Kotah, Marwar (Jodhpur), Bikaner, Jaipur, and Kishangarh.
6.Kalamezhuthu Painting: Kalam (Kalamezhuthu) is unique form of this art found in Kerala. It is essentially a ritualistic art practiced in temples and sacred groves of Kerala where the representation of deities like Kali and Lord Ayyappa, are made on the floor. Various factors need to be considered when deciding the nature or figure on the ‘Kalam’, which include the presiding deity of the temple or sacred grove, the religious purpose that calls for the ritual of Kalamezhuthu and the particular caste that does it. In each case the patterns, minute details, dimensions and colour choice are decided in observance with strict rules. The patterns vary considerably depending on the occasion, but rarely by the choice of the artist. Kalamezhuthu is practiced using natural pigments and powders, usually in five colours. The drawing is done with bare hands without the use of tools. The pictures are developed from the centre, growing outwards, patch by patch. The powder is spread in the floor, letting it in a thin stream between the thumb and the index finger. The figures drawn usually have an expression of anger or other emotions. The powders and pigments are all extracted from plants – rice powder for white, burnt husk for black, turmeric for yellow, a mixture of lime and turmeric for red and the leaves of certain trees for green. Lighted oil lamps placed at strategic positions brighten the colours.
Stone carving is as old as civilization itself. Selecting rough natural stones and shaping them to a predetermined design is an art mastered by human beings in olden times. Temples and historic buildings all over the world have served to display art and designs in stone. In the rocks, stones, and caves of India, sculptors have shown their skills in carving out immortal art of worldwide significance.
Some of the popular historic sculptures in India:
1.The Kangra Fort: Kangra Fort is one of the oldest forts in India. The war records of Alexander the Great mention this 4th Century BC temple of Himachal Pradesh. The fort was devastated by a disastrous earthquake in 1905, but it stands as testimony to the architectural skills of the times. The fort includes richly carved temples with idols embossed in their walls.
2.Dilwara Temple: The Dilwara Temples or Delvada Temples are located about 2½ kilometres from the Mount Abu settlement, Rajasthan’s only hill station. These Jain temples were built by Vimal Shah and designed by Vastupala, Jain ministers of Dholka, between the 11th and 16th centuries and are famous for their use of white marble and intricate marble carvings. They are a pilgrimage place of the Jains, and a popular general tourist attraction. Although Jains built many beautiful temples at other places in Rajasthan, the Dilwara temples are believed to be the most beautiful example of architectural perfection.. The temples have an opulent entranceway, the simplicity in architecture reflecting Jain values like honesty and frugality The ornamental detail spreading over the minutely carved ceilings, doorways, pillars, and panels is simply marvellous.
3. Outub Minar: This UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Delhi is the highest stone tower in India. It was completed in 1052 CE. Made of red sandstone and white marble, the 72.5-meter-high minaret with 379 steps is covered with carvings and inscriptions. The calligraphy at the fourth level is noteworthy.
4. Mahishasura Mardini Cave: Mahabalipuram (also known as Mamllapuram), in Tamil Nadu state, has a number of cave temples where ancient art can be seen. Two panels of sculpture on opposite walls are quite famous. The one shown in the picture above is Goddess Durga with eight arms shown in the act of defeating Mahishasura, the demon-king. These amazing carvings bring the story to life.
5.Jami Masjid: Another magnificent piece of stone art is at Jami (or Jama) Masjid at Champaran, about 47 km from Vadodra in Gujarat state. The base of one of the two tall minarets, shown in the picture, speaks to the precision and colossal size of the stone work done at this Masjid. Especially noteworthy are the intricate stone carvings on the ceiling of this grand structure. This delicate piece of work is a part of the mosque constructed in 1513.
6. Hoysaleswara Temple: Hoysaleswara temple is famous for awesome carvings all along the outer walls. Brilliant sculptures speak volumes about the architectural excellence of 1121 C. E. The numbers of these carved stones (nearly 240 images of Gods) and their details are staggering. Hoysaleswara is of the largest temples dedicated to God Shiva in South India.
7. Monolith Carvings: The story of Mahabalipuram does not end with Mardini Cave. Carvings on monoliths (large rocks), done between the 7th and 9th centuries, are other unique features which make this place a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is thought that tsunamis swept away many of the rocks with beautiful carvings, and only those which were deeply embedded could survive the fury of nature. All these carvings on stones and rocks at Mahabalipuram have attracted tourists for centuries.
8. Wall Carvings: Certainly not ordinary carvings. The ruins of the Sun Temple at Konark, located in the coastal area of Odisha (previously Orissa) state, speak high of the architectural mastery in the 13th century. The grandeur of carvings all around the temple made Rabindranath Tagore, the 1913 Nobel laureate in literature, say, “Here the language of stone surpasses the language of man.” The carvings on the walls of the Sun Temple, shown in the picture, depict daily life and festivities prevalent in that era.
9. Ajanta Caves: This article would not be complete if it did not mention the famous Ajanta Caves. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the second-century rock caves were accidentally rediscovered by a British officer in 1819 during a hunting expedition. The sculpture is simple hammer-and-chisel work in a natural horseshoe-shaped rock wall having 30 caves. Each cave is like a room within the rock, with some having inner rooms as well. These caves overlooking a gorge mainly depict Buddhist religious history. In addition to the sculptures, the caves have magnificent wall paintings. The caves continue to attract tourists from all over the world even today.
10.Akshardham Temple: In contrast with the Ajanta Caves, this temple in Delhi is, perhaps, the most recent of its kind, having opened in 2005. This monument is difficult to describe. The mandir or temple is carved from pink sandstone and Italian marble. With 234 carved pillars, nine domes, and 20,000 idols and statues, it exhibits the range of different architectural styles in India. Elephants have been given prominence in this monument, in the form of 148 life-sized statues weighing a total of 3000 tons.