India is one of the oldest civilizations in the world, and it has a rich history that includes a multitude of different religions, traditions, and customs. The richest aspects of Indian history include its architecture, classical dance, music, flora, and fauna, as well as its people’s deeply engrained secular outlook. Each dynasty that ruled over Indian territory represented a fresh fork in the path, making a visit to a historical place feel like taking a stroll through history. Through consecutive generations, everything that has been handed down as a heritage from earlier times has been preserved, including the elegance of Indian craftsmanship, the abundance of silk and cotton textiles, and the ethnicity of jewellery.Every state in India has a unique cuisine that is a legacy and an important part of Indian culture.

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The Colourful Indian heritage_©spiritbohemian

Indian culture is the legacy of the ethnolinguistically varied country’s social standards, moral principles, traditional practises, religious systems, political systems, artefacts, and technology. The word also refers to nations and cultures outside of India whose history have been significantly influenced by, or linked to, India through immigration, colonisation, or other means, notably in South and Southeast Asia. Languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, cuisine, and customs vary from region to region within India.

Indian culture has a long history of being influenced by the Indus Valley civilisation and other early cultural locations. It is sometimes described as the synthesis of several civilizations. Indian culture has had a significant impact on the Indosphere, Greater India, and the rest of the globe in a variety of ways, including languages, mathematics, philosophy, food, dance, music, and movies. The Himalayas and Southeast Asia had an impact on early India, which contributed to the creation of Hinduism and Indian mythology. Hinduism is the result of the fusion of numerous folk faiths throughout the Vedic era and ensuing millennia.

Particularly Austroasiatic communities had a great influence on the local Indian population and culture, including the early Munda and Mon Khmer, as well as Tibetic and other Tibeto-Burmese tribes. Many researchers, including Professor Przyluski among them, came to the opinion that Mon-Khmer (Austroasiatic) culture, language, and politics had a substantial effect on early India. Both rice farming, which was brought by East/Southeast Asian rice farmers through a path from Southeast Asia through Northeast India into the Indian subcontinent, and austroasiatic loanwords may be found in Indo-Aryan languages. The British Raj had further effects on Indian culture, such as the widespread use of English and the formation of regional languages.

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The Sun Temple, Konark_©newsonair

The concepts of dharma and karma are at the core of several Indian-derived religions, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. The nonviolent idea known as ahimsa is an essential part of traditional Indian faiths. Mahatma Gandhi, who utilised civil disobedience to unite India during the campaign for Indian independence, is its most well-known advocate. Throughout the American civil rights struggle, this idea had a significant impact on Martin Luther King Jr. In addition to Abrahamic religions like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Zoroastrianism and the Bahá’ Faith are also widely practised in India. Both of these religions found safety in India throughout the years after being persecuted by Islam.

Indian Art and Architecture

The majority of the secular art produced in India was made of delicate materials, therefore despite the fact that it was produced in great quantities, it has not lasted. The stone medium have continued to produce religious art. Gesture, posture, and attribute symbols have several levels of meaning in both Buddhist and Hindu art. Buddha sculptures of various hand postures (mudras) depicting various religious states, such as enlightenment (Nirvana), meditation, and preaching. Hindu deities (including Vishnu, Krishna, and Shiva) are frequently shown in sculpture with several hands to represent their capacity to do several activities at once, and the hands each bear their unique characteristics.

The varied body of work known as Indian art includes a variety of art disciplines, including as painting, sculpture, pottery, and textile arts like woven silk. Geographically speaking, it encompasses all of modern-day Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and, sporadically, eastern Afghanistan. Indian art has a strong sense of design in both its traditional and modern forms.

Indian art may be traced back to civilizations built in the third millennium BCE, the age of antiquity. Islam, Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Buddhism are a few of the religions that have affected Indian art as it has progressed into the modern day. Despite this complex mingling of religious traditions, the major religious organisations have usually shared the prevailing creative style at any time and place. In the past, Indian cultural movements have propagated Indian faiths outside of the subcontinent, with Tibet, South East Asia, and China seeing the most impact. There have been instances where other civilizations, particularly those of Central Asia, Iran, and Europe, have had an impact on Indian art.

Early Indian Art and Architecture

Rock Art

Some of the relief sculptures, engravings, and paintings found in India date back to the South Asian Stone Age. There are reportedly more than a million sculptures and figures spread throughout 1300 rock art sites. Archibald Carlyle discovered the first rock carvings in India twelve years before the Cave of Altamira in Spain.

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Rock painting at one of the Bhimbetka rock shelters_©Yann

Indus Valley civilisation (c. 3300 BC – c. 1750 BC)

Some of the first pieces of Indian art were created in the Indus River Valley in the second half of the third millennium BC. Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, the latter of which was destroyed in the eighteenth century, are the most well-known sites. Homes, markets, storage facilities, offices, and public bathrooms were arranged in a grid-like pattern. A well developed drainage system was also present.

Despite being extensive and intricate, public large-scale art does not appear to have piqued the curiosity of the Indus Valley civilisation, in contrast to many other early civilizations. There are several dancing female statues made of stone, terracotta, and gold that confirm the presence of diverse dance forms. There were also clay sculptures of dogs, cows, bears and monkeys.

The most typical kind of figurative art to be seen is small, carved seals. There have been several steatite seals discovered, and physical descriptions of them all appear to be very consistent. They measure from 34 to 112 inches square. The boss on them is frequently pierced at the back so that a rope may be attached for carrying or wearing as jewellery. Seals from Mohenjo-Daro have been found that depict a person standing atop the Pashupati Seal’s head and another sitting cross-legged in a yoga pose. This individual can be recognised in a number of ways. Sir John Marshall saw a resemblance to the Hindu god Shiva.

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The Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-daro_©GaryTodd

The Indus civilisation produced a large number of statuettes made of steatite and limestone. While some statuettes are fashioned in the hieratic style of contemporary Mesopotamia, others are made in the smooth, sinuous shape that is the prototype of later Indian sculpture, in which the plastic modelling exhibits the animating breath of life (prana). There are also square steatite seals with a variety of animal decorations, including bulls that are realistically depicted, ceramic storage jars with simple, stylized designs, toys with wheels, and figurines that may be mother goddesses can be found here. Bronze weapons, tools, and sculptures display a mastery of workmanship rather than a significant aesthetic breakthrough.

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The Indus Valley Civilisation_©Andrzej

Post-Indus Civilization through the Vedic and Maurya Dynasty

Vedic Art and Architecture

The millennium that followed the collapse of the Indus Valley civilisation, which took place at the same time as the Indo-Aryan migration during the Vedic period, is not shown in any anthropomorphic forms. Some views contend that the primary goal of the early Vedic religion was to worship the “elementary powers of nature via intricate sacrifices,” which did not readily lend themselves to anthropomorphological representations. Some of the artefacts made by the Copper Hoard culture (second millennium BCE) may exhibit human characteristics. The exact significance of these artefacts, or even the culture and era they belonged to, is up to interpretation.

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Mathura anthropomorphical artefact_©GaryTodd

Sthapatya Veda is one of Maharishi’s Vedic Science and Technology’s most important subfields. Sanskrit derivatives of the words “Sthapana Veda” and “Knowledge” are “to establish” and “knowledge,” respectively. Maharishi reestablished Sthapatya Veda as the knowledge of how to construct oneself so that one constantly has the full support of the entire evolutionary power of Natural Law in daily life in order to continually experience perfect health, pleasure, and success in one’s living and working environment.

The orientation of a building has a considerable influence on its owners’ and tenants’ quality of life. The sun’s energy is at its most nourishing while it is rising. The people who live in houses or buildings that face east are healthier and more successful. Since the human brain is sensitive to direction, the impact of the rising sun is beneficial. When facing East vs North, South, or West, the physiology of the brain responds in a distinct way. Homes or structures should be properly aligned with the cardinal directions to attract positive outcomes like good health, prosperity, and fulfilment. The most fortunate effects are particularly felt by structures having eastern entrances.Houses facing the other way are responsible for the effects of fear, poverty, challenges, failure, and chronic illnesses.

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Khajuraho Temple Complex_©Gettyimage

Mauryan art (c. 322 BCE – c. 185 BCE)

From 322 BCE to 185 BCE, the north Indian Maurya Empire flourished, and at its height, it ruled the entire subcontinent, with the exception of the extreme south. The Pataliputra capital and influences from ancient Persia and Indian customs are proof of this.

Large creatures that were placed atop some of the Ashoka Pillars stand out as the most famous surviving artefacts because they exhibit a self-assured and audaciously developed sense of style and craft. Despite the fact that there aren’t many remnants to illustrate its growth, the Vedic people in rural sections of the nation employed this unique iron casting that hasn’t rusted in decades. The renowned removable Lion Capital of Ashoka, which had four animals, was chosen as the country’s official emblem after India gained independence. What distinguishes Mauryan art and architecture from later periods is the extremely fine Mauryan polish that was applied to the stone.

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Mahabodhi Temple_©Boundless

Numerous miniature, usually sturdy but occasionally rudimentary clay sculptures in a variety of styles have been discovered by archaeology. There are both human and animal representations present, mostly women who are believed to be goddesses.

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The Mauryan stone sculpture_©Nalanda001

Colossal Yaksha statuary (2nd century BCE)

Huge cultic sculptures of the Yakshas were created in the second century BCE and are considered some of the oldest anthropomorphic stone works in India. These pictures are frequently two metres or more. The Yaksha sculpture style has been lauded for its vibrancy since it has distinctively Indian characteristics, despite the fact that there aren’t many well-preserved older examples. They typically seem angry, have two arms, and a pot belly. It’s common to see the Yakshas carrying weapons or other equipment. As an illustration, the Yaksha Mudgarpani holds a mudgar mace in her right hand and a standing worshipper or young child in her left hand while praying.

It is frequently claimed that the massive Yaksha sculptures’ design had a considerable influence on the evolution of later divine and human figures in India. The female equivalent of the Yakshas, the Yakshinis, were large, pervasive beings that commonly appeared in Indian art with trees and young people.

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The Madgarpani Yaksha, Mathura_©GaryTodd

Buddhist art and architecture (c. 150 BCE – c. 500 CE)

Significant volumes of sculpture from this period have survived, and the bulk of Buddhist art that has doing so. Three significant locations—Sanchi, Bharhut, and Amaravati—have been conserved in Indian or foreign museums while some are still in use today. The stupas were surrounded by a ceremonial fence with four ornately carved toranas, or ornamental entrances, facing the cardinal directions. Despite being composed of stone, they blatantly include wood-derived forms. They could be ornately carved with reliefs, the majority of which show the Buddha’s lives, just as the walls of the stupa itself. Gradually, life-size figures were carved, initially in high relief and then standing alone.

The most important centre of this transition, which incorporated Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain art, was Mathura. In comparison to comparable free-standing structures elsewhere, which were for a very long time mostly built of wood, the exteriors and interiors of monastery viharas and chaitya prayer halls cut out of rock have survived better. Ajanta, Karle, Bhaja, and other caves may include early sculptures, but later works like the Buddha and bodhisattva icons were not produced until at least 100 CE.

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The Crossbar medallion with elephant and riders, Mathura art_©Habe

The most significant item of architecture from this era is perhaps the stupa, a Buddhist sacred monument that frequently contains a precious relic of Buddhism. Some artefacts, but not all of them, have a direct relationship to the Buddha. Since each stupa contained the remains of the Buddha himself, they were worshipped as an extension of his physical form, his attainment of enlightenment, and his achievement of nirvana. Buddhists honour the stupa by circling around it anticlockwise.

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The Sanchi Stupa_©AyushDwivedi

Gupta art and architecture (c. 320 CE – c. 550 CE)

The Gupta period is typically regarded as the traditional peak of north Indian art by all of the major religious organisations. Although the majority of the extant artwork is religious sculpture, the Ajanta Caves have traces of painting, which was evidently prevalent.

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The Ajanta Caves_©Istock

At this period, the famous carved stone deity in Hindu art, the Buddha figure, and Jain tirthankara figures all attained popularity. The production of the latter two was usually done on incredibly large scales. The main centres for sculpture were Mathura, Sarnath, and Gandhara, with Gandhara acting as the centre for Greco-Buddhist art.

The Gupta period is regarded as the “golden age” of conventional Hinduism and saw the building of the earliest Hindu temples, despite the fact that there aren’t many surviving examples.

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The seated Buddha_©Makkalay

Middle kingdoms and the Late Medieval period (c. 600 CE – c. 1300 CE)

During this time, Hindu temple construction took on a variety of regional shapes, and a sizable portion of the temple sculpture from this era may still be seen today. Due to the political history of India’s middle kingdoms, which saw the nation divided into multiple states, many of the most spectacular monuments were commissioned by kings and their courts, which contributed in the formation of regional differences. Although there aren’t many surviving examples, painting was unquestionably quite popular, both on large-scale walls and in miniature. The majority of the surviving mediaeval bronzes were created in the Tamil south or in the foothills of the Himalayas.

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A ceiling fresco of youth in lotus pond_©SüdindischerMeister
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Rasmancha, Bishnupur_©AnkurP

Mughal art and architecture

Islamic conquests of India began in the first decade of the tenth century, but it wasn’t until the Mughal Empire that there were kings who supported the fine arts. When Emperor Humayun rebuilt the Delhi Sultanate in 1555, Mir Sayyid Ali and Abd al-Samad were two of the outstanding painters from the renowned Persian Shah Tahmasp workshop.

Under Akbar’s administration (1556–1605), there were more artists; by the middle of the 1590s, there were over 130, up from roughly 30 during the creation of the Hamzanama in the middle of the 1560s. According to court historian Abu’l-Fazal, Akbar actively pursued his interest in the arts, constantly inspecting his artists and identifying the best. During this time, Persian artists developed an interest in spreading their unique aesthetic throughout the kingdom. Indian themes were prevalent in their works from the beginning because to the usage of natural Indian flora and fauna, which were absent from the traditional Persian style.

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Arghan Div Brings the Chest of Armor to Hamza_©Wikipedia

As their empire grew and shrank over the Indian subcontinent in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, the Mughals developed this form of Indo-Islamic architecture. It developed from Indian architectural forms used by past Muslim kings as well as Iranian and Central Asian architectural traditions, particularly Timurid architecture. Additionally, it incorporated concepts from other forms of Indian architecture, especially during the reign of Akbar, and added to them (r. 1556–1605). Mughal architecture, which is characterised by huge halls, wide arched doors, slender minarets at the corners, and beautiful embellishment, may be seen in modern Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan.

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The Taj Mahal_©Yann

Other medieval Indian kingdoms

During the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, as the Mughals’ empire grew and shrank over the Indian subcontinent, they developed this kind of Indo-Islamic architecture. It grew from architectural traditions from Iran and Central Asia, particularly Timurid architecture, as well as previous Muslim monarchs’ architectural designs from India. Additionally, it blended and enhanced concepts from other forms of Indian architecture, especially under the reign of Akbar (r. 1556–1605). Modern Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan all have examples of Mughal architecture, which is characterised by huge halls, wide arched doors, slender minarets at the corners, and magnificent embellishment.

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The Charminar, Hyderabad_©GopikrishnanNarla
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Portrait of Abu’l Hasan, the last Sultan of Golconda_©Minuchirhr

Huge cultic sculptures of the Yakshas were created in the second century BCE and are considered some of the oldest anthropomorphic stone works in India. These pictures are frequently two metres or more. The Yaksha sculpture style has been lauded for its vibrancy since it has distinctively Indian characteristics, despite the fact that there aren’t many well-preserved older examples. They typically seem angry, have two arms, and a pot belly. It’s common to see the Yakshas carrying weapons or other equipment. As an illustration, the Yaksha Mudgarpani holds a mudgar mace in her right hand and a standing worshipper or young child in her left hand while praying.

References:

  • Wikipedia.com (2021) [Online]

Available at- 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_India

  • Ideal-india.in (2020) [Online]

Available at- 

https://ideal-india.in/vedic-architecture#:~:text=Vedic%20Architecture%20is%20the%20Natural,with%20everything%20in%20the%20universe

  • Encyclopedia.com (2021) [Online]

Available at-

https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/indian-art-and-architecture

Author

Ayushi Samarth is a freshly graduate architect. Reading, understanding and writing upon the analysis made have always been the keen interests of Ayushi. She has always been curious in understanding the impact of social issues on architecture and design. Dealing with the theory of user and context interaction with architecture and narrating the story of architecture always has her attention.

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