Indian art

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Female performer with a tanpura, post-Mughal, 18th century. Colour and gold on paper. A woman holding a Veena, Mughal, India. 18 century.jpg
Female performer with a tanpura, post-Mughal, 18th century. Colour and gold on paper.

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.

Indian painting has a very long tradition and history in Indian art. The earliest Indian paintings were the rock paintings of pre-historic times, the petroglyphs as found in places like Bhimbetka rock shelters, some of the Stone Age rock paintings found among the Bhimbetka rock shelters are approximately 30,000 years old.

Sculpture in the Indian subcontinent

The first known sculpture in the Indian subcontinent is from the Indus Valley civilization. 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 c. 1500 BCE from Daimabad. Thus the great tradition of Indian monumental sculpture in stone appears to begin relatively late, with the reign of Asoka 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 that also embraced Hinduism.

Textile arts Arts and crafts that use plant, animal, or synthetic fibers to construct practical or decorative objects

Textile arts are arts and crafts that use plant, animal, or synthetic fibers to construct practical or decorative objects.


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.

Hindu art encompasses the artistic traditions and styles culturally connected to Hinduism and have a long history of religious association with Hindu scriptures, rituals and worship.

Buddhist art artistic practices that are influenced by Buddhism

Buddhist art is the artistic practices that are influenced by Buddhism. It includes art media which depict Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and other entities; notable Buddhist figures, both historical and mythical; narrative scenes from the lives of all of these; mandalas and other graphic aids to practice; as well as physical objects associated with Buddhist practice, such as vajras, bells, stupas and Buddhist temple architecture. Buddhist art originated on the Indian subcontinent following the historical life of Siddhartha Gautama, 6th to 5th century BCE, and thereafter evolved by contact with other cultures as it spread throughout Asia and the world.

Jain art

Jain art refers to religious works of art associated with Jainism. Even though Jainism spread only in some parts of India, it has made a significant contribution to Indian art and architecture. In general Jain art broadly follows the contemporary style of Indian Buddhist and Hindu art, though the iconography, and the functional layout of temple buildings, reflects specific Jain needs. The artists and craftsmen producing most Jain art were probably not themselves Jain, but from local workshops patronized by all religions. This may not have been the case for illustrated manuscripts, where many of the oldest Indian survivals are Jain.

Yakshi Bracket Figure. East torana of the Great Stupa at Sanchi, 1st century BCE. Nymph of Sanchi.JPG
Yakshi Bracket Figure. East torana of the Great Stupa at Sanchi, 1st century BCE.

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.

Grave goods objects placed intentionally in a grave

Grave goods, in archaeology and anthropology, are the items buried along with the body.

Indian 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.

Tibet Plateau region in Asia

Tibet is a region covering much of the Tibetan Plateau in modern-day China. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpa, Tamang, Qiang, Sherpa, and Lhoba peoples and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han Chinese and Hui people. Tibet is the highest region on Earth, with an average elevation of 5,000 m (16,000 ft). The highest elevation in Tibet is Mount Everest, Earth's highest mountain, rising 8,848 m (29,029 ft) above sea level.

China Country in East Asia

China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia and the world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.404 billion. Covering approximately 9,600,000 square kilometers (3,700,000 sq mi), it is the third or fourth largest country by total area. Governed by the Communist Party of China, the state exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities, and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

Central Asia Region of the Asian continent

Central Asia stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China in the east and from Afghanistan in the south to Russia in the north. The region consists of the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. It is also colloquially referred to as "the stans" as the countries generally considered to be within the region all have names ending with the Persian suffix "-stan", meaning "land of".

Early Indian art

Rock painting at one of the Bhimbetka rock shelters Rock painting, Bhimbetka, Raisen district, MP.jpg
Rock painting at one of the Bhimbetka rock shelters

Rock art

The Dancing Girl of Mohenjo Daro" Dancing girl of Mohenjo-daro.jpg
The Dancing Girl of Mohenjo Daro"

Rock art of India includes rock relief carvings, engravings and paintings, some (but by no means all) from the South Asian Stone Age. It is estimated there are about 1300 rock art sites with over a quarter of a million figures and figurines. [1] The earliest rock carvings in India were discovered by Archibald Carlleyle, twelve years before the Cave of Altamira in Spain, [2] although his work only came to light much later via J Cockburn (1899). [3]

Rock relief relief sculpture carved into solid rock

A rock relief or rock-cut relief is a relief sculpture carved on solid or "living rock" such as a cliff, rather than a detached piece of stone. They are a category of rock art, and sometimes found as part of, or in conjunction with, rock-cut architecture. However, they tend to be omitted in most works on rock art, which concentrate on engravings and paintings by prehistoric peoples. A few such works exploit the natural contours of the rock and use them to define an image, but they do not amount to man-made reliefs. Rock reliefs have been made in many cultures throughout human history, and were especially important in the art of the ancient Near East. Rock reliefs are generally fairly large, as they need to be in order to have an impact in the open air. Most of those discussed here have figures that are over life-size, and in many the figures are multiples of life-size.

South Asian Stone Age

The South Asian Stone Age covers the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods in South Asia. Evidence for the most ancient anatomically modern Homo sapiens in South Asia has been found in the cave sites of Cudappah of India, Batadombalena and Belilena in Sri Lanka. In Mehrgarh, in what is today western Pakistan, the Neolithic began c. 7000 BCE and lasted until 3300 BCE and the first beginnings of the Bronze Age. In South India, the Mesolithic lasted until 3000 BCE, and the Neolithic until 1400 BCE, followed by a Megalithic transitional period mostly skipping the Bronze Age. The Iron Age began roughly simultaneously in North and South India, around c. 1200 to 1000 BCE.

A. C. L. Carlleyle was an English archaeologist.

Dr. V. S. Wakankar discovered several painted rock shelters in Central India, situated around the Vindhya mountain range. Of these, the c. 750 sites making up the Bhimbetka rock shelters have been enrolled as a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the earliest paintings are some 30,000 years old. [4] The paintings in these sites commonly depicted scenes of human life alongside animals, and hunts with stone implements. Their style varied with region and age, but the most common characteristic was a red wash made using a powdered mineral called geru, which is a form of Iron Oxide (Hematite). [5]

V. S. Wakankar Indian archaeologist

Vishnu Shridhar Wakankar was an Indian archeologist. In 1957 Wakankar discovered the Bhimbetka rock caves. In 1970 UNESCO inscribed the Bhimbetka rock caves as a World Heritage Site. The Bhimbetka rock caves exhibit the earliest traces of human life in India.

Vindhya Range mountain range

The Vindhya Range is a complex, discontinuous chain of mountain ridges, hill ranges, highlands and plateau escarpments in west-central India.

Bhimbetka rock shelters 30,000+ years old archaeological World Heritage site in Madhya Pradesh, India

The Bhimbetka rock shelters are an archaeological site in central India that spans the prehistoric paleolithic and mesolithic periods, as well as the historic period. It exhibits the earliest traces of human life on the Indian subcontinent and evidence of Stone Age starting at the site in Acheulian times. It is located in the Raisen District in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh about 45 kilometres (28 mi) southeast of Bhopal. It is a UNESCO world heritage site that consists of seven hills and over 750 rock shelters distributed over 10 kilometres (6.2 mi). At least some of the shelters were inhabited more than 100,000 years ago. The rock shelters and caves provide evidence of, according to Encyclopædia Britannica, a "rare glimpse" into human settlement and cultural evolution from hunter-gatherers, to agriculture, and expressions of spirituality.

Indus Valley Civilization (c.5000 BCE – c.1500 BCE)

Despite its widespread and sophistication, the Indus Valley civilization seems to have taken no interest in public large-scale art, unlike many other early civilizations. A number of gold, terracotta and stone figurines of girls in dancing poses reveal the presence of some forms of dance. Additionally, the terracotta figurines included cows, bears, monkeys, and dogs.

Much the most common form of figurative art found is small carved seals. Thousands of steatite seals have been recovered, and their physical character is fairly consistent. In size they range from 34 inch to 112 inches square. In most cases they have a pierced boss at the back to accommodate a cord for handling or for use as personal adornment. Seals have been found at Mohenjo-Daro depicting a figure standing on its head, and another, on the Pashupati Seal, sitting cross-legged in a yoga-like pose. This figure has been variously identified. Sir John Marshall identified a resemblance to the Hindu god, Shiva. [6]

The animal depicted on a majority of seals at sites of the mature period has not been clearly identified. Part bull, part zebra, with a majestic horn, it has been a source of speculation. As yet, there is insufficient evidence to substantiate claims that the image had religious or cultist significance, but the prevalence of the image raises the question of whether or not the animals in images of the IVC are religious symbols. [7] The most famous piece is the bronze Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-Daro, which shows remarkably advanced modelling of the human figure for this early date. [8]

After the end of the Indus Valley Civilization, there is a surprising absence of art of any great degree of sophistication until the Buddhist era. It is thought that this partly reflects the use of perishable organic materials such as wood. [9]

Mauryan art (c.322 BCE – c.185 BCE)

The Pataliputra capital, an early example of Mauryan stone sculpture, displaying Persian and Hellenistic influences. Pataliputra capital front.jpg
The Pataliputra capital, an early example of Mauryan stone sculpture, displaying Persian and Hellenistic influences.
Single Lion capital at Vaishali. Ashoka pillar at Vaishali, Bihar, India 2007-01-29.jpg
Single Lion capital at Vaishali.

The north Indian Maurya Empire flourished from 322 BCE to 185 BCE, and at its maximum extent controlled all of the sub-continent except the extreme south as well as influences from Indian ancient traditions, and Ancient Persia, [10] as shown by the Pataliputra capital.

The emperor Ashoka, who died in 232 BCE, adopted Buddhism about half-way through his 40-year reign, and patronized several large stupas at key sites from the life of the Buddha, although very little decoration from the Mauryan period survives, and there may not have been much in the first place. There is more from various early sites of Indian rock-cut architecture.

The most famous survivals are the large animals surmounting several of the Pillars of Ashoka, which showed a confident and boldly mature style and craft and first of its kind iron casting without rust until date, which was in use by vedic people in rural areas of the country, though we have very few remains showing its development. [11] The famous detached Lion Capital of Ashoka, with four animals, was adopted as the official Emblem of India after Indian independence. [12] Mauryan sculpture and architecture is characterized by a very fine Mauryan polish given to the stone, which is rarely found in later periods.

Statuettes of the Mauryan era MauryaStatuettes.jpg
Statuettes of the Mauryan era

Many small popular terracotta figurines are recovered in archaeology, in a range of often vigorous if somewhat crude styles. Both animals and human figures, usually females presumed to be deities, are found. [13]

Buddhist art (c.1 BCE – c.500 CE)

A monumental rock-cut cave, the Great Chaitya at Karla Caves, built circa 120 CE Karla caves Chaitya.jpg
A monumental rock-cut cave, the Great Chaitya at Karla Caves, built circa 120 CE

The major survivals of Buddhist art begin in the period after the Mauryans, from which good quantities of sculpture survives after many Hindu, buddhist and jain temples destroyed by mughal rulers time to time. some key sites such as Sanchi, Bharhut and Amaravati, some of which remain in situ, with others in museums in India or around the world. Stupas were surrounded by ceremonial fences with four profusely carved toranas or ornamental gateways facing the cardinal directions. These are in stone, though clearly adopting forms developed in wood. They and the walls of the stupa itself can be heavily decorated with reliefs, mostly illustrating the lives of the Buddha. Gradually life-size figures were sculpted, initially in deep relief, but then free-standing. [14] Mathura was the most important centre in this development, which applied to Hindu and Jain art as well as Buddhist. [15] The facades and interiors of rock-cut chaitya prayer halls and monastic viharas have survived better than similar free-standing structures elsewhere, which were for long mostly in wood. The caves at Ajanta, Karle, Bhaja and elsewhere contain early sculpture, often outnumbered by later works such as iconic figures of the Buddha and bodhisattvas, which are not found before 100 CE at the least.

Buddhism developed an increasing emphasis on statues of the Buddha, which was greatly influenced by Hindu and Jain religious figurative art, The figures of this period which were also influenced by the Greco-Buddhist art of the centuries after the defeat of Alexander the Great. This fusion developed in the far north-west of India, especially Gandhara in modern Afghanistan and Pakistan. [16] The Indian Kushan Empire spread from Central Asia to include northern India in the early centuries CE, and briefly commissioned large statues that were portraits of the royal dynasty, Mughal miniature. [17]

Shunga Dynasty (c. 185 BCE – 72 BCE)

Main article: Shunga Empire

With the fall of the Maurya Empire, control of India was returned to the older custom of regional dynasties, one of the most significant of which was the Shunga Dynasty (c. 185 BCE – 72 BCE) of central India. During this period, as well as during the Satavahana Dynasty which occurred concurrently with the Shunga Dynasty in south India, some of the most significant early Buddhist architecture was created. Arguably, the most significant architecture of this dynasty is the stupa, a religious monument which usually holds a sacred relic of Buddhism. These relics were often, but not always, in some way directly connected to the Buddha. Due to the fact that these stupas contained remains of the Buddha himself, each stupa was venerated as being an extension of the Buddha's body, his enlightenment, and of his achievement of nirvana. The way in which Buddhists venerate the stupa is by walking around it in a clockwise manner. [18]

The Great Stupa at Sanchi, c. 273 BCE - 232 BCE (Mauryan Empire), enlarged c. 150 BCE - 50 BCE (Shunga Dynasty) The great stupa.jpg
The Great Stupa at Sanchi, c. 273 BCE – 232 BCE (Mauryan Empire), enlarged c. 150 BCE – 50 BCE (Shunga Dynasty)

One of the most notable examples of the Buddhist stupa from the Shunga Dynasty is The Great Stupa at Sanchi, which was thought to be founded by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka c. 273 BCE – 232 BCE during the Maurya Empire. [19] The Great Stupa was enlarged to its present diameter of 120 feet, covered with a stone casing, topped with a balcony and umbrella, and encircled with a stone railing during the Shunga Dynasty c. 150 BCE - 50 BCE.

In addition to architecture, another significant art form of the Shunga Dynasty is the elaborately moulded terracotta plaques. As seen in previous examples from the Mauryan Empire, a style in which surface detail, nudity, and sensuality is continued in the terracotta plaques of the Shunga Dynasty. The most common figural representations seen on these plaques are women, some of which are thought to be goddesses, who are mostly shown as bare-chested and wearing elaborate headdresses. [20]

Satavahana dynasty (c. 1st/3rd century BCE – c. 3rd century CE)

King Kanishka. Uttar Pradesh, India. 2nd-3rd century CE. Kanishka enhanced.jpg
King Kanishka. Uttar Pradesh, India. 2nd-3rd century CE.

The Satavahana dynasty ruled in central India, and sponsored many large Buddhist monuments, stupas, temples, and prayer-halls, including the Amaravati Stupa, the Karla Caves, and the first phase of the Ajanta Caves. [21]

Stupas are religious monuments built on burial mounds, which contain relics beneath a solid dome. Stupas in different areas of India may vary in structure, size, and design; however, their representational meanings are quite similar. They are designed based on a mandala, a graph of cosmos specific to Buddhism. A traditional stupa has a railing that provides a sacred path for Buddhist followers to practice devotional circumambulation in ritual settings. Also, ancient Indians considered caves as sacred places since they were inhabited by holy men and monks. A chaitya was constructed from a cave. [18]

Relief sculptures of Buddhist figures and epigraphs written in Brahmi characters are often found in divine places specific to Buddhism. [22] To celebrate the divine, Satavahana people also made stone images as the decoration in Buddhist architectures. Based on the knowledge of geometry and geology, they created ideal images using a set of complex techniques and tools such as chisels, hammers, and compasses with iron points. [23]

Buddha Preaching in Tushita Heaven, from the Amaravati Stupa, Satavahana period, 2nd century AD. Indian Museum, Calcutta. Buddha Preaching in Tushita Heaven. Amaravati, Satavahana period, 2d century AD. Indian Museum, Calcutta.jpg
Buddha Preaching in Tushita Heaven, from the Amaravati Stupa, Satavahana period, 2nd century AD. Indian Museum, Calcutta.
A coin of Nahapana, British Museum Gautamiputra Sri Satakarni overstruck on a coin of Nahapana.jpg
A coin of Nahapana, British Museum

In addition, delicate Satavahana coins show the capacity of creating art in that period. The Satavahanas issued coins primarily in copper, lead and potin. Later on, silver came into use when producing coins. The coins usually have detailed portraits of rulers and inscriptions written in the language of Tamil and Telugu [22] .

Kushan Empire (c. 30 CE - c. 375 CE)

Standing Buddha. Schist with traces of gilding, H. 64.8 cm x W. 29.2 cm x D. 15.2 cm. Gandhara, approx. 200-350 ACE. Asian Art Museum, San Francisco. Standing Buddha.Gandhara.Asian Museum of Art.jpg
Standing Buddha. Schist with traces of gilding, H. 64.8 cm x W. 29.2 cm x D. 15.2 cm. Gandhara, approx. 200-350 ACE. Asian Art Museum, San Francisco.

Officially established by Kujula Kadphises, the first Kushan emperor who united the Yuezhi tribes, the Kushan empire was a syncretic empire in central Asia, including the region of Gandhara and other parts of what is now Pakistan. From 127 to 151 CE, Gandharan reached its peak under the reign of Kanishka the Great. In this period, Kushan art inherited the Greco-Buddhist art. [24] Mahayana Buddhism flourished, and the depictions of Buddha as a human form first appeared in art. Wearing a monk's robe and a long length of cloth draped over the left shoulder and around the body, the Buddha was depicted with 32 major lakshanas (distinguishing marks), including a golden-colored body, an ushnisha (a protuberance) on the top of his head, heavy earrings, elongated earlobes, long arms, the impression of a chakra (wheel) on the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet, and the urna (a mark between his eyebrows). [18] One of the hallmarks of Gandharan art is its relation to naturalism of Hellenistic art. The naturalistic features found in Gandharan sculptures include the three-dimensional treatment of the drapery, with unregularized folds that are in realistic patterns of random shape and thickness. The physical form of the Buddha and his bodhisattvas are well-defined, solid, and muscular, with swelling chests, arms, and abdomens. [25] Buddhism and Buddhism art spread to Central Asia and the far East across Bactria and Sogdia, where the Kushan Empire met the Han Dynasty of China. [26]

Gupta art (c.320 CE – c.550 CE)

The Gupta period is generally regarded as a classic peak of north Indian art for all the major religious groups. Although painting was evidently widespread, the surviving works are almost all religious sculpture. The period saw the emergence of the iconic carved stone deity in Hindu art, as well as the Buddha-figure and Jain tirthankara figures, these last often on a very large scale. The two great centers of sculpture were Mathura and Gandhara, the latter the center of Greco-Buddhist art.

Although the Gupta period marked the "golden age" of classical Hinduism, [27] the early architectural style of Hindu temples were sophisticated and scientific in nature, consisting large courtyards, garbh grah, siting area, prayer area a large complex and well planned architecture. [28] This is in stark contrast to the complex plans with multiple shikaras (towers) and mandapas (halls) of various utility as stated in veda outlining building of temples. [29]

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

Over this period Hindu temple architecture matured into a number of regional styles, and a large proportion of the art historical record for this period consists of temple sculpture, much of which remains in place. The political history of the middle kingdoms of India saw India divided into many states, and since much of the grandest building was commissioned by rulers and their court, this helped the development of regional differences. Painting, both on a large scale on walls, and in miniature forms, was no doubt very widely practiced, but survivals are rare. Medieval bronzes have most commonly survived from either the Tamil south, or the Himalayan foothills.

Dynasties of South India (c.3rd century CE – c.1300 CE)

Inscriptions on the Pillars of Ashoka mention coexistence of the northern kingdoms with the triumvirate of Chola, Chera and Pandya Tamil dynasties, situated south of the Vindhya mountains. [30] The medieval period witnessed the rise and fall of these kingdoms, in conjunction with other kingdoms in the area. It is during the decline and resurgence of these kingdoms that Hinduism was renewed. It fostered the construction of numerous temples and sculptures.

The Shore Temple at Mamallapuram constructed by the Pallavas symbolizes early Hindu architecture, with its monolithic rock relief and sculptures of Hindu deities. They were succeeded by Chola rulers who were prolific in their pursuit of the arts. The Great Living Chola Temples of this period are known for their maturity, grandeur and attention to detail, and have been recognized as a UNESCO Heritage Site. [31] The Chola period is also known for its bronze sculptures, the lost-wax casting technique and fresco paintings. Thanks to the Hindu kings of the Chalukya dynasty, Jainism flourished alongside Islam evidenced by the fourth of the Badami cave temples being Jain instead of Vedic. The kingdoms of South India continued to rule their lands until the Muslim invasions that established sultanates there and destroyed much of the temples and marvel examples of architectures and sculptures

Temples of Khajuraho (c.800 CE – c.1000 CE)

Vishvanatha Temple, part of the Khajuraho group of monuments India-5749 - Visvanatha Temple - Flickr - archer10 (Dennis).jpg
Vishvanatha Temple, part of the Khajuraho group of monuments

Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, [32] the Khajuraho group of monuments were constructed by the Chandela clan of the Rajput dynasties. Apart from the usual Hindu temples, 10% of the sculptures depict twisted bodies of men and women that shed light on the everyday socio-cultural and religious practices in Medieval India. Ever since their discovery, the degree of sexuality depicted in these sculptures has drawn both negative and positive criticism from scholars, ranging from "the degeneration of the Hindu mind" [33] [34]

The Khajuraho temples were in active use under Hindu kingdoms, until the establishment of the Delhi Sultanates of the 13th century. Under Muslim rule until the 18th century, many of Khajuraho's monuments were destroyed, but a few ruins still remain.


Other Hindu states are now mainly known through their surviving temples and their attached sculpture. These include Badami Chalukya architecture (5th to 6th centuries), Western Chalukya architecture (11th to 12th centuries) and Hoysala architecture (11th to 14th centuries), all centred on modern Karnataka.

In east India, Odisha and West Bengal, Kalinga architecture was the broad temple style, with local variants, before the Muslim conquest.

Early Modern and Colonial Era (c.1400 CE – c.1800 CE)

Mughal art

Although Islamic footholds in India were made as early as the first half of the 10th century, it wasn't until the Mughal Empire that one observes emperors with a patronage for the fine arts. Emperor Humayun, during his reestablishment of the Delhi Sultanate in 1555, brought with him Mir Sayyid Ali and Abd al-Samad, two of the finest painters from Persian Shah Tahmasp's renowned atelier.

During the reign of Akbar (1556—1605), the number of painters grew from around 30 during the creation of the Hamzanama in the mid-1560s, to around 130 by the mid 1590s. [35] According to court historian Abu'l-Fazal, Akbar was hands-on in his interest of the arts, inspecting his painters regularly and rewarding the best. [36] It is during this time that Persian artists were attracted to bringing their unique style to the empire. Indian elements were present in their works from the beginning, with the incorporation of local Indian flora and fauna that were otherwise absent from the traditional Persian style. The paintings of this time reflected the vibrancy and inclusion of Akbar's kingdom, with production of Persian miniatures, the Rajput paintings (including the Kangra school) and the Pahari style of Northern India. They also influenced the Company style watercolor paintings created during the British rule many years later.

With the death of Akbar, his son Jahangir (1605–1627) took the throne. He preferred each painter work on a single piece rather than the collaboration fostered during Akbar's time. This period marks the emergence of distinct individual styles, notably Bishan Das, Manohar Das, Abu al-Hasan, Govardhan, and Daulat. [37] Jahangir himself had the capability to identify the work of each individual artist,even if the work was unnamed.The Razmnama (Persian translation of the Hindu epic Mahabharata ) and an illustrated memoir of Jahangir, named Tuzuk-i Jahangiri, were created under his rule. Jahangir was succeeded by Shah Jahan (1628–1658), whose most notable architectural contribution is the Taj Mahal. Paintings under his rule were more formal, featuring court scenes, in contrast to the personal styles from his predecessor's time. Aurangzeb (1658–1707), who held increasingly orthodox Sunni beliefs, forcibly took the throne from his father Shah Jahan. With a ban of music and painting in 1680, his reign saw the decline of Mughal patronage of the arts.

As painting declined in the imperial court, artists and the general influence of Mughal painting spread to the princely courts and cities of north India, where both portraiture, the illustration of the Indian epics, and Hindu religious painting developed in many local schools and styles. Notable among these were the schools of Rajput, Pahari, Deccan, Kangra painting.

Other medieval Indian kingdoms

The last empire in southern India, until the Mughals conquered it after 1565, has left spectacular remains of Vijayanagara architecture, especially at Hampi, Karnataka, often heavily decorated with sculpture. These developed the Chola tradition. After the Mughal conquest, the temple tradition continued to develop, mainly in the expansion of existing temples, which added new outer walls with increasingly large gopurams, often dwarfing the older buildings in the centre. These became usually thickly covered with plaster statues of deities and other religious figures, which need have their brightly-coloured paint kept renewed at intervals so they do not erode away.

In South-Central India, during the late fifteenth century after the Middle kingdoms, the Bahmani sultanate disintegrated into the Deccan sultanates centered at Bijapur, Golconda, Ahmadnagar, Bidar, and Berar. They used vedic techniques of metal casting, stone carving, and painting, as well as a distinctive architectural style with the addition of citadels and tombs from Mughal architecture. For instance, the Baridi dynasty (1504–1619) of Bidar saw the invention of bidri ware, which was adopted from Vedic and Maurya period ashoka pillars of zinc mixed with copper, tin, and lead and inlaid with silver or brass, then covered with a mud paste containing sal ammoniac, which turned the base metal black, highlighting the colour and sheen of the inlaid metal. Only after the Mughal conquest of Ahmadnagar in 1600 did the Persian influence patronized by the Turco-Mongol Mughals begin to affect Deccan art.

British period (1841–1947)

British colonial rule had a great impact on Indian art, especially from the mid-19th century onwards. Many old patrons of art became less wealthy and influential, and Western art more ubiquitous as the British Empire established schools of art in major cities. The oldest, the Government College of Fine Arts, Chennai, was established in 1850. In major cities with many Europeans, the Company style of small paintings became common, created by Indian artists working for European patrons of the East India Company. The style mainly used watercolour, to convey soft textures and tones, in a style combining influences from Western prints and Mughal painting. [38] By 1858, the British government took over the task of administration of India under the British Raj. Many commissions by Indian princes were now wholly or partly in Western styles, or the hybrid Indo-Saracenic architecture. The fusion of Indian traditions with European style at this time is evident from Raja Ravi Varma's oil paintings of sari-clad women in a graceful manner.

With the Swadeshi Movement gaining momentum by 1905, Indian artists attempted to resuscitate the cultural identities suppressed by the British, rejecting the Romanticized style of the Company paintings and the mannered work of Raja Ravi Varma and his followers. Thus was created what is known today as the Bengal School of Art, led by the reworked Asian styles (with an emphasis on Indian nationalism) of Abanindranath Tagore (1871—1951), who has been referred to as the father of Modern Indian art. [39] Other artists of the Tagore family, such as Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941) and Gaganendranath Tagore (1867–1938) as well as new artists of the early 20th century such as Amrita Sher-Gil (1913–1941) were responsible for introducing Avant-garde western styles into Indian Art. Many other artists like Jamini Roy and later S.H. Raza took inspiration from folk traditions. In 1944, K.C.S. Paniker founded the Progressive Painters' Association (PPA) thus giving rise to the "madras movement" in art. [40]

Contemporary art (c.1900 CE-present)

In 1947, India became independent of British rule. A group of six artists - K. H. Ara, S. K. Bakre, H. A. Gade, M.F. Husain, S.H. Raza and Francis Newton Souza - founded the Bombay Progressive Artists' Group in the year 1952, to establish new ways of expressing India in the post-colonial era. Though the group was dissolved in 1956, it was profoundly influential in changing the idiom of Indian art. Almost all India's major artists in the 1950s were associated with the group. Some of those who are well-known today are Bal Chabda, Manishi Dey, V. S. Gaitonde, Krishen Khanna, Ram Kumar, Tyeb Mehta, K. G. Subramanyan, A. Ramachandran, Devender Singh, Akbar Padamsee, John Wilkins, Himmat Shah and Manjit Bawa. [41] Present-day Indian art is varied as it had been never before. Among the best-known artists of the newer generation include Bose Krishnamachari and Bikash Bhattacharya. Another prominent Pakistani modernist was Ismail Gulgee, who after about 1960 adopted an abstract idiom that combines aspects of Islamic calligraphy with an abstract expressionist (or gestural abstractionist) sensibility.

Painting and sculpture remained important in the later half of the twentieth century, though in the work of leading artists such as Nalini Malani, Subodh Gupta, Narayanan Ramachandran, Vivan Sundaram, Jitish Kallat, they often found radical new directions. Bharti Dayal has chosen to handle the traditional Mithila painting in most contemporary way and created her own style through the exercises of her own imagination, they appear fresh and unusual.

The increase in discourse about Indian art, in English as well as vernacular Indian languages, changed the way art was perceived in the art schools. Critical approach became rigorous; critics like Geeta Kapur, R. Siva Kumar, [42] [43] Shivaji K. Panikkar, Ranjit Hoskote, amongst others, contributed to re-thinking contemporary art practice in India.

Contextual Modernism

The year 1997 bore witness to two parallel gestures of canon formation. On the one hand, the influential Baroda Group, a coalition whose original members included Vivan Sundaram, Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh, Bhupen Khakhar, and Nalini Malani—and which had left its mark on history in the form of the 1981 exhibition “Place for People”—was definitively historicized in 1997 with the publication of Contemporary Art in Baroda, an anthology of essays edited by Sheikh. On the other hand, the art historian R. Siva Kumar's benchmark exhibition and related publication, A Contextual Modernism, restored the Santiniketan artists—Rabindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Benode Behari Mukherjee, and Ramkinkar Baij—to their proper place as the originators of an indigenously achieved yet transcultural modernism in the 1930s, well before the Progressives composed their manifesto in the late 1940s. Of the Santiniketan artists, Siva Kumar observed that they “reviewed traditional antecedents in relation to the new avenues opened up by cross-cultural contacts. They also saw it as a historical imperative. Cultural insularity, they realized, had to give way to eclecticism and cultural impurity.” [44]

art historian R. Siva Kumar Professor R. Siva Kumar.jpg
art historian R. Siva Kumar

The idea of Contextual Modernism emerged in 1997 from R. Siva Kumar's Santiniketan: The Making of a Contextual Modernism as a postcolonial critical tool in the understanding of an alternative modernism in the visual arts of the erstwhile colonies like India, specifically that of the Santiniketan artists.

Several terms including Paul Gilroy's counter culture of modernity and Tani Barlow's Colonial modernity have been used to describe the kind of alternative modernity that emerged in non-European contexts. Professor Gall argues that 'Contextual Modernism' is a more suited term because “the colonial in colonial modernity does not accommodate the refusal of many in colonized situations to internalize inferiority. Santiniketan's artist teachers' refusal of subordination incorporated a counter vision of modernity, which sought to correct the racial and cultural essentialism that drove and characterized imperial Western modernity and modernism. Those European modernities, projected through a triumphant British colonial power, provoked nationalist responses, equally problematic when they incorporated similar essentialisms.” [45]

According to R. Siva Kumar "The Santiniketan artists were one of the first who consciously challenged this idea of modernism by opting out of both internationalist modernism and historicist indigenousness and tried to create a context sensitive modernism." [46] He had been studying the work of the Santiniketan masters and thinking about their approach to art since the early 80s. The practice of subsuming Nandalal Bose, Rabindranath Tagore, Ram Kinker Baij and Benode Behari Mukherjee under the Bengal School of Art was, according to Siva Kumar, misleading. This happened because early writers were guided by genealogies of apprenticeship rather than their styles, worldviews, and perspectives on art practice. [46]

Contextual Modernism in the recent past has found its usage in other related fields of studies, specially in Architecture. [47]

Material history of Indian art


Chola bronze statue of Nataraja at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City Nataraja01.jpg
Chola bronze statue of Nataraja at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

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. [48] 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. [49] 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. [50] Indeed, wood continued to be the main sculptural and architectural medium in Kerala throughout all historic periods until recent decades. [51]

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. [50] 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, [52] though the Elephanta Caves are probably slightly later. [53] 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, [54] with the massive granite carvings of Mahabalipuram dating from the previous Pallava dynasty. [55] The Chola period is also remarkable for its sculptures and bronzes. [56] 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. [57]

Wall painting

Fresco from the Ajanta Caves, c. 450-500 Ajanta Padmapani.jpg
Fresco from the Ajanta Caves, c. 450-500

The tradition and methods of Indian cliff painting gradually evolved throughout many thousands of years - there are multiple locations found with prehistoric art. The early caves included overhanging rock decorated with rock-cut art and the use of natural caves during the Mesolithic period (6000 BCE). Their use has continued in some areas into historic times. [58] The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka are on the edge of the Deccan Plateau where deep erosion has left huge sandstone outcrops. The many caves and grottos found there contain primitive tools and decorative rock paintings that reflect the ancient tradition of human interaction with their landscape, an interaction that continues to this day. [59]

The oldest surviving frescoes of the historical period have been preserved in the Ajanta Caves with Cave 10 having some from the 1st century CE, though the larger and more famous groups are from the 5th century. Despite climatic conditions that tend to work against the survival of older paintings, in total there are known more than 20 locations in India with paintings and traces of former paintings of ancient and early medieval times (up to the 8th to 10th centuries CE), [60] although these are just a tiny fraction of what would have once existed. The most significant frescoes of the ancient and early medieval period are found in the Ajanta, Bagh, Ellora, and Sittanavasal caves, the last being Jain of the 7th-10th centuries. Although many show evidence of being by artists mainly used to decorating palaces, no early secular wall-paintings survive. [61]

Akbar riding the elephant Hawa'I pursuing another elephant 1561-Akbar riding the elephant Hawa'I pursuing another elephant across a collapsing bridge of boats (right).jpg
Akbar riding the elephant Hawa'I pursuing another elephant

The Chola fresco paintings were discovered in 1931 within the circumambulatory passage of the Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, and are the first Chola specimens discovered. Researchers have discovered the technique used in these frescoes. A smooth batter of limestone mixture is applied over the stones, which took two to three days to set. Within that short span, such large paintings were painted with natural organic pigments. During the Nayak period the Chola paintings were painted over. The Chola frescoes lying underneath have an ardent spirit of saivism is expressed in them. They probably synchronised with the completion of the temple by Rajaraja Cholan the Great.

Kerala mural painting has well-preserved fresco or mural or wall painting in temple walls in Pundarikapuram, Ettumanoor and Aymanam and elsewhere.

Miniature painting

Although few Indian miniatures survive from before about 1000 CE, and some from the next few centuries, there was probably a considerable tradition. Those that survive are initially illustrations for Buddhist texts, later followed by Jain and Hindu equivalents, and the decline of Buddhist as well as the vulnerable support material of the palm-leaf manuscript probably explain the rarity of early examples. [62]

Mughal painting in miniatures on paper developed very quickly in the late 16th century from the combined influence of the existing miniature tradition and artists trained in the Persian miniature tradition imported by the Mughal Emperor's court. New ingredients in the style were much greater realism, especially in portraits, and an interest in animals, plants and other aspects of the physical world. [63]

Miniatures either illustrated books or were single works for muraqqas or albums of painting and Islamic calligraphy. The style gradually spread in the next two centuries to influence painting on paper in both Muslim and Hindu princely courts, developing into a number of regional styles often called "sub-Mughal", including Kangra painting and Rajput painting, and finally Company painting, a hybrid watercolour style influenced by European art and largely patronized by the people of the British raj. From the 19th century Western-style easel paintings became increasingly painted by Indian artists trained in Government art schools.


Pair of gold earrings, 1st century BCE, Andhra Pradesh. Andhra Pradesh Royal earrings 1st Century BCE.jpg
Pair of gold earrings, 1st century BCE, Andhra Pradesh.

The Indian subcontinent has the longest continuous legacy of jewellery-making, with a history of over 5,000 years. [64] Using jewellery as a store of capital remains more common in India than in most modern societies, and gold appears always to have been strongly preferred for the metal. India and the surrounding areas were important sources of high-quality gemstones, and the jewellery of the ruling class is typified by using them lavishly. One of the first to start jewellery-making were the people of the Indus Valley Civilization. Early remains are few, as they were not buried with their owners.

Other materials

Wood was undoubtedly extremely important, but rarely survives long in the Indian climate. Organic animal materials such as ivory or bone were discouraged by the Dharmic religions, although Buddhist examples exist, such as the Begram ivories, many of Indian manufacture, but found in Afghanistan, and some relatively modern carved tusks. In Muslim settings they are more common.

Contextual history of Indian art

Temple art

Obscurity shrouds the period between the decline of the Harappans and the definite historic period starting with the Mauryas, and in the historical period, the earliest Indian religion to inspire major artistic monuments was Buddhism. Though there may have been earlier structures in wood that have been transformed into stone structures, there are no physical evidences for these except textual references. Soon after the Buddhists initiated rock-cut caves, Hindus and Jains started to imitate them at Badami, Aihole, Ellora, Salsette, Elephanta, Aurangabad and Mamallapuram and Mughals. It appears to be a constant in Indian art that the different religions shared a very similar artistic style at any particular period and place, though naturally adapting the iconography to match the religion commissioning them. [65] Probably the same groups of artists worked for the different religions regardless of their own affiliations.

Indian art also found its way into Italy, within the context of Indo-Roman trade: in 1938 the Pompeii Lakshmi was found in the ruins of Pompeii (destroyed in an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE). Statuetta indiana di Lakshmi, avorio, da pompei, 1-50 dc ca., 149425, 02.JPG
Indian art also found its way into Italy, within the context of Indo-Roman trade: in 1938 the Pompeii Lakshmi was found in the ruins of Pompeii (destroyed in an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE).

Buddhist art first developed during the Gandhara period and Amaravati Periods around the 1st century BCE. It flourished greatly during the Gupta Periods and Pala Periods that comprise the Golden Age of India. Although the most glorious art of these Indian empires was mostly Buddhist in nature, subsequently Hindu Empires like the Pallava, Chola, Hoysala and Vijayanagara Empires developed their own styles of Hindu art as well.

There is no time line that divides the creation of rock-cut temples and free-standing temples built with cut stone as they developed in parallel. The building of free-standing structures began in the 5th century, while rock-cut temples continued to be excavated until the 12th century. An example of a free-standing structural temple is the Shore Temple, a part of the Mahabalipuram World Heritage Site, with its slender tower, built on the shore of the Bay of Bengal with finely carved granite rocks cut like bricks and dating from the 8th century. [66] [67]

Folk and tribal art

Folk and tribal art in India takes on different manifestations through varied media such as pottery, painting, metalwork, [68] paper-art, weaving and designing of objects such as jewellery and toys. These are not just aesthetic objects but in fact have an important significance in people's lives and are tied to their beliefs and rituals. The objects can range from sculpture, masks (used in rituals and ceremonies), paintings, textiles, baskets, kitchen objects, arms and weapons, and the human body itself (tattoos and piercings). There is a deep symbolic meaning that is attached to not only the objects themselves but also the materials and techniques used to produce them.

Often puranic gods and legends are transformed into contemporary forms and familiar images. Fairs, festivals, local heroes (mostly warriors) and local deities play a vital role in these arts (Example: Nakashi art from Telangana or Cherial Scroll Painting).

Folk art also includes the visual expressions of the wandering nomads. This is the art of people who are exposed to changing landscapes as they travel over the valleys and highlands of India. They carry with them the experiences and memories of different spaces and their art consists of the transient and dynamic pattern of life. The rural, tribal and arts of the nomads constitute the matrix of folk expression. Examples of folk arts are Warli, Madhubani Art, Manjusha Art, Tikuli Art and Gond etc.

While most tribes and traditional folk artist communities are assimilated into the familiar kind of civilised life, they still continue to practice their art. Unfortunately though, market and economic forces have ensured that the numbers of these artists are dwindling. [69] [70] A lot of effort is being made by various NGOs and the Government of India to preserve and protect these arts and to promote them. Several scholars in India and across the world have studied these arts and some valuable scholarship is available on them.

The folk spirit has a tremendous role to play in the development of art and in the overall consciousness of indigenous cultures.

Art museums of India

Major cities

National Museum, New Delhi India national museum 01.jpg
National Museum, New Delhi
Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai 01.jpg
Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai
Indian Museum, Kolkata Indian Museum Kolkata.jpg
Indian Museum, Kolkata
Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad Salarjung Musium.JPG
Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad
Government Museum, Chennai Musee madras.jpg
Government Museum, Chennai

Archaeological museums

Modern art museums

Other museums

See also


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The history of Asian art or Eastern art, includes a vast range of influences from various cultures and religions. Developments in Asian art historically parallel those in Western art, in general a few centuries earlier. Chinese art, Indian art, Korean art, Japanese art, each had significant influence on Western art, and, vice versa. Near Eastern art also had a significant influence on Western art. Excluding prehistoric art, the art of Mesopotamia represents the oldest forms of Asian art.

Chaitya prayer hall from Buddhist tradition

A chaitya, chaitya hall, chaitya-griha, or caitya refers to a shrine, sanctuary, temple or prayer hall in Indian religions. The term is most common in Buddhism, where it refers to a space with a stupa and a rounded apse at the end opposite the entrance, and a high roof with a rounded profile. Strictly speaking, the chaitya is the stupa itself, and the Indian buildings are chaitya halls, but this distinction is often not observed. Outside India, the term is used by Buddhists for local styles of small stupa-like monuments in Nepal, Cambodia, Indonesia and elsewhere. In the historical texts of Jainism and Hinduism, including those relating to architecture, chaitya refers to a temple, sanctuary or any sacred monument.

Buddhist architecture

Buddhist religious architecture developed in the Indian subcontinent. Three types of structures are associated with the religious architecture of early Buddhism: monasteries (viharas), places to venerate relics (stupas), and shrines or prayer halls, which later came to be called temples in some places.

<i>Bharhut</i> village in Satna district, Madhya Pradesh, India

Bharhut is a village located in the Satna district of Madhya Pradesh, central India. It is known for its famous relics from a Buddhist stupa.

Indo-Islamic architecture Islamic architecture in India

Indo-Islamic architecture is the architecture of the Indian subcontinent produced by and for Islamic patrons and purposes. Despite an initial Arab presence in Sindh, the development of Indo-Islamic architecture began in earnest with the establishment of Delhi as the capital of the Ghurid dynasty in 1193 CE. Succeeding the Ghurids was the Delhi Sultanate, a series of Central Asian dynasties that consolidated much of North India, and later the Mughal Empire by the 15th century CE. Both of these dynasties introduced Persianate, Turkic and Islamicate architecture and art styles from Western Eurasia into the Indian subcontinent.

National Museum, New Delhi Museum of India

The National Museum in New Delhi, also known as the National Museum of India, is one of the largest museums in India. Established in 1949, it holds a variety of articles ranging from pre-historic era to modern works of art. It functions under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. The museum is situated on the corner of Janpath and Maulana Azad Road. The blue–print of the National Museum had been prepared by the Gwyer Committee set up by the Government of India in 1946. The museum has around 200,000 works of art, both of Indian and foreign origin, covering over 5,000 years.

Indian rock-cut architecture

Indian rock-cut architecture is more various and found in greater abundance in that country than any other form of rock-cut architecture around the world. Rock-cut architecture is the practice of creating a structure by carving it out of solid natural rock. Rock that is not part of the structure is removed until the only rock left makes up the architectural elements of the excavated interior. Indian rock-cut architecture is mostly religious in nature.


In Indian architecture, gavaksha or chandrashala are the terms most often used to describe the motif centred on an ogee, circular or horseshoe arch that decorates many examples of Indian rock-cut architecture and later Indian structural temples and other buildings. In its original form, the arch is shaped like the cross-section of a barrel vault. It is called a chaitya arch when used on the facade of a chaitya hall, around the single large window. In later forms it develops well beyond this type, and becomes a very flexible unit, "the most common motif of Hindu temple architecture". Gavākṣha is a Sanskrit word which means "bull's or cow's eye". In Hindu temples, their role is envisioned as symbolically radiating the light and splendour of the central icon in its sanctum. Alternatively, they are described as providing a window for the deity to gaze out into the world.

Lomas Rishi Cave one of the man-made Barabar Caves in Bihar, India

The Lomas Rishi Cave, also called the Grotto of Lomas Rishi, is one of the man-made Barabar Caves in the Barabar and Nagarjuni hills of Jehanabad district in the Indian state of Bihar. This rock-cut cave was carved out as a sanctuary. It was built during the Ashokan period of the Maurya Empire in the 3rd century BC, as part of the sacred architecture of the Ajivikas, an ancient religious and philosophical group of India that competed with Jainism and became extinct over time. Ājīvikas were atheists and rejected the authority of the Vedas as well as Buddhist ideas. They were ascetic communities and meditated in the Barabar caves. Still, the Lomas Rishi cave lacks an explicit epigraphical dedication to the Ajivikas, contrary to most other Barabar Caves, and may rather have been built by Ashoka for the Buddhists.

Amaravati Stupa

The Amarāvatī Stupa, popularly known as the great stūpa at Amarāvathī, is a ruined Buddhist monument, probably built in phases between the third century BCE and about 250 CE, at Amaravathi village, Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh, India. The site is under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India. The campus includes the stūpa itself and the Archaeological Museum. The important sculptures from the site are now in a number of museums in India and abroad. A list of collections is given below.

Buddhist caves in India Ajanta cave in india 🇮🇳

The Buddhist caves in India form an important part of Indian rock-cut architecture, and are among the most prolific examples of rock-cut architecture around the world. There are more than 1,500 known rock cut structures in India, out of which about 1000 were made by Buddhists, 300 by Hindus, and 200 by Jains. Many of these structures contain works of art of global importance, and many later caves from the Mahayana period are adorned with exquisite stone carvings. These ancient and medieval structures represent significant achievements of structural engineering and craftsmanship.


Further reading