The History of Indian Art
The history of art in India is a rich and diverse tapestry that spans thousands of years. Traditional Indian art has evolved through various periods, influenced by different dynasties, religions, and cultural movements.
One of the earliest forms of art in India can be traced back to the prehistoric era, as evidenced by the Bhimbetka rock art. Bhimbetka, located in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, is home to a series of rock shelters adorned with ancient cave paintings. These paintings date back to around 10,000 BCE and depict scenes from everyday life, animals, hunting, and dance. The Bhimbetka rock art provides valuable insights into the artistic expressions of early human civilizations in India.
Over the centuries, art in India flourished under the patronage of various ruling dynasties. The Mauryas, Guptas, Cholas, and Mughals all left a significant impact on Indian art and architecture. These periods witnessed the creation of magnificent sculptures, intricate temple carvings, and awe-inspiring palaces.
In more recent times, Indian art has evolved to incorporate diverse styles and mediums. Modern and contemporary art movements have emerged, exploring themes of identity, social issues, and globalization. Contemporary Indian artists often take inspiration from traditional Indian art forms to create fusion artworks that can easily fit into modern homes as Indian wall decor pieces. Indian artists have gained international recognition and have contributed significantly to the global art scene.
The history of art in India is a testament to the country's rich cultural heritage, artistic diversity, and continuous artistic exploration. From the ancient rock art of Bhimbetka to the vibrant contemporary art scene, India's artistic legacy continues to inspire and captivate art enthusiasts worldwide. In this blog, we will explore some of the most famous traditional Indian art forms and the history behind them.
Lippan art is a traditional Indian art form that originates from the Kutch region of the state of Gujarat. This unique art form involves creating intricate designs using a mixture of clay, dung, and small mirrors. The word "lippan" translates to clay or dung in the local dialect.
Lippan art is traditionally practised by the rural communities in Gujarat and has been a part of their cultural heritage for centuries. The rural people of Gujarat typically create Lippan art on the interior and exterior walls of their huts. This art form not only adds beauty to their living spaces but also serves functional purposes. For instance, the clay paste used to attach the mirrors to the walls absorbs heat and keeps the hut cool during India’s hot summers. Additionally, the mirrors reflect light. Hence, if the residents of the hut only have access to one lamp, the mirrors will reflect the light from this lamp and make it brighter.
The process of creating Lippan art begins with the preparation of a clay and dung mixture. Camel dung is traditionally used by the people of Gujarat. This mixture is then applied to the hut walls, and small mirrors are embedded into the wet clay. The mirrors reflect light and add a shimmering effect to the artwork. The artist can then use their fingers or tools to shape and create patterns. Lippan art designs typically feature symmetrical geometric patterns.
Lippan art is not only visually captivating but also holds cultural significance. In recent years, lippan art has gained popularity beyond Gujarat and has been incorporated into modern interior design, adding a touch of rustic elegance to contemporary spaces. Instead of using walls, contemporary artists are creating Lippan art on canvases and other mediums to create Indian wall decor items that can easily be hung within modern homes.
Tanjore painting, also known as Thanjavur painting, is a form of Indian traditional paintings that originated in the town of Thanjavur in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, India. Tanjore paintings are typically characterized by their vibrant color palette, use of semi-precious stones, and the inclusion of gold leaf or gold foil embellishments. Tanjore paintings often depict deities from ancient Hindu mythology and other religious themes.
The history of Tanjore paintings dates all the way back to the 16th century AD. Around this time, the art form grew under the patronage of the Vijayanagara Empire. At first, these paintings were mainly created in temples for religious worship. However, after the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire, the Maratha kings took over and encouraged Tanjore artists to paint for their palaces and residences. Under the patronage of the Maratha kings, Tanjore paintings continued to flourish.
The traditional process of creating Tanjore paintings involved several stages. Tanjore painters used to use a wooden base, usually made from jackfruit wood or teak wood. A cloth canvas was then pasted onto this wooden base using Arabic gum. They would then coat the canvas with a paste made out of chalk powder. Once this paste had dried, the artist could begin drawing on the canvas. Stencils of the main subjects such as specific deities would be used to trace onto the canvas. The canvas was then adorned with gemstones, gold leaf and paints made from natural substances. Gesso work was also done on the canvas using a mixture of limestone and a traditional binding agent called sukkan or makku.
Many contemporary artists in India continue the tradition of Tanjore paintings. However, they have made their own modern changes to the process to make it easier and more cost-effective. For instance, instead of using jackfruit wood or teakwood bases, contemporary Tanjore artists use plywood, which is much more affordable. Additionally, most modern Tanjore artists use fake gemstones, unlike the Tanjore painters of yesteryear who frequently used real precious stones in their paintings. These modern twists allow artists to easily create Tanjore style Indian wall decor items that will easily fit into any modern home.
Over the years, Tanjore paintings have evolved to include contemporary themes and subjects, expanding beyond religious imagery. They have become popular as collector's items and are often seen adorning the walls of homes, temples, and art galleries. The art form continues to thrive, with artists passing down their knowledge and skills from one generation to the next, ensuring the preservation of this exquisite tradition.
Warli art is a traditional Indian art form that originated in the state of Maharashtra, India. It is named after the Warli tribe, who are the indigenous people of the region. This art form is believed to have originated in the 10th century AD. Warli art is characterized by its simplistic style. All subjects and figures in Warli art are depicted using very simple lines and basic geometric shapes. This beautiful simplicity is part of the appeal of Warli art.
The art form is typically executed using white paint that is made from a mixture of ground rice, water and gum. Warli tribe members use this white paste to paint the reddish-brown walls of their mud huts. They use bamboo twigs as brushes to create patterns and scenes. Common themes and subjects in Warli art include nature, Warli harvest seasons, celebrations, weddings, folk dance, etc. Indeed, Warli art is deeply rooted in the tribal culture and beliefs of the Warli community. It serves as a medium to express their close connection with nature, their agricultural practices, and their spiritual beliefs.
Nowadays, contemporary artists are adapting the Warli art style to canvases and other modern mediums. There is a conscious effort within Indian society to try and preserve ancient art forms such as Warli. In fact, the United Nations Development Program and Larsen and Toubro Infotech partnered up to create a program called the ‘Women Artisan Skill Enhancement Project’ or WASEP. This program is all about empowering underprivileged women in Maharashtra to earn a living by creating Warli art handicrafts. Warli artists go beyond creating the usual Indian wall decor items, as you can easily find Warli themed coasters, bags, accessories, pencil holders and more on the market.
Madhubani art, also known as Mithila painting, is a traditional folk art form that originated in the state of Bihar, India. It is one of the most well-known forms of Indian traditional paintings. Although the exact origins of Madhubani painting are unknown, there is a commonly told legend surrounding it. According to this legend, Madhubani art was born when King Janak requested local artists to create a painting commemorating the wedding of his daughter Princess Sita to Prince Rama.
Madhubani art is well-known for its vibrant colors and intricate patterns. Traditionally, the pigments for Madhubani art were made out of natural materials such as pollen, turmeric, lime, sandalwood and flowers. Madhubani paintings are characterized by their two-dimensional style, bold outlines, and the use of geometric patterns, floral motifs, and mythical figures.
The themes depicted in Madhubani art often revolve around Hindu deities, such as Lord Krishna, Lord Rama, Goddess Durga and more. The art form also encompasses depictions of nature, animals, and daily village life. Madhubani paintings not only serve as decorative pieces but also have cultural and religious significance, often being used on auspicious occasions and festivals.
Over the years, Madhubani art has gained international recognition and has been appreciated for its intricate detailing and cultural significance. It has provided a means of economic empowerment for the women artists of the region and has helped preserve the rich cultural heritage of Mithila. Today, Madhubani art is widely practiced and has been adapted onto various contemporary mediums, such as canvas, textiles, and ceramics, while still maintaining its traditional essence.
Kerala murals are a unique form of Indian traditional paintings that originated in the southern Indian state of Kerala. This intricate art form originated around the 8th century AD and typically depicted figures from Hindu mythology. Today, there are hundreds of ancient temples and palaces across Kerala where we can still enjoy the beauty of Kerala murals.
In the Kerala mural painting style, Gods and Goddesses are portrayed with highly stylized features such as thick eyebrows, broad noses and colorful lips. Traditionally Kerala murals only used 5 main colors, including red, green, yellow, black and white. Scenes from Hindu epics such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata were common subjects in early Kerala murals. Interestingly, Kerala mural artists were also influenced by other Kerala art forms such as Kathakali. Kathakali is a dance form originating in Kerala where the dancers wear elaborate costumes and use their hands to perform specific gestures known as ‘mudras’. Oftentimes, the clothing and hand gestures seen in Kerala mural paintings resemble those of Kathakali dancers.
Early Kerala mural artists used a set of prayers known as the ‘Dhyana Shlokas’ to guide their work. The Dhyana Shlokas contain detailed depictions of various deities. These depictions are quite detailed and discuss various aspects including the deity’s form, countenance, facial expressions, number of limbs, eyes and heads, objects held, ornaments worn, etc. The Dhyana Shlokas also discuss the rules of proper color schemes. Kerala mural artists used all of these details provided in the Dhyana Shlokas as a roadmap for their art.
Naturally sourced materials were used throughout the entire process. Before the artists began painting on the temple or palace walls, they had to prepare and prime the wall to ensure the pigments apply smoothly. This was done by applying a plaster mixture to the wall. This mixture was made using lime and sand in a 1:2 ratio. Once this lime and sand mixture was applied to the wall, it would then be coated with 25-30 washes of quick lime mixed with tender coconut juice. A traditional painting brush made out of elephant grass was used to apply the pigments to the walls. The pigments themselves were made using natural ingredients including vegetables, stones, fruits and even soot from oil lamps.
Nowadays, this art form is kept alive by contemporary artists who have adapted Kerala mural style paintings to canvases instead of walls. Indeed, several established art institutes in India such as the Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit in Kalady and the Vasthuvidya Gurukulam in Aranmula are offering certification courses in Kerala mural painting. These courses have been a great success with several students applying to take them every year.
Incorporating Indian Art in Your Home
Indian art is a treasure trove of cultural richness and artistic brilliance, making it a compelling choice for those seeking to add a touch of elegance and uniqueness to their homes. Whether you are an art enthusiast or simply looking to enhance the aesthetic appeal of your living space, there are several reasons why you should consider buying Indian art for your home.
Firstly, the art forms discussed in this blog are just a few examples of traditional Indian art styles. There are hundreds of different Indian art forms, each with its own exceptional history and rich artistic technique. Hence, regardless of what your tastes are, you are sure to find an Indian art style that appeals to you. Because Indian art has such a rich history, having Indian traditional paintings in your home can be a great conversation starter during parties or gatherings.
Moreover, there is a growing community of artists who are dedicated to recreating traditional Indian art forms on canvas or other mediums that can easily fit into a modern home. Some of these artists even add a bit of contemporary flair and fuse Indian art styles with more modern artistic techniques, thereby giving a fresh perspective to traditional Indian art. There are several online art galleries where you can conveniently browse through Indian style paintings and other Indian wall decor items. For instance, Artezaar.com is an online art gallery based in Dubai that ships globally (shipping charges apply) and has an entire collection of Indian themed artworks. Click here to view Artezaar’s stunning collection of Indian art pieces. Artezaar.com has over 1200 original artworks, each one handcrafted by talented UAE based artists. Additionally, Artezaar’s website allows you to filter and sort artworks by price range, which means you can easily find something that fits your budget.
Overall buying Indian wall decor items for your home is a delightful way to celebrate India's cultural heritage, appreciate artistic craftsmanship and enhance your living space. It brings a unique blend of beauty, history, and cultural significance that adds a touch of sophistication and exclusivity to any home or office space. The art forms discussed in this blog are a great place to start your journey of exploration into the wonderful world of traditional Indian art styles.
Blog post written by Artezaar.com Guest Blogger Shreya Alagramam