Visual Arts Of The Indian Subcontinent

Indian art is the term commonly used to designate the art of the Indian subcontinent, which includes the present political divisions of India,Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Although a relationship between political history and the history of Indian art before the advent of Islam is at best problematical, a brief review will provide a broad context. The earliest urban culture of the subcontinent is represented by the Indus Valley civilization (c. 2500-1800 BC), which possessed several flourishing cities not only in the Indus Valley but also in Gujarat and Rajasthan. The circumstances in which this culture came to an end are obscure. Although there is no clear proof of historical continuity, scholars have noticed several striking similarities between this early culture and features of later Indian civilization. The period immediately following the urban Indus Valley civilization is marked by a variety of essentially rural cultures. A second urbanization began to occur only around the 6th century BC, when flourishing cities started to reappear, particularly in the Gangetic Basin. The Buddha lived and preached in this period, which culminated in the great Maurya Empire, whose relatively few works are the earliest surviving remnants of monumental art. The Maurya dynast Ashoka (died 238 BC) is considered the greatest of Buddhist kings; and the majority of the monuments of the next 500 years appear to be dedicated to the Buddhist faith, though iconographical and other details suggest that the art also drew heavily on popular religion.

The Maurya Empire spread over almost all of what is modern India and Pakistan. Territories as extensive were never possessed by any other dynasty. With its fall, the empire broke up into a number of states ruled by many dynasties, some of which acquired considerable power and fame for varying periods of time. Among these, the Shungas (c. 2nd-1st century BC) in the north and the longer-lived Satavahanas in the Deccan and the south are particularly noteworthy. Though these kings were Hindu by religion, Buddhist monuments form the great majority of surviving works.

Toward the end of the 1st century BC, northern India was subjected to a series of invasions by Scythian tribes, resulting finally in the establishment of the vast Kushan (Kusana) empire, of which Mathura was an important centre. The new rulers seemed to have followed Indian faiths, the great emperor Kaniska (c. AD 78) being a devout Buddhist. The schools of Gandhara and Mathura flourished during their rule, and, though much of the work is dedicated to the Buddhist religion, the foundations of later Hindu iconography were also laid in this period. While the Kushan dynasty was sovereign in the north, the Satavahanas continued to rule in the south. The bulk of the work at Amaravati was produced during their hegemony. (see also Index: Gandhara art, Mathura art)

Around the mid-4th century, the Gupta dynasty, of indigenous origin, rapidly expanded its power, uprooting the last remnants of foreign rule and succeeding in bringing almost all of northern India under its sway. In the Deccan there arose at the same time the equally powerful Vakatakas, with whom the Guptas appear to have had friendly relations. The period extending from the 4th through the 5th centuries is marked by the most flourishing artistic activities. In addition to the Buddhist monuments, there are the first strong indications of specifically Hindu patronage. Works of remarkable beauty and elegance were produced in this period, which is commonly called the Golden Age of India.

The disintegration of these two empires toward the close of the 5th and the 6th centuries ushered in what has been called the medieval period (c. 8th-12th centuries), marked by the appearance of a large number of states and dynasties, often at war with each other. Their rise to power and their decline was part of a constantly recurring process, for none of them was able to hold onto a position of even relative paramountcy for any extended period of time. In the north, the great dynasties were the Gurjara-Pratiharas, whose empire at its greatest equalled that of the Guptas; the Palas, who ruled chiefly over northeastern India; and various other dynasties, such as the Kalacuris, the Candelas, and the Paramaras of north central India, the Cahamanas of Rajasthan, the Calukyas of Gujarat. In the Deccan, also, several dynasties rose and fell, the most powerful of which were the Calukyas of Badami, the Rastrakutas, and the Calukyas of Kalyani. They were often at war not only with their powerful neighbours to the north but also with the great Pallava and Cola kingdoms of southern India. Most of the dynasties of medieval India were Hindu, though some Jaina and a very few Buddhist kings are also known. The various faiths, however, existed in comparative harmony; and Buddhist and Jaina monuments continued to be built, though most of the surviving works are Hindu.

Although the effects of constant struggle were not as devastating as one might expect, largely as a result of the institutionalization of war and its confinement to appropriate castes, the Hindu kingdoms fell easy prey to the Islamic invasions, which began as early as the 8th century AD but gathered strength only in the 11th century. By the end of the 12th century, almost all of northern India had been conquered. Islamic advances in the south were checked for a while by the Vijayanagara dynasty, but with its collapse almost all of India fell under various degrees of Islamic hegemony. Large Hindu kingdoms enjoying differing degrees of independence continued to exist chiefly in Rajasthan and portions of southern India, but overall political supremacy was vested with the Islamic states. The Muslim powers were also divided into many kingdoms, despite attempts made by the sultanate of Delhi, and later by the Mughals, to achieve paramountcy over large portions of India. These attempts were successful only for short periods of time. Although the initial impact of Islam on Indian art was generally destructive, Islamic influences entering India were gradually transformed in the new environment and eventually resulted in the flowering of an extremely rich and important aspect of the Indian genius.

The ascendency of the European powers in the 18th century, culminating in the establishment of the British Empire, laid the foundation of modern India's contacts with the West. As a whole, the European advent was marked by a relative insensitivity to native art traditions, but rising nationalism attempted a conscious revival of Indian art toward the end of the 19th century. In modern times, the absorption of European influence is a more natural, freer process that affects artistic development in a vital and profound way.

General CharacteristicsEdit


Indian art is spread over a subcontinent and has a long, very productive history; but it nevertheless shows a remarkable unity and consistency. Works produced in the several geographical and cultural regions possess decidedly individual characteristics but at the same time have sufficient elements in common to justify their being considered manifestations of a general style. The existence of this style is evidence of the essential cultural unity of the subcontinent and to the uninterrupted contact between the various geographical units, at least from the historical period onward. Developments in one area have been quickly reflected in the others. The regional idioms have contributed to the richness of Indian art, and the mutual influences exercised by them have been responsible for the multi-faceted development of that art throughout the course of its long life. The style of Indian art is largely determined not by a dynasty but by conditions of time and space. It has, essentially, a geographical rather than a dynastic basis, which is to say that the evolution of regional schools appears to have been largely independent of any particular dynasty that happened to rule over a specific region. The style does not change because of the conquest of one area by another dynasty; rather the influences exercised by one area on another are usually through the agency of factors other than conquest. Instances in which dynastic patronage changed the nature of a style are very few and confined mostly to the Islamic period. The political history of India is itself quite vague, and the areas in possession of a dynasty at various points in its history are even less susceptible to precise definition. For all these reasons, the classification of Indian art adopted here is not based on dynasties, for such a division has little meaning. Nevertheless, names of certain dynasties are used, for these have passed into common usage. When this is done, however, the name must be understood as little more than a convenient way of labelling a particular period.


Indian art employs various materials, such as wood, brick, clay, stone, and metal. Most wooden monuments of the early period have perished but have been imitated in stone. Clay and brick were also abundantly used; but, particularly in later times, the favoured material seems to have been stone, in the dressing (facing and smoothing) and carving of which the Indian artist attained great excellence. The material may have influenced the form somewhat, but essentially Indian art tends to impose the form on the material. Thus, materials are generally regarded as interchangeable: wooden and clay forms are imitated in stone, and stone is imitated in bronze, and in turn stone sculpture assumes qualities appropriate to metal. It is as though the nature of the material presented a challenge that had to be met and overcome. At the same time, Indian art stresses the plasticity of forms; sculpture is generally characterized by emphatic mass and volume; architecture is often sculpture on a colossal scale; and the elements of painting, particularly of the early period, are modelled by line and colour.

Indian and foreign artEdit

Thanks to its geographical situation, the Indian subcontinent has been constantly fed by artistic traditions emanating from West and Central Asia. The Indian artist has shown a remarkable capacity for accepting these foreign influences naturally and assimilating and transforming them to accord with the nature of his own style. The process occurred frequently: in the Maurya period; in the two centuries after Christ, when the Kushan dynasty attained imperial supremacy in the north; and at a much later period, in the 16th century, when the Mughals patronized a new school of architecture and painting. Just as India received influences, so it transmitted its own art abroad, particularly to Ceylon and the countries of Southeast Asia. Developments of great importance were thereby precipitated in Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, and Indochina, where the reinterpretation of Indian influences resulted in the creation of works of great originality.

Indian art and religionEdit

Indian art is religious inasmuch as it is largely dedicated to the service of one of several great religions. It may be didactic or edificatory as is the relief sculpture of the two centuries before and after Christ; or, by representing the divinity in symbolic form (whether architectural or figural), its purpose may be to induce contemplation and thereby put the worshipper in communication with the divine. Not all Indian art, however, is purely religious, and some of it is only nominally so. There were periods when humanistic currents flowed strongly under the guise of edificatory or contemplative imagery, the art inspired by and delighting in the life of this world. (see also Index: religious art, iconography) Although Indian art is religious, there is no such thing as a sectarian Hindu or Buddhist art, for style is a function of time and place and not of religion. Thus it is not strictly correct to speak of Hindu or Buddhist art, but, rather, of Indian art that happens to render Hindu or Buddhist themes. For example, an image of Vishnu and an image of Buddha of the same period are stylistically the same, religion having little to do with the mode of artistic expression. Nor should this be surprising in view of the fact that the artists belonged to nondenominational guilds, ready to lend their services to any patron, whether Hindu, Buddhist, or Jaina.

The religious nature of Indian art accounts to some extent for its essentially symbolic and abstract nature. It scrupulously avoids illusionistic effects, evoked by imitation of the physical and ephemeral world of the senses; instead, objects are made in imitation of ideal, divine prototypes, whose source is the inner world of the mind. This attitude may account for the relative absence of portraiture and for the fact that, even when it is attempted, the emphasis is on the ideal person behind the human lineaments rather than on the physical likeness.

The artist and patronEdit

Works of art in India were produced by artists at the behest of a patron, who might commission an object to worship for spiritual or material ends, in fulfilment of a vow, for the discharge of virtues enjoined by scripture, or even for personal glory. Once the artist received his commission, he fashioned the work of art according to his skill, gained by apprenticeship, and the written canons of his art, which possessed a holy character. There were prescribed rules for proportionate measurement, iconography, and the like, often with a symbolic significance. This is not to say that the individual artist was invariably aware of the symbolic meaning of the prescribed standards, based as these were on complex metaphysical and theological considerations; but the symbolism nevertheless formed part of the fabric of his work, ready to add an extra dimension of meaning to the initiated and knowledgeable spectator.

In these conditions it is not surprising that the artist as a person is for the most part anonymous, very few names of artists having survived. It was the skill with which the work of art was made to conform to established ideals, rather than the artist who possessed the skill, that held the place of first importance.

The appreciation of Indian artEdit

According to Indian aesthetic theory, a work of art possesses distinct "flavours" (rasa), the "tasting" of which constitutes the aesthetic experience. Because the work of art operates at various levels, granting to the spectator what he is capable of receiving by virtue of his intellectual and emotional preparation, the appreciation of the beauty of form and line is considered an appropriate activity of the educated and cultured man. The supreme aesthetic experience, however, is believed to be much deeper and cognate to the experience of the Godhead. From this point of view, the work of art is in a sense irrelevant and unnecessary for a person at a high level of spiritual progress; and for the devout layman its excellence is measured by its efficacy in promoting spiritual development.


Literary works testify to the eminence of painting as an art form in India, particularly in the decoration of walls, but climate has taken a devastating toll, leaving behind only a few tantalizing examples. By far the bulk of the preserved material consists of miniature painting, initially done on palm leaf but later on paper. The subject matter is generally religious (illustrating divinities, myths, and legends) and literary (illustrating poetry and romances, for example), though the Mughal school was also concerned with historical and secular themes. The styles were rich and varied, often closely connected with one another and sometimes developing and changing rapidly, particularly from the 16th century onward. The work also shows a surprising vitality under strained circumstances, surviving up to the very eve of the modern period when the other arts had deteriorated greatly.

Prehistoric and protohistoric periodsEdit

Painting in India should have a history stretching as far back as any of the other arts but, because of its perishable nature, little has survived. None of the examples found in rock shelters over almost all of India, and chiefly representing scenes of hunting and war, appears to be earlier than the 8th century BC, and all may be as late as the 10th century AD. A faint idea of the painter's art in the Indus Valley civilization can be had from the pottery, elaborately decorated with leaf designs and geometrical patterns.

Ancient wall paintingEdit

The earliest substantial remains are those found in rock-cut cave temples at Ajanta, in western India. They belong to the 2nd or 1st century BC and are in a style reminiscent of the relief sculpture at Sanchi. Also found at Ajanta are the most substantial remains of Indian painting of about the 5th century AD and a little later, when ancient Indian civilization was in full flower. The paintings, the work of several ateliers, decorate the walls and ceilings of the numerous cave temples and monasteries at the site. They are executed in the tempera technique on smooth surfaces, prepared by application of plaster. The themes, nominally Buddhist, illustrate the major events of the Buddha's life, the Jataka tales, and the various divinities of the expanding Buddhist pantheon. The ceilings are covered with rich motifs, based generally upon the lotus stem and the world of animals and birds. The style is unlike anything seen in later Indian art, expansive, free, and dynamic. The graceful figures are painted by a sweeping and accomplished brush; and they are given body and substance by modelling in colour and by a schematic distribution of light and shade that has little to do with scientific chiaroscuro. The narrative compositions, handled with utmost dexterity, are a natural outgrowth of the long traditions of relief sculpture and reflect the splendour and maturity of contemporary sculpture. The large images of the bodhisattvas in Cave 1, combining rich elegance with spiritual serenity, reflect a vision that sees the shifting world of matter and the transcendental calm of Nirvana as essentially one. (see also Index: Ajanta Caves, Sanchi sculpture, fresco painting) Except for a large and magnificent painting of a dance scene found at the rock-cut cave at Bagh--a painting executed in a style closely resembling Ajanta--hardly any other work of this great period survives. Cave temples at Badami, in the Karnataka country, and Sittanavasal, in Tamil Nadu, probably of the late 6th and 7th centuries AD are already but echoes of the style of the 5th century, which appears to have died out around this time.

Eastern Indian styleEdit

Small illustrations on palm leaf, chiefly painted at the great Buddhist establishments of eastern India, appear to have conserved some elements of this ancient style; but they have lost its dramatic impact, which is replaced by a studied preciosity and an inhibited meticulousness. The surviving paintings date from the 11th and 12th centuries and are conventional icons of the numerous Buddhist gods and goddesses, narrative representations having largely disappeared. With the destruction of these Buddhist centres by the Islamic invader, the east Indian style seems to have come to an end.

Western Indian styleEdit

The style of Ajanta is succeeded in western India by what has been appropriately named the western Indian style. Among the earliest examples are a few surviving wall paintings of the Kailasa temple (mid-8th century) at Ellora and the Jaina temples, built at the same site a hundred years later. The plastic sense of form, so evident at Ajanta, is emphatically replaced by a style that even at this early stage is heavily dependent on line. The contours of the figures are sharp and angular, the forms dry and abstract; and the fluent, stately rhythms of Ajanta have become laboured and halting. (see also Index: Ellora Caves) The most copious examples of this style, however, have survived not on the walls of temples but in the large number of illustrated manuscripts commissioned by members of the Jaina community. The earliest of these are contemporary with eastern Indian manuscripts and are also painted on palm leaf; but the style, instead of attempting to cling to ancient traditions, moves steadily in the direction already established at Ellora. It is a perfect counterpart of contemporary sculpture in western India, relying for its effect on line, which progressively becomes more angular and wiry until all naturalism has been deliberately erased. The figures are almost always shown in profile, the full-face view generally reserved for representations of the tirthankaras, or the Jaina saviours. A convention that appears unfailingly for the duration of the western Indian style is the eye projecting beyond the face shown in profile, meant to represent the second eye, which would not be visible in this posture. The colours are few and pure: yellow, green, blue, black, and red, which was preferred for the background. In the beginning, the illustrations are simple icons in small panels; but gradually they become more elaborate, with scenes from the lives of the various Jaina saviours as told in the Kalpa-sutra and from the adventures of the monk Kalaka as related in the Kalakacaryakatha the most favoured.

Even greater elaboration was possible with the increasing availability of paper from the late 14th century; with larger surfaces to paint on, by the middle of the 15th century artists were producing opulent manuscripts, such as the Kalpa-sutra in the Devasanopada library, Ahmadabad. The text is written in gold on coloured ground, the margins gorgeously illuminated with richest decorative and figural patterns, and the main paintings often occupying the entire page. Blue and gold, in addition to red, are used with increasing lavishness, testifying to the prosperity of the patron. The use of such costly materials, however, did not necessarily produce works of quality, and one is often left with the impression of cursive and hasty workmanship. With some variations--but hardly any substantial departures from the bounds that it had set for itself--the style endured throughout the 16th century and even extended into the 17th. The political subjugation of the country by the forces of Islam may have contributed to the conservatism of the style but did not result in its total elimination, as seems to have been the case in eastern India. Indeed, in the course of its long life, the western Indian school became a national style, painting at other centres in India interpreting and elaborating its forms in their own individual manner. In the province of Orissa, painting on palm leaf and in a manner entirely dependent on the western Indian style has continued up to the present day.

Transition to the Mughal and Rajasthani stylesEdit

The belief held earlier by scholars that the new Islamic rulers of India did not patronize any painting until the rise of the Mughal dynasty in the 16th century is being abandoned in the face of the literary testimony and the discovery or recognition of illustrated manuscripts that were painted at Indian courts. Nor should this be surprising, as the Muslim kings of India had before them the example of other rulers of the Islamic world who were great patrons of painting in spite of the injunctions of orthodox Islam against the portrayal of living beings. The taste of these Indian rulers, however, did not turn to the western Indian style but to the flourishing traditions of Islamic painting abroad, notably neighbouring Iran. As many painters as architects had in all probability been invited from foreign countries; and illustrated manuscripts, handily transported, must have been easily available. As a result there appears to have developed what can only be called an Indo-Persian style, based essentially on the schools of Iran but affected to a greater or lesser extent by the individual tastes of the Indian rulers and by the local styles. The earliest known examples are paintings dating from the 15th century onward. The most important are the Khamseh ("Quintet") of Amir Khosrow of Delhi (Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), a Bostan painted in Mandu (National Museum, New Delhi), and, most interesting of all, a manuscript of the Ne'mat-nameh (India Office Library, London) painted for a sultan of Malwa in the opening years of the 16th century. Its illustrations are derived from the Turkmen style of Shiraz but show clear Indian features adapted from the local version of the western Indian style. Though the western Indian style was essentially conservative, it was not unfailingly so. It began to show signs of an inner change most notably in two manuscripts from Mandu, a Kalpa-sutra and a Kalakacaryakatha of about 1439, and a Kalpa-sutra painted at Jaunpur in 1465. These works were done in the opulent manner of the 15th century, but for the first time the quality of the line is different, and the uncompromisingly abstract expression begins to make way for a more human and emotional mood. By the opening years of the 16th century, a new and vigorous style had come into being. Although derived from the western Indian style, it is clearly independent, full of the most vital energy, deeply felt, and profoundly moving. The earliest dated example is an Aranyaka Parva of the Mahabharata (1516; The Asiatic Society of Bombay), and among the finest are series illustrating the Bhagavata-Purana and the Caurapañcashika of Bilhana, scattered in collections all over the world. A technically more refined variant of this style, preferring the pale, cool colours of Persian derivation, a fine line, and meticulous ornamentation, exists contemporaneously and is best illustrated by a manuscript of the ballad Candamyana by Mulla Daud (c. first half of the 16th century; Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, Bombay). The early 16th century thus appears to have been a period of inventiveness and set the stage for the development of the Mughal and Rajput schools, which thrived from the 16th to the 19th century.

Mughal StyleEdit

Mughal style: Akbar period (1556-1605)Edit

Although the Mughal dynasty came to power in India with the great victory won by Babar at the Battle of Panipat in 1526, the Mughal style was almost exclusively the creation of Akbar. Trained in painting at an early age by a Persian master, Khwaja 'Abd-us-Samad, who was employed by his father, Humayun, Akbar created a large atelier, which he staffed with artists recruited from all parts of India. The atelier, at least in the initial stages, was under the superintendence of Akbar's teacher and another great Persian master, Mir Sayyid 'Ali; but the distinctive style that evolved here owed not a little to the highly individual tastes of Akbar himself, who took an interest in the work, inspecting the atelier frequently and rewarding painters whose work was pleasing. (see also Index: Mughal painting)

The work of the Mughal atelier in this early formative stage was largely confined to the illustration of books on a wide variety of subjects: histories, romances, poetic works, myths, legends, and fables, of both Indian and Persian origin. The manuscripts were first written by calligraphers, with blank spaces left for the illustrations. These were executed largely by groups of painters, including a colourist, who did most of the actual painting, and specialists in portraiture and in the mixing of colours. Chief of the group was the designer, generally an artist of top quality, who formulated the composition and sketched in the rough outline. A thin wash of white, through which the initial drawing was visible, was then applied and the colours filled in. The colourist's work proceeded slowly, the colour being applied in several thin layers and frequently rubbed down with an agate burnisher, a process that resulted in the glowing, enamel-like finish. The colours used were mostly mineral but sometimes consisted of vegetable dyes; and the brushes, many of them exceedingly fine, were made from squirrel's tail or camel hair.

The earliest paintings (c. 1560-70) of the school of Akbar are illustrations of Tuti-nameh ("Parrot Book; Cleveland Museum of Art) and the stupendous illustrations of the Dastan-e Amir Hamzeh ("Stories of Amir Hamzeh"; Österreichisches Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Vienna), which originally consisted of 1,400 paintings of an unusually large size (approximately 25 inches by 16 inches [65 by 40 centimetres]), of which only about 200 have survived. The Tuti-nameh shows the Mughal style in the process of formation: the hand of artists belonging to the various non-Mughal traditions is clearly recognizable, but the style also reveals an intense effort to cope with the demands of a new patron. The transition is achieved in the Dastan-e Amir Hamzeh, in which the uncertainties are overcome in a homogeneous style, quite unlike Persian work in its leaning toward naturalism and filled with swift, vigorous movement and bold colour. The forms are individually modelled, except for the geometrical ornament used as architectural decor; the figures are superbly interrelated in closely unified compositions, in which depth is indicated by a preference for diagonals; and much attention is paid to the expression of emotion. One of the last manifestations of this bold and vigorous early manner is the Darab-nameh (c. 1580) in the British Museum.

Immediately following were some very important historical manuscripts, including the Tarikh-e Khandan-e Timuriyeh ("History of the House of Timur," c. 1580-85; Khuda Baksh Library, Patna) and other works concerned with the affairs of the Timurid dynasty, to which the Mughals belonged. Each of these manuscripts contains several hundred illustrations, the prolific output of the atelier made possible by the division of labour that was in effect. Historical events are recreated with remarkable inventiveness, though the explosive and almost frantic energy of the Dastan-e Amir-Hamzeh has begun to subside. The scale was smaller and the work began to acquire a studied richness. The narrative method employed by these Mughal paintings, like that of traditional literature, is infinitely discursive; and the painter did not hesitate to provide a fairly detailed picture of contemporary life--both of the people and of the court--and of the rich fauna and flora of India. Like Indian artists of all periods, the Mughal painter showed a remarkable empathy for animals, for through them flows the same life that flows through human beings. This sense of kinship allowed him to achieve unqualified success in the illustration of animal fables such as the Anwar-e Suhayli ("Lights of Caropus"), of which several copies were painted, the earliest dated 1570 (School of Oriental and African Studies, London).

It was in the illustrations to Persian translations of the Hindu epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, that the Mughal painter revealed to the full the richness of his imagination and his unending resourcefulness. With little precedent to rely on, he was nevertheless seldom dismayed by the subject and created a whole series of convincing compositions. Because most of the painters of the atelier were Hindus, the subjects must have been close to their hearts; and, given the opportunity by a tolerant and sympathetic patron, they rose to great heights. It is no wonder, therefore, that the Razm-nameh (City Palace Museum, Jaipur), as the Mahabharata is known in Persian, is one of the outstanding masterpieces of the age.

In addition to large books containing numerous illustrations, which were the products of the combined efforts of many artists, the imperial atelier also cultivated a more intimate manner that specialized in the illustration of books, generally poetic works, with a smaller number of illustrations. The paintings were done by a single master artist who, working alone, had ample scope to display his virtuosity. In style the works tend to be finely detailed and exquisitely coloured. A Divan ("Anthology") of Anwari (Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts), dated 1589, is a relatively early example of this manner. The paintings are very small, none larger than five inches by 21/2 inches (12 by 6 centimetres) and most delicately executed. Very similar in size and quality are the miniatures illustrating the Divan of Hafez (Reza Library, Rampur). On a larger scale but in the same mood are the manuscripts that represent the most delicate and refined works of the reign of Akbar: the Baharistan of Jami (1595; Bodleian Library, Oxford), a Khamseh of Nezami (1593; British Museum, London), a Khamseh of Amir Khosrow (1598; Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), and an Anwar-e Suhayli (1595-96; Bharat Kala Bhavan, Varanasi).

Also prepared in the late 1590s were magnificent copies of the Akbar-nameh ("History of Akbar"; Victoria and Albert Museum, London) and the Kitab-e Changiz-nameh ("History of Genghis Khan"; Gulistan Library, Tehran). These copiously illustrated volumes were produced by artists working jointly, but the quality of refinement is similar to that of the poetic manuscripts.

Of the large number of painters who worked in the imperial atelier, the most outstanding were Dasvant and Basavan. The former played the leading part in the illustration of the Razm-nameh. Basavan, who is preferred by some to Dasvant, painted in a very distinctive style, which delighted in the tactile and the plastic, and with an unerring grasp of psychological relationships.

Mughal style: Jahangir period (1605-27)Edit

The emperor Jahangir, even as a prince, showed a keen interest in painting and maintained an atelier of his own. His tastes, however, were not the same as those of his father, and this is reflected in the painting, which underwent a significant change. The tradition of illustrating books began to die out, though a few manuscripts, in continuation of the old style, were produced. For Jahangir much preferred portraiture; and this tradition, also initiated in the reign of his father, was greatly developed. Among the most elaborate works of his reign are the great court scenes, several of which have survived, showing Jahangir surrounded by his numerous courtiers. These are essentially large-scale exercises in portraiture, the artist taking great pains to reproduce the likeness of every figure. The compositions of these paintings have lost entirely the bustle and movement so evident in the works of Akbar's reign. The figures are more formally ordered, their comportment in keeping with the strict rules of etiquette enforced in the Mughal court. The colours are subdued and harmonious, the bright glowing palette of the Akbari artist having been quickly abandoned. The brushwork is exceedingly fine. Technical virtuosity, however, is not all that was attained, for beneath the surface of the great portraits of the reign there is a deep and often spiritual understanding of the character of the person and the drama of human life. Many of the paintings produced at the imperial atelier are preserved in the albums assembled for Jahangir and his son Shah Jahan. The Muraqqah-e Gulshan is the most spectacular. (Most surviving folios from this album are in the Gulistan Library in Tehran and the Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin; a section is temporarily housed in Tübingen.) There are assembled masterpieces from Iran, curiosities from Europe, works produced in the reign of Akbar, and many of the finest paintings of Jahangir's master painters, all surrounded by the most magnificent borders decorated with a wide variety of floral and geometrical designs. The album gives a fairly complete idea of Jahangir as a patron, collector, and connoisseur of the arts, revealing a person with a wide range of taste and a curious, enquiring mind. Jahangir esteemed the art of painting and honoured his painters. His favourite was Abu al-Hasan, who was designated Nadir-uz-Zaman ("Wonder of the Age"). Several pictures by the master are known, among them a perceptive study of Jahangir looking at a portrait of his father. Also much admired was Ustad Mansur, designated Nadir-ul-'Asr ("Wonder of the Time"), whose studies of birds and animals are unparalleled. Bishandas was singled out by the emperor as unique in the art of portraiture. Manohar, the son of Basavan, Govardhan, and Daulat are other important painters of this reign.

Mughal style: Shah Jahan period (1628-58)Edit

Under Shah Jahan, attention seems to have shifted to architecture, but painting in the tradition of Jahangir continued. The style, however, becomes noticeably rigid. The portraits resemble hieratic effigies, lacking the breath of life so evident in the work of Jahangir's time. The colouring is jewel-like in its brilliance, and the outward splendour quite dazzling. The best work is found in the Shahjahannameh ("History of Shah Jahan") of the Windsor Castle Library and in several albums assembled for the emperor. Govardhan and Bichitra, who had begun their careers in the reign of Jahangir, were among the outstanding painters; several works by them are quite above the general level produced in this reign.

Mughal style: Aurangzeb and the later Mughals (1659-1806)Edit

From the reign of Aurangzeb (1659-1707), a few pictures have survived that essentially continue the cold style of Shah Jahan; but the rest of the work is nondescript, consisting chiefly of an array of lifeless portraits, most of them the output of workshops other than the imperial atelier. Genre scenes, showing gatherings of ascetics and holy men, lovers in a garden or on a terrace, musical parties, carousals, and the like, which had grown in number from the reign of Shah Jahan, became quite abundant. They sometimes show touches of genuine quality, particularly in the reign of Muhammad Shah (1719-48), who was passionately devoted to the arts. This brief revival, however, was momentary, and Mughal painting essentially came to an end during the reign of Shah 'Alam II (1759-1806). The artists of this disintegrated court were chiefly occupied in reveries of the past, the best work, for whatever it is worth, being confined to copies of old masterpieces still in the imperial library. This great library was dispersed and destroyed during the uprising of 1857 against the British.

Company schoolEdit

Rising British power, which assumed political supremacy in the 19th century, resulted in a radical change of taste brought about by the Westernization of important segments of the population. Heavily influenced by Western ideas, a style emerged that represented the adjustment of traditional artists to new fashions and demands. Rooted at Delhi and the erstwhile provincial Mughal capitals of Murshidabad, Lucknow, and Patna, it ultimately spread all over India. Most of the works produced were singularly impoverished, but occasionally there were some fine studies of natural life.

Deccani styleEdit

In mood and manner, Deccani painting, which flourished over much of the Deccan Plateau from at least the last quarter of the 16th century, is reminiscent of the contemporary Mughal school. Again, a homogeneous style evolved from a combination of foreign (Persian and Turkish) and Indian elements, but with a distinct local flavour. Of the early schools, the style patronized by the sultans of Bijapur--notably the tolerant and art-loving Ibrahim 'Adil Shah II of Bijapur, famous for his love of music--is particularly distinguished. Some splendid portraits of him, more lyrical and poetic in concept than contemporary Mughal portraits, are to be found. A wonderful series depicting symbolically the musical modes (ragamala) also survives. Of illustrated manuscripts, the most important are the Nujum-ul-'ulum ("The Stars of the Sciences," 1590; Chester Beatty Library, Dublin) and the Tarif-e Huseyn-Shahi (Bharata Itihasa Samshodhaka Mandala, Pune), painted around 1565 in the neighbouring state of Ahmadnagar. The sultanate of Golconda also produced work of high quality--for example, a manuscript of the Divan of Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah in the Salar Jang Library, Hyderabad, and a series of distinguished portraits up to the end of the 17th century (dispersed in various collections). The state of Hyderabad, founded in the early 18th century and headed by a grandee of the Mughal Empire, was a great centre of painting. The work that was produced there reflects both Golconda traditions and increasing Mughal and Rajasthani influences.

Rajasthani styleEdit

This style appears to have come into being in the 16th century, about the same time the Mughal school was evolving under the patronage of Akbar; but, rather than a sharp break from the indigenous traditions, it represented a direct and natural evolution. Throughout the early phase, almost up to the end of the 17th century, it retained its essentially hieratic and abstract character, as opposed to the naturalistic tendencies cultivated by the Mughal atelier. The subject matter of this style is essentially Hindu, devoted mainly to the illustration of myths and legends, the epics, and above all the life of Krishna; particularly favoured were depictions of his early life as the cowherd of Vraja, and the mystical love of Vraja's maidens for him, as celebrated in the Bhagavata-Purana, the Gitagovinda of Jayadeva, and the Braj Bhasa verses written by Surdas and other poets. The style of the painting, no less than the literature, is a product of the new religious movements, all of which stressed personal devotion to Krishna as the way to salvation. Related popular themes were pictorial representations of the musical modes (ragamala) and illustrations of poetical works such as the Rasikapriya of Keshavadasa, which dealt with the sentiment of love, analyzing its varieties and endlessly classifying the types of lovers and beloveds and their emotions. Portraits, seldom found in the early phase, became increasingly common in the 18th century -- as did court scenes, scenes of sporting and hunting events, and other scenes concerned with the courtly life of the great chiefs and feudal lords of Rajasthan. (see also Index: Rajasthani painting) The Rajasthani style developed various distinct schools, most of them centring in the several states of Rajasthan, namely Mewar, Bundi, Kotah, Marwar, Bikaner, Kishangarh, and Jaipur (Amber). It also had centres outside the geographical limits of present-day Rajasthan, notably Gujarat, Malwa, and Bundel Khand. The study of Rajasthani painting is still in its infancy, for most of the material has been available for study only since the mid-1940s. The Mughal and Rajasthani styles were always in contact with each other, but in general the Rajasthani schools were not essentially affected by the work produced at the Mughal court during the greater part of the 17th century. This became less true in the 18th century, when the sharp distinction between the two became progressively obscured, though each retained its distinctive features right up to the end.

Rajasthani style: MewarEdit

The Mewar school is among the most important. The earliest dated examples are represented by a ragamala series painted at Chawand in 1605 (Gopi Krishna Kanoria Collection, Patna). These simple paintings, filled with bright colour, are only a step removed from the pre-Rajasthani phase. The style became more elaborate in the first quarter of the 17th century when another ragamala, painted at Udaipur in 1628 (formerly in the Khajanchi Collection, Bikaner; now dispersed in various collections), showed some superficial acquaintance with the Mughal manner. This phase, lasting until around 1660, was one of the most important for the development of painting all over Rajasthan. Ambitious and extensive illustrations of the Bhagavata, the Ramayana, the poems of Surdas, and the Gitagovinda were completed, all full of strength and vitality. The name of Sahabadi is intimately connected with this phase; another well-known painter is Manohar. The intensity and richness associated with their atelier began to fade toward the close of the 17th century, and a wave of Mughal influence began to affect the school in the opening years of the 18th century. Portraits, court scenes, and events in the everyday world of the ruling classes are increasingly found. Although the emotional fervour of the 17th century was never again attained, this work is often of considerable charm. The 19th century continued to create work in the tradition of the 18th, one of the most important centres being Nathdwara (Rajasthan), the seat of the Vallabha sect. Large numbers of pictures, produced here for the pilgrim trade, were spread over all parts of Rajasthan, northern India, Gujarat, and the Deccan. (see also Index: Mewar painting)

Rajasthani style: Bundi and KotahEdit

A school as important as that of Mewar developed at Bundi and later at Kotah, which was formed by a partition of the parent state and ruled by a junior branch of the Bundi family. The earliest examples are represented by a ragamala series of extraordinarily rich quality, probably dating from the end of the 16th century. From the very beginning the Bundi style seemed to have found Mughal painting an inspiring source, but its workmanship was as distinctively Rajasthani as the work of Mewar. The artists of this school always displayed a pronounced preference for vivid movement, which is unique in all of Rajasthan. Toward the second half of the 17th century, work at Bundi came unmistakably under the influence of Mewar; many miniatures, including several series illustrating the Rasikapriya, indicate that this was a period of prolific activity. The sister state of Kotah also appears to have become an important centre of painting at this time, developing a great fondness for hunting and sport scenes, all filled with great vigour and surging strength. This kind of work continued well into the 19th century, and if the workmanship is not always of the highest quality, the style maintained its integrity against the rapidly increasing Western influence right up to the end. (see also Index: Bundi painting)

Rajasthani style: MalwaEdit

It has been suggested but not definitely determined that the school itself does not belong to Malwa but to some other area, probably Bundelkhand. In contrast to the Bundi school, miniatures generally thought to have been painted in Malwa are quite archaistic, with mannerisms inherited from the 16th century retained until the end of the 17th. The earliest work is an illustrated version of the Rasikapriya (1634), followed by a series illustrating a Sanskrit poem called the Amaru Shataka (1652). There are also illustrations of the musical modes (ragamala), the Bhagavata-Purana, and other Hindu devotional and literary works. The compositions of all of these pictures is uncompromisingly flat, the space divided into registers and panels, each filled with a patch of colour and occupied by figures that convey the action. This conservative style disappeared after the close of the 17th century. The course of Malwa painting in the 18th century and later is not known.

Rajasthani style: MarwarEdit

A ragamala series dated 1623 reveals that painting in this state shared features common to other schools of Rajasthan. Miniatures of the second half of the 17th century are distinguished by some splendid portraits that owe much to the Mughal school. A very large amount of work was done in the 19th century, all of which is highly stylized but strong in colour and often of great charm.

Rajasthani style: BikanerEdit

Of all Rajasthani schools, the Bikaner style, from its very inception in the mid-17th century, shows the greatest indebtedness to the Mughal style. This is due to the presence in the Bikaneratelier of artists who had previously worked in the Mughal manner at Delhi. They and their descendants continued to paint in a style that could only be classed as a provincial Mughal manner had it not been for the quick absorption of influences from the Rajasthani environment and a sympathy for the religious and literary themes favoured by the royal Hindu patrons. Delicacy of line and colour are consistent characteristics of Bikaner painting even when, toward the end of the 18th century, it assumed stylistic features associated with the more orthodox Rajasthani schools.

Rajasthani style: KishangarhEdit

The Kishangarh school, which came into being toward the mid-18th century, was also indebted to the contemporary Mughal style but combined a rich and refined technique with deeply moving religious fervour. Its inspiring patron in the formative phase was Savant Singh, more of a devotee and a poet than a king. The style established by him, characterized by pronounced mystical leanings and a distinctive facial type, continued to the middle of the 19th century, though at a clearly lower level of achievement. (see also Index: Kishangarh painting)

Rajasthani style: Jaipur (Amber)Edit

The rulers of the state were closely allied to the Mughal dynasty, but paintings of the late 16th and early 17th centuries possessed all of the elements of the Rajasthani style. Little is known about the school until the opening years of the 18th century, when stiff, formal examples appear in the reign of Savai Jai Singh. The finest works, dating from the reign of Pratap Singh, are sumptuous in effect and include some splendid portraits and some large paintings of the sports of Krishna. Although the entire 19th century was extremely productive, the work was rather undistinguished and increasingly affected by Western influences. Of the Rajasthani styles of this period, the Jaipur school was the most popular, examples having been found all over northern India.

Pahari PaintingEdit

style of miniature painting and book illustration that developed in the independent states of the Himalayan foothills in India. The style is made up of two markedly contrasting schools, the bold intense Basohli and the delicate and lyrical Kangra. Pahari painting--sometimes referred to as Hill painting (pahari, "of the hills")--is closely related in conception and feeling to Rajasthani painting and shares with the Rajput art of the North Indian plains a preference for depicting legends of the cowherd god Krishna. (see also Index: Basohli painting, Kangra painting) The earliest known paintings in the hills (c. 1690) are in the Basohli idiom, a style that continued at numerous centres until about mid-18th century. Its place was taken by a transitional style sometimes referred to as pre-Kangra, which lasted from about 1740 to 1775. During the mid-18th century, a number of artist families trained in the late Mughal style apparently fled Delhi for the hills in search of new patrons and more settled living conditions. The influence of late Mughal art is evident in the new Kangra style, which appears as a complete rejection of the Basohli school. Colours are less intense, the treatment of landscape and perspective is generally more naturalistic, and the line is more refined and delicate. By 1770 the lyrical charm of the Kangra school was fully developed. It reached its peak during the early years of the reign of one of its important patrons, Raja Sansar Chand (1775-1823). The school was not confined to the Kangra state but ranged over the entire Himalayan foothill area, with many distinctive idioms. As the independent states in the foothills were small and often very close to each other, it is difficult to assign a definitive provenance to much of the painting. The life and loves of Krishna as expressed in the poetic works the Bhagavata-Purana and the Gitagovinda make up the commonest theme of the paintings, together with other Hindu myths, hero-heroine and ragamala (musical modes) series, and portraits of hill chiefs and their families. After 1800 the school began to decline, though painting of inferior quality continued to be done through the remainder of the 19th century. -- Closely allied to the Rajasthani schools both in subject matter and technique is the Pahari style, so-named because of its prevalence in the erstwhile hill states of the Himalayas, stretching roughly from Jammu to Garhwal. It can be divided into two main schools, the Basohli and the Kangra, but it must be understood that these schools were not confined to the centres after which they are named but extended all over the area. Unlike Rajasthan, the area covered by the Pahari style is small, and the probability of artists travelling from one area to another in search of livelihood was much greater. Thus, attempts to distinguish regional schools are fraught with controversy, and it has been suggested that a classification based upon ateliers and families is likely to be more tenable than those presently current among scholars. Because the Basohli and the Kangra schools show considerable divergences, scholars have postulated the existence of a transitional phase, named the pre-Kangra style.

Pahari style: Basohli schoolEdit

The origins of this remarkable style are not yet understood, but it is clear that the style was flourishing toward the close of the 17th century. The earliest dated paintings are illustrations to the Rasamañjari of Bhanudatta (a Sanskrit work on poetics), executed for a ruler of Basohli (1690; Boston Museum of Fine Arts). Bold colour, vigorous drawing, and primitive intensity of feeling are outstanding qualities in these paintings, quite surpassing the work of the plains. In addition to other Hindu works such as the Gitagovinda and the Bhagavata-Purana, a fairly large number of idealized portraits have also been discovered. (see also Index: Basohli painting)

A school of Pahari miniature painting that flourished in the Indian hill states during the late 17th and the 18th centuries, known for its bold vitality of colour and line. Though the school takes its name from the small independent state of Basohli, the principal centre of the style, examples are found throughout the region. The origins of the school are obscure; one of the earliest examples so far discovered, a series of illustrations to the Rasamañjari (c. 1690), exhibits a style already completely formed. An oblong format is favoured, with the picture space usually delineated by architectural detail, which often breaks into the characteristic red borders. The stylized facial type, shown in profile, is dominated by the large, intense eye. The colours are always brilliant, with ochre yellow, brown, and green grounds predominating. A distinctive technique is the depiction of jewelry by thick, raised drops of white paint, with particles of green beetles' wings used to represent emeralds.

Pahari style: Kangra schoolEdit

The Basohli style began to fade by the mid-18th century, being gradually replaced by the Kangra style, named after the state of Kangra but, like the Basohli style, of much wider prevalence. A curvilinear line, easy flowing rhythms, calmer colours, and a mood of sweet lyricism easily distinguish the work from that of the Basohli style. The reasons for this change are to be sought in strong influences from the plains, notably the Mughal styles of Delhi and Lucknow. These influences account for the more refined technique; but whatever was borrowed was transmuted and given a fresh and tender aspect. Among the greatest works are large series illustrating the Bhagavata-Purana (National Museum, New Delhi), the Gitagovinda, and the Satsai of Bihari (both in the collection of the maharaja of Tehri-Garhwal), all painted in 1775-80. The corpus of work produced is very large and, although it seldom fails to please, works of high achievement are rare. The school flourished from about 1770 to almost the end of the 19th century, but the finest work was produced largely around 1775-1820. (see also Index: Kangra painting)

Modern periodEdit

Toward the late 19th century traditional Indian painting was rapidly dying out, being replaced by feeble works in a variety of idioms, all strongly influenced by the West. A reaction set in during the early 20th century, symbolized by what is called the Bengal school. The glories of Indian art were rediscovered, and the school consciously tried to produce what it considered a truly Indian art inspired by the creations of the past. Its leading artist was Rabindranath Tagore and its theoretician was E.B. Havell, the principal of the Calcutta School of Art. Nostalgic in mood, the work was mainly sentimental though often of considerable charm. The Bengal school did a great deal to reshape contemporary taste and to make Indian artists aware of their own heritage. Amrita Sher-Gil, who was inspired by the Postimpressionists, made Indian painters aware of new directions. Mid-20th-century Indian painting is very much a part of the international scene, the artists painting in a variety of idioms, often attempting to come to terms with their heritage and with the emergence of India as a modern culture.

Decorative ArtsEdit

Fragmentary ivory furniture (c. 1st century AD) excavated at Begram is one of the few indications of the existence in ancient India of a secular art concerned with the production of luxurious and richly decorated objects meant for daily use. Objects that can be clearly designated as works of decorative art become much more extensive for the later periods, during which Islamic traditions were having a profound effect on Indian artistic traditions. The reign of the Mughal emperors, in particular, produced works of the most elaborate and exquisite craftsmanship; the decorative tradition is clearly preserved in architectural ornament, though surviving decorative objects themselves, particularly before the 17th century, are far fewer than might be expected. Economic conditions, including competition with machine-made goods imported from English factories, and a change in taste from increasing European influence had disastrous consequences for traditional craftsmanship, especially in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

Pre-Islamic periodEdit

Of the very few objects surviving from the pre-Islamic period, the most important are fragments of ivory caskets, chairs, and footstools found at Begram, in eastern Afghanistan, but obviously of Indian origin and strongly reminiscent of the school of Mathura in the 1st century AD. The work is profusely decorated with carved panels and confirms the wide reputation for superb ivories that India had in ancient times. Nothing as spectacular has come down from the succeeding periods, but stray examples such as the so-called Charlemagne chessman (c. 8th century; Cabinet des Medailles, Paris) and two magnificent throne legs, of Orissan workmanship, carved in the shape of griffins with elephant heads (13th century; Freer Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia Museum of Art), indicate that ivory craftsmanship was always vital. Ancient traditions, relatively unaffected by Islamic influence, continued in southern India up to modern times. An exquisitely carved box from Vijayanagar (16th century; Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, Bombay) is representative; many other exquisite objects of this period and later are among the treasures of South Indian temples. There is even less evidence of what the decorative work in metal was like. The practice of re-using the metal by melting unserviceable items may account for the paucity of objects, for there is little doubt that the craft was always flourishing. A hoard found at Kolhapur, consisting of plates, various kinds of vessels, lamps and objets d'art, including a superb bronze elephant with riders, constitutes the most important surviving group of metal objects and is datable to about the 2nd century AD. Some fine examples of ritual utensils, notably elaborate incense burners, of the 8th-9th century have been excavated at Nalanda; and a large number of 14th-century ceremonial vessels of complex design and excellent workmanship, and apparently belonging to the local temple, were discovered at Kollur, in Mysore state. (see also Index: metalwork)

Gold played an extremely important role in the manufacture of jewelry, but once again the finds are hardly commensurate with tradition. Small amounts of gold jewelry have been excavated at Mohenjo-daro and Harappa (3rd millennium BC); and, in the historical period, a very important group, of delicate workmanship, has been excavated at Taxila (c. 2nd century AD). From earliest times, India has been famous for the variety and magnificence of its textiles. In this case, however, the Indian climate has been particularly destructive; virtually nothing has survived the heat and moisture. Besides the testimony of literature and the evidence of figural sculpture, only a few fragments of printed textiles are preserved--at Fustat in Egypt, where they had been exported. These date approximately to the 14th century. (see also Index: decorative art)

Islamic periodEdit

Traditions of craftsmanship established during the Islamic period came to full flower during the reign of the Mughal dynasty. Surviving works of decorative art are more abundant, though once again there are hardly as many examples as might be expected, particularly from the 16th and 17th centuries. According to literary testimony and the few available examples, the finest objects were undoubtedly made in the imperial workshops set up in large number at the capital and in the great cities of the empire, where they were nourished by local traditions. Well-organized, these shops specialized in particular items, such as textiles, carpets, jewelry, ornamental arms and armour, metalware, and jade. Textile manufacture must have been enormous, considering the demands of court and social etiquette and ritual. Contributing to the popularity of tapestries, curtains, draperies, canopies, and carpets in contemporary architecture were the nomadic tenting traditions of the Mughal rulers. The variety of techniques employed in the manufacture of textiles was infinite, ranging from printed and painted patterns to the exquisite embroidery decoration of woolen shawls and the costly figured brocading of silk. An important contribution to carpet weaving was the landscape carpet that reproduced pictorial themes inspired by miniature painting. Much of the surviving textile work dates from the 18th century or later, though the 16th and 17th centuries produced works of the most outstanding quality. In response to growing European trade, a considerable amount of furniture (chairs, cabinets, chests of drawers, and the like) was produced, mostly wood inlaid with ivory. Many of these pieces have been preserved in the kinder European climate. Although the furniture made for export gives some idea of the craft in India, it must be emphasized that only the ornamental and figural work was Indian, while the form was European. Also in a hybrid Indo-European style were the Christian objects produced by a local school of ivory carvers at Goa. Metal objects of sumptuous quality were also made, a unique example of which is a splendid, elaborately chiselled 16th-century cup in the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India in Bombay. This tradition was continued in the 17th and particularly the 18th century, when vessels made of a variety of metals and adorned with engraved, chiselled, inlaid, and enamelled designs were very popular. Arms and armour, in particular, were decorated with the skill of a jeweler. Particularly striking are the carved hilts, often done in animal shapes. Jade or jadeite was much fancied by the rich and was used together with crystal to make precious vessels as well as sword and dagger hilts. A rather large number of 18th- and 19th-century objects have survived, but they are often of nondescript quality. The greatest period for jade carving seems to have been the 17th century; a few outstanding examples associated with the emperors Jahangir and Shah Jahan are of singular delicacy and perfection. The practice of inlaying jade, and also stone, with precious or semiprecious stones became more popular with the reign of Shah Jahan and increasingly characteristic of Indian jade craftsmanship from that time on. Architectural decoration provides a clear idea of the range of ornamental patterns used by the Mughal artist. They consisted mainly of arabesques (intricate interlaced patterns made up of flower, foliage, fruit, and sometimes animal and figural outlines) and infinitely varied geometric patterns--motifs shared with the rest of the Muslim world--together with floral scrolls and other designs adapted from Indian traditions. As a whole, the Mughal decorative style tends to endow ornamental patterns with a distinctive plasticity not seen in the more truly two-dimensional Iranian and Arab work. From the 17th century, a type of floral spray became the most favoured motif and was found on almost every decorated object. The motif, symmetrical but relatively naturalistic at the beginning, became progressively stiff and stylized, but never lost its importance in the ornamental vocabulary.


Visual ArtsEdit

VINCENT A. SMITH, A History of Fine Art in India and Ceylon, 3rd ed. rev. and enl. (1962); A.K. COOMARASWAMY, History of Indian and Indonesian Art (1927, reprinted 1965); BENJAMIN ROWLAND, Art and Architecture of India, 3rd ed. rev. (1967), are general introductions with good bibliographies. A.K. COOMARASWAMY, Figures of Speech or Figures of Thought (1946), and Tranformation of Nature in Art (1934, reprinted 1956), contain important essays which discuss Indian aesthetic theories from the traditional point of view. A clear classification of Hindu images with particular reference to south India has been made in T.A. GOPINATHA RAO, Elements of Hindu Iconography, 2 vol. in 4 (1914-16, reprinted 1968); J.N. BANERJEA, The Development of Hindu Iconography, 2nd ed. rev. and enl. (1956), is an analytical introduction to the subject. N.K. BHATTASALI, Iconography of Buddhist and Brahmanical Sculptures in the Dacca Museum (1929); BENOYTOSH BHATTACHARYYA, The Indian Buddhist Iconography, 2nd ed. (1958); ALFRED FOUCHER, Étude sur l'iconographie bouddhique de l'Inde, 2 vol. (1900-05) A.K. COOMARASWAMY, Yaksas, 2 vol. (1928-31), is a masterly study of early iconography. HEINRICH ZIMMER, Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization (1946, reprinted 1963), discusses some important symbols of Indian art. Good collections of photographs are in JAMES BURGESS, The Ancient Monuments, Temples and Sculptures of India, 2 vol. (1897-1911); A.K. COOMARASWAMY, Vishvakarma (1912); STELLA KRAMRISCH, The Art of India (1954); HEINRICH ZIMMER, The Art of Indian Asia, 2 vol. (1955).


In considering the published literature it is important to remember that the study of Indian painting, confined to a limited number of scholars, is of comparatively recent growth, and is therefore full of controversies and uncertainties which keep shifting with the discovery of fresh materials. The standard work on Ajanta is GHULAM YAZDANI, Ajanta, 4 vol. (1930-55); On the western Indian style, MOTI CHANDRA, Jain Miniature Paintings from Western India (1949). Much interesting information on the period of transition to the Rajasthani and Mughal styles has been brought together in KARL J. KHANDALAVALA and MOTI CHANDRA, New Documents of Indian Painting (1969). The Mughal school has been ably presented in PERCY BROWN, Indian Painting under the Mughals, A.D. 1550 to A.D. 1750 (1924); and STUART C. WELCH, The Art of Mughal India (1964). DOUGLAS E. BARRETT, Painting of the Deccan, XVI-XVII Century (1958), is a brief introduction to the subject. The main publication on the Company style is MILDRED and WILLIAM G. ARCHER, Indian Painting for the British, 1770-1880 (1955). The classic work on Pahari and Rajasthani painting is A.K. COOMARASWAMY's pioneering Rajput Painting, 2 vol. (1916). Fresh discoveries which have considerably changed the understanding of its history are summarized in KARL KHANDALAVALA, MOTI CHANDRA, and PRAMOD CHANDRA, Miniature Painting: A Catalogue of the Exhibition of the Sri Motichand Khajanchi Collection (1960). MOTI CHANDRA, Mewar Painting in the Seventeenth Century (1957); WILLIAM G. ARCHER, Indian Painting in Bundi and Kotah (1959); PRAMOD CHANDRA, Bundi Painting (1959); ERIC DICKINSON and KARL KHANDALAVALA, Kishangarh Painting (1959); WILLIAM G. ARCHER, Central Indian Painting (1958); and ANAND KRISHNA, Malwa Painting (1963), are informative summaries of the growing knowledge of the various schools of Rajasthan. The standard work, illustrated copiously, on the Pahari style is KARL KHANDALAVALA, Pahari Miniature Painting (1958), and different in its account from WILLIAM G. ARCHER, Indian Painting in the Punjab Hills (1952). Books which cover most of the schools and are profusely illustrated include N.C. MEHTA, Studies in Indian Painting (1926); WILLIAM G. ARCHER, Indian Miniatures (1960); ROBERT SKELTON, Indian Miniatures from the XVth to the XIXth Centuries (1961); DOUGLAS E. BARRETT and BASIL GRAY, Painting of India (1963); and STUART C. WELCH and MILO C. BEACH, Gods, Thrones and Peacocks: Northern Indian Painting from Two Traditions, Fifteenth to Nineteenth Centuries (1965). (Ceylon): Standard works on Sinhalese art are SENERAT PARANAVITANA, The Stupa in Ceylon (1946), Art and Architecture of Ceylon: Polonnaruva Period (1954), and Ceylon: Paintings from Temple, Shrine and Rock (1957). MOTI CHANDRA, Studies in Early Indian Painting (1975), covers the 5th through 16th centuries; CALAMBUR SIVARAMAMURTI, The Art of India (1977), covering all types of art with 1175 illustrations; STUART C. WELCH, Room for Wonder: Indian Painting During the British Period, 1760-1880 (1978), an exhibition catolog with detailed comments on 125 illustrations.

Decorative artsEdit

Scholarly literature on the decorative arts in India is scanty and mainly in learned journals. The Journal of Indian Art and Industries (1886-1916) is the most important and contains numerous pioneering studies.

  • SIR GEORGE WATT, Indian Art at Delhi (1903); and
  • SIR GEORGE BIRDWOOD, The Industrial Arts of India, 2 vol. (1880)

are for the most part descriptive texts emphasizing the technical aspects of the decorative arts as they had survived up to the closing years of the 19th century.

  • JOHN IRWIN, "Textiles and the Minor Arts," in LEIGH ASHTON (ed.), The Art of India and Pakistan, pp. 201-237 (1950),

is a brief historical survey of the subject.

  • MOTI CHANDRA, "Ancient Indian Ivories," Bulletin of the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, no. 6, pp. 4-63 (1957-59),

is a monograph on the history of Indian ivory carving.

  • THOMAS H. HENDLEY, Asian Carpets (1905), treats Indian examples in the important collections of the Maharaja of Jaipur.
  • GEORGE P. BAKER, Calico Painting and Printing in the East Indies in the XVIIth and XVIIIth Centuries (1921), is the most important work on the subject;
  • WILBRAHAM EGERTON, An Illustrated Handbook of Indian Arms (1880), catalogs and describes the wide range and achievement of the armourer's craft.
Last modified on 24 December 2012, at 18:09