Indian Art and Architecture
Art is a very precious heritage in the culture of a people. “It is more so in India, where the story of art is as old as the history of the race- a panorama of five thousand years”. The essential quality of Indian art is its preoccupation with things of the spirit.
Art in India did not aim at the objective presentation of the human or social facets of life. It was primarily the fruit of the artist’s creative meditation and effort to project symbols of divine reality as conceived and understood by the collective consciousness of the people as a whole. It is a vast, unending social and religious endeavor of devotees to depict the forms of the gods and goddesses they worshiped.
Any tourist desirous of understanding the real significance of Indian art should be prepared patiently. To go to the length and breadth and savor deep of the symbolic meanings that make up a world of their own.
The four elements of Indian art are the divine principles, the cosmos in its two-fold manifestation of good and evil, man and the material world. The Indus Valley people were prolific in the arts of house-building, stone and clay statuary, bronze-casting, making of ornaments of gold and silver, and cutting of beads in various semi-precious stones like agate, carnelian, chalcedony, ivory-carving, and weaving. The beautiful objects of domestic use that have been unearthed reflect the refined taste of their makers.
The symbolism of Indian art
The symbolism of Indian art attained its highest expression in the Saranath capital, which is as much Buddhist as Vedic in the significance of its several parts. The tradition of folk art was supplemented in the Mauryan period by a court art of great vitality and technical competence. Mauryan art is notable for the bewildering variety of its creations – there are pillars, railings, parasols, capitals, animal and human sculptures, and several other motifs. It was during the Sunga age that sculpture and architecture witnessed a new efflorescence.
Art was developed at many centers and the two great stupas of Bharhut and Sanchi give evidence of almost a continental planning. A similar art movement flowered during the Kushana period and Mathura emerged as the new center of art. This art movement was the offshoot of the aesthetic endeavor that started in full swing. During the period of the Kushana emperors an exceedingly active school of sculpture and architecture flourished in Gandhara, that is, from Taxila to the Swat Valley.
During the Saka-Satavahana period, an aesthetic movement of a great magnitude expressed itself in the form of several monumental stupas loaded with sculptures and basreliefs of exquisite beauty. The stupas of Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda have produced art specimens of matchless beauty. Gupta art is beautiful in both its outer form and its inner inspiration. Beauty and virtue served as the ideals of the age.
The masterpiece works of Chalukyan art comprises the group of temples at Badami and Aihole. Both the sculpture and architecture of the kailasha temple at Ellora bear testimony to the creative spirit of the Rashtrakuas.
The arrival of Islam in 1206 revolutionized Indian architecture. The Muslim monuments in India comprise mosques, mausoleums, palaces, citadels, and cities. Their special features include the dome, arch, perforated Jail work, inlay decoration as well as artistic calligraphy.
The art of metal casting always received great attention in India and is of the highest antiquity. The southern school of Indian bronzes, which flourished between the tenth and thirteenth centuries, was of such aesthetic quality and creative abundance that it is regarded as representing that art at its best. One of the great creations of Indian art is Shiva Nataraja.
The art of painting was widely cultivated in the Gupta period and is best known through the paintings surviving in the Ajanta Caves, and also in the Bagh caves. Ancient India understood that art forms change according to time and place, and according to the period of history and region. It is also understood that there should be no reproduction of nature except as seen through ‘intuitive absorption of trance’.
Art in India has been intimately concerned with the experience of ramanyata-the beautiful. It is said to release the flow of creative energies in a person’s being. It constitutes the core of the aesthetic state which vitalizes the individual consciousness of man. An artist’s work is an explosion of the human spirit- revealing beauty and bliss.
India is the custodian of valuable traditions, social, moral, and artistic. The concept of traditional culture introduces new complexities. It implies that what is traditional is always worth conserving. The tradition in folk art reflects the continuous play of line and color which is native to the mind of India.
Indian art is an immediate expression of Indian civilization as a whole. It represents beliefs and philosophies, ideals and outlooks, the materialized vitality of the society, and its spiritual endeavors in varying stages of development. A comprehensive approach is necessary to understand and identify the many examples of India’s past art that survive and continue into India’s historical present.
Suggested Read: Indian Art Festival