Whenever one thinks of the greatest paintings of all time, Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece of Mona Lisa pops into our minds. But did you know that until the 18th century, India was the center of art, architecture and textiles? Our artistic textiles prints were the talk of every town – from America, Japan, China to Europe.
And this was possible because every Indian painting ingrained an ancient principle about aesthetics, which benefits our well being even today.
So what is Indian art? And what is so unique about it? And how can you celebrate it?
What is Indian art? And what are the types of Indian Paintings?
Traditional Indian paintings cannot be generally understood with a few descriptive words. That’s because paintings of India date back to about 30,000 years, one of the oldest in the world. From cave paintings of Bhimbhetka in Madhya Pradesh, Indian art has flourished and created a mesmerising kaleidoscope that provides a peak into what was going on in ancient India.
Each of the art forms have been influenced by the local geography, mythology, foreign influences, and traditions during various periods. To just give you a glimpse of how varied Indian art is, some examples of types of Indian paintings are as follows:
Mithila painting is known for its line paintings that celebrated Sita and Rama’s wedding during the epic of Ramayana.
Gandhara Art and sculptures which has been inspired by Greek standards of artistic beauty, during the invasion of Alexander the Great .
Numerous tribal paintings in various states of India like Warli, Gond, Bhil, etc.
Luxurious gold plated paintings of Tanjore and Mysore, after the fall of Vijayanagara Empire.
The sensuous depictions of gods in Kerala Murals in various temples.
The Persian and Mughal influenced Miniature and Rajput paintings.
And the list goes on! To get a complete grasp of the rich variety of Indian art forms, it might a whole lifetime!
What is the history of Indian paintings?
In India, through millennia, art or kala has been considered as very pure. Detailed procedure has been laid out in some vedic scriptures like Chitra Sutra of Vishnudharmottara Purana. Every step of the process has been detailed in this text and guides Indian artists for creating the best artworks possible, that are not only meaningful, but also impart knowledge to the masses.
According to the Chitra Sutra, the oldest treatise on painting in the world, there are 6 essential characteristics of Indian Art called as Shadanga. These are: rupa bheda (differentiation of forms), pramana (accurate proportions), bhava (expressions and emotions), Lavanya yojanam (graceful composition), Sadrashya (ability to depict to original vision or painting), and Varnikabhanga (artistic knowledge to produce desired effects through use of colour and brush strokes)
Chitrasutra states that:
A painting cleanses and curbs anxiety, augments future good, causes unequalled and pure delight; banishes the evils of bad dreams and pleases the household deity. The place decorated by a picture never looks dull or empty.
As you can see, Indian art was given the highest importance and was promoted widely. Not just as wall paintings, but the floors of the rich homes and palaces were decorated with attractive patterns and designs inlaid with precious stones. Artists created wonderful art works with utmost devotion, meditation and concentration.
The kings and queens of those times allowed all forms of paintings to flourish under their patronage. Artists passed on their knowledge to their next generations. Due to the continuous patronage of art and continual transfer of knowledge from one generation to next, Indian arts evolved and became the epitome of artistic finesse. This is the reason why Indian paintings and textiles were admired all over the world and were much sought after.
Another important point to note was that the arts were mostly created either for pleasure, or for illustrating a mythological story. They were a means to communicate the mythological art history of India to the masses in an easy and effective manner. Unlike the western civilizations, paintings were not created with an intention to sell, or profit from it. And that is also the reason why the original artists of ancient Indian paintings are unheard of. And most paintings like Mithila paintings were not created with the intention of preservation. So most of our paintings have been lost or damaged.
Nevertheless, today we have world renowned famous indian artists like Raja Ravi Varma, Abindranath Tagore, Jamini Roy and several others that have put the spotlight back on Indian paintings.
How can you benefit from the beauty of Indian Paintings?
Art has been a symbol of prosperity in ancient days, and was promoted in every way possible.
All the murals in caves, sculptures of temples and paintings of the bygone era have formed an essential link that kept us connected with all of the different cultures that once lived in Bharatvarsha. Chitra sutra rightly illustrates how important remembering this cultural lineage is with these words – “Art is the greatest treasure of mankind, far more valuable than gold or jewels.”
If you are enthralled to be an Indian and want to appreciate Indian Art on a daily basis, you can try out any of the 3 ways. To get the maximum benefit, you can learn some of the folk art forms, for example – madhubani painting, kerala murals, meenakari painting, Tanjore painting, patachitra painting, kalamkari painting, etc.
Or, if you want to embellish your home with beautiful artworks, you can buy paintings. They not only make a statement in every room they are exhibited in, but they also improve the wellbeing of your family. And lastly, if you are the type of person who likes to read a lot, you can gather more knowledge about ancient art history and teach others the importance of Indian Art.
No where on the face of earth can you witness such a beautiful intermesh of various types of Indian arts. Being born as an Indian entails that each of us knows and appreciates Indian art. This is how we can keep our history intact and benefit from our rich heritage. And luckily for you, Kavi Art studio is the perfect place to do that! You can find art courses, paintings for sale and art blogs on our site.