Sculpture & Decorative Arts

Sculptures had been the predominant mode of visual art in ancient India. Records of sculpture of India are as old as Indus Valley Civilization. The figurine of the dancing girl cast in bronze is the most famous example. Sculpture is the 3rd millennium also includes the Great Baths of Mohenjo-Daro.

To read the History of Indian Sculptures please click here.

It was during the reign of Maurya dynasty, the sculpture became religious in nature. However, a number of sculptures of the Kings from the era also exist.  Sculptures were used in temple to complement the scared and complex carvings of temples, stupas, and caves. The magnificent temple of Khajuraho and Great Sanchi Stupa are prime examples.

In the northwest of India, and throughout much of what in 1947 became Pakistan, a school of Buddhist existed since 1st century AD. The region sits at the cross-road of the ancient Silk Road and was a point of communication for a number of cultural influences. It is from these interactions, especially between the Greco-Roman and Buddhist style that that the realism of Gandhara sculpture developed.

In the southern half of India, in the Kingdoms of Chola, Pallavas, Cheras, Pandyas, Nayaks and Chalukyas artist found lucrative patronage. To read about the different form of sculptures in India please click here.

Modernism Indian sculpture began in early 20th century with the adaptation of western academic art traditions. Sculptors who trained in the realist style at British art schools worked on secular subjects in a departure from ancient and medieval Indian norms. It in the 1940’s and 1950’s Indian modern sculpture developed a unique indigenous language, best represented by the works of Ram Kinker Baij. Another name that stands out among the 20th century sculptors in India is Deviprasad Chowdhury. As nationalist artist, he tried to capture the struggle of common man in British. His work “Triumph of Labour


Handicrafts are an integral part of India’s social nad economic fabric. Besides being objects of dedication, craftsmanship, and national heritage, these also provide millions with their livelihood.

Handicrafts in India varhy from one region to the other. Presented below are glimpses of some:

Cane and Bamboo: Cane and Bamboo have been used to make various objects of utility like baskets, mats, boxes, and trays. Brasketry is primarily a folk art. The North-Eastern states are renowned for articles in cane, bamboo, and grass. Hill tribes like the Kukies, the Mikris and the Mizos use baskets with locking arrangements for stroing ornaments and clothes. (Handicrafts India, 1994). In Assam the sieves and the winnowing fans are so exquisitely done as to make them a work of art.

In south India too, the craft of cane weaving has developed to produce some of the most intricate works of trays, flower baskets, shopping bags, folding fans and toys. In Kerala, pine leaves and Kora grass are used to make baskets.

Bamboo root carving: Bamboo root craving is a rare craft. Certain species of bamboo grow in club formations. These roots are kept under water; once the sap is drawn the sculptor shapes the roots to what suits him best.  This form of craft is famous in Tripura, and Manipura.

Carpets, Namdhas, Durries: The history of Indian pile carpet begins in the sixteenth century. Indian carpet weaver ties his knots with great skill and dexterity on upright wooden looms. Traditionally, no use is made of any mechanical device except for the the chhura, a curved steel knife, and a panja or comb made of iron for beating in the weft and the pile tufts are used.

Kashmir is known for its very fine quality carpets. An average carpet in this region is made with 324 knots per square inch. Other centre where the carpet industry has historically floushied are Amritsar, Agra, and Jaipur. However, it is the Mirzapur-Bhadohi belt with represents the most important area of carpet weaving in the country.

A distinct style of carpet weaving also prevails in the mountainuos areas of India including Leh, Darjeeling, Gangtok, and Imphal.

Namdhas are pressed felts mainly mad ein Kashmir and Rajasthan. There are two types of Numdhas: embroiered and appliliqued.

Durries is a pileless cotton spread wovenin simple strips of different colors. There are two kinds of durries for beds and for floors. Many states especially Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Assam, and patches in Andra pradesh and Madya Pradesh are strong centre of this craft.

Embroidery: Embroidery in India is intricate and its aesthetic appeal is unparalled. All over the country emroidery is done on various fabrics. Beads and mica are also used to embellish embroidered  fabrics to give them glitter. Various tradition of embroidery is present in India including:

Kashmiti embroidary; the Phulkari of Punjab and Hayana; The chumba rumals; the Kutch emroidary practised in the Kutch, and Saurastha region of Gujrat; the Zari tradition of UP, and Delhi, the Kasuti style of Karnataka, the Bengal Kantha, and laces of South India.

Paper Mache: Kashmir us famous for paper mache articles. Paper Mache presents utalitarian as well as astherical purpose. Products of paper mache include table sets, lamp stands, trays, wall plaques, , and cabinets. Besides Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, and Keral too present there own unique styles.

Paper Mache of Kashmir
Photo Source: Arts of India

Ivory craving: Ivory crazing is one of the oldest craft forms in India. Thiruvanathapuram, Dlehi, Jaipur, Berhampur, Janshedpur, Varansai and Amritsar are famous for it, each having its own unique style. Thiruvanathapuram is renowned for its jewellery items, while Lucknow and Amritsar were known for there table lamps. However, given the difficulty in finding material for the craft it is facing a crisis.

Sarees: Apart from being a traditional and popular wear it is also an handicraft. Traditionally sarees are painstakingly woven by craftsmen. Saree weaving is a craft that has transformed and reinvented itsself through  variance of time and space. The size of the saree varies from the smaller four yards to the longer nine yards and can be draped in a variaty of styles.

To learn how to drape a saree in the navi style please click here.

To learn more about the many more handicraft in India please click here.


Handicrafts India. (1994). Handicrafts India Year Book. Delhi: Durga Publications Private Limited.


The music of India is diverse. Inspired by the colorful existence of the everyday music makes the back bone of the culture of India, it is said that in India there is a song for every occasion, and every emotion. Combining emotion, lyrics, and music India’s contribution to music is endless. Here we briefly touch on a few notes.

Classical Indian music is made up of subgenres: Hindustani and Carnatic music. Both musical forms consist of “Raga


Art in India is represent a very broad cultural category. Since the dawn of time India has been home to some of the great artists. Throughout history, through the forms of art changed the consistency with which art –in its many manifestation –was produced in India remained the same. India’s artistic tradition follows much of the general cultural ethos of the country: synthesize and invent.

Painting by Raja Ravi Verma
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Contemporary Painting in India: The politics of 19th century destroyed Indian art, which had bloomed under the patronage of feudal kings and the Mughal emperors. Raja Ravi Verma was the first to revive Indian art. Under the patronage of the royal family of Tranvancore he learnt oil painting under the alien artists. He used his skill to first paint gods and goddesses made famous by the Ravi-Uday Litho Press.

  • Raja Ravi Varma: This 19th century artist was born on 29th April 1848 in Kilimanoor, Kerala. His amazing paintings mainly revolve around the great epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana. He is largely celebrated for such paintings. He is credited for fusing Indian traditions with the techniques of European academic art.


Jaganath Ahivasi was another stalwart of Indian painting in its early days. Pre-Independence the art scence in was relatively unheard of. Yet, those who had been to Europe were bring with them art forms like impressionism, cubism, and expressionism back to India. It was mainly in the urban centers of that the seeds of contemporary art were sown, especially Mumbai and Delhi.  Artists like H.A Gade, Padamee, Palsikar, S.H.Raza, F.N. Souza, Bhavesh Sanyal, K.C Panikar, and Devi Prasad Roy are some of those who were creatively active.

Slowly but surely Indian painting started to brush a space for  itself in the Indian cultural ethos. This was marked by the revival of art in Bengal, and Bombay through the establishment of schools like the Bombay School of Art, and the Kolkatta School of Fine Arts. Artists like Jamini Kurar, Abanindranath Tagore, Amrita Sher-Gill, and Nanalal Bose were the more pioneers in Bengal. In Bombay , in 1948 several artist got together to form the Progressive Artists Group in 1948. This group dedicated itself to part ways with traditional painting styles and mediums.

Rangoli: A form of street/folk art practiced during festivals. Rangoli comprises of making designs or patterns on the walls or the floor of the house using different colors. Impressive designs are put together using fine powered colors. Rangoli has both religious and cultural importance. Perhaps the most impressive of Rangolis are made.

For more details please visit the following sites:

To see a the who’s who of Indian painting please click:

Today, artists in India have shed any inhibition holding them back. There is noone school of art that can be defined as Indian painting style, artists have a number of influences both from winthin and without the country.

For a very comprehensible and comprehensive look into Indian Art History please visit this website by Art History resources:

There are numerous Art Gallaries in India. All major cities on India are centres for education in fine arts, espeically Kolkatta, Mumbai, and Delhi. To see the list of the best art gallaries in Mumbai please click here:

In Delhi, the Delhi Art Gallery has a number of exhibition of Indian as well as International artist throughout the year. For more details please visit theirwebsite:

Tribal and Folk Art: Indian is home to some of the most ancient visual arts. Rocks and Mounds in the regions surronding Mirzapur, Bhimbetka and Hoshangabad showcase such art. The many tribal groups in India have their own style. Like Babo Pithora of the Rathwa tribe, popular in the region of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. Pithora paintings depeict marriage of Pithora and Pithori in accordance to the local folklore.  Another example of the beauty of tribal painting are the Warli painting where the painiting is done with only two primary colors: white on brown.

Cave painting of India: Cave Painting in India date to pre-historic times. Murals in Ajanta, Ellora, and Bagh and Sittanavasal being but two of the more well known examples.
For more information on painters of India please click here

This site presents an incredible look into the art culture of India

To read about the coming of Photography to India please click here.


The roots of tradition of Indian Drama is the religious rituals. Two forms of drama has emerged from this religion and social conjunctions: folk-drama, and classical drama.

The rich-hertitage of drama in India can be traced back to the Sanskrit playwrites like Bhasa, Kalidas, Bhavabhooti, VIshakhadutt, Bhattnarayan, Shudrak, and Shriharsha. Plays that deal with mythologies are staged in temples and religious festivals; Ramlilla being a particularlly favored play during Dusshera festivals.

While classical drama found patronage among the socially powerful and economically well to do. The common man of India always had folk-theatre to entertain and educate him. The language of the folk-drama was the common toungue, and the theme were always some relatable by the common man.

Theare in India has gone through periods of rise and fall. Rajnee Vyas contends that, “during the middle ages when the classical performing art was in wither an infantile stage or dormant condition, folk-there was the only medium of popular entertainment. However …income-oriented professionalism led to vulgarism creeping into the presentation. It was during this period of decline in the Classical and folk drama that occidental theatre found space to establish and thrive in India.

Theatre , espeically Hindi theatre, was revitalized by the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA)- Bharatiya Lok-Natya Sangh established in 1942 by Kamaldevi Chattopadhyay. The IPTA was on the “path of progressivism


Indian Classical Dance is one of the most comprehensive and oldest dance forms in the world. Most of the development of Indian dance is linked to the 2nd century B.C. treatise, Bharata’s Natyashastra. This treatise lays down two aspects of natya: Nritta- pure dance and Nitrya- the portrayal of mood through facial expression, hand gesture, and position of the legs and feet. All dance forms were structured around the nine “Rasa


Films in India play an important part of daily life. Movie songs are hummed, dialogues are quoted, and dance steps are repeated in almost all households. India loves its movie –and the numbers confirm the fact. India is the world’s largest producer of movies. According to the Central Board Of Film Certification’s Annual report India produced 2162 feature films in the year 2011.

Although Bollywood often gets synonymized for Indian film industry, it is but only one –albeit most popular –section of it. Bollywood represents the Hindi movie industry mostly based in Mumbai, while Indian film industry umbrellas movies made all over India in over a dozen languages.  In 2011, there were 185 movies produced in Tamil, and 192 movie produced in Telugu.

In 2013, Indian cinema celebrated its centenial year. India’s first feature film Raja Harishchandra was released in 1913.  Through cinema first entered India in the 1896, it was Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra that started the movie revolution in India. The movie also sparked the “Silent era


It is near impossible to narrate the story of Indian Literature and do justice to it. The myriad languages, complexities, forms, volume, and the amazing length of the time span in which it has been produced makes the task awesomely difficult. Yet, what emerges from the layers of Indian literature is the living relationship among its various cultural narratives and a fluidity that is impossible to surpass.

Ancient  Indian Literature: The history of Indian literature spans milleniums. The earliest Indian literature took the form of the canonical Hindu sacred writings, known as the Veda –the Rig Veda being the oldest. However, to infer that ancient Indian literature is only about the religious classics would be to undermine the scope of the literature.  Sanskrit literature is filled with erotic stories and realism, while the Veda’s contain poetry of the highest literary form.  Literature in ancient India also includes plays, narratives, and folktales. Plays by Kalidas, and Jayadeva, written as lyric poetry, are performed and read even today, and has greatly influenced subsequent Indian literature.  While ancient literature in India was not written in Sanskrit alone; Prakrit, Pali, Ardham


The gastronomical commitment of a nation like India are hard to pin down. The diversity of India is reflected in the eating habits of its inhabitants as well. Over centuries as various people immigrated and mingled within the present borders of India the eating habits blended and fused to create its own style.

While the use of spices and herbs are not exclusive to Indian food, it’s used most generously in the subcontinent. Ancient trade links suggest that the spices from India were a high values commodity in Greece and China.

Another interesting phenomenon about food in India is how it is engrained within the cultural fabric of particular communities in particular regions.  Many have (for the sake of simplicity) divided Indian food in accordance to its regions: North Indian, South Indian, East Indian and West Indian. Others have divided Indian food on the bases of its staple ingredient: rice, and wheat. Further, some have also drawn the line in terms of vegetarians and meat eating. Yet, classification of food and eating habits are not that simple.

Besides its diversity, it is also the sweetmeat tradition or mithai of India that makes Indian food unique. South Asian sweets are usually made with sugar, milk and condensed milk, and cooked by frying. The bases of the sweets and other ingredients vary by region. Mithai are also offered to gods and served during an auspicious occasion. For more information of Indian Mithai please click here.

Paan: The paan culture is declinging yet significant part of the Indian cultural ethos. Traditionally, Paan is a prepared by wrapping areca nut and cured tobacco. Paan is chewed and finally spat out or swallowed. Paan has many variations. Slaked lime paste is commonly added to bind the leaves. The use of tobacco in paan causes cancer , while the red saliva notoriously spit in public places is a source of staina dn biological waste production. The metha paan (sweet paa), made without tobacco proves to be quite a mouth freshener.

To learn how to cook Indian food please click here.

To read about the history of food in India please click here.

At every nook and corner in India you will find a new kind of street food. Delicious and inexpensive street food provides an easy meal. The diversity of food in India is rivaled by the diversity in street food of India. Bhel-puri, pani-puri, channa, and the various kinds of chat are but a few of the street food available in India. India offers a range of innovative eating traditions. To read more please click here.


Clothes in India is a matter of pride. From the turban to the Dhoti its function is more than a mere protection from the elements. During India’s struggle against the yoke of colonialism idea of kind of clothes one wore became a space of struggle. While one finds the t-shirt, jeans, and shirt ubiquitously it is the more traditional garments that get a priority during important festivals and events.
Gandhiji and his spinning wheel
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The clothes of India are as diverse as the people. The costume and the fabric also depend in the region and its climate. In most of India, cotton is the fabric of choice.

The most popular dresses for women in most of India is the saree. A saree is a long strip of unstitched cloth that women drape over the body in several different ways. Women wear the sari over a petticoat and a fitted short-sleeved blouse called a “choli” or “ravika.”. Among women, especially in the North India, a close second is the salwar kutha. Chic, colorful and comfortable the Salwar Kutha is gaining prominence among urban women.

Among the men, especially in the rural areas, the most popular form of dressing include the Dhoti, and the lungi. While the Salwar Kamez is also quite popular.
Each region in India has a different costume. To read more about it in detail please click here.

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For the details of clothing in the India in accordance to the states please click here.

To access the history of clothing in India, please click here.

To watch a presentation about the evolution of clothing in India please click here.

To learn to wear a Saree please click here.