India is a
land of diverse cultures. The variations in physical, climatic conditions
and the extent of exposure to other cultures have greatly influenced the
traditions and culture of the different regions. There is an underlying
basic factor common to the whole of India, with variations in the practices
based on their local needs and influences. Further, the greatness
of India has been in accepting the best from all the invaders and intermingling
the new customs and styles with the existing - this is visible in all aspects
- music, dance, painting, sculptures, architecture.
an excerpt from the introduction to the book "The Art and Architecture
of India" by Benjamin Rowland puts it all in a nutshell.
of India and its art has been so bound up with the geographic nature of
this vast continent that something must be said of these physical characteristics.
India has a kind of impregnable geographic isolation. It is in the
shape of a great sealed funnel extending from the heartland of Asia.
This peculiar shape of the peninsula made for an inevitable retention and
absorption of all the racial and cultural elements that poured into it.
The peninsula is bounded on the west by the Indian ocean; on the east by
the Bay of Bengal. Along the northern frontier India is almost sealed
off from the Asiatic mainland by the rocky curtain of the Himalayas from
Baluchistan to Assam. The only openings in this formidable natural
fortification are the various passes of the north-west, such as the famous
Khyber and Bolan passes, which wind through the mountains seperating India
from the Iranian plateau. Through these gaps came all the migrating
tribes and conquerors that made themselves masters of the rich plain of
divisions of India proper have always been determined and dominated by
the great river systems, the watersheds of the Indus and Ganges, the Deccan
plateau and South India.
no less than geography has played its part in the development of the peculiarly
indigenous traits of Indian history and art. All the races of martial
character have grown up in the dry and hilly districts of north-west and
centre, whereas the fertile plains of Bengal and South have been inhabited
by peaceful and unwarlike cultivators.
nature of India has in a way forced upon the inhabitants an inability to
act, a situation responsible for the Indian races having become lost in
of Indian myths and Indian art lies partly in the fact that it suggests
rather than states. It could truly be said that Indian symbols of
art voiced the same truth as Indian philosophy and myth.
all art, like all life, is given over to religion. Indian art is
life, as interpreted by religion and philosophy.
may, in a general way, be described as theological, hieratic, or, perhaps
best of all as traditional. The purpose of Indian art, like all traditional
art, is primarily to instruct men in the great first causes, which according
to the seers, govern the material, spiritual and celestial worlds.
Art is dedicated to communicating these great truths to mankind and, by
the architectural, sculptural and pictorial reconstruction of the powers
that maintain the stars in their courses.