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What Lies Behind the Traditional Indian Art

There is an old painting hanging at our ancestral house. Its faded colors try to point out one thing i.e. there is not a thing which lasts. Everything withers away with time.

Such is the might of these inanimate things that they teach you the most important lesson of life. Traditional Indian art has also survived through generations and it will live long.

But, the thought, idea or inspiration behind them seldom dies. They pass on from generation to generation through stories, fables, and anecdotes. The Bard of Avon, Shakespeare also remarked that a word never dies.

So, you may give life to anything if you write something about them, according to him. He wrote a poem about his friend and thus made him immortal. Similarly, a painting or a piece of art is also considered as a poem. Traditional Indian art is like a hymn or a chant that has become inseparable from eternity now.

The faded colors of an old painting have always intrigued me. Flakes about to fall form the canvas and some which have fallen now fallen tell us that we need to see beyond the reality which our earthly sense perceives.

My affection for art has come because of my existence itself because art has been an indispensable part of Indian society. I have been brought up in a family where they try to follow their traditions as they can possibly follow.

I have seen that on every occasion different motifs are drawn with Gheru ki mitti (a type of red soil which is considered holy) to welcome gods and ward off evils. On Raksha Bandhan, I have witnessed my mother drawing something which resembles a horse. On Kartika Purnima, there is a special kind of ritual in which the feet of each and every family member with our domestic animals are drawn.

There is no wonder that people from all over the world are mesmerized by our glorious culture which has been rebuked by a bias that emerged from European colonialism which in turn made people more loyal towards their cultural identity. But, after being subjected to years of neglect Indian Traditional art is now emerging and is gaining recognition at both national and international platforms.

Ancient Indian civilizations have been a cradle of art. The presence of art in Bhimbetaka caves in Madhya Pradesh from the pre-historic times is sufficient to prove that art is in our genome. India never fails to strike you with an awe-inspiring art form.

Indian art could be divided into visual arts, performing arts and Applied arts. Paintings, sculpture making, drawing, photography, Calligraphy, etc. are all types of Visual arts. The art of making a painting could be divided into two namely, Fine arts and Traditional arts.

We will try to comprehend various types of traditional art that have taken the art world by storm. First, we will understand the provenance of traditional art.

From where it all started in India?

Traditional art could be defined as skills and wisdom of art-making that one generation passes on to another with each generation introducing its variation into it which ensures that its nature remains dynamic but without losing its main form and identity. Traditional art in India is a part of its culture and identity.

Tribal art is a part of Indian traditional art. While traditional art is done through established artists with a touch of perfection and finesse, Tribal art, on the other hand, is crude yet mesmerizing. It is done by people that are not trained and don’t follow the rigid principles of aesthetics as followed in Traditional art.

Some ancient and exotic examples of Indian traditional art could be caves of Elephanta, Ajanta, and Ellora, Temples of Tanjore, etc. These archaic marvels from the lost world make it evident that India has been a land of art and artists, that too best of their kinds and times.

Frescoes on the walls of these caves are believed to carved and painted in the time period spanning from the 1st-7th century Anno Domini. They let us take a peek on the lives of people who resided in those caves and culture existing at those times.

Miniature Paintings

The first miniature painting ever created has been found in India that has been made on a palm leaf that depicted Buddhist philosophy. It was created around 750 A.D. They are very small in size, as the name suggests. Anthropologists and art historians owe their small size to the small size of a canvas i.e. a palm leaf.

Chalukya dynasty is responsible for introducing this art form to the western parts of India which gave birth to various schools of miniature paintings, each region infusing a variation of their own, are as follows:-

  1. Pala School
  2. Odisha School
  3. Rajasthani School
  4. Jain School
  5. Mughal School

Pattachitra style of painting

Lord Krishna is associated with this style of art which has its provenance in the sea-facing Indian state of Odisha.

These paintings also accommodate motifs from epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. Raghurajpur is the place where Pattachitra is extensively practiced. At least one member of the family residing knows this art. This shows that we love and are proud of our culture. It also throws light on the strength that it gives us.

Similarly, there is another form of art that is practiced in the mountainous and coastal areas of Gujrat and Maharashtra. They have a peculiar feature which makes them stand out in the crowd. Circular patterns and designs symbolize that life and death are faces of the same coin.

Bhil Paintings

Bhil paintings are easy to identify. Here figurines are drawn by broad borders and colors are filled in them through joining minuscule dots. Vivid colors and inanimate motifs drawn in bright colors are defining a feature of this kind of art. Paintings are made by getting inspiration from the instinct of an artist. It is one of the famous traditional Indian art.

As Indians, feel proud next time you come across an ancient form of Indian art.

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