Art History of India

A. All Indus Valley cities are characterized by huge sizes, well planning, brick with straight sheets, homes which include private baths. This civilization dates back to 4,000 years into the history but, despite this, children already played with well-crafted toys and women wore lipstick. Unfortunately, we know very little about Indus society but thanks to the archeologists in 1922 the remains of ancient Mohenjo-Daro, the city located 400 miles of Harappa, were found. Since that time a range of cities were discovered in the same Valley. Sometimes this civilization, which existed 3,000-2,500 BC (about the same time as the Sumerian and Egyptian civilizations), is called Harappan.

Most of the houses were usually one or two stories high, made of brick, had flat roofs and looked pretty the same. Each house was build around a courtyard with the windows overlooking it. There were no windows on the outside walls. What is fascinating, these houses had clay pipes which led to the sewers underneath the street, and then – to the rivers nearby. If case of the flooding, Harappan cities were rebuilt on top of each other, each next city was built less skillfully than the previous one. There were no carvings on the walls or tombs. We don’t even know now whether they had a written language, however, few sentences were found on amulets and pottery.

These smart people had wooden-wheeled carts and ships with one mast. On most of the things we can find an image of the unicorn. People were skilled at weaving, metal working, and pottery.

Both men and women dressed in colorful robes. Women wore a lot of jewelry. Some bracelets which were found by archeologists look similar to those which Indians wear today.

We don’t know today what happened to these cities but about 1500 BC people escaped from them.

B. The Sanchi Stupa is considered to one of the India’s most ancient Buddhist monuments. It is located in a village on a hilltop. The Stupa was built by the Maurayan emperor Ashoka, but then enlarged and obtained its present form in the 1st BC. With time the Stupa was ruined by treasure-hunters, but in the 1880s the Indian Archeological Survey began its restoration.

The Sanchi Stupa has a great religious significance for Buddhists. In the past it always served as a grave for kings. It was believed that there were Buddha’s relics in it.

The Sanchi Stupa still has a special walkway where the believers pay homage to the Buddha. On the wall we can observe carvings which illustrate the Buddha’s life and all his past lives.

At the times when the Sanchi Stupa was built, people did not depict Buddha with human face and body. He was portrayed with some symbols which represented the most important events from his life. Those symbols are known till today and still play significant roles for Indian people and Buddhists throughout the whole world.

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First one is Lotus or Elephant. Spiritual growth was always marked by the lotus flower because of its way to blossom above the water surface. The elephant went along with the story of the Buddha’s birth when his mother saw a white elephant in her dream and after that became pregnant. The Buddha appeared to this world through his mother’s side and made seven steps to the east and said that he would be enlightened. This is believed to happen in Nepal.

Tree means enlightenment as it enlightened Buddha (the ficus tree).

The wheel symbolizes Buddha’s teachings.

C. Kaliasanatha is one of the most ancient temples built in the late 7th century, dedicated to Shiva. It represents Dravidian architecture and the rock-cut ornamentations. The temple is famous for its vertical excavation and pyramid structure. All the carvings are done in many levels. It has a U-shaped courtyard. It is considered to be a traditional Shiva temple with all the endemic features. The shrine is made with pillars, rooms, windows, niches, and many images of deities including mithunas which are erotic female and male figures.

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Taj Mahal is one of eight wonders of the world. The beauty of this Mausoleum is breath-taking. Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan in the memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal at Agra. It had been constructed during over 22 years and completed in 1648 C.E. Taj Mahal stands on the square platform forming an octagon. The main feature of the architectural design is interlocking arabesque and flowery pattern. Fascinating symmetry is preserved in each element. The tomb of the queen is inside. Later on the grave of Shah Jahan was also added. Hundreds if not thousands of precious gems were used to decorate the temple. The Mausoleum is an outstanding monument of Islamic decoration and is built entirely of white marble.

The University of Jodhpur, or Jai Narain Vyas University, is located in the Indian city Jodhpur. Its construction was finished in June, 1962. Main activities of the University are centered on heritage, society and challenges of the region as its location is in the great Thar Desert. On February 12, 1992 the name of the University was changed to Jai Narain Vyas. The University is supposed to educate in the young students the spirit of dedication, renunciation, single-minded concentration on the achievements of knowledge, and whole-heartedness.

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D. Indian art has always been a very special subject for conversation. It was called to express Indian culture and traditions in its brightest spectrum. Most of the paintings intertwine Indian history, philosophies and religions.

In the famous painting of Rabindranath Tagore ‘Brooding’, the artist depicts a woman whose head is bent and supported by the hand in a very deep thinking. Tagore applies Indian palette of colors – all shades of yellow and brown. This palette adds up a great deal of thoughtfulness and sadness to the painting as if showing all the woes of the poor woman. ‘Brooding’ is a great piece of modern art which is located in the National Gallery in New Delhi.

‘Radha Inviting Krishna to Her Pavilion’ is an ancient piece of artwork dating back to 1634. Nowadays it is located in the Seattle Art Museum. This famous painting depicts the Hindu deities Krishna and Radha which play vital role for the Buddha’s followers. I was intrigued when I saw the inviting gesture of the Radha’s hand to the tent. This gesture was for Krishna, the gesture of the daughter who was swept by the horseman. So much meaning is in one gesture: desperateness, sadness, confidence. The blue fabric of Radha symbolizes the overwhelming sorrowfulness of existence.

The last piece of Indian arts is represented by Basawan and Chatai, 1590. It is called ‘Akbar Tames Mad Elephant, Hawa’i’. The action goes on in front of the Red Fort at Agra. The miniature depicts the savage elephants who are trying to escape sweeping on its way boats and people. No one can control those elephants. People are injured and fall into the water. Bright colors symbolize Indian perception of the world. Despite the action, the picture is quite sad showing how the order can be ruined by unknown, by uneducated.

The main theme of all three paintings is to express the desperateness of human existence. The artists tried to depict in their own ways the sadness of aimless life.

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