Most of us as children have gazed in wonderment at the      
vibrant and varied patterns produced by a kaleidoscope.        
India is in many ways a magical kaleidoscope that has many       
hues, varied character, and yet as a whole, it is in no way     
discordant. India of the 21st century is very much a product     
of an ethos that is over 5,000 years old. Although technology     
and Westernization have created what we perceive as a new     
image, the roots are deep and most of the character of the     
country and its people is the continuity in its living traditions -     
some of which can be traced to pre-historic times.     
        The art, religion, and culture are unique to the subcontinent and find
        no parallel anywhere in the world. The story begins with the Indus
        Valley Civilization (c. 2700 BC), which was very advanced, followed
        by the Aryan migration that brought with it the Vedas and a new way
        of life. The country then witnessed the birth of several great religious
        pontiffs, Parshvanatha (817BC), Mahavira (580BC) and the Buddha
        (563BC). The many religions co-existed and thrived. Today, Hinduism,
        Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Judaism, as well as
       numerous others all thrive and each is unique.

  Unlike the western concept where art is termed as an inner expression of the artist and his or  
  her emotions; in India, art was an integral part of the social ethos and in many cases a religious  
  expression the forms whether of architecture or sculpture tell a story integral to itself. For   
  example a Buddhist or Jain image reflects inner peace, the freeing of the soul from the fetters  
  of existance. On the other hand a Hindu image would emphasize the mood or nature of the deity,  
  Shiva would be shown as a lingam, dancer, or ascetic, while the goddess may be ferocious or   
  benign, Vishnu on the other hand would assume a form depending on his avatar, as Narsimha he  
  would be half lion half man, while as Krishna he would be either the divine lover or Vishvarupa,  
  a being that has no beginning or end.  
The craftsmen were secular and worked in guilds following priestly      
instructions and rigid architectural and iconographic rules. These      
directions were outlined in the texts which detailed exactly how a temple      
was to be built, the mandala, the procedure to be followed in the sculpting      
and placement of images, as well as the step by step conducting of      
rituals. But, in spite of these restrictions the forms were not rigid instead,      
be it architectural or sculptural, written or painted, the expressions      
seemed to seek the Absolute, of the world yet not a part of it, sensuous      
yet divine, vital and ever lasting.      
Often even in a metropolis like Mumbai, which is considered to be of the present period one finds    
that one is a part of history - home is adjacent to 2nd century BC caves. Not only in Mumbai but    
also in any part of India the past and present go hand in hand. From caves to temples, from   
riverbanks to shores one can traverse the length and breadth of this vast country and revel in    
its many facets.
 subject moderators    
 social landscapes    
 pot pourri    
  Wooden and brick structures, elaborate caves which served as places of learning as well as worship,  
  structural temples, forts, palaces, mosques all vie with one another to tell a tale of faith, life, valour,  
  and beauty.  
  How did these forms develop, who built them, what do the frescoes tell us are questions that the  
  archaeologist, historian, and other scholars have, through the centuries, tried to unravel. History  
  has been recorded in various inscriptions and manuscripts.  
    The art of clay can be traced to Mohenjodaro and Harrappa and with time beautiful forms developed  
    that are currently being produced. The terracottas as well as sculptures of the Gandhara, Maurya,  
    Kushana, Gupta and later periods reflect the advancement in techniques as well as art expressions.  
    Tribal images exude a power and vitality seldom seen and today, have departed from being only  
    religious expressions to being art forms in collections of museums and homes.  
    The earliest known bronze image is that of the dancing girl of Mohenjodaro, bronze images were an  
    integral part of worship and were, processional icons. Today, bronzes of Kashmir, Akota, and south  
    India, of the Chola and Pallava period, as well as tribal images such as that of Bastar are prized  
    possessions. The metal images are varied in every way, bronze casting was perfected and beautiful  
    images of gods and goddesses were cast as icons of worship or utsav murtis. Images of Ganesha riding  
    his mouse, Shiva tandav with his leg raised with flames dancing around his head, Krishna as a child  
    standing on the hood of the serpent demon Kalia, or calling out to the gopis, head to one side playing  
    the flute. Each image became distinctive and reflected the style of the period when it was cast. The  
    bronze casters fashioned the images according to the specific iconography outlined in the religious texts.  

    Unlike the artisans of present times creativity did not have artistic license and all the crafts had to fit  
    within religious precepts. Painting as an expression dates to the period of the Ajanta Caves  murals  
    captivate the visitor. Literature records that the palaces and homes were richly adorned with murals  
    while smaller paintings were executed on boards. The artist when painting murals, patas, or manuscripts  
    worked within a set format and was in most cases a part of an atelier or group. Palm leaf, and paper,  
    manuscripts form records of Buddhist, Jain and Hindu traditions not only of painting as a form, but of  
    literature. With the establishment of the Mughals, painting took new expressions and the studios  
    maintained by the royalty in the Mughal, Rajasthani, and Pahari states produced works that  covered  
    not only religious manuscripts but wars, poems, seasons, court scenes, nature, equestrian portraits,  
    legends, myths and many other subjects.  
The traditions of minature painting, in the 17th-18th centuries gave way to forms from Europe and 
soon expressions in oil and water colour were in vogue. The setting up of art schools resulted in formal
teaching of the arts. The artist was able to choose the medium as well as had a freedom of  expression -
he could give shape to images of his heart and mind.
India is a nation where there is continuity as well as change.
       Suggested Museums to visit:    
       India:        Abroad:
       1. National Museum, Delhi        1. Berlin Museum, Germany
       2. Bharat Kala Bhavan, Varanasi        2. British Museum, London
       3.Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai        3. Victoria and Albert Museum, London
       4. Baroda Museum, Vadodara        4. Musee Guimet, Paris
       5. Salarjung Museum, Hyderabad        5. Smithsonian Institution, USA
       6. Indian Museum, Calcutta  

Love, Sudha