Shah Jahan, The Taj Mahal, 1638-1648. White marble, jasper, jade, crystal, turquoise, lapis lazuli, sapphire, carnelian, etc. Agra, Uttar Pradesh.

Art of India

India, a country full of myths and legends – or at least in the view of a Westerner. No doubt India has a fascinating culture, an interesting history, and a long tradition in the fine arts. But when it comes to thinking about India it is always the Taj Mahal we picture. For many a symbol of love beyond death, it should also be a symbol for miserable financing as its construction led to an empty treasury.

The next big thing that comes to mind is the huge film industry of Bollywood which has gathered more and more fans around the world over the last years. With its dancing and singing scenes, simple plots, and more-than-colourful stage settings some find it hard to understand what this success is based on.

A matter of taste: Bollywood dancing.
A matter of taste: Bollywood dancing.

But besides all the kitsch in the Bollywood films Indian cinema also produces serious and intelligent movies that gain international success, like the Indian epic sports drama Lagaan which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2002, being only the third Indian movie ever nominated at the Oscars.

Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India, 2001. Movie Poster.
Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India, 2001. Movie Poster.

So, leaving aside all the clichés about India it is especially Indian art which not only offers a vast overview of Indian culture but also permits a great insight into Indian life throughout time. In its long tradition from early Hindu Art to the time of the Mughal Empire we find a large variety of styles and subjects treated in fine miniatures, precious crafts, old manuscripts, and impressive architecture.

  Bahadur Shah I (1643-1712) (?) on an Elephant (detail of a page from an unknown manuscript), 17th century. Opaque watercolour, 29.6 x 24 cm. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris.

Bahadur Shah I (1643-1712) (?) on an Elephant (detail of a page from an unknown manuscript), 17th century. Opaque watercolour, 29.6 x 24 cm. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris.

Find out more about the Fine Arts in India in our title Art of India.

Mughal Art, Parkstone International
Mughal Art, Parkstone International

 

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