Art History - Indian

Dancing Girl

Original Location: Mohenjodaro, Sindh, Pakistan.
Present Location: National Museum, New Delhi
Date: Circa 2500 BCE
Material: Bronze
Style: Indus Valley Civilization
Dimensions: H 10.5 x W 5 x D 2.5 cm
The ‘Dancing Girl’ is a sculpture made of bronze. It belongs to the Indus Valley Civilization and dates back to circa 2500 BCE. It is 10.5 cm in height, 5 cm in width and 2.5 cm in depth. Presently, it is on display in the Indus Valley Civilization gallery in the National Museum, New Delhi.
This small but unique statue gives us an idea of the skill of the artisans of that time. The statue is of a thin young woman standing with her right hand on the back of her hip and the left hand resting on her left thigh. Her features are prominent with large eyes, curly hair and a flat nose. She appears to be naked and is wearing only a necklace alongside some bangles. Her hair is plaited on the back and neatly tied in a bun. Her arms are unnaturally long, which is a common feature of the artefacts of that time. Her head is tilted slightly backwards. An interesting fact to notice is that the number of bangles in her hands differ. She has 24 bangles in one hand and 4 in the other. There is no evidence that she is dancing and she may not even represent a female dance but due to her pose in the sculpture, she was named as the Dancing Girl. The sculpture was made using the ‘Lost Wax’ method where the artist makes a wax model after which a mold is created from this model. This wax model is then covered with a clay coating, leaving some holes as passageways. When the clay-covered molds are heated in the ovens, the wax melts out. When the mold has cooled, the outer clay envelope is chipped off and the craftsperson can then put the finishing touches to the solid bronze statue.

Resource link:
Click: Dancing Girl | INDIAN CULTURE
Click: Dancing Girl (sculpture) – Wikipedia

Earthenware Pottery- Indus Valley Civilization

Original Location: Harappan, Southern Pakistan.
Date: 2600-2450 BC
Material: Terracotta
Style: Indus Valley Civilization
Dimensions: 19 1/2 x 10 in. (49.53 x 25.4 cm)

A large quantity of pottery excavated from the sites of Indus valley Civilization, enable us to understand the gradual evolution of various design motifs as employed in different shapes, and styles. The Indus Valley pottery consists chiefly of very fine wheel made wares, very few being hand-made. Plain pottery is more common than painted ware. Plain pottery is generally of red clay, with or without a fine red or grey slip. It includes knobbed ware, ornamented with rows of knobs. The black painted ware has a fine coating of red slip on which geometric and animal designs are executed in glossy black paint. Polychrome pottery is rare and mainly comprises small vases decorated with geometric patterns in red, black, and green, rarely white and yellow. Incised ware is also rare and the incised decoration was confined to the bases of the pans, always inside and to the dishes of offering stands. Perforated pottery includes a large hole at the bottom and small holes all over the wall, and was probably used for straining beverages. Pottery for household purposes is found in as many shapes and sizes as could be conceived of for daily practical use. Straight and angular shapes are an exception, while graceful curves are the rule. Miniature vessels, mostly less than half an inch in height are, particularly, so marvelously crafted as to evoke admiration.
Resource link:
Click: Chapter-2.pmd (
Click: Pottery | Harappa

Pancha Rathas

Original Location: Mamallapuram, Kanchipuram district, Tamil Nadu, India
Date: 630–668 AD
Material: Monolith Rock
Style: Pallava dynasty
Pancha Rathas (also known as Five Rathas or Pandava Rathas) is a monument complex at Mahabalipuram, on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, in the Kancheepuram district of the state of Tamil Nadu, India. Pancha Rathas is an example of monolithic Indian rock-cut architecture. The complex was carved during the reign of King Narasimhavarman I (630–668 AD): the idea of realising monolithic buildings, an innovation in Indian architecture, is attributed to this ruler. The complex is under the auspices of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site inscribed by UNESCO as Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram. Each of the five monuments in the Pancha Rathas complex resembles a chariot (ratha), and each is carved over a single, long stone or monolith, of granite which slopes in north-south direction with a slight incline. Though sometimes mistakenly referred to as temples, the structures were never consecrated because they were never completed following the death of Narasimhavarman I. The structures are named after the Pancha Pandavas and their common wife Draupadi, of epic Mahabharata fame. In order of their size, they include the Dharmaraja Ratha, Bhima Ratha, Arjuna Ratha, Nakula Sahadeva Ratha, and Draupadi Ratha.
Resource link:


Original Location: Konark, Puri, Odisha, India
Date: 3th-century CE (year 1250)
Material: Stone
Style: Eastern Ganga Dynasty

The Konark or Konarak Sun temple is dedicated to the Hindu sun god Surya, and, conceived as a giant stone chariot with 12 wheels, it is the most famous of the few sun temples built in India. It was built c. 1250 CE by King Narasimhadeva I (r. 1238-1264 CE) of the Eastern Ganga dynasty.
Konarak stands as a classic example of Hindu temple architecture, complete with a colossal structure, sculptures and artwork on myriad themes.
The walls of the temple from the temple’s base through the crowning elements are ornamented with reliefs, many finished to jewelry-quality miniature details. The terraces contain stone statues of male and female musicians holding various musical instruments including the vina, mardala, gini. Other major works of art include sculptures of Hindu deities, apsaras and images from the daily life and culture of the people (artha and dharma scenes), various animals, aquatic creatures, birds, legendary creatures, and friezes narrating the Hindu texts. The carvings include purely decorative geometric patterns and plant motifs. Some panels show images from the life of the king such as one showing him receiving counsel from a guru, where the artists symbolically portrayed the king as much smaller than the guru, with the king’s sword resting on the ground next to him.
The upper levels and terrace of the Konark Sun temple contain larger and more significant works of art than the lower level. These include images of musicians and mythological narratives as well as sculptures of Hindu deities, including Durga in her Mahishasuramardini aspect killing the shape-shifting buffalo demon (Shaktism), Vishnu in his Jagannatha form (Vaishnavism), and Shiva as a (largely damaged) linga (Shaivism).
The temple follows the traditional style of Kalinga architecture. It is oriented towards the east so that the first rays of the sunrise strike the main entrance. The temple, built from Khondalite rocks, was originally constructed at the mouth of the river Chandrabhaga, but the waterline has receded since then. The wheels of the temple are sundials, which can be used to calculate time accurately to a minute.

Lion Capital, Ashokan Pillar

Present Location: Sarnath, India
Date: 250 B.C.E
Material: polished sandstone
Style: 210 x 283 cm
This work talks of the lion capital image that is in Sarnath. Emperor Ashoka was one of the greatest kings of India and a great propagator of Buddhism. During his reign, Ashoka set up many ‘stambhas’ or pillars which had inscriptions that tell us a great deal about his rule. Each pillar had an emblem on top as its capital. The lion capital of emperor Ashoka was found at Sarnath, Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and was chosen as the symbol of the Indian Republic. You will find this lion capital on all Indian coins, notes, government stamps and other official documents. It has four lions facing the four cardinal directions—north, south, east and west. Below the lions is the Buddhist symbol of Dharmachakra known as the wheel of righteousness. The bull symbol denotes strength and goodness, the elephant, the horse and the deer are symbols of power, speed and grace.
Resource link:

Elephanta Cave-Shiva

Present Location: Gharapuri, Maharashtra, India
Date: ca. 5th and 8th century C.E.
Material: Solid basalt rock.
Style: Architecture
Dimensions: 6 metres (20 ft) high Trimurti sculpture

The Elephanta Caves are located in Western India on Elephanta Island (otherwise known as the Island of Gharapuri), which features two hillocks separated by a narrow valley. The small island is dotted with numerous ancient archaeological remains that are the sole testimonies to its rich cultural past. These archaeological remains reveal evidence of occupation from as early as the 2nd century BC. The rock-cut Elephanta Caves were constructed about the mid-5th to 6th centuries AD. The most important among the caves is the great Cave 1, which measures 39 metres from the front entrance to the back. In plan, this cave in the western hill closely resembles Dumar Lena cave at Ellora, in India. The main body of the cave, excluding the porticos on the three open sides and the back aisle, is 27 metres square and is supported by rows of six columns each.
The 7-metre-high masterpiece “Sadashiva” dominates the entrance to Cave 1. The sculpture represents three aspects of Shiva: The Creator, the Preserver, and the Destroyer, identified, respectively, with Aghora or Bhairava (left half), Taptapurusha or Mahadeva (central full face), and Vamadeva or Uma (right half). Representations of Nataraja, Yogishvara, Andhakasuravadha, Ardhanarishwara, Kalyanasundaramurti, Gangadharamurti, and Ravanaanugrahamurti are also noteworthy for their forms, dimensions, themes, representations, content, alignment and execution.
Resource link:


Title: Shiva as Lord of Dance (Nataraja)
Period: Chola period (880–1279)
Date: ca. 11th century
Material: Copper alloy
Culture: Indian (Tamil Nadu)e
Dimensions: H. 26 7/8 in. (68.3 cm); Diam. 22 1/4 in. (56.5 cm)
As a symbol, Shiva Nataraja is a brilliant invention. It combines in a single image Shiva’s role as creator, preserver, and destroyer of the universe and conveys the Indian conception of the never-ending cycle of time. Although it appeared in sculpture as early as the fifth century, its present, world-famous form evolved under the rule of the Cholas. Shiva’s dance is set within a flaming halo. The god holds in his upper right hand the damaru (hand drum that made the first sounds of creation). His upper left hand holds agni (the fire that will destroy the universe). With his lower right hand, he makes abhayamudra (the gesture that allays fear). The dwarflike figure being trampled by his right foot represents apasmara purusha (illusion, which leads mankind astray). Shiva’s front left hand, pointing to his raised left foot, signifies refuge for the troubled soul. The energy of his dance makes his hair fly to the sides. The symbols imply that, through belief in Shiva, his devotees can achieve salvation.
Resource link:
Shiva as Lord of the Dance (Nataraja) (article) | Khan Academy

Qutab Minar

Present Location: Delhi, Mehrauli, India
Date: 5th and 8th century C.E.
Style: Islamic Architecture style
Dimensions: 72.5 metres (238 ft)

Qutab Minar is a soaring, 73 m-high tower of victory, built in 1193 by Qutab-ud-din Aibak immediately after the defeat of Delhi’s last Hindu kingdom. The tower has five distinct storeys, each marked by a projecting balcony and tapers from a 15 m diameter at the base to just 2.5 m at the top. The first three storeys are made of red sandstone; the fourth and fifth storeys are of marble and sandstone. At the foot of the tower is the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, the first mosque to be built in India. An inscription over its eastern gate provocatively informs that it was built with material obtained from demolishing ’27 Hindu temples’. A 7 m-high iron pillar stands in the courtyard of the mosque. It is said that if you can encircle it with your hands while standing with your back to it your wish will be fulfilled.
Resource link:

Krishna with Gopis(Pahari Miniature)

Artist: Manku
Date: 1730 A.D.
School: Basholi School of Art (Sub school of Pahari School)
Medium: Tempra (water colour) on paper
Dimensions: 20.5*37cm
Courtesy: The national museum, New Delhi

This painting celebrates the entrancing power of spiritual love. … Celebrating both Krishna, the god of love, and the gopis’ unconditional devotion for him. This painting testifies to the power of rasa (mood) in conveying and evoking the spirit of divine love.
The Pahari painting ‘Krishna with Gopis’ belongs to Basohli school of Art. It was painted during 1730 A.D. by the artist Manaku. It was painted in watercolour on paper with Tempera method. Krishna-Lila themes have been depicted through this relevant painting in Pahari School of miniature paintings in our course of study. The theme of this painting has been selected from the ‘Gita Govinda’ series. The painting presents Krishna surrounded by gopis singing and dancing on the bank of river Yamuna. The composition is in typical Basohli style with geometrical pattern. The use of bold colour infused vitality in the painting. Krishna is wearing a bright yellow dress with his upper body naked but ornamented. He is also wearing a crown with jewels and peacock plumes. Five gopis have been shown around Krishna who is in the centre of the painting. They are adoring Krishna who is wearing a graceful loin cloth and is embracing two of the gopis. One gopi is on the right side of the painting with folded hands (seems to be Radha) with an attendant holding a round fan over Radha’s head. Two gopis on the left side are talking to each other (one at the left end is holding chauri). All faces have large lotus-shaped eyes and the same line starting from forehead to nose have been shown beautifully. Hands and feet of gopis have been decorated in red colour. The composition has bright and bold lustrous colours. The small portion of Yamuna river in the foreground has been shown. The background has been depicted in orange colour. We can find some trees with deferent shapes of leaves but they are having the same level of height. One each side a big tree is there in the background. Orange, yellow, sky blue and red colours have been used. Krishna’s crown is very attractive and ornaments of gopis are very decorative.
Resource link:

Banithani(Rajput Miniature Painting)

Artist: Nihal Chand
Date: Circa,1760 A.D.
School: KIishangarh School of Art, Rajasthan
Medium: Tempra (water colour) on paper
Courtesy: The national museum, New Delhi
One of the outstanding Miniature paintings of the Kishangarh is the portrayal of Bani Thani which means smart and well-dressed. It is said that the painting portrays a singer and poet during the reign of King Savant Singh (1748–1764). She is referred as ‘India’s Mona Lisa’. It has jewel-like colours in it. She is depicting the grace and beauty of Indian women in typical Rajasthani attire wearing Gagra-odhna by taking a half ghunghat.
She was a quintessential Indian beauty with her elongated face with a high forehead, arched eyebrows, half open lotus eyes, sharp pointed nose, thin curved sensuous lips and a pointed chin over a long narrow neck. The curl of the hair around the ear added to her innate grace.
Within the Asht Nayika classification system of heroines, the Bani Thani is identified as the Vasakasajja Nayika type, with the element of Sringara rasa (romantic love) predominating. Hence, the painting conveys the passionate and romantic elements of the legend. She has been portrayed with all the elements of Sringara and exaggerated facial features which are unrealistic but striking. This style of portraiture later became the standard of beauty in all the later paintings of the Kishangarh school.
Resource link:

Jahangir holding the picture of Madona (Mughal Miniature Painting)

Artist: Abul Hasan
Period: 1620 A.D. Circa (Jahangir’s time)
Medium: Tempra (water colour) on paper
Courtesy: The national museum, New Delhi
Miniature Art in India truly thrived under the Mughals (16th-18th century AD), defining a rich period in the history of Indian art. The Mughal style of painting was an amalgamation of religion, culture and tradition. Persian styles melded with local Indian art to create a highly detailed, rich art form.
This Painting belongs to Jahagir’s time. It depicts the impact of Jahangir on all religions and shows that even the Christian missionaries also visited his court. The main emphasis in this painting is laid on Calligraphy.
This small but warmly drawn portrait of Jahangir is one of the best studies of the emperor, as also one of the best portraits the world has ever created. He is shown as a handsome young man holding a picture of Madona in his right hand. Jahangir, like his father, was liberal to all religions. The emperor’s head is set in a nimbus with fine rays radiating from the circle. The border is decorated with floral designs executed in gold with beautiful calligraphy in the Nastaliq script. Tradition of embellishing borders by meaningful visuals gave birth to newer experiments, one of the foremost being a well laid text around the main painting. The Mughal miniature portraying Jahangir holding the picture of Madonna has used extracts from the Holy Qu’ran for framing his portrait and balancing the otherwise empty spaces. The Qu’ranic verses, inscribed by Khwaja Abulla Ansari, the well-known calligrapher of Jahangir’s court, are contained in symmetrically drawn columns using decorative elements. The text part in this portrait is neatly and elegantly rendered.
Resource link:
Click here for more information.