History of Indian Art

History of Indian Art

Owing to its rich heritage, India has been referred to as the “Sone ki Chidiya”, i.e. the Golden Sparrow in the past. The earliest forms of Indian Art originated back in around 3500 BC and the history of these forms have been massively influenced by the cultural as well as religious aspects. The diverse culture of the country has its impactful imprint on the aesthetic masterpieces, be it paintings, sculptures, writings or musical works. Having been gloriously blessed with a picturesque landscape and a glorious history, India is renowned as a scintillating combination of spiritual as well as modern! Through this blog, we will take you on a fun-filled ride into the history of Indian art, delving deeper into its milestones as well as a detailed overview of varied styles and forms.

Also Read: Fine Arts Courses

Origins & Evolution of Indian Art

The origins of Indian Art find their way back in the roots of the civilization. It was when the Indus Valley Civilization reached its peak that most Indian art forms are believed to be originated. To help you understand the history of Indian Art through different periods, we have curated a comprehensive table listing down the varied forms found during these times.

Timeline of the History of Indian Art
Period Indian Art Forms
Indian Art from Ancient Times Bhimbetka Prehistoric Art
Indus Valley Art (2nd Century B.C.)
Early Indian Art Buddhist Art from Gandhara and Kushan School (1st Century A.D.)
Caves of Ajanta and Ellora (5th Century A.D.)
Chalukyan Art of Badami(6th Century A.D.)
Medieval Chola Art of Deccan (10-13th Centuries A.D.)
Hoysala Art of Belur and Halebid (12th Century A.D.)
Temples of Khajuraho(10th Century A.D.)
Konark & Kalinga Art(13th Century A.D.)
15th-19th Century Art Moghul Miniatures
Indo-Saracenic Architecture  (Taj Mahal)
Dakhani Miniatures(17-19th Century)
Mysore and Tanjore Schools of Art
Contemporary and Modern Indian Art Raja Ravi Varma Paintings
Textbook Illustrations
Modern Buildings (Lotus Temple)

Also Read: Career in Painting

Ancient Civilisation

From the 2nd Century B.C., the Indus Valley Civilisation flourished in the northwest area of the country, which is Pakistan in the present date. The evolution towards a sophisticated and civilised culture happened in the Harappan period. Roughly dating somewhere from 3200-1200, the history of Indian Art during the Indus Valley civilisation is observed to be influenced by the advancements that happened in Science and Culture. The artistic expression of this period can be traced back in Rock paintings and Temple Arts.

Islamic Influence

Mughal Art
Mughal Era

In the 12th century, there was a gradual Muslim conquest in India with the establishment of various Islamic States during that time. Beautiful influence of Islamic culture came with the invasion of Mughals and other Islamic rulers. With Mughals rule during the 16th century- mid 19th century, changed the entire complexion of the country leaving a lasting impression on India’s Culture, Clothing and especially in Indian Art and Paintings. Their influence can be traced with the architecture and monuments built by them during that time like Taj Mahal.

Colonial Era

A defining moment in the History of Indian Art, which came during the western influence on the country’s heritage, was with the arrival of Vasco da Gama at the end of the 15th century, who established a direct link with India for trade. Slowly and gradually during the 17th century, France, Netherlands and Denmark and England began facilitated trade with India. With the fall of Maratha rule in the 18th century, European countries started entering India from its different regions. The British power expanded with the defeat of Tipu Sultan and by the mid-19th century, the country find itself covered under the British Empire’s governance. The western and European influence on India during that time is something that can be experienced in Indian’s culture and art even today. 

The Independence Era

India became independent on 15th August 1947, after decades of British rule. With raging world wars, invasion, oppression, struggle, independence and evolution of culture, the country went through a long period of struggle and these aspects have impacted the history of Indian art and culture to a very great extent.

History of Indian Art: Forms & Styles

Traditional Indian Art consists of religious characters (Gods and Idols) in Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism which have been a common theme throughout centuries. Sculptures and cave paintings found in the ancient times mainly featured human, mythological, elaborated ornaments and animals forms. In the medieval period, the Islam as well as the Indian art didn’t relinquish figural representations.


Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal

During the latter phase of the medieval period of the history of Indian Art, architecture was mostly focused on religious monuments and buildings. Arguably the two greatest creations of Architecture from Indian subcontinent are Kandariya Mahadeva Hindu Temple at Khajuraho which was built in the 11th century and Taj Mahal at Agra constructed in the 17th century. 

Schools of Paintings

Madhubani Paintings
Madhubani Paintings

Due to the diversity in the geography, climate, demographics and local cultural traditions, there are a varied range of styles of paintings in the country. Indian art has taken shape along the regional lines and due to artistic influence felt in regional borders. Paintings and art forms in India is a complex patchwork of different styles and approaches to both figure drawings and paintings. Some of the well-known paintings in the history of Indian Art are:

  • Madhubani Paintings
  • Rajput Paintings
  • Miniature Paintings
  • Mysore Paintings
  • Bengal Paintings

Those curious about delving deeper into the history of Indian Art, there is a plethora of courses on offer in this vast domain of study. Check out our exclusive blogs on the different degree programs in Arts and History that you can choose from:

Hence, we hope that this blog has helped you understand the history of Indian Art, its origins and various forms and styles. If you are interested in exploring the arena of History but don’t know which program to opt for, then sign up for a 30-minute free career counselling session with our Leverage Edu experts and we’ll guide you in finding a suitable course and university that fits your interests and preferences and equips you with the required knowledge and exposure to discover this field.

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