Chapter No. Name of the Topic Page No
1.  Pre- Historic Rock Paintings 2
2. Arts of the Indus Valley 4
3. Arts of the Mauryan period 6
4. Post Mauryan Trends in Indian Art and Architecture 8
5. Later Mural Traditions 17
6. Temple Architecture and Sculpture 20
7. Indian Bronze Sculpture 32
8. Some Aspects of Indo- Islamic Architecture 35


Prehistoric Rock Paintings:

Prehistoric Art
  • Prehistory: Time period in the past when there was no paper or the written word and hence no books or written accounts of events. Information about such an age is obtained from excavations which reveal paintings, pottery, habitat, etc.
  • Drawings and paintings were the oldest form of artistic expression practiced by humans. Reasons for such drawings: Either to decorate their homes, or/and to keep a journal of events in their lives.
  • Lower and middle Palaeolithic Periods have not shown any evidenceof art works so far. The Upper Palaeolithic Age shows a lot of artistic activities.
  • Earliest paintings in India are from the Upper Palaeolithic Age.
  • The first discovery of rock paintings in the world was made in India by archaeologist Archibald Carlleyle in 1867 – 68 (in Sohagighat, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh).
  • Rock paintings have been found in the walls of caves at Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Karnataka, some in the Kumaon Hills of Uttarakhand.
Paintings at the rock shelters
  • Paintings at the rock shelters at Lakhudiyar on the banks of the Suyal River (Uttarakhand) –
  1. 3 categories of paintings: man, animal and geometric patterns in black, white and red ochre.
  1. Humans in stick-like forms, a long-snouted animal, a fox, a multiple-legged lizard, wavy lines, groups of dots and rectangle-filled geometric designs, hand-linked dancing humans.
Paintings in Kupgallu
  • Paintings in Kupgallu (Telangana), Piklihal and Tekkalkota (both in Karnataka)
  1. Mostly in white and red ochre.
  1. Subjects are bulls, sambhars, elephants, sheep, gazelles, goats, horses, stylised humans and tridents.
Paintings in the Vindhya ranges
  • Paintings in the Vindhya ranges at Madhya Pradesh extending into Uttar Pradesh –
  1. About 500 rock shelters at Bhimbetka in the Vindhya Hills at Madhya Pradesh.
  2. Images of hunting, dancing, music, elephant and horse riders, honey collection, animal fighting, decoration of bodies, household scenes, etc.
  3. Bhimbetka drawings can be categorised into 7 Periods.
    1. Period I: Upper Palaeolithic
    2. Period II: Mesolithic
    1. Period III: Chalcolithic
Two major sites of prehistoric rock/cave paintings in India Two major sites of prehistoric rock/cave paintings in India: Bhimbetka Caves and Jogimara Caves (Amarnath, Madhya Pradesh)

Bhimbetka Paintings

  • Continuous occupation of these caves from 100000 BC to 1000 AD.
  • Discovered by archaeologist V S Wakankar in 1957 – 58.
  • One of the oldest paintings in India and the world.

Period I (Upper Palaeolithic)

  1. Linear representations of animals like bisons, tigers, elephants, rhinos and boars; stick-like human figures.
  2. Paintings in green and dark red. Green paintings are of dancers and red ones are of hunters.

Period II (Mesolithic)

  1. The largest number of paintings in this period.
  2. More themes but paintings reduce in size.
  3. Mostly hunting scenes – people hunting in groups with barbed spears, arrows and bows, and pointed sticks. Also show traps and snares to catch animals.
  4. Hunters wear simple clothes; some men are shown with head dresses and masks. Women have been shown both clothed and in the nude.
  5. Animals seen – elephants, bisons, boars, tigers, deer, antelopes, leapards, panthers, rhinos, frogs, lizards, fish, squirrels and birds.
  6. Children are seen playing and jumping. Some scenes depict family life.

Period III (Chalcolithic)

  1.    Paintings indicate an association of these cave-dwellers with the agricultural communities settled at Malwa.
  2.    Cross-hatched squares, lattices, pottery and metal tools are depicted.
  3.    Colours used in Bhimbetka paintings- white, yellow, orange, red ochre, purple, brown, green and black. Most common colours– white and red.
  4.    Red obtained from haematite (geru); green from chalcedony; white probably from limestone.
  5.     Brushes were made from plantfibre.
  6.     In some places, there are many layers of paintings, sometimes 20.
  7.    Paintings can be seen in caves that were used as dwelling places and also in caves that had some other purpose, perhaps religious.
  1.    The colours of the paintings have remained intact thousands of years perhaps due to the chemical reaction of the oxide present on the rock surface.

Mural Painting In India:

  • After Ajanta, very few sites with paintings have survived.
  • In many places, sculptures were also plastered and painted.
  • Example of later mural tradition.
  • Badami was the capital of the western Chalukyan dynasty.
  • This dynasty ruled the area from 543 CE to 598 CE.
  • Chalukya king Mangalesha patronised the excavation of the Badami caves.
  • Mangalesha was the younger son of Pulakesi I and the brother of Kirtivarman I.
  • Cave No. 4 is also known as the Vishnu Cave because of the dedication of the image of Vishnu. The date 578 – 579 CE is mentioned here. Thus, we get the period during which the cave was carved and also the Vaishnava leanings of the patron.
  • Paintings depict palace scenes. A painting shows Kirtivarman seated in the palace and watching a dance scene with his wife and feudatories.
  • The paintings are an extension of the mural painting tradition from Ajanta to Badami in south India.
  • The faces of the king and queen are reminiscent of the modelling seen in Ajanta, with their eye-sockets large, eyes half-closed and protruding lips.
  • These artists of the 6th century CE were able to create volume by contouring different parts of the face to create protruding structures of the face itself.
Murals under the Pallava, Pandava and Chola Kings The Pallavas succeeded the Chalukyas further south in Tamil Nadu.

  • They were great patrons of the arts.
  • Mahendravarma I (7th century) built many temples in Panamalai, Mandagapattu and Kanchipuram.
  • An inscription at Mandagapattu mentions the king Mahendravarma I with several titles such as Vichitrachitta (curious-minded), Chaityakari (temple-builder) and Chitrakarapuli (tiger among artists) – showing his interest in artistic activities.
  • Paintings at the temple at Kanchipuram was patronised by the Pallava king Rajasimha.
  • Painting of Somaskanda here – only traces remain – large, round face.
  • There is increased ornamentation in this period as compared to the previous. But, the depiction of the torso is much the same although a bit elongated.

Pandyas also patronised art.

  • Examples: Tirumalaipuram caves and Jaina caves at Sittanvasal.
  • Paintings are seen on the ceilings of the shrine, in verandas and on the brackets.
  • Dancing figures of celestial nymphs are seen.
  • Contours are in vermillion red and the bodies are painted yellow. Dancers have expressions on their faces and show supple limbs. Their eyes are elongated and sometimes protrude off the face. This is a distinctive feature seen in many later paintings in the Deccan and South India.

The Cholas ruled over the region from 9th to the 13th century CE.

  • The Cholas were at the height of their power in the 11th century CE and this is when their masterpieces appear.
  • Temples built during the reign of Rajaraja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola – Brihadeswara Temple at Thanjavur, at Gangaikonda Cholapuram, at Darasuram.
  • Chola paintings are seen in Nartamalai. Most important paintings are seen in the BrihadeswaraTemple.
  • Two layers of paint were seen. The upper layer was executed during the Nayakaperiod (16th century). The Cholapaintings (original layer) depict narrations and various forms of Lord Shiva, Shiva in Kailas, Shiva as Nataraja, as Tripurantaka. Also there is a portrait of Rajaraja, his mentor Kuruvar, etc.
Vijayanagara Murals
    • After the Chola decline, the Vijayanagara Dynasty brought the region from Hampi to Trichy under its control.
    • Hampi was the capital.
    • Paintings at Tiruparakunram, near Trichy (14th century), represent the early phase of the Vijayanagara style.
  • Virupaksha Temple at Hampi
      • Paintings on the ceilings of the Mandapa.
      • Depicting events from dynastic history and also from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.
      • Examples of paintings: portraying Vidyaranya, Bukkaraya Harsha’s spiritual teacher carried in a palanquin in a procession; incarnations of Vishnu.
      • Faces and figures are shown in profile. Large frontal eyes, narrow waists.
    • Lepakshi in Andhra Pradesh – paintings on the walls of the Shiva Temple.
  • Features of Vijayanagara paintings:
    • Lines are still but fluid.
    • Faces are in profile.
    • Figures and objects are shown twodimensionally.
    • These features were adopted by later artists such as those of the NayakaPeriod.
Nayaka Paintings
    • Extension of the Vijayanagarastyles.
  • 17th and 18th centuries.
  • Seen in Thiruparakunram, Sreerangam and Tiruvarur.
  • Nayaka paintings showcase episodes of Mahabharata, Ramayana and Krishna Leela.
  • In Thiruparakunram, paintings from two periods are observed – 14th and 17th centuries.
  • The 14th-century paintings show scenes from the life of Mahavira.
  • In Tiruvarur, there is a panel describing the story of Machukunda.
  • Sri Krishna Temple at Chengam, Arcot – 60 panels narrating the Ramayana. (Late phase of the Nayaka period).
  • Male figures are shown with slim waists but less heavy abdomens.
  • Painting of Nataraja at Tiruvalanjuli – good example of Nayaka art.
Kerala Murals (16th – 18th centuries)
    • The distinct style was developed but a lot of the features of the Nayaka and Vijayanagara styles were adopted.
    • The artists took ideas from the contemporary traditions of Kathakali and Kalam Ezhuthu.
    • Vibrant and luminous colours, human figures shown 3-dimensionally.
    • Paintings on the walls of the shrines, on cloister walls of temples, also in palaces.
    • The theme of the paintings – from locally popular episodes of Hindu mythology, local versions of the Mahabharata and Ramayana through oral traditions.
  • More than 60 sites with mural paintings
    • Three palaces: Dutch Palace (Kochi), Krishnapuram palace (Kayamkulam), Padmanabhapuram palace (Travancore, now in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu).
    • Pundareekapuram Krishna temple
    • Panayanarkavu (temple), Thirukodithanam
    • Sri Rama temple, Triprayar
    • Vadakkunathan temple, Thrissur
Traditional forms of murals:
  • Pithoro in parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat.
  • Mithila paintings, Mithila region,
  • Bihar Warli paintings, Maharashtra



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