Art and Culture

Indian art and culture are greatly influenced by the religions professed in this country.

The first expressions of indian art are present in the pottery and seals of the Harappan Culture. During the Vedic period sacred books were written and, even today, they still have great importance in the indian culture (the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are examples of them). Ayurveda books were also written at the time, they were divided in Ayurvedic Clinical Medicine -presented in the Charaka Samhita- and Ayurvedic Surgery Medicine -presented in the Sushruta Samhita-.

The development of art takes place during the Mauryan period. In terms of architecture, stone is the material the most used. Among the most used decoration themes are the palmettes, the zoomorphic capitals, and the lion ornaments simbolizing the Buddha. It is during this time that Buddhism develops and the tipical constructions of this religion begin appearing, such as stupas (used to store sacred relics), chaityas (the halls enclosing the stupas) and viharas (monasteries). It’s also during this time when Buddha is first represented in human form, with the right shoulder uncovered and the palm of the hand extended outwards to show lack of fear.

Muslim Art – The muslim invasion also leaves its mark in the art of India. So much so that Islamic elements, such as minarets and domes, appear next to typical hindu elements, such as mandapams and kudu-arches. The 72.55 meter Qutb ud Din Aibak results impressive, so do the Jaunpur Mosques and the Mausoleum of Sher Shah in Sasaram.

Mongol Art – Mongol Empire domination brings the richness of materials like white marble and precious stones, the inlaid stone decorations, and the integration with nature inspired elements and surrounding gardens. Both styles, islamic and mongol, merge together in unique constructions around the world such as the Taj Mahal, in the city of Agral, or the Delhi Red Fort. It’s also worth mentioning the indian and mongol miniatures of this period.

European Influence – British India characterizes for the colonial style buildings with white columns and the Victorian Style constructions -mostly Neo-Gothic- commonly referred to with the pejorative term “Babú”.


Indian paint includes frescoes and smaller scale paintings on pieces of cloth and manuscripts. It mostly represents religiouss themes, heroic deeds or nature elements. Colours tend to be brilliant and intense.

Indian literature is found in palm leaf manuscripts stored in wooden planks or wrapped in protective cloth. This means of storage has made it possible to preserve volumes from the X and XI centuries almost intact.

It was during the medieval India that the two longest epic poems in world literature, Ramayana and Mahabharata, were translated. It was also during the medieval times that great poet-saints emerged. That is the case of Surdas, blind poet and musician; princess Meerabai, who, in her devotional poetry, identified herself as the spouse of Krishna; and Jayadava with his wonderful love poem “Gita Govinda”.

The mongol dynasties promoted the production of books, mostly autobiographical, like: the Tuzuk-I-Jahangiri, the Memoirs of Babur, The Memoirs of Timur, and The Memoirs of Akbar composed of three books that narrate the official chronicle of the time. Ever since the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Rabindranath Tagore, in 1913, indian literature has been gaining world recognition. Today, numerous young authors like Mala Sen continue gaining positions in world literature.


Indian dance and music are two arts of ancient tradition that constantly express the hindu conception of the world, life and love. Music surprises for its own style where the rhythms play another role, the harmonies combine in unusual ways and the intervals give a magical, mystical air to the moment. It’s about a different music, one that catches the listener even without knowing the history and the culture of India.

Most of the melodies and theatre pieces are based on ancient legends, on popular stories, or in the changes of nature that causes so much admiration in this quite non-materialistic culture. But dont just think that music is the same all over india; each zone has its own variety, although we will now mention only two of them: the hindustaní music developed in the north of the country, and the carnatic music, proper of the south. The carnatic music intends to revive the dravidian culture, the beauty and the emotions it can provoke are indescribable. In Vedic Science, the Gandharva Veda is the music of Nature that expresses the Natural Law through sound by mean of Ragas.

Dance, on another side, is a whole tradition in this country. The image of women dancing in transparent and colorful clothing, wearing beautiful jewelry and with their dark hair up, anticipates the joy of the dance. A dance in which the body language, the hands in the form of prayer and the exchange of glances show the beauty, the armony and the coquetry of indian women.


Indian film industry is the largest in the world in terms of number of films produced; more than 12.000 movie halls across the country reflect the indian love for cinema. Actors like Amitabh Bachchan are true idols for the people, in fact, many actors have succeded in the world of politics as well; Bachchan, Ranachandran and Rama Rao are among them. Movie arguments tend to be moralistic, good always defeats evil, as can be seen in the films directed by Manmohan Desai, one of the public’s favorite directors. The songs and the dances are another typical ingredient of the indian screens. Most of the fims are hindi spoken and have become a true escape from everyday life for indians.

Over the last ten years, the industry has begun producing movies with social content. That is the case of “Rao Saheb”, from Viajaya Mehta, that explores the tragic predicament of women in the traditional Indian society and the case of other higher-quality films such as “Holi”, from Ketan Mehta, or “Ekte Jibah” from Raja Mitra. Directors like Mira Nair have also stood out inside and outside of india; he has presented the world of children living in the streets of Mumbai in “Salaam Bombay” and the world of love and sensuality in“Kama Sutra”. The renowned filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, director of “The sixth sense” among others, was born in India as well.

Bollywood is the largest film producer in India and one of the largest centres of film production in the world. The movie “Slumdog millonaire” won 8 Oscars, including the category best picture.