Indian traditional art and its zesty heritage is a direct corollary of diverse cultural influence.

Starting right from the rock art or petroglyphs to crisp contemporary paintings of today, Indian art and its traditional affluence can be seen across India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.

The vivaciousness, the enchantment, the distinctiveness, and the ecstasy of Indian art refers to a number of civilizations that have thrived here.

Also, India is the birthplace for a variety of religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism. This is why Indian art is filled with artworks having subject matters along the line of religious and political themes.

Let’s take a dive into the colorful and bumpy ride of Indian art through the history:

Indian Art – Square One

Albeit the never-ending debate about the correct age of Indian art, archeologists have successfully forecasted the birth of Indian art way back to 290000 years ago (approximately).

This is done by collecting evidence of the prehistoric rock artworks found in Bhimbetka caves in Central India.

These artworks are typically cupules that aren’t useful as a thing but are visually attractive and are crafted in a hemispherical cup shape. Artists of that time superbly cut the depressions out of the rock surface using a hammer.

The petroglyph art survived in the Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic era and often revolves around the subject matters like animals and human forms.  

If you want to track the creation of first art sculpture, records tell that it happened during the Indus Valley civilization era; i.e. 2500 B.C. to 1800 B.C.

These sculptures were made mainly using terracotta and bronze material with humans and animals as their common theme.

With the upsurge of Buddhism around the 6 century BC, the trend for religious-themed around begun in India. First to be created were the impeccable Bronze and Stone carved sculptures.

This was the time that the artists across India started experimenting with the manufacturing of vast temples that were made using stones.

Sculptures become the common style of art among Hindus and Buddhists. However, Hinduism dominated the spectrum of Indian art with depictions of Lord Shiva being continuously used by artists.

Sooner, Radha Krishna paintings and Ganesha artworks also gained popularity among the Indian masses.

By the beginning of the 16th century, Islam became popular as a religion in India under the Mughal regime. Traditional Indian art was now flourishing under the Islamic rulers.

The construction of monumental Taj Mahal started in the year 1631 and thus marked the beginning of a much-mixed blend of Indian art.

By the time the 18th century came, the British got involved in India’s invasion through imperialism. With the arrival of the British, the dawn of the academic style of painting began.

The British had incepted a number of art schools across the major cities of India to encourage a western style of painting. Consequently, a number of artists started using British style of art mixed with Indian cultural values and produce mesmerizing paintings.

In the 20th century; i.e. in 1947, India won its independence from the British colonial rule. Artists now started experimenting with new styles and forms to give Indian art a new face.

From traditional Indian art to the new-look contemporary style, the journey of Indian art has been full of varied forms, genres, and styles.

Kinds of Indian art existed

India was and still is a big nation in terms of geographic range. So, for different regions, a varied form of art always existed.

Religion remained one of the major themes for all sorts of artists.

Along with this, the narration of mythological events, mundane life routines of people, and representation of animal forms become the main subject matter for Indian artists.

However, when it comes to defining the main forms of Indian art, it can be classified in three:

  • Painting
  • Architecture
  • Sculpture


Traditional Indian art and even the contemporary genre of today’s art showcases a special inclination towards paintings.

Indian historic and modern era have different painting styles that originated due to varied traditions, customs, and distinctive thought processes.

Traditional Indian art Paintings crafted in the earlier times are known to be made on walls or murals.

Coming to modern times, artists started using different materials like paper, canvas, cloth, etc. Some of the popular paintings of traditional Indian art are:

Madhubani – Believed to be originated during the time of Ramayana in the Mithila region of Bihar, Madhubani paintings mainly revolved around the themes of flora fauna, representations of animal forms and depicting humans.

Miniature – This impeccable art form is known for its vivacious demonstrations for manuscripts. The initial miniature paintings were made using palm leaves. These paintings were specifically made for the merchants who used to take these art pieces along with them. This art form saw its upsurge during the Mughal and Rajput regime.

Pattachitra – Originated in Odisha in 12th century BC, Pattachitra is another astounding traditional Indian art type that is famous. Also known as cloth picture, Pattachitra is highly praised for the intricate details and splendid narrative of mythological events.

Warli – This folk painting style is believed to be 2500 years old. With its birthplace in Maharashtra, Warli paintings were initially made on the walls of huts and were made using linear and monochromatic shades.

Thanjavur – Originated somewhere between 16th and 18th century, this art style comes from South India. The main feat of this art style is that Thanjavur paintings are done on a wooden plank. Artists typically keep a God or Goddess as the main subject matter for such pieces.

Kalamkari – Coming from the state of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, this is a kind of hand-printed or block-printed cotton art. It was originally crafted to make narrative scrolls and panels inspired by the Persian culture.

Gond – This art form comes from the Gond tribe. Originated in central India, Gond paintings are known to celebrate nature. Artists creating Gond paintings often take anything from luscious green to animals as themes. These paintings are exclusive because they are made using dots and dashes.

Phad – Another Indian folk art that is produced thousands of years ago. With religious events and characters as its main subject matter, Phad style often covers war scenes, adventurous tales, stories of deities, etc.

Ending Statement

Talking of architecture, Ajanta & Ellora caves, Taj Mahal, temples of South India (because the ancient temples and universities of India were demolished by Islamic invaders), and the impressive structuring of the city of Chandigarh are some of the notable feats.

Similarly, Sculptures also have a vast history in India. This form is one of the favorites of Indian artists who were inclined towards religious themes.

The ‘Dancing girl of Mohenjo-Daro’, which is believed to be 4500 years old and is made of soft metal is another superb epitome of traditional Indian art.