The influence of Hinduism on Indian Art

India is a land of religion, rich culture and traditional arts influenced by ancient faiths including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity and medieval religions such as Islam and Sikhism. The heavy influence of these world religions is reflected in all its art forms such as music, dance, painting and sculpture, literature and poetry. Though this article deals only with the impact of Hinduism on Indian Art, it must be remembered that almost all religion and faith shaped the way Indian artists brought out some their best works. Many famous Indian paintings have had Hinduism as its core theme around which the mythological characters artistically revolve.

Several Indian artists found the message of Hinduism to humanity clear, influential and effective even today. It is clear that artists wanted to propagate the message in many of their artistic works. The two great epics of India, Mahabharata and Ramayana stand as beacon light in guiding humanity toward dharma, the righteous part. Indian artists missed no opportunity in disseminating the message through their paintings. Indian paintings can be divided into two broad categories – Murals and Miniatures.

Murals are huge paintings usually done on larger canvases such as ceilings, walls, roofs, etc. Conversely, Miniature paintings are small in size. These colourful handmade paintings have a unique style with a long history that dates back to Indian medieval age. They can be witnessed in the Ajanta and Ellora caves in Maharashtra. There are a lot of huge rock cut sculptures and tomb paintings in India that carry the teachings of the Hindu scriptures.

One of the oldest religions in India, Hinduism, spread its wings from India to many South-Asian countries. Several Hindu gods and goddesses are depicted in several Indian paintings. The Tanjore and Mysore paintings are known worldwide for the way they have depicted the Hindu epics. Krishna, the Hindu lord, is the most recurring character in Indian paintings. The Madhubani and Rajput paintings portray the life and times of Lord Krishna magically with vibrant colours and superb brush strokes. In Bengal, the Kalighat paintings are renowned for their depiction of goddess Kali. Devotees of Kali buy this painting as a souvenir when they visit any Kali temple in the Indian state of West Bengal. The Phad paintings of Rajasthan are unique in that they are scroll paintings depicting the folk deities. Local priests use these paintings as mobile temples. They come in a range of sizes from a couple of feet to 30-ft long mega handmade paintings. Hindu Indian Art has had seen tremendous heights since the Mauryan, Gupta and Rajput dynasties. The common thread running in most Indian paintings is the spiritual theme. Besides miniature paintings, many artists have created stone sculptures and statues dedicated to Hindu deities.

Indian art forms aren’t just confined to paintings. Archaeological evidence in India shows that statues of gods and goddesses were ancient and popular. The local people worshiped them and most ancient temples house these deities even today for worshippers. While Tanjore and Mysore artists made use of precious metals and stones in most of their paintings, there are other art forms that employ basic and natural pigments to create paintings. Kalamkari and Pattachitra are fine examples of such forms of paintings. Pattachitra, still practiced in the state of Odisha, literally means “Leaf paintings”. Natural colours that are extracted from leaves, flowers, etc are made use of with chalk or charcoal as base so as to enable the colour stick nicely to the leaf. Jainism too has encouraged palm paintings over several centuries.

Paintings have always acted as vehicles for propagation of Hindu teachings to the masses. Because ancient and medieval India was mostly literate, religious teachings were done only through paintings, sculptures and other art forms. They also became a source for artists to express their religious and spiritual beliefs. It should be said that Indian paintings are a clear refection of the rich Indian cultural values and ethos, with a unique fusion of art and religion.