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Unveiling the extensive heritage and history of Indian painting

Paintings of the Indian tradition have an age-old history that dates back to early prehistoric times. Indian art is also considered the oldest in the world by many archaeologists and historians. Due to its great historical value, it serves as a great influence to upcoming artists of today. Classical art was usually influenced by culture, religion and politics through the use of intelligent metaphors. They dealt with art pieces that were made to evoke an emotional response in an individual as well as insightful depictions of popular world views. 

Broadly, Indian paintings can be classified into three main categories - murals, miniatures and paintings on cloth. Murals involve all art forms that have been created on solid structures. This form of art was extremely common during ancient and prehistoric times. On the contrary, cloth paintings came into existence much later, particularly when folk art started becoming a prominent form of art. The earliest record of Indian paintings is the murals that were an integral part of the Indus Valley civilization. These paintings could be found on the walls of caves in the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. These paintings usually showcased images of animals and the everyday activities of people. With time, mankind evolved, as did their comprehension of the world around them, this helped in the emergence of more complex art forms with different colours and materials obtained from nature. This was seen in the paintings of the Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic traditions. Then came the paintings during the time of Independence. A lot of these paintings found their inspiration from popular Western techniques such as oil paintings and easels. 

Given the long and rich history of Indian art, there has been the emergence of multiple forms of Indian paintings. The earliest records of Indian paintings are the murals of Bhimbetka rock shelters. These prehistoric paintings were known as petroglyphs. Animals and day-to-day activities were most commonly seen in these murals. Then, there were murals during medieval times that usually dealt with religious themes. However, there were a few secular murals during this time, including the murals found in the caves of Joggimara and Sita Bengra. This was followed by the miniature paintings of the pre-11th century times. The survival of early miniature paintings was mainly found on boxes or in texts. However, the paintings on cloth did not stand the test of time. 


Q1. What are the most famous forms of Indian paintings? 

The most popular forms of Indian folk paintings are Madhubani paintings, Warli paintings, Kalighat paintings, Phad paintings, Miniature paintings, Gond paintings, Kerala murals, Patachitra paintings, and Pichwai paintings. 

Q2. What was the purpose of these paintings in Indian culture? 

Over the years, the purpose of Indian paintings has evolved to a vast extent. During prehistoric times and the years that followed, these paintings were used as an educational tool to help people learn about the kings and emperors of the time. Apart from this, they were also used to spread religious and spiritual awareness.