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"Art and Culture from the Indian subcontinent"

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

India had always been known as the land that portrayed cultural and traditional vibrancy through its conventional arts, crafts, dance, music and literature. The 35 states and union territories sprawled across the country have their own distinct cultural and traditional identities and are displayed through various forms of art prevalent there. Every region in India has its own style and pattern of art, which is known as folk art. Other than folk art, there is yet another form of traditional art practiced by several tribes or rural population, which is classified as tribal art. The folk and tribal arts of India are very ethnic and simple, and yet colorful and vibrant enough to speak volumes about the country's rich heritage.

Folk art and Tribal Art:

The rural folk paintings of India bear distinctive colorful designs, which are treated with religious and mystical motifs. Some of the most famous folk paintings of India are the Madhubani paintings of Bihar, Patachitra paintings from the state of Odisha, the Nirmal paintings of Andhra Pradesh, Murals of Kerala and other such folk-art forms. Folk art is however not restricted only to paintings, but also stretches to other art forms such as pottery, home decorations, ornaments, cloths-making, and so on. In fact, the potteries of some of the regions of India are quite popular among foreign tourists because of their ethnic and traditional beauty.

Tribal art in India manifests in various forms including pottery, painting, paper-art, weaving, sculpting, metallurgy, and object design involving jewelry and toys. Relevant objects can include masks that are used in religious rituals and ceremonies, paintings, textiles, baskets, kitchen utensils, arms and weapons, religious sculptures (idols) etc. It is also common to have the human body serve as a platform for tribal-art via the practices of piercings and tattoos during festivals and religious celebrations.

Dance and Music:

The regional dances of India, such as the Bhangra dance of Punjab, the Dandiya of Gujarat, the Bihu dance of Assam, etc, which project the cultural heritage of those regions, are prominent contenders in the field of Indian folk art. These folk dances are performed by people to express their exhilaration on every possible event or occasion, such as the arrival of seasons, the birth of a child, weddings, festivals, etc.

India is diversified with its different types of traditional music as well, like Indian classical music, semi-classical music, folk music, etc. They all bear their own distinct features which differ from other types. Each Indian state has its own Folk music which showcases the culture and traditions of that particular region. For example, Lavani of Maharashtra, Bhangra of Punjab, Bihu of Assam and many more. Indian classical music also has different variations region wise.

Indian Classical Music is divided into two sections- Hindustani Classical Music and Carnatic Music.


Indian literature is considered as the oldest literature in the world. The Vedas, Ramayana, and Mahabharata are considered to be nearly 5000 years old. Similarly other examples of ancient Indian literature are Sangam Poetry which dates back to 1st century BC, Arthashastra, and Kamasutra. Apart from being the oldest, Indian literature is also very rich. There are 22 officially recognized languages in India and each one has a huge variety of literature. Among modern Indian literature, the first name that comes to mind is that of Rabindranath Tagore - India's first Nobel laureate. Munshi Premchand is also not far behind.

An important landmark in the cultural history of medieval India was the silent revolution in society brought about by a galaxy of socio-religious reformers, a revolution known as the Bhakti Movement. This movement was responsible for many rites and rituals associated with the worship of God by Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs of Indian subcontinent. For example, Kirtan at a Hindu Temple, Qawaali at a Dargah (by Muslims), and singing of Gurbani at a Gurdwara are all derived from the Bhakti movement of medieval India (800-1700). This movement left behind a rich literary treasure.

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