• Atul Prasad

The Culture of Art

What is Art?


Art is any creative work of a human being; a form of expressing oneself; the act of making something visually entertaining; that activity which manifests beauty;


Art is mastery, an ideal way of doing things. Art is not a thing — it is a way. Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known. But the thing about art is that it’s so diverse that there are as many ways to understand it as there are people. And art and culture play an important role in the development of any nation. It represents a set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices. Culture and creativity manifest themselves in almost all economic, social and other activities. A country as diverse as India is symbolised by the plurality of its culture, and India has one of the world’s largest collections of songs, music, dance, theatre, folk traditions, performing arts, rites and rituals, paintings and writings that are known as the 'Intangible Cultural Heritage' of humanity.


Folk and Tribal Art


India had always been known as the land that portrayed cultural and traditional vibrancy through its conventional arts and crafts. 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 style and pattern of art, which is known as folk art. Other than folk art, there is yet another form of traditional art practised 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 colourful and vibrant enough to speak volumes about the country's rich heritage.


Madhubani painting of Bihar

The rural folk paintings of India bear distinctive colourful 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. Folk art is however not restricted only to paintings, but also stretches to other art forms such as pottery, home decorations, ornaments, clothes-making, and so on.


Moreover, the regional dances of India, such as the Bhangra dance of Punjab, the Dandiya of Gujarat, the Bihu dance of Assam, 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.


Bhangra dance of Punjab

Tribal art, like folk art, has also progressed considerably due to the constant developmental efforts of the Indian government and other organizations. Tribal art generally reflects the creative energy found in rural areas that acts as an undercurrent to the craftsmanship of the tribal people. Tribal art ranges through a wide range of art forms, such as wall paintings, tribal dances, tribal music, and so on.


Literature


The Indian literary tradition is the oldest in the world. It is primarily one of verse and essentially oral.


The earliest works were composed to be sung or recited and were so transmitted for many generations before being written down.


India has 22 officially recognised languages, and a huge variety of literature has been produced in these languages over the years. Hindu literary traditions dominate a large part of Indian culture. Apart from the Vedas, which are a sacred form of knowledge, there are other works such as the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, treatises such as Vaastu Shastra in architecture and town planning, and Arthashastra in political science. The most famous works in Sanskrit are the Hindu holy texts like the Vedas, Upanishads, and Manusmriti. Another popular literature, Tamil literature has a rich literary tradition spanning over 2000 years and is particularly known for its poetic nature in the form of epics, and philosophical and secular works.




Other great literary works, which marked the golden era of Indian literature, include 'Abhijanam Shakuntalam' and 'Meghdoot' by Kalidasa, 'Mricchakatika' by Shudraka, 'Swapnavasavadattam' by Bhaasa, and 'Ratnavali' by Sri Harsha. Some other famous works are Chanakya's Arthashastra' and Vatsyayana's 'Kamasutra'.


The most famous works of the Indian literature can be traced in the vernacular languages of the northern Indian cults of Krishna and Rama. Also included are the 12th-century poems by Jaydev, called the 'Gitagovinda' and religious love poems written in Maithili (eastern Hindi of Bihar). Literature was also produced in the form of Bhakti (a personal devotion to a god) addressed to Rama (an avatar of Vishnu), most notably in the Avadhi (eastern Hindi) works of Tulsi Das; his 'Ramcharitmanas'. The early gurus or founders of the Sikh religion, especially Guru Nanak Dev and Guru Arjun Dev, also composed bhakti hymns to their concepts of deity. In the 16th century, the Rajasthani princess and poet Mira Bai addressed her bhakti lyric verse to Krishna, as did the Gujarati poet Narsimh Mehta.


Hindi literature started as religious and philosophical poetry in medieval periods in dialects like Avadhi and Brij. The most famous figures from this period are Kabir and Tulsidas. In modern times, the Khadi dialect became more prominent and a variety of literature was produced in Sanskrit.


Chandrakanta, written by Devaki Nandan Khatri, is considered to be the first work of prose in Hindi. Munshi Premchand was the most famous Hindi novelist. The other famous poets include Maithili Sharan Gupt, Jaishankar Prasad, Sumitranandan Pant, Mahadevi Varma, and Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar'.



In the British era, a literary revolution occurred with the influence of Western thought and the introduction of the printing press. Purposeful works were being written to support the cause of freedom struggle and to remove the existing social evils. Ram Mohan Roy's campaign for the introduction of science education in India and Swami Vivekananda's works are considered to be great examples of the English literature in India.

During the last 150 years, many writers have contributed to the development of modern Indian literature, written in several regional languages as well as in English. One of the greatest Bengali writers, Rabindranath Tagore became the first Indian to win the Nobel Prize for literature (Gitanjali) in 1913.


Handicrafts


Handicrafts are the creative products made by the skill of the hand without the help of modern machinery and equipment. Nowadays, hand-made products are considered to be a fashion statement and an item of luxury.


India's rich cultural heritage and centuries of evolutionary tradition are manifested by the huge variety of handicrafts made all over the country. Handicrafts are a mirror of the cultural identity of the ethnic people who make it. Through the ages, handicrafts made in India like the Kashmiri woollen carpets, Zari embroidered fabrics, terracotta and ceramic products, silk fabrics etc. have maintained their exclusiveness. In the ancient times, these handicrafts were exported to far off countries of Europe, Africa, West Asia and the Far East via the 'silk route'. The entire wealth of timeless Indian handicrafts has survived through the ages. These crafts carry the magnetic appeal of the Indian culture that promises exclusivity, beauty, dignity and style.


Zari embroidered sari

Indian handicrafts could be broadly divided into three categories: folk crafts, religious crafts and commercial crafts. Popular folk crafts that are modified according to the demands of the market become commercial crafts. Myriads of handicrafts are made for the diverse rites and rituals associated with the religious faiths of the varied ethnic groups of India. Some of the handicrafts meant for religious purposes are also liked by the people for their aesthetic value.

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