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Indian society and cultural


Society, in simple words, refers to social grouping or collectiveness.  A social group which can be termed as a society is the one which can sustain itself more or less independently, recruits most of its member’s children, has pattern and predictable inter-generational interaction, is larger than a community and is more generalized than an institution may legitimately be called a society.  It should be noted that societies unlike nations do not always have specific political boundaries.

Main characteristics of a society are:

  1. Society is a network of relationship
  2. It is based on social – interactions
  3. There is a sense of mutual awareness among the members of the society.
  4. Society exits only there where social beings behave.
  5. Finally, society is a complex form of individuals in which both are inter-dependent on each other. Without individuals we cannot imagine a society or vice versa.

However, society is different from community. Community is used to characterize a wide range of groups whose members share a sense of identity, specific interest, values and a role of definitions with respect to others.

Varna and Jati System

The Hindu social organization is noted for its Varnashrama dharma or ‘duty based on order and stages of life’. This board division was originally associated with the colour difference between the Rig Vedic Aryans (Arya Varna) and the non Aryanas (Dasa-Varna).  According the Purusha-Sukta hymn of Rig Veda, when Prajapati, the primeval man (Purusa) was sacrificed to himself by the gods, who were his children, the 4 classes emerged: Brahman from the mouth, Kshatriya from the arms, Vaisyas from the thigh and Sudras from the feet.  Before the Aryans entered India there were some class divisions, eg.  The 4 pistras of ancient Iran.

All Aryans belonged to one of the varnas, except children, ascetics and widows who were outside the system.  The 3 higher classes were dvija or twice born i.e. 1) natural birth 2) birth into society after the thread ceremony (ypanayana).  In themiddle agesdvija meant only Brahman.  Sudras had no initiation and were later not looked upon as Aryans.  The division was initially based on occupation and later on birth with the development  of the theory f charismatic endowments (Gunas); Brahman was born with sattavas or brightness, Kshatriya with rajas or passion, udras with tamas or dullness and Vaisya with a mixture of rajas and tamas.  Theory of  varnashrama-dharma was developed which differentiated different dharma (duties) for different varnas because of their different gunas.

            The term varna, meaning colour, originally used to distinguished the Arynas from the non-Aryans, later on stood for all the four fold division of Hindu society.  The other term jati also called caste means, according to legal texts, not only the four castes but also numerous new castes, created to accommodate the off-springs of inter-caste marriage.  These castes became more or less water tight compartments, with qualities  (gunas), work (karma) and rights and obligations (svadharma) peculiar to each.  Separate sets of rules of conduct were framed for people belonging to different castes and engaged in different professions associated with these castes.

The Four Varnas

Brahmans: According to man and Yajnavalkya, the legalists, the Brahmans occupied the top place in the social hierarchy.  They alone could take to the occupation of teaching (vritti), perform sacrifices for others, and accept gifts.

Kshatriyas : Representing the Rajanya class of the Vedic times, shared with the Brahmans the task of Vedic study, performance of sacrifices and the making of gifts,   but their main occupation was administration and fighting.

Vaisyas :The visa or the Vaisyas of the earlier times, also called grihapati produced wealth from agriculture and merchandise including trade and commerce.  They could study the Vedas and perform scarifies also.

Sudras : Originally name of non-Aryan tribe.  They only served the dvija.  They could not study the Vedas, unlike the twice-born or the dvijas, but could certainly perform the smaller sacrifices (pakayajnas) without the use of Vedic formulae.

Untouchables : They were called pancama  (the 5th class).  They were non-aryan, aboriginal tribes, for example, Chandala, carrier of corpses and executioner of criminals.  It was later used for many types of untouchables.  Many classes became out castes withthe growth of Ahimsa doctrine 1) Nisada – hunter 2) Karavarta – fisherman 3) Karavara-leather worker.  Other outcastes are: Vena-basket maker, Rathakara-chariot maker (a respected craftsmen of the vedic period), Pukkusa/Paulkasa-alcohol seller (originally a sweeper in the Buddhist period).  Outcastes had their own outcastes eg.  Antyavasayin – a cross between a candela and a nisada, despised by candalas.  An untouchable who died in defence of a brahmana, cows, women and children went to heaven.  Candalas occasionally became influential.  Mleccha – outer barbarian, whose status improved by adoption of brahmanical ways.  Conduct, not blood made a group outcaste.  A group, not an individual could rise in hierarchy, hence the system was fluid.

Varna Samskara (Conversion of class)

Viswamitra was born as kshatriya and became a Brahman/rishi by penance.  It was hard to rise but easier to fall in status.  The legendary king Vena encouraged inter-caste marriages beginning the varna-samkara, a special feature of kalyuga.


Originally a Brahman institution, it was adopted by the dvija.  Brahmans descended from 8 legendary rishis (seers) who created the 8 primeval gotras: Atri, Bhrgu, Bhardwaj, Gautam, Kasyapas, Vasistha, Viswamitra and Agastya (patron saint of Dravidians who brought the vedic religion to the south and who was added to the original 7).  Within a caste there is strict gotra exogamy.


Relates to remote ancestors.  The names of remote ancestors (about 2 to 4) and the gotras founder were changed by Brahmans in their daily worship.  Marriage between different gotras was impossible if they had 2 (sometimes even one) common pravara names.



Laukika Gotras

Also called secular gotras, kshatriyas and vaisyas adopted the gotra and pravara names of their priests.  The real gotras were secular ones founded by legendary ancestors and was used in the sense of sect/clan.

Customs and ceremonies (smaskaras)

Hindu Ceremonies (Samskaras)

There are 16 principal ceremonies prescribed by Hindu law givers of which only few are practiced by the majority of Hindus at present.  These samskaras are

: T

  1. Garbhadhana : This is performed to promote conception
  2. Pumsavana : This is performed during third, fourth or eighth month of conception to get a male child.
  3. Simantonnayana: This is performed for the safety of child when in the mother’s womb.
  4. Jatakarma : This is performed after the birth of the child (birth ceremony).
  5. Namakarna : This is performed when the child is taken out of the house for the first time to see the sun. it is done during the 12th day to 4 months of child’s birth.
  6. Nishkramana: This is performed when the child is taken out of the house for the first time to see the sun. It is done during the 12th day to 4 months of child’s birth.
  7. Annaprasana : This is performed in the sixth month when the child is for the first time feeded with solid food.
  8. Chudakarma : This involves tonsure of boy between 1st and 3rd year of his birth.
  9. Karnapheda : This ear-piercing ceremony is performed in order to evade from any disease and for wearing ornaments.
  10. Vidyarhambha : This is performed at the age of 5 year for initiating the alphabet knowledge of the child.
  11. Upanayana : This is the sacred – thread ceremony which is performed to begin. The be sacred thread consisting of three threads represent the Trinity – the Hindu Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh – and the white colour signifies purity. Being thus invested with the sacred thread, the boy begins his studies. They boy was usually initiated to a mantra (Gayatri) by the guru before commencing his studies.
  12. Vedarambha : This is the performed for initiating study of Vedas by the student.
  13. Keshant or Gowdaan: This is performed at the age of 16 when the child for the first time shaves his moustache and beard indicating that he is now an adult.
  14. Samavartana :This is the home-coming ceremony of the student after the completion of his education. It also marks the end of his brahmacharya stage.
  15. Vivah : This is the marriage ceremony.
  16. Antyesti : This is funeral ceremony lasting for 10 days.




Muslim Ceremonies (Samskara)

Khatna or Circumcision: This is an important ceremony among Muslims which is usually performed at the age of 3 to 10 years.  Under this ceremony the penis of the boy is circumcised.  In India this is not performed for girls.

Chhathi and Chillah: Chhathi is performed on the sixth day of child’s birth when both mother and child are bathed.  Chillah is performed on the 40th day of child birth when the mother is permitted to read namaz and child is shown the stars.

Aqiqah : This is performed on the seventh day of child’s birth.  Both hair-removing and naming ceremony are performed on this day.

Bismillah or Maktab: This is similar to vidhyarambh ceremony of Hindus marking beginning of studies of the child.

Nikah: This is similar to vivah ceremony of the Hindus.  Nikah, literally means union of man and woman for producing child.

Mrityu Samskara: This is similar to antyesti ceremony of Hindus.  During this dead body is buried and Fahtiya (first chapter of Quran) is read.


Purushartha literally means purpose or goals of life.  The goals or ends of life according to the scholars are four-fold.  They are: 1) Dharma: acquisition of religious merit by following the sacred law; 2) Artha: acquisition of wealth honestly; 3) Kama: pleasure of all kinds; 4) Moksha pursuit of salvation, which was a later introduction.  Dharma involved performing ones duties, ceremonies and daily performing the 5 great sacrifices.

Panch mahayajana

In anciet Indian culture yajna was as important as the samskaras.  Ont eh importance of yajana (acrifice) Purusha-Sukta hymn of Rig Veda describes that this world was born out of yajna.  Manu prescribed five yajnas (5 great sacrifices) which should be performed thrice daily at the sandhyas (periods of worship-sunrise, noon and sunset).  The 5 yajnas are: 1) Vedas; 2) Devayajna-worship of Devas by ghee in the sacrifice fire; 4) Bhutayajna-worship of all living things by scattering grain to animals and birds; 5) Purusayajna-worship of men by showing hospitality.



Marriage may be defined as a publicly recognized and culturally sanctioned union between a male and female which is intended to be enduring, to give primary )but not necessarily exclusive) e\sexual rights in each other to the couple, and to fulfil  further social functions.

Functions of Marriage: Marriage served the following functions:

  1. Biological Function: Marriage serves as a means for getting together to satisfy sex needs and to start reproductive process. It is through reproduction, human species is replicated and society is perpetuated.
  2. Economic Function: Institution of marriage performs economic function in the form of bringing economic cooperation between men and women and ensuring the survival of individuals in every society.
  3. Social Function: Institution of marriage brings with it, the creation and perpetuation of the family, the formation of person to person relations and linking of one kin group to another kin group.
  4. Educational Function: Institutions of marriage entrusts the task of educating the young to the parents and passing on culture from one generation to another. Without education or enculturation process it cannot serve educating functions for the survival of individuals and for the continuity of culture.


Forms of Marriage

Some of the commonly known forms of marriage are monogamy, polygyny and polyandry.  Among these however, monogamy is the most popular institution.

Monogamy : An individual has a single wife at any given time.

Polygyny: An individual has multiple supposes at any time. People were generally monogamous except kings, chiefs and the wealthy.  Apastamba forbid polygamy if the first wife was of a good character and bore sons.  Polygamy was a religious duty if the first wife was sterile.  A sterile or impotent husband would appoint a brother to produce a child or Noyoga.  In levira/widow and brother-in-law cohabit to produce a son.  It became forbidden as a Kalivarjya custom.  Plygamy has many sub-forms: Polygyny, polyandry and Polygynandry.

Polygyny : In this form an individual as multiple wives at any time.  Polygyny exists in two specialized variations: Sororal polygyny – a variety of polygyny in which the multiple wives of an individual are sisters and Non-sororal polygyny – a variety of polygyny in which the multiple wives of an individual are not sisters.

Polyandry : In this form a woman has multiple husbands at any given time.  The birth of the Pandavas and Karna from gods, Draupadi and the Pandavas, the Maruts and Rodasi, Asvins and Surya indicate ancient polyandry.  Law books forbid polyandry.

Polyandry appears in three specialized forms:  fraternal or adelphic polyandry is a variety of polyandry in which the multiple husbands of a woman are own brothers;  non-fraternal or non-adelphic polyandry in which multiple husbands are either clan brothers (those who belong to one clan) or unrelated men; and familial polyandry in which husbands of a woman are father and sons.  The Todas of Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu and the Khasas of Jaunsar Bawar in Uttar Pradesh practice both fraternal and non-fraternal polyandry.  However, among the Nayars, the multiple husbands of a woman were several unrelated men. Familial polyandry, a rare variety of polyandry occurs among the Tibetans.

Polygynandry: A form in which a man has multiple wives and a woman has multiple husbands at any given time.  It shows the coexistence of polygamy and polyandary.It is a rare sub-form of polygamy existing among the Todas of Nilgiri Hills and the Khasas of Jaunsar Bawar.

Hypergamy and Hypogamy

The concept of hypergamy and hypogamy is typically Indian in as much as it seems to have been upon caste structure of the Hindu society.  Apart from other things, the social status was determined by the fact of one’s marriage, and a woman’s marriage was made criteria for this.  If a woman married a higher-caste family, her own status as well as status of her children subsequently born to her rose higher.  If she married a caste lower than her own, not only she and her children suffered an inferior social position, but also a reflection was cast on her own parental family.

Hypergamy (Anuloma (marriage): To prevent a Hindu woman from losing her caste and getting ritual impurity by marrying in a lower caste, Manu (the first law giver) and other ancient Hindu law makers had prescribed hypergamous (anuloma) marriage under which a man could marry from within his own caste group, or from those below them, usually a degree only, but a woman could marry only in her own caste group or a caste group above her’s.

Hypogamy (Pratiloma) marriage:A marriage in which a woman marries a man from a caste lower than her.  This was not permitted though there are few examples of such a marriage in Indian history.

Eight kinds of marriages

The smritis describe eight types of marriages.  Manu also recognized 8 types of marriages which are 1) Brahma:  the normal type where a dowry is given ; 2) Daiva: a daughter is given to the priest as a sacrificial fee; 3) Arsa:  a token bride price of a cow or a bull is paid instead of a dowry; 4) Prajapatya: no dowry, no bride price; 5) Gandharva : often clandestine, marriage by love, syamvara (self choice) being a special form, allowed and respected by Kshatriyas alone; 6) Asura: marriage by purchase, allowed for Vaisyas and Sudras along; 7) Roksasa: marriage by capture, practiced by warriors eg. Prithviraja 8) Paisaca: marriage by seduction of a sleeping, mentally deranged or drunk girl.  The first four were approved by permissible to Brahmanas and were religious and indissoluble whereas the latter four were not appreciated.

Hindu marriage

The aims of Hindu marriage are said to be dharma, praja (progeny) and rati (pleasure).  Dharma is the first and the highest aim of marriage.  Marriage also aims at begetting a son to save the father from going to hell.  On marriage the sacred fire is enkindled to offer panchamahayagyas.  A man with wife is supposed to offer puja throughout life.  Thus, marriage is primarily for fulfillment of duties, his dharma.

Performance of homa or offering in the sacred fire, kanyadana or solemn handing over the maiden by the father, panigrahan or taking the hand of the bride, and saptapadi or the bride and the bridegroom going seven steps together are important rites for completion of a marriage.

All these rites are performed with Vedic mantras in the presence of the sacred fire.  Thus, Hindu marriage is a sacrament because it is said to be complete only on the performance of the sacred rites and the sacred formulae.  Hindu marriage is a sacrament in another sense because marriage is considered essential for woman and she is required to perform rites with her husband throughout her life.  Hindu marriage is sacred because it is irrevocable; the parties to the marriage cannot dissolve it at will.

However, in ancient India Kautilya suggested divorce for higher castes, and for the sudras it was permitted by custom.  Divorce in non-religious marriages (Gandharva, Rakshasa, Asura, Paisaca) was allowed on grounds of mutual incompatibility and apprehension of physical danger from each other.  In religious marriages divorce was allowed when wife was deserted by the husband with a waiting period of one to twelve years.  In Gupta period divorce was virtually impossible for the higher castes.


Muslim marriage

Marriage among Muslims is more of a contract rather than a sacrament like Hindus.  There are two types of marriage among Muslims 1) beena, and 2) muta. Under the beena marriage, woman comes to live with her husband and the children belong to her husband’s clan.  Divorce becomes the sole privilege of the husband.  The marriage is a contract which takes place in the presence of a wali, often with his consent, and attested by two witnesses.  Muta is a union brought about by the mutual consent of the parties concerned.  Being a personal contract, it requires neither a wali nor a witness.  The contract is stipulated for a specific period, and woman has no right to divorce her husband during the period of the contract.  The beena marriage is certainly a preferred one, the muta is condemned under the Islamic law.  There are no elaborate rituals attached to Muslim marriage as we find in the case of Hindu marriage.

Islam disapproved of muta considering it an anachronism as it amounted  to greater freedom for a woman in her sex life.  Muta also contributed to instability of marriage.  Islam gives the right of divorce only to the male, and this is taken as a part of the Muslim Personal Law.  Marriage among Muslims is contracted by paying mahr, bride price, to the father or kin of a woman.  Mahr clearly symbolizes control of the husband over his wife, and his right to talaq (divorce).


The world ‘family’ is used in several different ways.  There are at least four interrelated social situations of family life in India.  These are as follows:

1) The body of persons who live in one house or under one head, including parents, children, servants etc.; 2) The group consisting of parents and their children whether living together or not; 3) In wide sense, all those who are nearly related by blood and affinity; 4) Those descended or claiming descent from a common ancestor; a house, kindred, lineage.

Generally, a family consists of a man, his wife and their children.  This is known as an elementary family.  Such a family could be an independent unit; it could also be a part of a joint or extended family, without necessarily residing together.  An elementary family includes members of two generations, that of ego and his offspring.  Such a family may share property in common with other such units of die ego’s brothers’ families.

Family in India has remained a vital and a foremost primary group because it is the sheet-anchor of the patriarchal authority on the one hand, and a protector and defender of individual member’s (including woman) right to property on the other.  Despite several wide-ranging changes in Indian society, because of synthesis between collectivism and individualism, the Hindu family continues to be joint partly structurally and mainly functionally, and it has not disintegrated into individual families like the Western countries.  Several studies on family have revealed that industrialization, urbanization, education and migration had not necessarily resulted into nuclearisation of family in India.  Even a nuclear family in India is not simply a conjugal in family.  A real change in family must refer to changed pattern of kinship relations, obligations of members towards each other, individualization, etc.  In other words, not only change in the, composition or structure of family, but also its functions must change.

Nuclear Family

The nuclear family consists of a married man and woman with their offspring although in individual cases one or more additional persons may reside with them.

Joint family

There has been a lot of debate about nature of joint family in India.  A joint family is a group of people who generally live under one roof, who eat food cooked in one kitchen, who hold property in common, participate in common family worship and are related to one another as some particular type of kindred.  This definition of joint family refers to an ideal situation of family life in terms of its corporate character.  In any case, in structural terms, joint family implies living together of members of two or more elementary families both lineally and laterally.  When a joint family consists of grandparents, parents and grandsons and daughters, it is called a lineal joint family.  When married brothers along with their wives and offspring live together, it is known their wives and offspring live together, it is known as lateral joint family.  Besides patrilineal joint family, is also matrilineal joint family.

Jointness is a process, a part of household cycle.  A family becomes joint from its nuclear position when one or more sons get married and live with the parents or it becomes joint also when parents continue to stay with their married sons.  When married sons establish their independent households, and live with their unmarried children they become nuclear families.

Status of women

Ancient period

In the Rig-Vedic civilization, women enjoyed equal status with men.  Women, like men, received education and observed brahmacharya and upanayana (assuming the sacred thread) was also performed for them.  Women studied the Vedas and composed vedic hymns.  Women had access to all branches of knowledge.  Women like Ghosha, Apala, Vishvara were composers of outstanding vedic humans.  In the age of the Upanishads, there were not secluded from men, and they freely participated in public life.  Marriage was sacred and indivisible and was not a secular contract.  It was a religious bond.  Child marriage was unknown.  Girls enjoyed great freedom and settled their own marriages.  Monogamy was a general rule, but there were cases of polygamy among the rich and the ruling classes. Polyandry and sati were unknown The wife was given a place of honour and participated with her husband in religious ceremonies.

The position enjoyed by women in Rig-Vedic period deteriorated in later Vedic civilization.  A daughter began to be regarded as a curse.  However, women were granted the freedom to participate in public life.  They were denied the right of inheritance and of ownership of property (like the Sudras).  Even the earnings of women became the property of their husbands and sons.  However, women continued to have the upanayana, received education, and worked as teachers.  Intermarriage between Brahmanas and Kshatriyas was not unknown between A.D. 700 and 1206.

During the Buddhist period women were not denied learning.  They took active part in public life, but did not enjoy the right of Vedic studies.  The position of women really deteriorated in the Gupta age.  Dowry emerged as an institution in this period.  Widows could not marry again.  They had to spend a life in penance and austerity.  Women had no right to real property.  But purdah system did not exist.  Sati had become popular by the seventh century A.D.  Some women did receive higher education even in this period.  Lilavati and Khana were experts in arithmetic and astronomy.

Medieval period

The period between A.D. 1206 and 1761 witnessed further deterioration in the position of women.  In this period female infanticide, child-marriage, apurdah, jauhar, sati and slavery were the main social evils affecting the position of women.  The birth of a daughter was considered bad luck.  Giving freedom to women was though of as the predecessor of doom.  Women were largely uneducated and remained confined to their homes.  Conservatism, superstition and belief in magic, sorcery and witchcraft were part of women’s existence.  Motherhood was respected.  A woman’s devotion to her husband, children and home was universally accepted as a positive value.

Modern Period

The reform movements and the national movement generated social consciousness among women.  The All India Women’s Conference was established in January 1927.  This concentrated on educational and social work among women.  Mahatma Gandhi brought women out into public life.  The women of the middle classes came forward to take employment in 1930s and 1940s.  however the British rulers did not want to do anything which could further women’s position inheritance, marriage and the rights of family women, the law applied was a mix of ancient Hindu law and British law.  For example, Hindu law nowhere did recognize the enforcement of a husband’s conjugal rights; but when the principle of “restitution” was brought up, it was accepted, even though it was taken from Anglo-Saxon law.

The second half of the nineteenth century witnessed several reforms  regarding the position of women in Indian society.  Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar started agitation for widow remarriage, and were successful in getting the Hindu Widows Remarriage Association was formed in 1861.

Several acts were passed in the first half of this century regarding inheritance of property and marriage regulations, the most important acts in the post-Independence periods are: the Special Marriage Act of 1954, the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, and the Hindu Succession Act of 1956.  The Government of India has taken up the problems of divorce, dowry, rape, etc. with a view to find solutions which will ensure equality of women with men.

Sati, infanticide, slavery, child marriage, the prohibition of widow remarriage, and the lack of women’s rights were some of the social problems which attracted the attention of the British Raj and social reformers.

Sati : In the beginning of nineteenth century, the practice of sati was confined to Hooghly, Nadia and Burdwan districts of Bengal, Ghazipur of Uttar Pradesh and Shahabad of Bihar.  It was found in other parts of India, but only as a rare phenomenon.  In southern India, it, was practiced in Ganjam, Masulipatnam and Tanjore districts.  In Rajasthan, Punjab and Kashmir the practice was confined mainly to women of high caste.

In Delhi, Charles Metcalfe stopped the practice.  It occurred among all castes, but it was more among the Brahmanas and Rajputs.  Among the princely families, the sense of pride and heroism elevated the sati into a noble act.  But, on the whole, the rite was practiced by women whose husbands belonged to the middle and lower middle classes.  The following factors could be attributed to the practice of sate: 1) the position of women in the Hindu System, 2) the institution of polygamy, specially among the kulin Brahmanas 3) the enforced widowhood and austerity, 4) social convention, 5) the sense of salvation attached to the rite, 6) antiquity and adoration of the practice.

The British had shown interest in the abolition f sati in 1813.  The persuasive propaganda techniques failed to prevent the occurrence of the practice.  Ram Mohan Roy took it upon himself to eradicate this social evil.  He announced that the rite of sati was not a part of the shastras.  A number of religious leaders opposed Ram Mohan Roy’s crusade against sati.  Through the cooperation of the princes, it was virtually stopped in the princely states, but it was not made an illegal act for a long time.  Even today,  occurrences of sati are reported from various districts of Rajasthan.  In the majority of cases, the police have either reached late or remained ineffective.


Infanticide:Female infanticide was found mainly among the Rajputs of Benaras, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and in parts of Punjab and Sind and among some Sikhs.  The institution of female infanticide arose due to 1) the deplorable position of women in Hindu society 2) the dowry system 3) hypergamy, and 4) the sense of honour and pride.  Marriage of a female is considered compulsory.  In 1779, infanticide was declared to be murder by the Bengal Regulation XXI.  In 1804, this was extended to other parts of India.  However, the practice continued in secret till recently, particularly among the Rajputs in Rajasthan.  Dowry was its main cause.

Child Marriage:Child marriage is prevalent even today among the rural people and among the urban illiterate and poor.  The institution of child marriage is also the result of hypergamy, dowry, the notion of virginity and chastity.  It has resulted in the problems of over-population, poverty, unemployment, ill-health, dependence upon parents, etc.  The first legislation was passed in 1860 under Hindu the minimum age for consummation of marriage in the case of girls was raised to ten.  In 1891, the age of consent for girls was raised to twelve and in 1925 to thirteen for married girls and fourteen for unmarried ones.

In 1929, the Child Marriage Restraint Act (Sharda Bill) was passed.  Under this act, the minimum age of marriage for girl was fixed at fourteen and for a boy at eighteen.  This act came into being in 1930.  According to the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, the minimum age for a bride of fifteen, and for a bridegroom eighteen.  The legislations have not proved effective in this case.  Education, economic pressures, and migration to towns and cities, from rural areas have certainly contributed to the raising of the age at marriage of both the sexes.

Slavery : Slavery was of two types: 1) domestic and 2) predial (agricultural).  There were also the institutions of the nautch (dance) girls and prostitutes.  The latter was found particularly in the princely states.  Predial slavery was found in Bengal, Madras, Assam, Coorg and southern Bombay Presidency (presently in Karnataka and Maharashtra respectively).  The slaves of this category were insolvent debtors.  Some of them were migrants from Raputana.

Even slaves were sold out.  There was also the practice of entering a contract by a person to work for a specific period of time either to pay the debt or to have a fresh one.  Domestic slavery was confined to females.  The foreigners also indulged in the purchase of children in a clandestine manner and exported them overseas.  Proclamations were made in Bengal, Madras, Bombay, etc. to prevent the institution of slavery.  Today, the institution exists in the form of bonded labour.  It is known by different names in different states.  The policy of apparent and selective non-interference in social matters encouraged the institution of slavery and other institutions which supported this evil.

Widow’s Remarriage and women’s Rights: With the efforts of Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, the Hindu Widows’ Remarriage Act was passed in 1856.  In 1861, a Widow Marriage Association was formed.  The Arya-samaj gave top priority to this programme.  The following legislations have enhanced the status of Hindu women in matters of marriage, adoption and inheritance: 1) the Hindu Law  of Inheritance (Amendment Act) of 1929, 2) the Hindu Women’s Right to Property Act of 1937, 3) the Hindu Marriage Disability Removal Act of 1946, 4) the Special Marriage Act of 1954 5) the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, 6) the Hindu Succession Act and the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956 7) the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, 8) the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961, 9) the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 and 10) the Criminal Law Amendment, 1983.

Quest for Equality

Woman’s quest for equality with man has become universal.  It has given birth to women’s movements and feministic activities and associations.  All over the world, feminism has its origin in social structure.  Several constraints, such as inequalities between men and women and discrimination against women, have been age-old issues.  For a long time women remained within the four walls of their households. Their dependence on menfolk was total.  Educated women in particular and the poor ones in general realized the need for taking up employment outside the household.,  in recent years, the middle class women have taken up the issue of price-rise and have –launched anti-price-rise movements in various cities of India.  Within the household, women have demanded equality with men.  What exists for men is demanded for women.  This demand for equality with men, speaks of a notion of men’s tyrannical hegemony.

Women have hardly any choice but to adopt an independent path for their upliftment. They want to have equality within the framework of the existing highly rigid patriarchal society further; women want to have for themselves the same strategies of change which menfolk have had over the centuries.  Today women’s organizations have taken up the issues of price-rise, dowry, rape, exploitation, etc. to seek equal status with men and a dignified life.  Women have demanded their share of jobs in the police and other such services.  Women’s organizations have created a sense of consciousness for gender equality, particularly in the urban areas.

Consequent upon these urgent social problems connected with women, International Women’s Day, International Women’s Year,’ Conferences and Seminars on women, and way since the late 1960s and 1970s.  the provisions made in the Constitution of India regarding equality of women with men have also been Widely popularized  by these organizations and associations.  A notable development was the appointment in 1971 by the Government of India of the Committee on the Status of Women.  The committee submitted its report in 1974.  The report of the Committee was very widely welcomed.  There is also an All-India Association of Women’s Studies.  Demonstrations, processions and strikes against rape, dowry deaths and the murder of women have become a regular feature in Delhi, Bombay and other cities.


The tribes of India are in integral part of Indian civilization and they have maintained a rich culture of their own.  They mainly belong to Negrito and Mongoloid races.  The Constitution of India has recognized some 250 tribes as Scheduled Tribe.  These constitute around 7.8% of the total Indian population.  About 80% of tribal population is concentrated in the central India comprising Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.

Important Tribes of India

Tribes   Places Where Found
  Abhors : Assam and Arunachal Pradesh  
  Adivasis : Aborigines of Central India  
  Agami : Nagaland, Manipur, Assam,  
  Aptanis : Arunachal Pradesh  
  Badagas : Nilgiri Hills (TN)  
  Baiga : Madhya Pradesh  
  Bhils : Central India and Rajasthan  
  Bhot : Himachal Pradesh  
  Bhutias : Garhwal and Kumaon regions of UP  
  Chakma : Tripura  
  Chenchus : Andhra Pradesh, Orissa  
  Gaddi : Himachal Pradesh, Jammu  
  Garos : Hill tribes of Meghalaya  
  Gonds : Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh  
  Gaylong : Himachal Pradesh  
  Gujjars : Himachal Pradesh  
  Jarawas : Little Andamans  
  Khas : Jaunsar – Bhabhar area of UP  
  Khasis : Meghalaya  
  Khasira : Assam, Meghalaya  
  Khond : Orissa  
  Kol : Madhya Pradesh  
  Kotas : Nilgiri (TN)  
  Kolam : Andhra Pradesh  
  Kuki : Manipur  
  Lepchas : Sikkim  
  Lushai : Mizoram  
  Murias : Madhya Pradesh (Bastar)  
  Mikirs : Assam  
  Moplahs : Kerala  
  Manoya : Arunachal Pradesh  
  Santhals : Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa  
  Sentinelese : Andaman and Nicobar  
  Shompens : Andaman and Nicobar  
  Semas : Nagaland, Manipur and Assam  
  Todas : Nilgiri (TN)  
  Tagkul : Nagaland, Manipur and Assam  
  Uralis : Kerala  
  Warli : Maharashtra  



States and Tribes Found

Madhya Pradesh : Baiga, Bhil Meena, Munda, Nat, Kol, Bhils, Banjara, Lambadi, Gonds, Bhuiyas, Kharia, Savaras, Asurs & Agariyas, Bhumia, Muria, Maria, Abujhmaria, Korwan, Kolam and Jhajwaar.

Bihar : male & Mal Paharias, Munda, Ho, Birhor, Korwar, Asur, Bhuiyan, Kol, Kharia, Oraon, Banjara, Santhal, Lohra, Baiga, Gond.

Orissa : Santhal, Kol, Khonds, Juangs, Ho, Oraon, Bondo Poroja

West Bengal : Lodha, Bhumij, Santhalas, Koch, mech, rajbangshi

Assam : Kacharis, Rabhas, Kasi, Jaintia, Mikirs, Garo And Bhoi

Nagaland: Aos, Semas, Angamis, Chang, Lothas, Zeliang, Konyaks and Phom.

Manipur : Kulki Tribes such as Paite, Hmar, Simte, and Thadou, Tankhul and Rongmei.

Arunachal Pradesh : Apa Tani, Dafia, Miri, Minyong, Mishmi, Abhors, Mompas, Wancho, Tangad and Necto

Mizoram : Imizo, Lakher, Pawi and Lushais

Meghalaya : Garo, Jaintias and Khasis

Tripura : Itripuri, Lushai and Riang.

Uttar Pradesh: Tharus, Raji, Bumsa, Kos, Khas, Mana or Niti, Bhotiyas.

Himachal Pradesh : Lahauli, Gaddi, Kinnauri, Gaddi

Rajasthan : Meena, Damor, Patwa, Sansi, Garasiya, Bhils

Andaman & Nicobar Islands: Jarwa, North Sentinelese, Onge, Andaman & Nicobari.


Organisations for cultural activities


Anthropological survey in India

Based in Calcutta, it is a research organization under the Department of Culture in the Ministry of Human Resources Development.  Since its inception in 1945, it carries out researches on bio-cultural aspects of the Indian population, particularly on the contemporary problems being faced by the tribes and weaker sections.  it conducts exploratory surveys in order to unearth, preserve and study the ancient human remains.

Archaeological survey of India

Founded in 1861 it is the leading institution for archaeological research and related activities.  It conducts programmes of large scale problem oriented exploration and excavation of prehistoric, protohistoric and other ancient sites, as also architectural surveys, landscaping around monuments, chemical preservation of sculptures, epigraphical research, publication of archaeological and epigraphical periodicals and books, etc.

Asiatic Society

The Asiatic Society,, Calcutta, was founded in 1784 by Sir William Jones, with the objective of inquiring into the history, antiquities, arts, science and literature of Asia.  This institution proved to be the fountainhead of all literary and scientific activities in India and patron of all the Asiatic societies in the world.  The society has a rich collection of rare books, manuscripts, coins, old paintings, inscriptions and archival materials.  Amongst its important activities is the publication of the Bibliotheca Indica, which consists of a series of oriental texts in Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, Bengali, Tibetan and other Asian languages and their translations.

Copyright Libraries

National Library, Calcutta; Central Library, Bombay; Connemara Public Library, Madras; and Delhi Public Library, Delhi are four Library entitled to receive a copy of every new book and magazine under the Delivery of Books and Newspaper (Public Libraries) Act, 1954.  These are known as Copyright Libraries.

Manuscript libraries

Libraries which excel in keeping and preserving ancient and medieval manuscripts have been named as Manuscript Libraries.  Among these are: Khuda Baksh Oriental Public Library, Patna; Thanjavur Saraswati Mahal Library, Thanjavur; Rampur Raza Library; Asiatic Society, Calcutta; Government Oriental Manuscript Library, Madras; and Maulana Azad Aligarh Muslim University Library, Aligarh.

Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library

Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Patna established in 1891 was declared as an institution of national importance in 1969 by an act of Parliament.  It has a rich collection of over 18,000 Arabic and Persian manuscripts and over 2,000 Mughal and Rajput paintings besides 1,70,000 printed books.  More than 850 audio and 550 video tapes of eminent persons have been prepared.  It brings out a quarterly research journal.  The Library has published critical editions of 64 rarities.


TMSSM Library

The Thanjavur Maharaja Serfoji’s Saraswati Mahal (TMSSM) Library, Thanjavur is one of the few medival libraries that exist in the word.  It symbolizes a priceless repository of culture and time defying treasure house of knowledge, built up by the successive dynasties of Nyaks and Marathas of Thanjavur.  The Library was made a public Library in 1918 by the Madras Government and was registered on 9 July 1986 as a society under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act.  Now the Library is administered by both the Government of India and the Government of Tamil Nadu.

Centre for cultural resources and training

Centre for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT), set up in May 1979 as an autonomous organization  by the Government of India, is under the administrative control of Department of Culture.  The broad objectives of the CCRT have been  to revitalize the education system by creating an understanding and awareness among students about the plurality of regional cultures of India and integrating this knowledge with the education.  The main thrust is on linking education with culture and making students aware of the importance of culture in all development  programmes.

To fulfill these objectives, the Centre organizes a variety of training programmes for teachers, educators, administrators and students throughout the country.  It has also been organizing  academic programmes on Indian art and culture for foreign teachers and students.  Workshops are conducted in various art activities like drama, music, narrative art forms, etc., to provide practical training and knowledge in the arts and crafts.  In these workshops, teachers are encouraged to develop programmes in which the art from can be profitably utilized to teach educational curriculum.

Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts

IGNCA was established to commemorate the late Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi.  The centre launched in November 1985 as a fully autonomous trust, is visualized as a centre encompassing the study and experience of all the arts.  IGNCA comprises five main divisions: 1) Kala Nidhi; 2) Kala Kosa 3) Janapada Sampada; 4) Kala Darshana; and 5) Sutradhara.

Lalit Kala Akademi

Established in 1954 to promote the understanding of Indian art, both within and outside the country.  The Akademi strives to promote this objective through exhibitions, publications, workshops and camps.  It honours eminent artists by electing them as fellows.  The Akademi publishes monographs, portfolios and journals.  It has a permanent artists’ studio complex at Garhi, New Delhi and Calcutta.

Sathitya Akademi

Set up in March 1954 for developing Indian literature, to set high literary standards, to foster and coordinate literary activities in all the Indian languages and to promote through them India’s cultural unity.  The Akademi hours persons by electing them as fellows and organizes literary gatherings, workshops, seminars, and writers’ meet to provide opportunities for writer to exchange views.  It has established four regional boards for the pursuit of international studies and has introduced a new programme ‘meet the author’ where eminent men of letters are invited to speak about their work.

Sangeet Natak Akademi

Set up in 1953 for the furtherance of the performing arts of India.  Through sponsorship, research and dissemination, it seeks an enhanced public appreciation of music, dance and drama, together with a quick exchange of ideas and techniques for the common gain of Indian performing arts.  It holds seminars and festivals, presents awards to outstanding performing artists, give financial assistance for theatre productions, extends financial help for traditional teachers and grants scholarship to students.


Started in 1977, this group wants to revive guru-shishya tradition in performing art.  Selected young people are given travelling expenses and modest allowances to live with select gurus.  A disciple roughly spends a month with his guru.  Gurus who accepted this project are Kelucharan Mahapatra of Odissi, Gangubai Hangal, a classical singer, Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar and D.K. Pattamal, the Carnatic Musician, among others.  The organization had organised more than 1,000 concerts, recitals, and lecture demonstrations of Indian classical music and dance.

National School of Drama

Established in 1959 by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, to train theatre artists and promote theatre activities in the country.  It trains actors, directors and stage technicians.  Under the three-year training programmes, it awards scholarships to deserving students and also provides on-year fellowships.  It has organised regional theatre workshops and children’s theatre training courses so as to make available training facilities to local theatre enthusiasts and to facilitate training of its students in folk, traditional and regional theatre forms.

National Archives of India

National Archives of India (NAI), known until independence as Imperial Record Department was established on 11 March 1891.  It is the official custodian of all non-current records of permanent value of the Government of India and its predecessor bodies.  National Archives of India, an attached office of the Department of Culture, has four regional repositories at Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Jaipur and Pondicherry.

It houses several million public records, maps, private papers and microfilms.  Major activities include: assistance to ministries/departments in their record management  programmes, acquisition of private papers of national importance of\r records of Indian interest abroad, conducting research for improvement and updating of preservation techniques, giving financial assistance to institutions for preservation/documentation of manuscripts and other holdings of national consciousness among the masses through exhibitions, seminars, etc.

National Council for culture

Set up in 1983 by the Government for coordination of activities of institutions of arts, archaeology, anthropology, archives, museums and for providing guidelines for their future plans and programmes.

National council of science museum

Set up in April 1978 as an autonomous organisation with headquarters at Calcutta, for popularization of science through the two existing science museums in India, the Birla Industrial and Technological Museum (Calcutta) and the Visvesvarayya Industrial and Technological Museum (Bangalore); and through the setting up of a chain of science museums and centres of various levels in different parts of the country.  The NCMS has set up a laboratory at Calcutta for research and training of museum personnel in all disciplines.

National Museum

Established in 1948, it is one of the premier museums of the country and its main activities are in the field of acquisition, exhibition, conservation, education and publication of art objects.

Allahabad museum

The Allahabad Museum was declared as an institution of national importance by the Government of India in 1985.  The Museum is famous for its collection of Bharhut, Bhumara and Jamsot sculptures and for the terracotta from  Kausambi, Bhita, Jhusi, Patliputra, Sarnath, Rajghat and Ahichhatra.  the Museum also has parapharnelia and family heirlooms of the Nehrus, including manuscripts of “An Autobiography” by Jawaharlal Nehru and a large volume of correspondence.

NRLC, Lucknow

The National Research Laboratory for Conservation of Cultural Property (NRLC), Lucknow, a subordinate office of the Department of Culture, Government of India, is a scientific institution engaged in the conservation of cultural heritage.  Its activities include conducting research in materials and methods of conservation, study of materials and technologies of art objects, training in conservation and rendering technical advice and assistance to museums and allied institutions.

A regional centre of NRLC for the southern region has been established at Mysore.  India, represented by a scientist of the laboratory, has been elected to the Council of the International Centre for the study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) for 1996-99.

National Gallery of Modern Art

The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), a subordinate office under Department of Culture, is the only institution of its kind in India which is run and administered by the Government of India, represents evolution of the changing art forms from 1857 onwards.  The aesthetic and educational purposes persuade all activities of NGMA whose objective is to help people look at the works of modern art with understanding and sensitivity and in keeping with this, NGMA, Mumbai has been inaugurated on 23 December 1996.

Salar Jung Museum

The Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad derived its name from Salar Jung (I to III), the erstwhile soldiers to Nizams of Hyderabad.  It is a Museum of National importance and houses rare and varied art collections from all over the globe acquired by the Salar Jungs more specifically Nawab Mir Yusuf Alim Khan, the Salar Jung-III (1889-1949).

Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya

Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manv Sangrahalaya, an autonomous organization under the Department of Culture, Government of India, is dedicated to the depiction of an integrated story of humankind in global perspective with special focus on India.  The  Sangrahalaya is being developed in the picturesque 200 acre site as a predominantly open air museum, supported by an indoor display related to three broad fields: a) human evolution and variation b) culture and society in pre and proto-historic times; and c) contemporary cultures.  It has already developed four open air exhibitions depicting tribal habitat, life in coastal villages, life in desert village and heritage of Indian pre-historic rock art through life size exhibits in authentic environmental settings.  The museum has 36 pre-historic rock shelters with about 1,000 to 6,000 year old paintings.

Festivals of India

Since 1947,  India had entered into cultural exchange programmes with a number of countries.  Currently, India has cultural exchange programmes with 73 countries and cultural agreements with 106 countries.  Festivals of India have so far been held in UK, France, USA, Sweden, USSR, Japan, Germany, China and Thailand.  Reciprocally, Festivals of USSR, France, Sweden, Japan and China have been held in India.


Indian painting

Indian painting developed with the development of Indian civilization.  The origin of Indian paintings can be traced back t the primitive caves and rock shelters paintings found in Mirzapur and Banda in Uttar Pradesh, in the Mahadev hill sof the Vindhyan range in Bundelkhand, in Kaimur hills of Bagelkhand area, in Singanpur in Raigarh district of Central India and Bellary in the South.  These paintings are mainly hunting scenes representing man in his encounter with wild animals.  Our prehistoric paintings are similar to those discovered in many places like Lascaux in France,  Altamir in Spain and Matopos in Zimbabwe.  However, excepting some pre-historic cave sketches we don’t have remains of paintings dating beyond 2nd century BC. We can trace systematic development of paintings from Ajanta paintings onwards.

Ajanta paintings: This school of painting developed during the period 200 B.C. to 700 A.D. under reign of the Sungas, Satavahanas, Kushanas, Guptas, Vakatakas and Chalukyas.  There are 30 caves at Ajanta which is located near Aurangabad in Maharashtra.  Caves 9 and 10 contain the oldest paintings belonging to the Sunga period (1st century B.C.).  the subject matter of Ajanta which is located near Aurangabad in Maharashtra.  Caves 9 and 10 contain the oldest paintings belonging to the Sunga period (1st century B.C.).  The subject matter of Ajanta painting relates to : 1) Buddha’s life and Bodhisattva (emotional expression); 2)Jatakas stories (descriptive); and 3) Garuda, Yaksha, Gandharva, Apsaras, animals, birds and flowers (decorative).

The most famous paintings of Ajanta include those of the Mother and the Child, Dying Princess, Bodhisattava.  Padmapani and the Hunting scenes.  These paintings are ‘Fresco’ or ‘Stucco’ or wall paintings.  For making these paintings surface was made rough using some tool which was then covered with a plaster o stone powder, cow dung and rice straw.  This was then covered by lime paste on which the lines of paintings were drawn while the surface was still wet.

Fine drawings, expression of sentiments and notions, the use of limited colours, graceful and divine representation of women are the major characteristics of the Ajanta paintings.

Gupta period paintings

Paintings of this age have been found at three places : Ajanta, Bagh and Sittanavasal.

Bagh Paintings: The paintings in some 9 Buddhist caves at Bagh in Malwa represent only an extension of the Ajanta paintings.  the subject matter and characteristics being more or less the same as that of Ajanta.  The 4th cave Ragmahal has got the maximum number of paintings.

Sittanavasal Paintings: The paintings at Sittanavasa (near Madras, Pddukota in Tanjore) show Jaina themes and symbology.  The caves here were built by Mahendra Varman and his son Narasimham Varman.  The paintings also show resemblance to Bagh  and Ajanta paintings.  subject matter relates to animals, birds, men, women, flowers (lotus dominates) Gandharva, Ardha Narishwar etc.

Ellora Paintings: There are two types of paintings at Ellora, one resembling Ajanta. Here  scenes rom Ramayana and Mahabharata are painted.  Others show Apabhramsa influence and deterioration in standard.  From here the Apabhramsa school of paintings started.


Miniature Paintings

The popularity of wall paintings (murals) declined after the 8th century AD and instead miniature paintings gained importance.  The new centers were eastern region (Bengal and Bihar) and the western region (Gujarat and Rajasthan).  Here emerged two important schools.

  1. Pala school of Bengal (9th – 12th century)
  2. Western India or Jain or Gujarat or Apabhramsa school (11th – 15th century)

Pala school (9th – 12th century)

This school of painting developed in the 9th century under the reign of Dharmapala and Devpala in West Bengal.  Pala paintings are found as illustrations on palm leaf manuscripts and wooden book covers.  The subject of these paintings is the Buddhist pantheon.  The paintings are simple in composition and have a feeling of devotion.  Based on Ajanta paintings these paintings influenced the Tibet and Nepal school of paintings.  Dhimman and Vitapala were the main artists of this school.

Apabhramsa school (11th – 15th century)

This school of painting, also known as Western India or Jain or Gujarat miniature paintings, developed during 11th century to 15th century.  These paintings were earlier done on palm leafs and later on paper.  Their subjects cover Jaina texts, Vaishnava subjects and secular love.  Use of bright and gold colours, angular faces with bulged eyes (fish shaped) and pointed noses are the major characteristics of these paintings.

Sultanate paintings

The Sultanate painting attempts to blend the newly introduced Persian style and the Indian traditional styles.  They also show a synthesis of Persian and Jaina styles.  Elements of Rajasthani paintings are also present in some illustrations.  Thus out of the Sultanate painting tradition emerged three major sub-style-the Mughal, Rajasthani, and Deccani schools – almost concurrently in c.1500 AD., all sharing some common formulae and yet preserving their own individualities.

Mughal school

The fusion of the classical Indian and Persian styles was already in progress when the Mughals appeared on the scene in 1526 and accelerated the process by their generous patronage of art.

Mughal school was a blend of Hindu and Islamic elements.  The paintings display and intellectual exuberance and have a realistic touch.  The subjects changed with the emperors though the divine nature of kingship remained the most popular them.  Display of royal glory, portraiture and depiction of court-scenes were the other popular themes.

Akbar : Under Babur and Humayun, the Timurid style of Persian painting continued.  But there were perceptible changes under Akbar.  In the early part of his reign, both Indian and paintings are full of suspense and mystery and are dynamic in expression.  Within a decade the complexity.  The decorative qualities of both were more or less subdued by the advent of the European painting at the Mughal court.  The subject matter was mostly drawn upon from either Hindu mythology or Persian, or books on history and sciences.

Jahangir:The Mughal painting under Jahangir displays love for nature as several subjects from animal and bird life, besides stressed, but the innate beauty behind the outer form is also revealed.  Unlike in Akbar’s time, book illustrations were almost given up.  The expression of a Jahangiri painting is subdued and rather slow in movement, but devoid of dullness.  Its charm lies in its probe into the ‘Beautiful’.

Shah Jahan: Mughal painting gained technical perfection under Shah Jahan.  It probably shows the highest quality in drawing and stippling with great fineness, exquisite colouring, and remarkable display of likeness of form.  It, however, loses in liveliness and becomes stereotyped, static, confined to the royal court.  Preference is given to the court scenes, while in a few outdoor scenes the expression is weak and rather dull.

The divine nature of kingship was a popular theme in Mughal painting at least since the Jahangir’s period.  This was done through certain symbolic representations in which European motifs played an important role, e.g., hour glass, globe or even cherubs amidst Europeanized clouds or golden rays depicting Divine Light.  Such motifs continued to be used under Shah Jahan,  but there was greater emphasis on the display of royal glory by means of a mass of humanity or even armies shown in the background in an humble position and attendant upon the royal figure.

Later Mughals: Despite Aurangzeb’s indifference towards painting, the technical qualities of Mughal painting were sustained.  During the subsequent generations, the Mughal painting burst into exuberance although with a gradual decline in quality.  Besides portraiture and depiction of court scenes, the chief interest shifted in voluptuous treatment of harem scenes.  Now the Mughal style gradually weakened in expression and illustrations lacked intensity of feeling.  The same themes were done over and over again so that they became monotonous in treatment.  Later Mughal paintings borrowed a few themes from the Rajasthani Style.

Rajput painting

Rajput paintings can be divided into two groups-Rajasthani and Pahari.  The Rajasthani group, as its name indicates, covers the entire state of Rajasthan and Bundelkhan where this particular style of painting, sometimes called Jaipuri qalam (literally brush), was prevalent.  Its main centres were the former Rajput courts of Jaipur, Bikaner and Udaipur.  ‘The second group, known as Pahari (mountain) qalam, developed in a wide area around the Sivalik hills running through Poonch, Jammu, Basohli, Nurpur, Kangra, Haripur, Guler and the mid-Himalayan areas like Ram Nagar, Bhadarwah, Chamba, Kulu and Tehri Gharhwal.  The chief centres of this school were at the courts of the Rajas of Basohli, Jammu, Nurpur, Kangra and Chamba.  The Sikh school of painting which flourished under Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1803-1809), is also an offshoot of the Pahari school.

There is a clear distinction between the Rajput and Mughal school of painting.  Mughal art is in its essence an art of official portraiture, of court scenes and representations of historic occasions.  In its technique it always remains more or less close to miniature in which it had its origin and the illuminated manuscript and faithful to the precision of line and meticulous detail of Persian calligraphy.  Rajput art, on the other hand, derived its technique not from miniatures but from mural frescoes.  In fact, the origin of this school lay in the great and ancient art of Ajanta and Bagh through the miniatures in the Jain manuscripts and Gujarati school of the fifteenth century.  It also adopted some of the salient features of Mughal-art.



Rajasthani painting

The origin of Rajasthani painting dates back to the Sultanate period in the early 16th century.  The style shows an unrivalled attachment to Nature.  The illustrations are most at the level of landscape paintings in which human figures play insignificant role.  The tree types with their never ending variety, dense foliage, and richly decorative forms were associated with the singing birds and frolicking animals.

Among the popular literary works illustrated in the early Rajasthani paintings were Laur Chanda, Chaurapanchasika, Krishna Leela, Gita Govinda and Bhagwat Purana.

            The first specific work belonging to this school is a set of Ragamala paintings composed during the reign of Sai Jai Singh II (1692-99).  These paintings illustrate Ragas and Raginis – the musical modes.  They depict the situation appropriate to the various moods expressed and evoked by the different modes.  They are usually inscribed with the Hindi poems which describe the same situation of the highly poetical and graphic fashions.

The Rajasthani school reached its zenith under the patronage of Jagat Singh of Mewar (1628-1652).

A number of regional sub-schools rose in the Rajasthani group in 16th and 17th centuries.  All the sub-styles possess certain common factors that suggest a generic Rajasthani style which gave birth to these regional forms.

Mewar school:Udaipur, Nathwada, Chavand and Chittor were the main centres of this school.  The Mewar paintings portray incidents mainly from the life of Krishna ad his frolics with the gopis, the hero and heroine themes of Hindi poetry and the pictorial representations of the Indian musical modes (Ragamala).  Paintings also depict scenes from general life like marriage ceremonies, processions, dances, battle scenes, birds, animals etc.

Bundi school:The Bundi school has an almost parallel history with Mewar school, except that it developed in two phases viz., 1620-1635 and 1680-1700.  Though the school was highly influenced by Mughal painting in subject matter and technical details, it still retained its originality in expression.  The main emphasis is on display of feminine grace in which it excels.

Malwa school: The school developed in four stages 1634-1650, 1650-1680, 1680-1700 and 1700 onwards.  After the fourth stage, the style seems to have fanned out into several regions in Central India and influenced the local styles.

Bikaneri Style: These paintings flourished from the days of Jahangir.  With the Aurangzeb period, a highly Mughul-influenced style of painting in an exuberant form appeared in Bikaner.  Rukmudin was the most famous painter of the style.  The paintings display extremely clever compositions.

Jodhpur and Nagaur Style: These sub-styles of Rajasthan style show very bold types of expression with broad, fish eyes in the human faces and highly stylized tree types.

Jaipur school:This school began in 1750 and flourished till the beginning of the 19th century.  Life size pictures of Radha and Krishna, use of bright colours and ornamental borders are the chief characteristics of this school.

Kishangarh school: An offshoot of the Jodhpur school, it developed as the most important school of 18th century Rajasthani painting.  The most popular subject of the paintings is the love of Krishna and Radha.  In comparison to other schools paintings of this school are of a large size.

Kotah school:Kotah school lasted from 16th century to 19th century.  Paintings clearly show a Mughal influence.  Court scenes, portrait of princes and hunting scenes were the main subjects.  The tiger and boar (wild male pig) hunting paintings are unique.

Pahari paintings:

The school flourished in the hill areas of Jammu, Himachal and U.P. between 16th and 19th centuries.  Each school in Pahari paintings has its own hallmark of beauty like the delicately painted Kangra and the colourful Basholi that could add clipped wings of butterflies to add brilliance to its colours.  The themes are generally the devotional poetry of the Bhakti saints, landscapes, colourful depiction of seasons, the frolicks of Krishna etc.  the oldest known miniature of the Pahari school, is an  illustration of Bhanudatta’s Rasamanjri (called Chittarasamanjari) by the artist Devidas, who flourished in the reign of Raja Kripal Pal of Basohli. The style of these paintings is strongly individualistic and based on folk art though they were greatly influenced by the Mughal and Rajasthani school.

Important schools under Pahari paintings are:

Basohli school The school flourished in the Jammu hills.  It shared several characteristics with the early Rajasthani, school and Mughal school but retains its own distinctive individuality. The paintings are characterized by human figures appearing as designs, accentuated with heavily bejeweled makeup, with emphasis upon the architectural details.  Monochrome background is preferred to dark foliage.

Guler : A similar school as that of Basholi appeared at Guler under Raja Dalip Singh.  Moreover, the ideal development took place under Raja Goerdhan Chand.  The chief characteristic of Guler school is its lyrical and cool depiction of women who bear their lovers’ absence with muh more composure than the unhappy and passionate heroines of the earlier Basholi school.  Scenes from Ramayana, Mahabharata, portraits and court scenes were the main subjects of Guler paintings.

Kangra : This school developed in 18th – 19th century.  The school displays a blend of the Mughal and Rajasthani paintings.  Female figures show delicate graces of Indian womanhood.  The colour used are symbolic to indicate their moods.  There is emphasis on landscape and foliage.

Jammu school: Jammu school is quite similar to Guler school.  The paintings are light and fluid and show Mughal and Pahari influences.  Poses and gestures play an important role in all the paintings.  Majority  of the paintings are portraits of kings, their courtiers and their families.

Chamba school:Chamba paintings show Basholi and Guler influences.  The figures are short and squat.  Refined colours are another significant feature of Chamba painting.

Tehri Garhwal: The subject matter of these paintings is mostly the Krishna legend and the Ramayana.  Influence of Kangra school is clearly marked on Tehri Garhwal paintings.

Oudh painting: Mughalinfluence is clear on these paintings; however, the colour used are soft and more refined.  Intimate scenes and sensitive depiction of the females are other characteristic features of these paintings.

Jasrota: Jasrota, an offshoot of Jammu school, shows a strong impact of Basholi tradition, particularly in the colour scheme. Both the human and animal figures received full attention of the painter. The human figures dominate the foreground. Facial treatment  is typical of the Nainsukh style.  Colours used are somber and show Mughal influence.

Mandi : Mandi paintings are based on Saivite themes.  Their colour scheme distinguishes them from other Pahari miniature of the same period. Class background and typical facial features of females like large forehead, pointed nose etc.  are other significant features of the Mandi school.

bilaspur: Bilaspur paintings differ from Basholi school in their colour scheme.  Natural and lively faces, though heavier than Basholi paintings are their characteristic features.  The treatment of the landscape is more idealized and richer and it introduces a number of decorative trees and shrubs.

Nurpur : The chief characteristic of the Nurpur paintings is their colour scheme which is somber, yet attractive and pleasing.   Portraits are more sophisticated and differ from Basholi  school in expression.

Kulu : The most significant feature of the Kulu schoolis an extensive Ramayana series.  Human figures are boldly designed and show a strong influence of the Basholi school.

Mankot :This  style, prevalent at Mankot (the modern Ramkot) in Jasrota district of J&K, shows a strong influence of the Basholi school so much so that it is difficult to distinguish the two styles.

Differences between the Mughal painting and Rajasthani painting

  • Unlike the Mughal school, the Rajasthani schools did not follow the rules of perspective; rather they relied on hands of colour to create a feeling of depth.
  • The Rajasthani schools did not use the Mughal techniques of highlighting certain sections of the painting but distributed light uniformly over the entire scheme.
  • The attitudes of Mughal paintings to their work appear personalized as the names of at least a hundred such painters are known from their signatures, whereas of Rajasthani painters it is difficult to mention over half a dozen.
  • Mughal painting is essentially an art of miniature painting, and when enlarged becomes an easel picture, while Rajput painting when enlarged becomes a mural fresco.
  • Unlike Rajput painting, Mughal painting uses self tonalities and atmospheric effects..
  • Mughal outline is precise and patient, while that of Rajasthan is interrupted and allusive or fluent and definitive.
  • Relief effect is produced in Mughal painting with shades, but Rajput colour is flat since a night scene is lighted as evenly as one in full sunlight.

Sikh school

Sikh school flourished under Maharaja Ranjit Singh.  Mughal and Pahari influences are clearly marked on Sikh paintings.  Portraits and havelis of nobles, akharas of mahants and Golden temple of Amritsar are the major subjects.  The drawings are vigorous and life like but lack refinement.

Deccani school

The Deccani Sultanates of Ahmadnagar, Bijapur and Golconda, which emerged after the disintegration of the Bahmani Kingdom, had developed their own style of painting independent of the Mughal tradition.  In fact, this ‘active and sophisticated school’ even contributed to the Mughal style.   The State rulers were Shias and had intimate political relations with Persia. In fact, many Persians and Turkish artists were employed in the courts of Bijapur and Golconda.  Thus the Persian influence is quite evident in the early painting of the Deccan school.  The landscape idiom and decorative formalities are Persian, but the costumes, etc., certainly show the influence of north India or the Malwa school of art.  The indigenous impact further increased after the fall of the Vijayanagar Empire when a number of artists took employment in the courts of the Sultans and helped to develop a synthesis of Persian, Turkish and indigenous styles. This mixed style is evident in Nujum-al-Ulum, a sixteenth century encyclopaedia illustrated with eight hundred and seventy-six paintings.

A series of Ragmala paintings, depicting various musical moods from Bijapur, Golconda and Ahmadnagar ar characteristic examples of this school.

Bijapur Court Style: The earlier paintings show a naïve feeling and colourful nature.  But this gradually faded under Mughal influence.  The later paintings show a considerable Jahangiri influence, although old tradition continued to some extent in the choice of colour and treatment of the background.

Golconda :Portraits show the royal taste in fruits, scented flowers, slaves and pets.

Hydrabadi style: Replaced the Golconda style after 1700.  Although patronized by the Mughal governors, it sustained the Deccani tradition.  The Hyderabad paintings are delicate in execution.  They followed the Mughal tradition and were more or less restricted to the expression of female charm in conventional forms.

Tanjore paintings: The style flourished under the Marathas –  Sarfonji and Shivaji II.  Vishnu, Shiva and Krishna were the favorites of the artists.  The style shows Deccani characteristics.

Mysore school

It flourished during the reign of Raja Krishnaraja Wodeyar of Mysore in the first half of the 19th century.  Paintings are on hand-made paper.  The colour schemes are typical with frequent use of red and green.  Most of the themes were religious, portraiture was more common than in the Tanjore style.  The painters executed much portraiture on ivory.  After Krishnaraja the Mysore school became extinct.

Patna or company school

The advent of Europeans brought the fusion of the Mughal and the Western style and this school came to be known as the ‘Company School’.  The main centres of this school were Patna (an important commercial centres of that time)  and Murshidabad.  Varanasi, Lucknow, and Delhi were other important centres.  Social themes and general life were depicted on these paintings.

Bengali school

E.B. Havell developed a new style of painting in India in the 19th century based on the dictum that old and new could be developed together.  This school came to be known as the Bengal school.  Along with Abanindranath Tagore, he endeavoured to revive the lost values and revitalize the indigenous system.  The subject matter of the Bengal school includes historical themes like Buddha and Sujata by Abanindranath Tagore, religious themes like Shiva Parvati, Krishna and Gopies etc.  and social and daily life.  The paintings are very simple and delicately show light and shade.  The school tried to introduce the rhythm and grace of Ajanta in their paintings.  the pioneers of this school are – Abanindranath Tagore, A.K. Haidar, Nand Lal Bose, Sharda Ukil, Jamini Roy.

Folk Art

Folk paintings of Mithila or Madhubani painting: Folk paintings of Mithila are the exclusive  monopoly of women artists.   The paintings are done on mud walls of the houses.  Paper is also used.  The subject matter of these paintings is Vishnu’s avtars like Rama, Krishna and female deities like Kali, Durga, and Parvati.  Natural colours prepared indigenously are used.  The background of these paintings is detailed.  The art is rooted in Tantra.

Chita: It is a folk art of Orissa strictly practiced by women.

Kalamkari: The most important centres of Kalamkari production are Machilipattanam and Shri Kalahasti in Andhra Pradesh.  The work is mostly done on cotton cloth.

Famous Painters :

Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951): The pioneer of the new school of art, he produced paintings of Krishna Lila synthesizing the Indian and European styles in an original manner.  Some of his famous paintings are Shah Jahan Looking at the Taj, Buddha and Sujata etc.

Asit Kumar Haldar: He belonged to modern school of art and brought uniqueness in painting by working poetical rhythms in the realm of art.

Amrita Shergil: She as the youngest and the first Asian to get elected as the Associate of Great Salon for her paintingConversation (1934.  Her paintings had a hunting melancholy as deep and ambivalent as the smile on the face of Mona Lisa.  Her best paintings include Nudes, Hillside Elephants Bathing in Green Pool, Siesta etc.

Bhavesh Sanyal: His paintings reflect the influence of natural beauty of Kashmir and Kangra.  Beggars of Gole Market and Shelterless Girl are his famous paintings.

Jamini Roy: Born in West Bengal, his paintings were deeply influence by the Bengal school of arts and folk art tradition.

Kshitindranath Mazumdar: An artist of modern school, he succeeded in presenting modern figures in the context of Indian themes.

M.F. Hussain (1915-b): Born in Maharashtra, Maqbool Fida Bussain is considered to be Indian’s leading artist.  He joined Amrita Shergil, Raza and Saiza to form Progressive Artish Group (1948).  He had his first one man show at Bombay (1950), one picture from this exhibition was hung in Salon de Mai in Paris.  His pictures are dynamic and symbolic of turmoil of life.  He made a symbolic film “Through the Eyes of Painter (1966)’ which won the Golden Bear Award at Berlin Film Festival.  Most of his later paintings are stylized, heavily symbolic and of an abstract nature but each is true to the Indian themes.

Muhammad Abdur Rahman Chgtai: A famous artist of the modern school, his work was greatly influence by the old Persian style and the Kangra style and the Kangra style.  His famous painting is the Holi Dance.

Nandalal Bose: Born in Calcutta, he belonged to modern school of art.  His famous paintings include Uma’s Tapasya, Pranam, Shiva – Parvati and Gopini, Krishnarjun etc.

Ravi Raja Varma (1848-1906): Painter of the 19th century, he has become famous for his painting of Shakuntala writing a love letter to king Dushyanta.  He won a gold medal and diploma at World art Exhibition, Vienna for his painting of Nair Lady (1873).

Sarada Ukil: His contribution to modern school of art was very valuable.  He tried to open new horizons for Indian painting while simultaneously trying to revive the traditions of the past.  He also worked on some historical themes against an emotional background.  His paintings included the day-to-day life of men and women, natural scenes, landscapes, pictures of Buddha and of Krishna.

Satish Gujral: Greatly influenced by western paintings he produced the famous painting of a Black Moon.


Indian sculpture

Sculpture in different periods

The art of sculpture was practiced by people of India from ancient times.

Indus Valley Civilization:  In fact, the genesis of Indian sculpture begins with the epoch of the civilization and it is already a startling mature achievement.  The figurine f the dancing girl that has come down to us testifies to good knowledge of bronze casting, indicates that fascination of the feminine figure that will endure throughout, points to the close relationship between sculpture and dance in the Indian tradition.

Terracotta is the medium for objects used in rituals like mother goddess figurine as well as for recreational toys of a great variety.  Despite their small size stone sculpture achieves monumentalize and animals like bulls represented in the small steatite seals have a vibrant realism.

Mauryan Period: The dispersal of the Persian craftsmen, when the Achaemenid empire was over-run by the Greeks  in the fourth century B.C., may have contributed to the monumental stylization of the figure of the lions in the Ashokan Pillar that has been adopted as India’s national emblem.  But the Mauryan age also evolved a gentler style in the bull of the Rampurava Pillar and the sympathetic treatment of animals continues throughut in Indian sculpture.  The Yakshas and the Yakshis are the first rather rigid figures but the femine figure soon becomes sensuously refined, even though remaining ample, in the Didargani Yakshi.

Sungas Period: The  Sungas, who replaced the Mauryas in the second  century B.C., further refined the Yakshi figure with elaborately carved costume and jewelry, linked tree and woman and developed the skill for fluent narration in running friezes of low relief or deep relief sculpture.

Satavahanas Period: The Satavahanas (2nd century BC to 2nd century AD) further developed these traditions.  Narrative sculpture at Amravati brilliantly solved composition in awkward shapes like that of the medallion

Kushana Period: In the north-west regions, now no longer in India, in the Indo-Greek kingdoms that emerged in the wake of the invasion of Alexander the plastic vision of ancient Europe combined with Buddhist spirituality to create the art of Gandhara.  This region became part of the vast Kushan empire of Kanishka (2nd century AD) which stretched from the Oxus to the Ganges.  But the Kushans mostly resided at Mathura and the art of this epoch was in the main a prolongation of the earlier traditions.

However, it was an age of highly urbanized and relaxed mores and the Yakshi figure lost its links with the woods, became a self-consciously seductive damsel of the city.  Scenes of revelry with the wine flowing freely are represented in sculpture.  Feminine apparel begins its fine adventure of ambivalence, revealing while pretending to conceal, for the Mathura nymph wears so transparent a fabric that she appears nude.

Gupta Period: The age of imperial Guptas (300-600 AD) achieved the classical stability of the icons of the Buddha, represented as seated or standing and with various symbolic gestures of the hands.  The circular medallion that had decorated the railings in Sungan and Kushan times evolves here to the splendid aureole or halo of the Buddha.  The transparent apparel of the Kushan epoch falls here in fine folds that trace flowing rhythmic patterns all over the figure.

The Gupta creation of the classical icon of the Buddha is a landmark in the art of Asia.  Like the Padmapani of Ajanta, it radiated to many lands.  The age also created magnificent sculpture of Hindu themes like the incarnation of Vishnu in the late fifth century temple of Deogarh and the powerful representation of the boar (Varaha) incarnation salvaging the earth, hewn from the rock at Udayagiri

Vakatakas Period: The Vekatakas of the Deccan were the contemporaries of the Guptasand under their patronage fine Buddhist sculpture at Ajanta and Hindu at Ellora flourished.  The achievement has great range, from the lightness of flying figures and the elegant rhythmic balance of dancing groups such as the one at Aurangabad to the majesty and wealth of symbolic meaning of the figure of Mahesa at Elephanta.

Chalukyan Period: The Western Chalukyas continued these trends, creating floating figures and dancing Sivas at Badami, Aihole and Pattadakkal.  The Eastern Chalukyas also created some fine sculptures of dance in the temples of Vijayawada region.

Reshtrakuta Period: In the 8th century, the Rashtrakutas carved a whole hill of rock at Ellora  to stimulate a structural temple and peopled it with sculpture on the exploits of Siva which show the turbulent power of their unique architectural achievement.

Prathiharas Period: The Gurajara Pratiharas, who were their contemporaries evolved a les turbulent thought still monumental style in such creations as the cosmic form of Vishnu, created poetically sensitive sculptures like the one showing the wedding of Shiva and Pravati and contributed one of the loveliest dryads in the Indian tradition.

Gahadvalas Period: The Gahadvals continued this tradition and the 12th century head from Rajorgarh is probably the best Indian sculpture for the most elegant representation of feminine figuration coiffure.  This trend of exquisite feminine figuration climaxed in the epoch of the Chandellas (10th to 12th century AD). The eroticism of Khajuraho sculpture has unfortunately attracted undue attention all over the world.

But far more sensitive in modeling and poetic in sensibility are the representations of women in her various moods of longing, expectations, reverie.  Eroticism is found in the sculptures of Konark and Bhuvaneshwar of the epoch of the Eastern Ganges (13th century) too.  But here again the poetic and romantic figurations of women are more sensitive.

South : Moving further south,  the great achievement  of Pallavas (8th century AD)  was the gigantic tableau at Mahabalipuram where a whole rock face has been carved into a representation of the descent of the Ganges and the teeming animal and human life on its banks.  There are some exceptionally fine and deeply sympathetic studies of animal life here.  Siva is the towering figure in Chola sculpture (11th to 12th century AD) in stone besides bronze.  But it is the work in bronze, especially the Nataraja or dancing Siva, that has become world famous.  Matching profound concept with perfect plastic form, this great ironic creation sees the incessant change of the world, the galaxy, as ordered process, assures man it is a benign order.

Under the Hoysalas (12th century AD) the Karnataka region created a sculpture where the soft chloristic schist used attempted rather excessive detail and ornamentation.  In the 16th century, Vijayanagar favoured a sculpture that reflected imperial pomp in elephant processions, cavalcades and marching soldiery.  Stone sculpture influenced by the Pallava tradition and bronze’s influenced by the Pallava tradition and bronze’s influenced by the Chola style were produced in Kerala, but its unique achievement s is in sculpture in wood.

Different schools of sculpture

The art of sculpture was perfected after the spread of Mahayanism in India.  Mahayanism inspired artists to carve images of the Buddha and a beginning was made during the period of the Kushanas.  This led to the growth of Gandhara and Mathura School of sculpture.

Gandhara School

Also called Graeco-Roman, Graeco-Buddhist  or Indo-Greek because it clearly exhibits the influence of Roman, Greek and Hellenistic art.  It is called Gandhara school because it flourished in the North-West frontier of India, the Gandhara Pradesh.  The school had its beginning in the first century B.C., progressed about 150 years and remained in existence till 500 A.D.  In later stages it was affected by the Mathura school and when finally grown up, it influenced the art of sculpture in China and Central Asia.

Characteristics: Realistic representation of human figures; distinguished muscles of the body; transparent  garments; Buddhist  images resembling Greek figures.  Craftsman used white stone and lime to prepare images.  Important  examples are a stupa at Guldara and Votive stupa at Loriyan Tangai.

Mathura School (150-300 A.D.)

The art of sculpture developed in Mathura under the Kushanas.  It was an indigenous art but was also influenced by Roman and Greek art forms.  The early figures are of Jain Tirthankaras.  The Kushana statues are found at Mathura, their winter capital eg. the healess Kanishka.  Later they developed in grace and religiosity.  They were influenced by the Indian Yakshas.  Stone used was spotted red sandstone.

Amravati School (150 B.C. – A.D.400)

The school was a link between the earlier art of Bharhut, Gaya and Sanchi on the one hand and later Gupta and Pallava art on the other.  Developed in district amaravati between the lower valley of the rivers Krishna and Godavari.  It was patronized by the Satavahanas and Ikshvaku rulers. As early as 2nd century B.C.   Amaravati had become an important centre of Buddhism.  By the middle of 2nd century A.D. the school matured.  The school was known not only for physical beauty and expression of human emotions but also for composition.  White marble was used.

Gupta School

It is marked by serenity, security and certainty.  The body has no trace of muscular contours.  The fingers being in the dharmachakra mudra (i.e. preaching), he eyes half closed and with a slight smile indicating the tarnscendition of pleasures/grief and the possibility of transcending evils.  The Sarnath Buddha ‘turning the wheel of law’; the Surya of Pawaya, Gwalior; the Sanchi torso, of a Bodhisattaa and Varaha (Great Boar) of the Udayagiri cave are some noteworthy examples.

Bengali Scholl (8th – 11th centuries A.D.)

During the Pala rule of Bengal  Nalanda became the centre of stone and bronze images, in which we notice a growing tendency towards a general heaviness of form.  The sensuous element, which is manifest in some groups of Paharpur sculptures, was to culminate later in the voluptuous figure of Ganga of the Sena period.  But hieratism also developed side by side, and the images of the principal sectarian deities came to be smothered with heavy decorative details.

Southern School (6th-12th centuries A.D.)

The Mahabalipuram reliefs with their intense naturalism and disciplined vitality, the Ellora sculptures with their vivid, dramatic and dynamic, presentation of epic themes, and lastly Elephanta with its elemental carvings are evidence of magnificent heights of aesthetic achievement in the art of sculpture.  The subsequent art creations of Chola sculptors, though remarkable in their own way, could not reach the standard of their earlier counterparts.  The Chola artists, however, excelled in the casting of metal images, and the bronze images of Nataraj and several other deities rank as some of the finest sculptures of India.

After the establishment of the Muslim rule in India this art form got subdued as Islam is against the image-making.



Art is both religious and secular in character.  The field of art is wide consisting mainly three forms-architecture, sculpture and painting.  The term architecture applies only to buildings.  Architecture is distinguished from sculpture and painting by its spatial quality, though it is not exclusively spatial.  A good architect needs the help of a sculpture as well as a painter.  The former freezes an emotion in stone or metal, in the walls of the temple, in its interior and also carves out independent pieces in the round as well as in the intaglio.  Painting, a more gentle art, involves use of colours and a brush.  Done on the wall it is known as a fresco or tempera or it may be an independent piece of art.

Indus Valley Architecture

The journey of Indian architecture begins with Indus Valley civilization (3rd millennium BC).  The remains of Harappa and Mohenjodaro cities reveal a remarkable sense of town planning.  The buildings, made of both burnt and unburnt bricks, often of two or more storeys, were arranged on grid pattern, were strictly utilitarian, arranged on grid pattern, were strictly utilitarian, without decorative motifs or plasters, and seem to have been built with skill and a sound knowledge of building principles.  Pillars, corbelled arches, stair-cases, etc. were used.  The sot outstanding examples of architecture of this phase are the Great Bath at Mohenjodaro and the citadels and the granaries of the two cities.

Vedic period architecture

After the decline of the Indus Valley cities in the second millennium B.C., the highly developed and standardized brick architecture of this period gave way, in the Vedic Period that followed, to pastoral settlements of mud, thatch, bamboo and timber in the valleys of the rivers from the Saraswati to the Ganga.  Probably there were clusters of circular huts with domed thatched roofs, gables, arched timber palaces and loggias.  This situation continued till the advent of the Mauryas.

Mauryan architecture (321-200 B.C.)

With the exceptions of the walls Rajagriha near Patna, which have no artistic value, we have no architectural remains between the Harappan period and that of the Mauryas.  May be, this was because few buildings were made of stone during this time.  Megasthenes mentions that the palace of Chandragupta Maurya, though very large, was built of carved and gilded wood, and the earliest stone buildings to have survived were evidently modeled on wooden originals.  Use of stone in the buildings probably began with the reign of Ashoka.  The increasing adoption of stone as a building medium was due partly to foreign contacts, but also to the gradual disappearance of timber forests from the more populous and civilized regions of India.

Fragments of polished stone columns, found at Patna, supported the roof of a palace, identified as that of Ashoka.  The monolithic pillars set by Ashoka consisted of three parts – the prop, the shaft and the capitol.  The prop buried in the ground, the shaft or main pillar supported the capitol.  The prop buried in the ground, the shaft or main pillar supported the capitol.  The capitol consisting of the fine polished stone containing one or more animal figures in the round are remarkable for vigorous design and realistic beauty.  The capital of Sarnath pillar, erected to mark the spot where the “Blessed One” first turned the “Wheel of Law”, is the best of the series.

Ashoka also built quite a large number of stupa.  Best examples of stupa are at Sanchi and Sarnath.

Post Mauryan (200BC – 300 AD) architecture

The building of stupas continued on much larger scale in this period.  Hundreds of caves were also cut of solid rocks mainly for monastic purposes.  Unlike the Ashokan caves, which were plain chambers, the caves now began to be decorated with pillars and sculptures.

These caves were of two types.  One type was for the residences of monks, known as Viharas.  The Viharas were quite plain and consisted of a central hall with small cells on all sides.  The other type consisted of the Chaityas or halls of worship.  A Chaitya consisted of a long rectangular hall with apsidsal end, that is, the side opposite the entrance was semi-circular and not straight.  Two long rows of pillars divided the hall into a nave (big central part) and tow side aisles (narrow parts at the two sides.).  a small stupa, called a Dagoba, stood near the apsidsal end.

The front wall was decorated with elaborate sculptures, and there were three small doorways leading to the nave and the side aisles.  But a big horseshoe window above the central doorways leading to the nave and the side aisles. But a big horseshoe window above the central doorway admitted a volume of light which illuminated the Dagoba at the far end.

Besides, the general building activity continued following more or less the tradition of the Mauryas.

Religious architecture

The growth of Buddhism and Jainism and the rise of the sectarian cults of Hinduism gave a great impetus to the progress of architecture.  The major forms of architecture evolved as a result were: Stupa (memorial structure of Buddha), Viharas (residential complexes or monasteries), Chaityas (halls for religious worship), caves and temples.


The stupa is a massive solid domical structure of brick or stone, resting on a round base, intended to serve as a respectable for the relics of Buddha or Buddhist monks.  It was sometimes surrounded by a plain or ornamented stone railing with one or more gateways, which were often of highly elaborate pattern and decorated with sculptures.

The most important stupas are located at Bharut, Modhgaya and Sanchi in North India and Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda in the South.


The early viharas (monastery) were planned in much the same way as a private dwelling housing for monks having only a courtyard surrounded by small single rooms opening into it.  In course of time the viharas became large establishments and served besides their usual purposes, as important educational centres.  The remains at Nalanda and Paharpur are the most noteworthy examples of viharas.  Other examples of viharas are caves at Ajante, Karle, Ellora, all in Maharashtra and Bagh in Madhya Pradesh.


The chaitya was a deep excavation in the form of a basilloca with a frame and two aisles and a stupa, with a great horse shoe opening in the façade.  Important ancient chityas are at Karle, Ajanta, Bhaja etc.  Chaitya at Karle has a fine hall with highly polished and decorated pillars and vaulted roofs.


As the Buddhist structures the earliest temples were rock cut caves, excavated in western Deccan in early Christian era-e.g. at Ajanta and Karle.  The second phase produced some exhaustive creations.  The growing popularity of image worship in Mahayana Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism stimulated building activities the cave temples of Ajanta, Ellora, Elephanta, the Mandapas and Rathas of Mahabalipuram and the Kailasanatha temple at Ellora by the great ruler Krishna (Rashtrakuta) are some of the great achievements of this period.

All the Buddhist caves in general are a complex of Vihara, Chaitya hall and Stupa.  So they meet a secular need of the clerical community, wherein they not only lived but also prayed the lord.

Ajanta Caves: the Ajanta caves are located 60 miles away from Aurangabad, in Maharashtra.  There in all 30 caves of which 25 are vihara caves and 5 Chaitya caves.  There are caves with both the Buddhist and the Hindu features.  Chronologically Ajanta temples date from 2 B.C. to 5 century A.D.

Caves X, XIX and others are of the Buddhist cult.  The Ajanta caves are more famous for their paintings.  The examples like the Jataka story of Saddanta Jataka (when Bodhisattva took the form of an elephant) and the sleeping princess, etc. are noteworthy paintings.  Besides paintings, these caves are also notable for sculptures.  For instance, the sculpture of Nagaraja at cave no.  XIX is considered to be an outstanding example of the period.  The traits of Ajanta both in painting and sculpture are also found at Bagh caves and Sittannavasal.

Ellora Caves: Located 33 km. from Aurangabad, Maharashtra.  Ellora caves are famous for their architecture, sculpture and painting.  Total numbers of caves are 71.  These caves are believed to be built around 8th century AD.  Besides, the Buddhist caves Ellora stands as a centre for the evolution of Hindu architecture.  During the period of Krishna I, the cave 16 was made a temple for Kailasanatha.  It is a monolithic temple and falls in the continuity f the Buddhist tradition as in examples like Elephanta near Bombay, Jogeshvari in Bombay, which were all carved out during the Rashtrakuta regime.  The temple of Kailasanatha at Ellora is two storied one.  The pillars and other components received dexterity of artistic and descriptive nature even though such is not found at Jogeshvari which is also Siva temple in cave with stalactites and stalagmites, wherein the pillars are carved with lotus medallions.

Elephanta Caves: Are located near the harbor of Bombay in Arabian Sea, on an island, which appears like an elephant and hence called Elephanta.  These caves underwent a process of destruction by the Portuguese, have a temple of Siva and many sculptures.  Of sculptures the three headedSiva (depicting three moods- the creator, the preservator and the destroyer) is famous one.  The middle head is of the Siva, the left one is of Uma/Sakti and the right one is of Aghora Bairava.  This is a conglomeration of the Sattva (Siva), Rajah (Uma) and Tamah (Bhairava) qualities in the world.

Bagh Caves: Belonging to 6th century AD, these are located in Madhya Pradesh.  There are in total nine caves (all of which are vihara caves) with beautiful frescoes and sculpture, stone works.  However, these caves are badly damaged.  The caves of Bagh not only indicate a painting tradition as found in Ajanta but also the constructions like verandahs, which are affiliated to different caves and help to identify the architectural tradition during the Gupta period.

Junagadh Caves: Uparkot i.e., citadel is an ancient fortress which has been the scene of historic sieges between the middle of the 14th century and end of the 16the century A.D.  Its entrance is from the archway and it is a fine specimen of the Hindu torana.  It had many Buddhist monasteries in ancient times.  Some of the caves were two or three stories high.  It belonged to about 300 AD.  The outstanding features of these caves are the halls, connected by winding staircases.  In the upper chamber is a small refractory and a tank surrounded by a corridor, all supported by six richly carved columns indicative of fine craftsmanship.

Sankaram Caves: Are located in the present Visakhapatnam district, Andhra Pradesh, near Anakapalli.  The name Sankaram is corrupt form of the Sanskrit word Sangharama which is to denote the whole complex around Stupa, Chaitya and Vihara.  The caves at Sankaram are built on a hill, showing the skills of rock-cut architecture and brick masonry.  These caves speak of a rigorous impact of the Buddhists on the North of Godavari.  They were built during the early 6th century AD.  They speak of the Mahayana and Vajrayana impact in Northern Andhra.

Brahmanical and Jaina Caves: The earliest of the Brahmanical shrines are to be seen in group of caves at Udayagiri (Madhya Pradesh), belonging approximately to the early 5th century A.D. the majority represents small rectangular shrines (occasionally structural caverns enlarged and given the required shape) with a pillared structural portico in front.  Cave No. IX, perhaps the latest in the series, introduces four pillars verandah, and a columned hall with a square sanctum cell deeper at the far end (6th century AD).

In the Dravida country the cave style was introduced in the 7th century A.D. by Mahendravarman Pallava.  A shrine of this mode in the south usually takes the shape of a rectangular hall, or mandapa (mandapam) as it is locally called, with one or more cells cut further deep on one or more sides of the hall.  The façade is composed of a row of pillars with brackets supporting the architrave and their design and decoration give useful data for determining the chronological and stylistic sequence of these caves.

The Brahmanical caves at Ellora are famous for the boldness of their design, spaciousness of their dimensions and skilled treatment of the façade and the interior.  Of the sixteen excavations belonging to this faith, the Dasaavtara (XV), the Ravana-ka-khai (XIV), the Ramesvara (XXI) and the Dhunar  lena (XXIX), besides the far-famed Kailasa-an entire temple complex cut out of the rock is imitation of a distinctive structural form, are the most important.  They may be divided into three types.  The first, represented by the Dasavatara cave, comprises a many-columned hall with the sanctum cell dug out at its far end and the lateral sides of the hall disposed each as a kind of the iconostasis.  In the second type of sanctum, a free standing cubical cell with a processional passage around, is shaped out of a mass of rock at the centre of the back end of the hall.  Of the two caves of this class, the Ravana-ka-khai and the Rameshvara, the latter is more eminent because of the magnificent wealth of sculptures overlying all its part and the rich and elegant design of the massive pillars of the façade with their charming and graceful bracket figures.  The Dhumar lena(middle of the 8th century AD), belonging to the third group, is the most elaborate of the Brahmanical cave-shrines.  It consists of a cruciform pillared hall, having more than one entrance and court, with the free-standing squarer cell, shaped out of the rock, near the back end.  This cave is probably the finest among the Brahmanical excavations, the more well known cave at Elephanta following its pattern generally.

Two caves, one at Badami and the other at Aihole (middle of the 7th century AD), represent the earliest of the Jaina cave of this phase.  Each exhibits a pillared quadrangular hall with the sanctum cella dug out at the far end.  The Jaina caves at Ellora date from the 9th century.  Of these the Chota kailasa (XXX), the Indra Saba (XXXII) and the Jagannatha Sabha (XXXIII) are important.  The first is a reduced copy of its more famous namesake.  The second and the third are each partly a copy of structural from and partly cave excavation.  In the forecourt of each is a monolithic shrine preceded by gateway, both shaped out of the rock, while behind rises the façade of the cave in two storeys, each reproducing the usual plan of a pillared hall with a chapel at the far end and cella at the sides.  Though identical in plan and arrangement, the Jagannath Sabha lacks the balance and organic character of the Indra Sabha.


Perhaps the highest achievement of Indian architecture is seen in temple.

Temple architecture

The erection of sanctuaries for the images of gods dates back perhaps to the 2nd century BC.  Several deva-grahas of pre-Christian centuries have been excavated in extremely fragmentary state.  The Gupta period, however, marks the real beginning of Indian temple architecture.

Gupta Period (A.D.32-600)

What remains of the Gupta architecture are some small temples which exhibit comparative refinement in style these temples  are well-designed, and consist of a square chamber, a cella (shrine) and a portico or veranda as essential elements.  They are decorated with fine sculptured panels, but the decoration is properly subordinated to, and is in full harmony with, the architectural plan of the buildings.  The magnificent temples of large dimensions must have been constructed during the period, but they have been completely destroyed.

High and elaborately worked towers (sikharas) which surmounted the roofs of temples in later ages, had not yet made their appearance, but the beginnings of this development are seen in the Bhitargoan temple and the miniature representations of temples on relief-sculptures of the Gupta period.  The Gupta temples were independent structures built of dressed stone blocks placed together.  Their masonry was held together without mortar.  The finest and earliest Gupta temple is the Dasavatar temples of Deograh near Jhansi.  The shrine has a simple structure with a doorway elaborately carved.  The style continued for about 400 years and was popularly called the Indo-Aryan style.  Other examples are the Vishnu temple at Tegawa in M.P, Shiva temple at nagada, the Parvati temple at Ajaygarh, the Bhittargaon temple near Kanpur, etc.

Post-Gupta Period (AD 600-1200)

It was during this age that the different styles of Indian temple architecture were evolved.  The Indian Shilpashastras recognize three main styles of temple architecture: Nagara in North India, Vessara in territory between Vindhyas and the Kirshna and the Dravida in the South i.e., between the Krishna and Kanyakumari.  The Vesara temples have evolved as a hybrid style of the Nagara and the Dravida.

The Nagara style prefers a tower, known as shikhara, with rounded top and curvilinear outline, while the tower known as vimana, of the Southern or Dravidian style is usually in the shape of a rectangular truncated pyramid.  In South Indian temples pillars play an important part while they are altogether absent in edifices constructed in the North Indian style.  Lastly, in the southern temples, the gateways or gopurams are highly developed, unlike the North Indian temples.

Dravida Style

The history of architecture in South India begins with the Pallava temples.  Some of the Pallava rock-cut temples, known as the seven Pagodas or Rathas of Mammallapuram (7th century AD)  are small temples, each of which is cut out of a single rock boulder of granite with finely sculptured walls.  These pagodas are named after the five Pandava brothers  and Draupadi.  These monolithic temples are complete with all the details of an ordinary temple.  They still show the influence of wood construction.  The apogee of the Pallava style was reached in the Shore Temple at Mamallapuram and the Kailasanatha Temple of Kanchi.  The latter has a pyramidal tower formed of two courses of small barrel vaults, surmounted by a solid cupola, suggesting a Buddhist stupa.  There are three separate parts of it: a sanctum with a pyramidal tower, a mandapa and a rectangular courtyard showing a series of subsidiary shrines or cells.

The Cholas who supplanted the Pallavas in South India were mighty builders.  The Chola architecture is characterized by a massive grandeur.  The huge structures were decorated with minute sculptures were decorated with minute sculptures.  In fact, the Cholas further developed the Pallava style.  The comparatively modest tower of the Pallava style was replaced by a great pyramid, rising from a tall upright base and crowned with a domed finial.  The Chola temples contain elaborate pillared halls and beautiful decoration.  Gradually a huge gateway, called Gopuram, began to be added to the enclosure of the temple.

The Brihadeshwara temple at Tanjore built by Rajaraja is the most magnificent.  The most striking feature is the vimana, 65 metres high built in such a way, that its, shadow does not reach the ground.  Another Chola temple of importance was at Gangaikonda Cholapuram.

From the twelfth century onwards it became usual to fortify the temple, often with three square  concentric walls, with gates on the four sides.  The gates were surrounded by watch-towers or gatehouses, and these developed into soaring towers (gopurams), generally much taller than the modest  shikharaover the central shrine.  The new style is often called Pandyan, from the name of the dynasty which supplanted the Cholas.  This style introduced more elaborate ornamentation, and the use of animal forms in pillars and columns, including the rampant horses and leogryphs.  Besides Gopurams, pillared halls and long colonnades were added as new features in the later temples.  Best examples of these are the Gopurams of Kanchi and Madurai temples.

The Hoysalas (1050-1300 AD) of the medieval Deccan started a new style of architecture.  Their temples are not square but polygonal or star-shaped.  Other characteristics are the high bases or plinths which follow all the windings of the temple and thus offer a huge length of vacant space to be elaborately carved with sculptures.  The shikhara is pyramidal but low.  These temples give a strong feeling of flatness, for platforms and walls alike are covered with rather narrow carved friezes of elephants, horsemen, geese, monsters, and scenes of mythology and legend.  The most important temples of this style are the Kesav temple, at Somnathpur, the Hoysaleshvara at Halebid and the Chenna Kesava at Belur.

Vijayanagar rulers built temples like Hazra, Vithalaswami etc.  these temples have: huge gopurams, higher enclosure walls-as there was threat from the Bahamanis, and hall with pillars with rich decorations.  The temples are mysterious.

Secular buildings – have Indo-Muslim features, e.g. Elephant stable, Lotus Mahal.  Platform of Krishna Deva Raya, Prisons, the Palaces, several baths, pillars and arcades constitute the secular architecture.  The Meenakshi temple at Madurai and the Rameshwaram temple of 17th century were built during the Nayaka period.  The latter has pillared corridors which not only surround it on all sides but also form avenues leading up to it.

Nagara Style

Medieval North Indian architecture is best illustrated by temples- those of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat and southern Rajasthan.

The fundamental characteristics of a Nagara temple are cruciform ground-plan and the curvilinear foyer.  Essential plan of north Indian temples includes an inner chamber (Garbhagriha), a pavilion (Mandapa), the vestibule (Antarala) which connects the vimana and mandapa, and the passage (Radhkrishna patha).

Temples of Orissa: A magnificent series of temples at Bhubaneswar, Puri and Konark in Orissa by the rulers of Eastern Ganga dynasty, illustrate the development of architecture from the 8th to 13th century.  The most important were the Lingaraja (1000 AD) and Raja Rani (1150 AD) temple at Bhubaneswar, the Jagannath temple at Puri and the gigantic Sun temple at Konark that is fashioned like a chariot moving on twelve giant wheels drawn by seven horses, are indeed splendid examples of architectural dexterity.  The Konark temple is also called the “Black Pagoda” perhaps due to the use of black-stones.  The Orissa temples have no pillars.

Their special features are the profusely ornamented outer wall relieved by projections on surface everywhere, loaded with rich sculpture.  The inner wall surface is plain.

Khajuraho Temples of MP: Under the Chandella kings of Bundelkhan a great school of architecture flourished in the 10th and 11th century; the chief work of which is a beautiful group of temples at Khajuraho.  The standard type of Khajuraho temple contains a shrine-room or sanctuary, an assembly hall, and an entrance portico.  In the Orissan temple these temple these elements were conceived rather as separate entities joined together by vestibules, whereas the Khajuraho architects treated them as a whole, and though each part has its own roof they are not structurally separate.  The temple is curved for its whole length, and its upward thrust is accentuated by miniature shikharas emerging from the central tower.  The tower, and indeed the whole temple, seems intimately at one with the earth, suggesting an enormous ant-hill.  While the Orissan roof is pyramidal in pattern, the Khajuraho builders employed corbelling to produce the effect of a flattish dome.  The mass of the buildings is broken by pillared window openings.  A further distinctive feature is the introduction of small transepts to the assembly hall, giving the whole a ground plan.

The important temples at Khajuraho are the Kandariya Mahadeva temple, the Vishwanath temple etc.

Temples of Gujarat and Rajasthan: The temples of Gujarat and Rajasthan are built on high platform and usually consisted of a shrine and hall only, without an entrance portico.  The shikhara over the shrine, like those of Khajuraho, was adorned with a large number of miniature towers, and the ceilings were in the form of corbelled domes.  The most outstanding feature of this style is its minute and lovely decorativeness.

Best examples are the Dilwara Jain temples built between the 11th and 12th century AD by the Solanki rulers, which are famous for their intricate carvings in marble.  Vimla Vsoli, built in 1031 by Vimal Shah, is the oldest of the Jaina temples.  Dedicated to Adinath, the first of the Jaina Tirthankaras and constructed out of white marble it is a perfect example of Jaina architecture.


These temples combined the features of Nagara and Dravidian styles.

Chalukyan Art: Important sites are Aihole, Badami, Mahakuteshwar and Pattadakal.  The earliest temples closely resemble the Guptan and are of the North Indian type, e.g. Ladkhan temple at Aihole.  Later the Dravidian influence increased.  The famous Virupaksha temple, dedicated to Shiva Lokeshwara, is built of very large closely joined blocks of stone without mortar, quite similar to the Dravidian style.  The main shrine with the Paradakshina passage is distinct from the mandapa which is pillared, with solid walls and pierced stone window.  The sikhars consists of clearly defined stories.

The Rashtrakuta Art: Remembered for cave and rock cut temples at Ellora and Elepanta. Kailash temple at Ellora is dedicated to Shiva and the Elephanta cave is dedicated to the “Trimurti” (Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh).

Indo-Islamic Architecture

Sultanate Period (1206-1526)

With the establishment of the Islam rule in India, the followers of Islam, like the Arabs, the Persians, or the Turks, brought in their train the art of different parts of Western Europe.  The mingling of these with the different indigenous styles of old Indian art during this period, according to the needs of religion and personal taste, led to the growth of new ‘Indo-Islamic’ style of architecture.  The four major components of the Islamic architectural traditions are mosque, mausoleum, fort and palaces.  The mosques consisted of a large rectangular open courtyard surrounded by arcades on all four sides.  The Mehrab which faces Mecca indicates the direction for praying, which in India falls in the west.

The practice of burial of the dead led to the construction of tombs which comprised of domed chamber, the Chhaja, with a dargah in the centre,  a mehab on the western wall, and the grave (Kabra) in an underground chamber.

The essential differences between Islamic and Indian styles are the following.

  • The Indian temples were either spaced by beams or the courses of bricks/stones were laid in cobels to cover the open space.
  • Though use of arch existed in India it was made common in India by the Muslims.
  • The flat lintels or corbelled ceilings were replaced by arches or vaults and the pyramidal roof (or spire) by the dome.
  • Concept of sun-shades or balconies were introduced.
  • Chhajas, kiosks, tall towers and half domed double portals are the other distinguishing features of Indo-Islamic architecture.

The indigenous ornamentation is largely naturalistic, delineating with the conspicuous zest, human and animal forms and the luxuriant vegetation-life characteristic of tropical country.  Since representation f living beings was forbidden by scriptures, the Muslims took recourse to execution of geometrical and arabesque patterns, ornamental writing and formal representation of plant and flora life.

Turks:            The Turks used fine quality mortar and added colour to the building by using red sandstone and white sandstone.  Marble was used for decoration.

The Turks employed Hindu craftsmen and gradually adopted the bell, swastika, kalash and lotus symbols under the Hindu and Buddhist influence.  Initially, their buildings were made of materials taken from Hindu and Jaina temples.  The extensive use of arches and domes dispensed with the need for a number of pillars enabling large halls with a clear view to be constructed.

The earliest constructions are the two: Quwaat-ul-Islam at Delhi and Arahi din-ka Jhopra at Ajmer by Qutb-ud-din Aibak mainly cut out of the old Hindu and Jaina temples.  Qutab Minar at Delhi begun by Aibak was completed by Iltutmish.

Kaljis : The Khaljis added certain new features like the lotus buffing on the other side of the arch, ornamental bases in relief, arch in the form of pointed horse shoe (scientific method), windows, decorative mouldings, arabesque, low reliefs, inscriptional bands and use of red sanstones relieved by marble.  Important Khalji buildings are the Allai Darwaza, Jamait Khama Masjid, Hauz-i-Alahi, and the city of Siri.

Tughlaqs : The Tughlaq rulers built buildings which were massive and simple with little ornamentation except that of the Firoz Shah Tughlaq’s building.  Plain and austere surface of grey stone, cross vaults over large halls, battered walls and bastions, four centered arches and lintel over the openings were employed.  They tried to combine the principle of arch, lintel and beam.  They use encaustic tiles for relief.  The buildings are built on a high platform to have a good sky-line.

Important Tughlaq Constructions are Tughlaqabad by Giasuddin Tughlaq, Adilabad for and Jahanpanath by Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq, cities of Hissar –Firuza, Fatehabad and Jaunpur and Kotla Firozshah by Firoz Shah Tughlaq.

Lodhis :The Lodhis brought in balconies, kiosk and caves of the Rajasthani and Gujarati style in their construction.  They placed their tombs on high platforms amidst a garden.  Some tombs were octagonal in shape.

Important constructions are the Lodhi garden, the Sahish Gumbad the Baar Gumbad Mosque, the Bahul Lodhi’s Tomb, Bagh-i-Alam ka Gumbad and Moti Masjid, are all in Delhi.

Provincial styles

The architectural styles followed in provinces like Jaunpur, Bengal, Malwa, Kashmir, Gujarat etc., was essentially of the Delhi style.

Jaunpur: The buildings of Sharqi or Jaunpur school have massive sloping walls, square pillars, smaller galleries and cloisters, which are clearly Hindu features, designed by Hindu masons, and the mosques of Jaunpur have no minarets of the usual type.  One important example is the Atala Devi Mosque.

Bengali : In Bengal also there grew up a mixed style of architecture, characterized by the use of bricks in the main, the subsidiary use of stone, the use of pointed arches on short pillars and the Muslim adaptation of the traditional Hindu temple style of curvilinear cornices copied from bamboo structures, and of beautifully carved Hindu symbolic decorative designs like the lotus.  Important examples are Adina Mosque at Pandua, Dakhila Darwaza and Tantipura mosque at Gaur and also the Bara Sona Masjid and Chhota Sona Masjid.

Kashmir: The Muslim Sultans of Kashmir continued the old tradition of stone and wooden architecture but grafted on it Islamic structural forms and decorative motifs.  Examples are Jama Masjid, Zaina Lanka, etc.

Gujarat : A splendid indigenous style flourished in Gujarat before the coming of the Muslims and the buildings of the conquerors were greatly influenced by that style, though arches were occasionally used for symbolical purposes.  Important buildings are Tin Darwaza, Jami Masjid, Jaliwali Masjid (or, Sadi Saiyyid mosque) at Ahmadabad and the Jama Masjid at Champaner by Mahmud Begarha.

Malwa: At Dhar, the old capital of Malwa, the mosques and buildings had domes and pillars of Hindu form.  But the buildings at Mandu, where the capital was soon transferred, were marked by the predominance of Muslim art traditions, and they clung steadily to the pointed arch style.  Marble and sandstone were used in many of these edifices.  The Tomb of Hoshang Sheh is made entirely of marble – first of its kind in India.  Important buildings include the Jama Masjid, Jahaz Mahal, Hindola Mahal at Mandu.

Multan : Being earliest provincial style, Multan and Lahore were the two centres of the Multan architectural style.  Tombs are the centre of attraction, which are brick structures surfaced with glazed tiles.  Surface coloured tile ornament with its brilliant colour effect employed in the tomb of Dukh-i-Alam are typical of the Multan style.

Deccan: The Bahmani architecture of the Deccan was a composite mixture of several elements – Indian, Turkish, Egyptian and Persian. They also incorporated elements from South Indian temples.  They developed the dome into a full blown bulbous as the Gol Gumbad at Bijapur.  Other important buildings were – the Jama Masjid at Gulbarga, Mehtar Mahal, Ibrahim Rauza and the fort of Golkonda.  Multiple domes and covered courtyard are two special features.

Khandesh : Buildings of the Faruqi or Khandesh style are mostly found at Thalner and Burhanpur.  Buildings have centrally projected openings and wider spacing of the doors and windows; prominence has been given to the parapet wall and also to the stilt sided dome placed on a well proportioned octagonal trum, e.g. Jami Masjid at Burhanpur.

South : Further southward, the Vijayanagar rulers kept the tradition going century had started with the Pallavas and had far advanced during the Chola and Pandya rules.

Mughal Period

The common features of the Mughal buildings were the use of running water, dome, arch, perforated jail work, inlay decoration and artistic calligraphy and laying gardens around the buildings.

During Babur’s reign, the first Mughal ruler, of only four years, magnificent forts, palaces, gates, public buildings, mosques, baolis, etc. were built.  However, it was Sher Shah who symbolized the transition from the Sultanate architecture to the Mughal architecture.  While the perfection of the Qila Kuhna Masjid in the Purana Qila at Delhi became the prototype upon which the Mughals developed their structure, his tomb at Sasaram in Bihar was indeed a fitting climax to the series of octagonal tombs erected by the Tughouqs and the Lodis.

But the real Mughal architecture began with the rule of Akbar.  The emphasis shifted from sectarian to secular architecture.  While still adhering to Persian ideas, which he inherited from his mother, Akbar used Hindu styles of architecture in many of his buildings, the decorative features which are copies of those found in the Hindu and Jaina temples.  The main medium of Akbar’s buildings was the red sand stone.  Major architectural examples under Akbar at the city of Fatehpuri Sikri are Buland Darwaja, Pancha Mahal, Diwan-i-Khas, Jodha Bai’s Palace, Turkish Sultan’s palace, Salim Chisti’s Tomb and the forts at Lahore, Allahabad and Agra.  He also began building his own tomb at Sikandra which was later completed by Jahangir.

The number of buildings erected during Jahangir’s reign was comparatively lesser.  However, the use of Pietra dura in the buildings increased greatly during his reign.  The structures of Shah Jahan as compared with those of Akbar, are inferior in grandeur and originality, but they are superior in lavish display and rich and skillful decoration.

Under Shah Jahan, the most famous among the builders of the Mughal dynasty, the use of white marble stone immensely increased.  Unlike his predecessors, he built a large number of mosques (sectarian buildings) at Agra and Delhi.  Some his architectural constructions are Mina Masjid and Naginia masjid near Red Fort, Delhi, red stone Jami mosque of Agra and Delhi, red stone Jami Mosque of Agra, Jama masjid at Delhi, Diwan-i-Am, Diwan-i-Khas, Rang Mahal, etc.  Taj Mahal, which he started building in 1631 and completed 1648 as a memorial to his most beloved queen Mumtaz Mahal, marked the zenith of Mughal architecture  built in white marble, it is considered one of the wonders of the world.

In Aurangzeb’s reign the style of architecture began to deteriorate.  The few structures of his reign such as Moti masjid (white marble) in Red Fort, foundation of the town Aurangabad near Ajanta and Bibi Ka Maqbara built in memory of Aurangzeb’s wife Begum Rabia Durani by her son were nearly feeble imitations of the older models.  Soon the creative genius of the Indian artists mostly disappeared, surviving partly in Oudh and Hyderabad in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Sikh architecture

The typical features of the Sikh architecture (the Golden Temple is the representative) are the multiplicity of Chhatris (kiosks) which adorn the parapets, angles on each prominence or projection, the invariable use of the fluted domes generally covered with brass or copper gelt, the frequent use of oriel or embowed windows with shallow elliptical cornices, supported on brackets, and the enrichment of all arches by numerous foliations.

Rajput architecture

Picturesque and romantic, most of the Rajput buildings during the Muslim rule in India have hanging balconies of various shapes and sizes and even long  loggias, supported on rows of elaborately carved brackets.  A special characteristic is a carved cornice or cave, arched in shape, producing shadow, and arched like a bow.


Indian Languages and literature

Today India has 22Constitutionally (according to Eighth Schedule) recognized languages.  They are
1) Assamese 2) Bengali 3) Gujarati 4) Hindi 5) Kannada 6) Kashmiri 7) Malayalam 8) Marathi 9) Oriya 10) Punjabi 11) Sanskrit 12) Tamil 13) Telugu 14) Urdu 15) Sindhi 16) Konkani 17) Manipuri 18) Nepali 19) Bodo 20) Dogri 21) Maithili 22) Santhali

These languages belong  to four major speech families 1) Arya 2) Dravidian, 3) Sino-Tibetan (Mongolian) and 4) Austirc.  Fifteen of the major languages of India come under the Indo-Aryan (11) and the Dravidian (4) families.

The Constitution has recognized Hindi in Devanagiri script as the official language of the Union (Art 343 et. Seq.)  and the regional languages as the official languages of the states concerned (Art 345 et.seq.). English was recognized as the authoritative legislative and judicial language (Art 348 et.seq.)

Each of these languages of India has produced a literature of great vitality and richness.  However, Sanskrit language and its literaturehas a special place in India’s civilization.  It is the oldest classical language and has functioned as the of most powerful formative agency and integrating force from the very beginning of Indian history.  Actually there is no important language or literature in India that has not been influenced and enriched by Sanskrit and its great literature.  Next to Sanskrit comes Tamil with reference to the antiquity of literature.  Except Tamil in South  and Urdu in North almost all modern Indian languages emerged more or less within the same period of Indian history Urdu has only a heritage of about five centuries.



Vedic Literature

The word vedais derived from root vid (to know) meaning knowledge par excellence.  Vedic texts are sruti (heard), i.e. believed to have been directly revealed to the authors by the gods, (distinct from smriti which means remembered.  There are four Vedas.  Each Veda has a Brahmana appended to it explaining the mantras and rituals. The Brahmana is again divided into Aranyaka and Upanishad.  All of these are sruti remembered).



         The beginning of Sanskrit literature may be traced back to Rigveda, the oldest religious text in the world, compiled in 1500-1000 B.C.  It has 1028 hymns divided into 10 Mandalas or 8 Astikas.  It is the foundation of all vedicliterature, consisting mainly of lyrics in praise of different gods, mainly Indira, Varuna and Agni and a host of minor gods.  Some hymns remember pre-Indian events.  They also contain philosophical speculations on life after death,  creation of the universe and the reason of existence.  The other three Vedas, the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas and the Upanishads were composed between 1000 BC and 600 BC.


Yajurveda:  It is in prose, distinct from verse form of Rigveda.  It contains sacrificial formulae and rules and has 2 branches 1) The older Krsna Yajur Veda or Taittriya Samhitas in which the mantra and Brahman part is not separated; 2) white or Sukla Yajur Veda or Vajasanayi Samhitas.


Samaveda:  Contains all the Rigvedic hymns dealing with Soma hymns and 75 others added and set to tune.


Trayi Veda:  Rigveda, Yajurveda and Samveda are collectively called as Trayi Veda.


Atharvaveda:  Collection of spells and charms, many of which were non-Aryan and is of lesser importance.  It two has branches Paippalada and Saunaka.


Brahmanas: Appendices to the Vedas, Brahmanas deal with the rules of sacrifice and contain ritualistic formulae for the respective veda and priest.

Rigveda : Aitareya Brahmana and Kausitaki or Sankhyayana Brahmana

Samaveda:  Tandyamaha Brahmana

Shkula Yajurveda:  Jaiminiya Brahmana


Aranyakas:  They are later parts of the Brahmanas and explain the metaphysics and symbolism of the sacrifice and priestly philosophy.  Aranyakas (meaning forest books) were taught in the forest due to their dangerous magical powers.


Upanishads:  They are final parts, are commentaries appended to the Aranyakas and deal mainly with philosophy.  There are more than 100 Upanishads but only 12 important ones.  The word is derived from Upa-ni-sad (to sit down near someone).


Rigveda :  Aitareya Brahmana has Aitareya Upanishad.  Kausitaki or Sankhyanyana Brahmanahas Kausitaki Upanishad.


Yajurveda: Krsna Yajur vedahas Tattiriya Brahmanawith Tattiriya, Katha and Svetavatara Upanishads, Sukla Yajur veda has Satapatha Brahmana with Brihandarayaka and Isa Upanishads.


Sama VEda: Tandyamaha Brahmana has Chandyoga Upanishad and Jaiminiya Brahmana has Kena Upanishad.


Priests :  Each Veda has its priest.  Rigveda has the Hotr or invoker Yajurveda has Adhvaryu or the singer.  The Brahmana was one of the 16 categories of priests and was the high priest of the sacrifice.


Non-Sruthi Literature :  The Vedangas are non-sruti literature because they are of human origin.  They were written in the form of sutras (literally meaning thread) – in a peculiar prose form.  The Vedangas are limbs of the Vedas and are for understanding the Vedas.  There are six Vedangas: Siksa (phonetics), Kalpa (rituals), Vyakrain (grammar) Nirukta (etymology), Chhanda (metrics) and Jyotisha (astronomy.  Yaska’s Nirukta (5th century B.C.) is the oldest Indian linguistic text.  Panni wrote Astadheyayi (4th century B.C.) on Vyakaran, Pingala wrote on Chhanda, Pratisakhya sutra is a Siksha sutra. Sayana was a commentator on the Vedas.

Kalpa sutras are divided in 3 sections in the post vedic period: Srauta sutras dealing with large public sacrifices, Ghriya Sutras dealing with domestic ceremonies and sacrifices, and Dharma sutras dealing with the laws, manners and customs of people in general.



The akhyanas or stories and ithikasas or legends narrated in the epics can be traced back to the Vedas, but the is not recorded anywhere.  The Mahabharata and Ramayana are the only ones now available in literary texts.

According to Indian tradition, Valmiki is the author of the Ramayana.  The Ramayana is essentially a poetic creation that influenced the thought and poetry of later ages in course of which new matter came to be added to the original composition.  The work now comprises seven books and contains 24,000 verses.

The Mahabarata, supposed to be the work of Vyasa, unlike the Ramayana may  be regarded as a  whole literature and not one poetic production.  Its central theme is the great Kurukshetra battle of eighteen days fought between the Kauravas and the Pandavas.  The Mahabharata is divided into eighteen books (parvans) and there is a supplement called the Harivamsa.  The famous Bhagavad-Gita belongs to the Bhismaparvan and is a holy book.



The word Purana means ‘old narrative’.  A Purana should describe five topics; 1) Sarga (creation), 2) Pratisarga 3)Vansa (Genealogy), 4) Manvantara (Manu-periods) and 5) vamsanucarita (dynastic history).

            Puranas,writtenin the Gupta period, are important both as history and religious literature.  The origin of the Puranas must be traced to the time when in the course of a religious revolution Buddhism was gaining ground as a formidable opponent of the Brahmanic culture.

Eighteen in number, they have been classified from the standpoint of the three cosmic qualities, sattva, rajas and tamas.

The sattvika puranas are Vishnu, Bhagvata, Navadiya, Gauruda, Padma and Varaha. The rajas puranas are Brahma, Brahmanda, Bramavaivarta, markandeya, Bhaviysa and Vamana.  The tamas puranas are Siva, Linga, Skanda, Agni, Matsya and Kurma.  Besides these Mahapuranas there are also eighteen upapuranas.




The most outstanding and popular work on Brahmancial laws is the Manu Smriti (1st century B.C.).  Among the other important works on law may be mentioned the Narada Smriti, the Brahaspati Smriti and the Yojnavalkya Smrti.

Buddhist Literature

The vast bulk of Avadana literature is a good example of Sanskrit writing by Buddhist poets.

Scientific Literature

Early scientific literature includes Aryabhatiya (on astronomy) by Aryabhatta, Pancha-Siddantika (astronomical treatise) by Varahmihira and Charaka-Samhita by Charaka and Sushruta-Samhita by Sushruta, both dealing with medicine and surgery.

Medieval Period

Even before the advent of Islam (medieval times), Sanskrit had lost its earlier virility and adaptability.  However, some literature was produced in various branches of learning during this period.  One of the first historical works produced in Sanskrit during the medieval times was continuation of Rajatarangini, begun by Kalhana, by Jonaraja and his pupil Srivara upto the year 1468 AD.  Their compositions were called Dvitiya Rajatarangini and Tritya Rajatarangini respectively.

Modern Period

Sanskrit literature made tremendous progress during the later part of the eighteenth century and early part of the nineteenth century.  Many Sanskrit academies and research institutes were set up to carry on research in Sanskrit literature.  The prominent scholars who rendered valuable contributions to the growth of Sanskrit literature in modern times included Dr. Ramakrishna, Gopal Bhandarkar, Kashinath Trimbak Telang, V.S. Abhyankar, Dr. V. Raghvan, Anantakrishnan Shastri and Narayan Shastri.


Development of Assamese language as literaturelanguage started from 13th century.  The first written work in Assamese is the Prahlad Charitra by Hema Sarasvati who lived in the court of Durlabha Narayana, a king in Western Assam (13th Century AD).  ‘Bahravahana Parva’ by Harivara Parva, ‘Drona Parva’ by Rudra Kandali and ‘Jayadratha Vadha’ by Kaviratna Sena are important poetic works of the period.  Madhava Kandali translated Ramayana into Assamese.


The first Bengali work, Charyyapadas is assigned to the tenth A.D.  Bengali literature after the fourteenth century may be classified into three main categories; a) Vaishnava literature mostly devoted to Chaitanya’s life and thought: b) literature based on Sanskrit epics and scriptures such as the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Bhagvata Purana; and c) Mangal Kavyas.  Chandidas was the first great poet of Bengal who carried forward the Vaishnava message.  Quite a large number of biographical works were produced on Sri Chaitanya from the sixteenth century onwards.  Chaitanya Charitamrita by Krishnan Das Kaviraj is the most important of them all.

Rammohun Roy’s pamphlets and essays on the burning problems of the time-brought into existence a forceful style of Bengaliprose.  Michael Madhusudan Dutt (1824-73), a pioneer of the Young Bengal movement and a man of profound learning in Western literature, began to cultivate Bengali in a new light and became the foremost Bengali poet of the modern style.  His works are Sarmistha, Meghanad-badh Kavya, Virangana-Kavya, Chaturdash Padavali, Krishna Kumari and Padmavati.  Alaler Gharer Dulal by Pearychand, follower of Derozian ideals and an associate of Madhusudan, is considered to be the first complete Bengali novel.  Dinabandhu Mitra was a playwright of immense popularity.  Neel Darpan and Kamale Kamini are the two renowned dramas of Dinabandhu Mitra.  The works of the above-noted writers were mostly brought out during the third quarter of the nineteenth century.  Ishwarchandra wrote a number of books in Sanskrit and Bengali.  In the latter part of the nineteenth century, modern Bengali prose found its foremost exponent in Bankimchandra CHattopadhyaya (1838-1894) whose famous works, such as, Debi-Chaudhurani, Kamalakanter Daptar and Anandamath made a deep impression on his time and on posterity.  It was his Anandmath (1882) which contained the patriotic hymn Bande Mataram.

            The climax of nineteenth century Bengali literature was reached in the writings of Rabindranath Tagore.  His famous  works are Sandhya Sangit, Padavali, Sonar Tari and Naiveda.  At the opening of the twentieth century, Bengali literature found another great luminary in Saratchandra Chattopadhyay. Among the other writers who represented nationalist urges, the main are manic Bandopadhyay Kazi Nazrul Khan (Vidrohi), Premendra Mitra, Buddhadev Basu, Achintya Sengupta, Bonophul Anand Shankar Ray, Tara Shankar Bandopadhyay (Gana Devata) Ashapurna Devi (Pratham Prathi Shruti) and Narendra Mitra.


Gujarati literature existed in a well-developed state from 12thcentury onwards.  The first literary work in Gujarati, the Bhratesvarabahubali rasa of Salibhadra, was composed in A.D., 1185.  Finest specimen of Gujarati poetry of this period are heroic romances like Ranamallachanda (A.D. 1390) of Sridhara Kanhada-de-Prabandha of Padmanabha (A.D. 1456, Sadayavatsa Katha (A.D.1410) of Bhima, Revantagiri Rasa of Vijayasena dna Kusumasri rasa (A.D.1652) of Gangavijaya.

Among prose we have in the 15thcentury a beautiful specimen of ornate poetical prose after the style of Bana in thePrithvichandra Charitra (A.D.1422) of Manikyacandra.  The Bhakti movement that spread all over India during 15th and 16thcentury brought about a literary renaissance.  The major poets of the period were Narasimha Mehta, Bhalana and Akho.  Narasimha Mehta wrote “Govinda Gamana” and “Sudama Charitra”.  After the end  of the 17thcentury A.D., there was, however, variety – we have various forms of literature – devotional, didactic, quasi-metaphysical and secular.  In the second half of the 17thcentury A.D., Premananda Bhatta reigned supreme; he may be described as the greatest poet of Gujarat of all times.

The Guajarati literature could not make much progress in the eighteenth century due to uncertain political conditions prevailing in the state of Gujarat.  However, the saints continued to create devotional songs or Bhajans.  The important saint poets of Gujarati were Parmanand and Brahmanand.  Vallabha and Haridas produced extensive Garbha literature on Krishna and Amba (Kali).  The last great Guajarati poet of medieval India was Dayaram.

The modern Gujarati poetry started with Narmada Shankar and Dalpat Ram.  The most outstanding poet of Gujarati was Nandlal, who is considered as the Tagore of Gujarati literature.  The credit for bringing the Gujarati literature into the life of the common people goes to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.


The earliest example of Hindi is unjustifiably sought in the compositions of the ‘Siddhas’.  Their language is Apabhramsa and not Hindi.  This may be mentioned here because of the large number of words, expressions, usages, metres, forms of verse, thought content, moods and attitudes inherited by Kabir and other poets of the early Sant school of Hindi.

The origin of the Hindi language is placed by scholars between 7th and 10th centuries A.D.  But it was only by A.D. 1206 that Hindi literature had well crossed its infancy and some of the major works of the early period, including the famous Prithviraja Raso by Chand Baradai, a bardic poet of the court of Prithviraja Chouhan, had been written.  Rajasthan being the main centre of literary activity in the early period, the literatureof the tiem (Adi Kala) was by an large either bardic or religious, and was written either in one of the prevalent forms of Rajasthani Hindi, viz., Dingal or Pingal or in the Apabhramsa which came very close to old Hindi.  Two major poets of the Adi Kala, who flourished in this period were Narapati Nalha and Amr Khusro.  Narapati Nalha’s classic poem, Bisalade Raso, was written sometime in the latter half of the 12thcentury A.D.

From A.D. 1318 begins the second era of Hindi literature, the Bhakti Kala or the Age of Devotion, which goes up to A.D. 1643.  The famous classics of this period were Jayasi’s Padmavat Manjhan’s Madhumalati, Uthman’s Citravali (A.D. 1613) and Nut Muhammad’s Indravati.  The Ramaites were headed by Tulsidasa.  (A.D. 1532-1623). His Ramacharitamanasa is an epitome of medieval Hindu culture.  Of krishnaites VIdyapati had sung of love of Radha and Krishna in Maithili Hindi.  The real Krishna Kavya begins with Sardasa’s (A.D. 148301563) Sura-Sagara.  The other major poets of the Krishna cult were Hita Harivamsa, the founder of the Radhavallabha Sampradaya, Mira Bai and Rasakhan.

The next two centuries upto 1850 is covered by Riti Kala, the third prominent period in the history of Hindi literature.  The poets of the age belonged  to an elite class and were, by profession, academicians who not only practiced but also theorized on poetry.  Kesavadas (d. A.D. 1617), a junior contemporary of Tulsidasa, was the founder of this group.  Among those who followed him were Chitamani (b. A.D. 1609), Mati Rama (A.D. 1617-1716), Bihari (A.D.1603-1663) and Deva (d.1767).  Bhusana also belonged to this group,  although his theme was heroic struggles of Sivaji against the Mughals.

In course of the years between 1761 and 1843, Hindipoetry lost its originally and genius.  ‘Bharatendu’ Harish Chandra (1846-1884), ‘Father of Modern Hindi Literature’ drew out poetry into the open sunshine of social life.  The process was continued by Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi (1870-1938), a moralist by nature and a reformer in practice.  He raised the general moral tone of Hindi poetry and struck a decisive blow to the long standingKhadiboli-Brajabhasa controversy by exposing the absurdity of adopting different media for prose and poetry.  He was supported by two great poets-Ayodhya Singh Upadhyaya ‘Hari Audha’ (1865-1946), renowned for this Priyapravasa, and Maithilisharan Gupta.  Outstanding poets of this school are Makhan Lal Chaturvedi, Balkrishna Sharma, ‘Navin’ and Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’.  A strong reaction fund expression in Chayavada of Jaya Shankar Prasad, the other important exponents being Surya Kant Tripathi ‘Nirala, ‘Sumitra Nandan Pant and Mahadevi Varma.  Jaya Shankar Prasad’s Kamayani is an epic portraying the eternal struggle of the human soul against this background of the modern age.

After Prasad’s death in 1937, Chayavada began to decline in the face of leftist ideology which found expression in two rival trends: 1) progressivism (Pragativada) or people’s poetry directly inspired by the Marxian philosophy, Nagarju, Yashpal, Naresh Mehta and Rameshwar Shukla belonged to this school; and 2) experimentalism (Prayogavada) or new  literature, which looks upon experiment or constant quest as the essence of life and literature.  Vatsyana founded this movement.  Toerhs belonging to this school are Dharamvir Bharati, Lakshmi Kant Verma and Girija Kumar Mathas.

The first original drama in the real sense was Nahusa Nataka (1857), by Gopal Chandra, father  of ‘Bharatendu’ Harish Chandra.  Like other prose forms, the novel also is a product of the modern age.  Taking Prem Chand (1880-1936) as the most important landmark, we can easily demarcate three stages in the development of the Hindi novel; pre-Prem Chand Hindi novel, Prem Chand and his contemporaries; and post-Prem Chand and his comptemporaries; and post-Prem Chand Hindi, novel i.e., the contemporary Hindi novel.  The tradition of original thinking in the realm of poetic philosophy was revived by Acharya Ramachandra Shukla in the first quarter of the 20thcentury.  He effected a healthy synthesis between ancient Sanskrit poetics and modern western criticism.


Kannada, next to Tamil, is the most ancient of the Dravidian languages. It started its independent existence about the beginning of the Christian era, as there are references to Karunatar or Karunadu in the famous Tamil Classic Silappadikaram.  The literature in this language is also enriched by the Jains, Virasaivas and Vaishnavas.  Other religions too contributed to the progress and development of literature in this language.  The earliest work is supposed to by Vodda-aradhana by a Jain Sivakotyacharya probably before the eighth century A.D.

Kavirajamarga, earliest extant work in Kannada, by Rashtrakuta king Amonghavarsha was written about A.D.850.  Gunavarma I wrote Sudraka and Neminatha Purana is a history of the first Tirhankara. The three gems of 10thcentury A.D. Pampa, Poona and Ranna are noted for their contribution to Kannada literature.  Pampa’s Vikramanka-vijaya and Ranna’s Sahasa-Bhima-vijaya (also called Gada-yuddha) are both secular poems based on the Mahabharata.  Two Bhrahman authors of the eleventh century, Nagavarma-charya and Chandraraja are notable for their contributions to Kannada literature upto the twelfth century A.D. Basava is glorified in several episodes f Basava Purana.

Kannada made considerable progress in prose as well as poetry during the medieval times.  Towards the beginning of the 13thcentury, two great Virasaiva poets, Harisvara and his nephew Raghavanka, invented and popularized some of the Kannada metres.  Harisyara’s biography of Basavesh and Raghavanaka’ Harischandra Kavya are the best examples of this new genre.

Under the patronage of the later Hoysalas, several literary works were produced. Some of the important works of his period are Rudra Bhatta’s Jagannatha-vijaya – a Campu on the life of Krishna, Janna’s Anantanatha Purana – a story of Jaina’s Tirthankara and Yasodhara carite.

Kannada literatureflourished greatly during the 14th – 16th centuries under the patronage of the Vijayanagar kings. Some of the works of this period are Bharata of Kumara Vyasa, Torave Ramayana of Narahari known as Kumara Valmiki, Jaimini Bharata in satpadi metre by Laksmisa, Basava Purana by Bhimakari depicting Basava’s life and miracles, Prabhulingalilai, a great biography of the Virasaiva mystic Allama Prabhu by Camarasa, Vivekacintamani by Nijaguna Sivayogi, Cenna Basava Purana by Virupaksa Pandita, Siva-tatva-cintamani, Vacanakaras Lakkanna and Sapta Kavya by Guru Basava.

The eminent poet of 17thcentury were Sarvajna who wrote tripadi (three-lined) compositions, Cikkadevaraya (A.D.1672-1704), king of Mysore and the author of Cikkadevaraya BInnrapa, Visnu Prana, Rukmangada Carite, Divyasuri Carite etc., Singaraya’s Mitravinda Govinda, based on Harsa’s Ratnavali Natika, is the first extent drama in Kannada.  Honnamma, perhaps the first outstanding poetess in Kannada wrote Hadibadeya Dharma (Duty of a Devout Wife).  Yaksagana, a type of opera or musical drama arose for the first time during the 17thcentury, and was cultivated profusely thereafter.

In 1823, Kumpu Narayana wrote his Mudra Manjusha which clearly showed the incoming new trends. M.S. Puttanna made notable progress in making the novel a true mirror of the society and times in a realistic manner.



The earliest work mentioned in Kashmiri is ‘Mahanaya Prakasa’ by Shati Kantha (13 century A.D.) But the language of this work is Apabhramsa and the subject matter on-literature.  Literary activity in Kashmiri started not earlier than the 14thcentury A.D. Lalleshwari, a women poet, and Shaikh Nur-ud-din (born A.D.1377) belong to the fifteenth century.

Paramananda  (1791-1879), chief devotional poet of the 18th and 19thcentury, wrote Radhasvayamvara, Sudamacaritra and Sivalagan.  Among the Muslim poets of this period, the best known is Mahmud Gami (d.1855) who wrote Yusuf-Zuleikha, Khusraw-Shirin and Laila-Majnum.  Other noteworthy poets of this period were Rasul Mir, Wahhab Pare, Maqbul Shah and Waliullah Mattu.  Wahhad Pare translated the Shah-Namah of Firdausi, while Maqbul wrote Gurist-Namah.                          The close of the century witnessed the birth of the distinctive type of comic-satiric balled called Ladi Shah written by Abdul Ahad Azad (1905-1948).  Other well-known poets of the present time are Daya Ram Ganju,  Zinda Kaul and Ghulam Hasan Beg ‘Arif’.  The present phase may be called “progressive”.  Among these the prominent ones are Dinanath Nadim, Rahman Rahi and Nur Muhammad Roshan.


Malayalam is latest among the languages constituting the Dravidian group.  Its origin may be traced back to the 9thcentury A.D.  the earliest literary work in the Malayalam language is probably Bhasha Kautilyam, a commentary on Arthsastra, produced in 12thcentury.  Unnunili-Sandesam another work is assigned to the 14thcentury.  Some early Malayalam poetical works like the Ramacaritam and Ramakathappattu bear witness to strong and undeniable Tamil influence in respect of words and metres.  The 15thcentury was eminently an age of Campus like the Ramayana-campu.  Most of them were written by the Nambudri Brahamanas of Malabar.  Rama Panikkar, who wrote Kannassa Ramayanam in pure Malayalam was a pioneer in this class of literature.

Modern Malayalam begins with the great name Ramanuja Eluttaccan.  His literature nodes were anticipated to some extent by Cherusseri Nambudri, the author of the Krsnagatha.  The Adhyatma Ramayanam-Kilippattu, Harinamakirtanam, Bhagavatam Kilippattu and Devi Mahatmyam are some his works.  Kathakali as  a form of dance drama became popular in Malabar in the alte 15thcentury, and in the next century, many dance-dramas came to be written.  Important writers were Kottayathu Tampuran (Kala Keya Vadham), Aswati Tirunal and Unnayi Warrier (Nala Charitam).

The modern phase began in the 19thcentury.  The Christian missionaries played a prominent role in bringing to Malayalam modern styles of prose through their religious writings and translations.  The pioneer of such a prose style was Chandu Menon who wrote novel Indulekha.  Some of the best specimens of the new prose are Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai’s novel Rantitanghazhi of Two Measures of Grain giving a vivid picture of the life of the landless; and Chemmeen or The  Shrimps describing the life of the fishermen.  Among other famous novels of the modern style, basheer’s Balyakala Sakhi or The Childhood Friend, P. Keshavadev’s Odayil Ninnu or From the Gutter, and S.K. Pottekkat’s Vishakanyaka are noteworthy.

Modern Malayalam poetry’s transition took place during the latter half of the 19thcentury.  Kerala varma was a pioneer of the new development, his Mayura Sandesam being a work of profound worth.  Kumaran Asan’s famous poem Nalini pointed towards the new direction.  Villathol’s (Magdalana Mariam), Oru Chitram or A picture published in 1915, was a masterpiece in the new style of poetry.


Marathi literary activity began with Mukund Rai (A.D. 1128-1198) who wrote ‘Viveka Sindhu’ and ‘Paramamtra’.  Dnyaneshwar is, however, generally considered to be the father of Marathi literature.  His Dnyaneshwari, an exposition of the philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita, is considered to be an outstanding work.  It appears that in Marathi, religious literature began to be produced much earlier than in other modern Indo-Aryan languages. This is because the ‘Bhakti’ movement which started in the South came to Maharashtra earlier than to Northern India.

The Bhakti Movement produced the great saint-scholars Namdev, Jnanadeva and Eknath.  Jananadeva’s famous works, Bhavartha Dipika and Anubhavamrta are philosophical treatises of great literary merit.  Eknath completed his great commentary on the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad Gita in 1563 which ranks second only to the celebrated Dnyaneshwari.  His other works are Rukmini Swayamvara and Bhavartha Ramayana.  The latter work was completed by his disciple Gaoba.  The main aim of all these writers was to explain the philosophy of Hindu religion to the common man who could not understand the Sanskrit scriptures.  The epics Mahabharata and Ramayana naturally formed the main basis of their writings.  Mukteshwar is credited with the first complete translation of the Mahabharata.  Vamana Pandit wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita.  Tukaram was a great Maratha poet f the seventeenth century.  His devotional lyrics, written in simple Marathi, had a wide appeal for the masses.

Some of the Christian missionaries also wrote in Marathi to spread the message of Christ and to facilitate conversion.  Some such works were the Christian Purana by Father Stephens, Purana on the life of St. Peter by Father Etienne de La Croix, a French jurist, and an account of the life of St. Anthony by Father Antonio De Saldanha.

The last important poet of the eighteenth century was Moropant who rendered the Mahabharata,  the Ramayana and the Bhagvata Purana into Marathi.




Oriya seems to have originated as early as the eighth or ninth century A.D.  But no work of real merit is traceable before the fourteenth century when the great Oriya version of the Mahabharata  was written by Sarala Das, a semi-literate  peasant.   It is a grand national poem written in vigorous and forceful style.

A century later came the work of the five friends or Pancha Sakha who avowedly took up Oriya as the medium of their writings in preference to Sanskrit.  these five were Balaram Das, Jagannath Das, Ananta Das,  Yasovanta Das and Achyutananda Das.  Balaram Das wrote the first Oriya Ramayana.  Jagannath Das translated the Bhagawat into Oriya.  Chaitanya cast a spell over Orissa in the sixteenth century and much of the literature produced during the period was Vashnava poetry which laid emphasis on love and devotion.  Upendra Bhauja Das, the greatest court poet, wrote kavyas based on the stories in the epics and Puranas.  The leaders of the Vaishnava poetry were Dina Krushna Das, Abhimanyu, Samanta Sinhar, Kavisurya Baldeva Rath and Gopal Krishna.  Dina Krishna and Abhimanyu were superb in depicting the spiritual love of Radha and Krishna in their lyrical songs, while Baldeva’s Campu is the unique specimen of Oriya musical drama.

For a century from 1751, Oriya literature followed the path laid down by the poets of the first half of the 18thcentury, who in turn drew inspiration from the alter SanskritKayvas.  The Ramayana,  Mahabharata and Bhagavad-Gita were the invariable source of material.

In the middle of the 19thcentury contact with the west through English education brought about a radical change in Oriya literature.  Radhanath Ray (1849-1908) the father of Oriya poetry and who wrote Cilika and Mahayatra, made full use of ideas imbibed from western literature.


The first phase of Punjabi literature extends from the eighth to the twelfth century.  To this period belong Guru Gorakh Nath and his followers Charpat Nath, Chaurangi Nath and Ratan nath.  But the first real evidence of the existence of a well-developed Punjabi literature is to be found in the works of the mystic poet, Shaikh Farid ud din Ganj-i-Shankar (1173-1265).  A number of poets followed him of whom not much is known excepting their martial ballads and love romances which have come down to us mostly anonymously.  Of these war ballads or Vars, the most important are Var of Raj Kamal, Var of manj, Var of Tunda Asraja and Var of Sikandar Ibrahim.

            Punjabi literature really came into its own with Guru Nanak (1469-1538).  His poetry was devotional and mystic and forceful and direct and his compositions are incorporated in the Adi Granth.  Besides, he wrote lyrical poems known in Sikh literature as Shabdas.  The Adi Granth was compiled by Guru Arjan Dev in A.D. 1604.  It contains selected works of the important saints of medieval India, such as Kabir, Farid, Ramanand, Ravidas, Namdev, Surdas and Mirabai.  Guru Arjan Dev’s work Skhamani is one of the longest and greatest of medieval mystic poems.  His contemporary, Bhai Gurdas (1551-1629), wrote both in Brij Bhasha and Punjabi.  Some of the later Punjabi poets were Madholal Husain (1439-1594), Shah Husain (1539-1599), Sultan Bahu (1629-1690), Bulhe Shah (1680-1752) and Ali Haider (1690-1785).  Guru Gobind Singh was a poet and a prolific writer.  His words are included in the Dasam Granth.  A number of love romances were written in Punjabi.  The most important of them were Yusuf-Zulekha, Shirin-Farhad, Laila Manjnu, Mahinwal and Soni, Heer Ranjha, Sassi Pannu and Mirza Sahiban.  Damodar of Jhang district in the Punjab, who worte Heer Ranjha, was a contemporary of Akbar.  The author of Mirza Sahiban was Pilu, a contemporary of the Guru Arjan Dev.

Modern Punjabi literature began with the establishment of the Christian mission at Ludhiana which set up the first printing press in the Punjab, cast Gurmukhi type and started the first Punjabi newspaper.  Bhai Vir Singh (1872-1957), rightly called the ‘father of modern Punjabi literature’, has been generally regarded as the best product of the Singh Sabha movement.  His novels Sundari Vijay Singh and Baba Naudi Singh, celebrated the chivalry of the Sikhs and the excellence of their religion.  Bhai Vir Singh’s long poem Rana Surat Singh, appeared in 1905 and was the first successful attempt at blank verse in Punjabi.

The rising tempo of Indian nationalism, represented in the Punjab by the Ghadar, Akali and Communist movements, lent a new colour and tone of Punjabi literature.  The stress was shifted from the religious and the cultural to the national and the political.


The early history of Tamil language and literature is shrouded  in obscurity.  According to the popular legends it originated from the beating of the drum of Siva and its first grammar called Agathiam is said to have been written by the great sage Agastya.  But the literary history of Tamil goes back to the time of Samgam Age (500 BC to 500 AD).  However, there is lot of controversy amongst scholars regarding the exact period of the Sangams.

According  to the popular tradition there were three Sangams or Academis, which were the centres of Tamil literature.  The first Sangam held in Madura produced works like paripadal, Mudunarai, Mudukurugu and Kalariyavirai.  The second Sangam held at Kapatapuram produced works such as Kali, Kurhu, Vendali, Viyalamali, Ahaval, Agattiyam, Tolkappiyam, Mapuranam, Isainukukkam and Badapuranam.  Unfortunately all the works of the two Sangams, except the Tolkappiyam, have been lost.  The third Sangam was held in Northern Madura.  The most outstanding literary figures connected with this  Sangam were Nakkirar, Iraiyanar, Kapilar, Paranar and Sittalai Sattanar.  They produced numerous works of the outstanding literary quality but most of them have been lost except the few which have come down to us in the form of anthologies like Pattupaattu (The Ten Idylls), Ettuthokei (The Eight of Collections) and Padinen-Kilk-Kanakku (The Eighteen Minor Didactic Poems).  The most important amongst these is sacred Kural by Tiruvalluvar.

Two  epic poems – the Silappadikaram and the Manimekhalai (probably composed in 2ndcentury AD) are considered to be the Iliad and the Odyssey of Tamil literature.  Manimekhalai by the Lulvaniagam Sattanar is the sequel of Silappadikaram and deals with the life of the various characters like Madhavi, Kovalan’s parents, and Kannagi’s parents and friends.  The other major epics produced in Tamil include Jivakachintamani, Valayapati and Kundalakesi.

With the revival of Bhakti cult in the sixth and the seventh centuries, splendid pieces of Saivite and Vaishnavite literature were produced during this period.  The first notable Vaishnava saint who composed beautiful songs was Periyalivar.  Periyalivar’s daughter Andal was also a poetess of high order.  The Tevaram and Tiruvachakam (considered as sacred as the Upanishads) of the Saiva Samayacharya and the Nalayira Prabandham of the Vaishnava Alvars constitute the greatest elements in the Tamil literature of Hindu medieval India.

Tirumalisai Alvar composed Namukha Tiruvandadi and Tirucanda in which he emphasizes his monotheistic faith and spiritual insight.  His works have received enormous praise and are regarded as the six Vedangas of Dravida Veda.  He flourished in the eighth century A.D.

Tamil culture made tremendous progress under the Chola rulers, and a number f works in Tamil were produced between 850-1200 A.D. Kamban, Ottakuttan and Pugalendi are considered as the three Tamil gems of this period  who made great contributions of Tamil literature.  Of these Kamban is famous for his Ramayana in Tamil called Ramavatram.  Some of the notable works produced during this period include Jivakachintamani by Tiruttakkadevar, a Jin saint of the tenth century A.D., Kalladam by Kalladanar, ‘Kalingattuparani by Jayangondar, Nalayirakkovai, Parani (dealing with the war of Kalinga fought by Vikrama) and Takkayagapparani by Kuttan.

With the fall of the Cholas, the glorious period of Tamil literature  came to an end and it experienced a general deterioration. Though a large number of works were produced they lacked quality.  In the first half of the thirteenth century Arunanadi wrote Siva-Nana-Sittiyar, a comprehensive account of Saiva Siddhnata.  Two well-known Advaita anthologies – the Sivapraksap Perundirattu of Svarupananda Tattuvarayar and Kurundirattu were compiled about the end of the fourteenth century.  Haridas, a court poet of Krishnadeva Raya of Vijayanagar, wrote Irusamayavilakkam wherein he expounded  the philosophies of Vaisnavism and Saivism.  A number of commentaries were written during the period by Vaisnava scholars on the canons of their faith.  The most important of these scholars were Pillai Lokacharya (early thirteenth century), Vedanta Desikar (1268-1369) and Manavala Mahamuni (born A.D. 1360).  During this period were also written some great commentaries of Sangam works and the Tolkappiyam and Silappadikaram.  Akaradimigandu was a lexicon compiled by the celebrated author, Chidambara Ravana Siddar  (A.D. 1594).

Nalavenbra of Pugalendi (A.D. 1500) narrates the story of Nala Damayanti.  The entire Mahabhrata was written in about 4350 verses by Villiputturar.  The Pandyan King, Ativira Rama of Tenkasi, was a poet of distinction.  His Naidadam is highly praised by scholars. Sivaprakasha, a distinguished author, wrote a number of works including a polemic refuting Christian doctrines which is unfortunately not extant.


The first Telugu work which we know of belongs to the eleventh century A.D.  it is a Telugu version, in Campu style, of the Mahabharata begun by Nannayya, carried on by Tikkana and finished by Yerrapragada in the fourteenth century.  The earliest Ramayana in Telugu literature, generally known as Ranganatha Ramayanam, was composed by Gona Buddha Reddi in A.D. 1250.  The spread of the religious reform movement, Veerashaiva, led to the production of literary works in easy and simple Telugu.  Of these, Basava Purana and Padita radhye Charitra by Palkurki Somanatha deserve mention.

Nanha Choda was a celebrated poet who translated Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhava.  Bhaskara’s Lilavati was translated by Eluganti Peddana.  The great poet Srinatha (1365-1410) translated Naisadhakavya into Telugu while Bammara Potana (1420-1475), another celebrated poet, did a translation of the Bhagavatam.  Bhogini Dandakam and Virabhadra Vijayam are said to be the other works of Potana.  Several Sanskrit works such as Sakuntla, Prabhoda, Chandrodaya, Panchtantra and Vishnu Purana were translated during this period.

The golden era of Telugu literature began with Krishnadevaraya, the great King of Vijayanagar (1509-1529).  The greatest poet of this period was Allasani Peddana whose immortal work is Manu Charitra.  The story is based on an episode in theMarkandeya-Purana relating to the birth of Svarochisha Manu, one of the fourteen Manus.  Anandi Timmana was another great poet.  His Parijatapaharam deals with an incident in the life of Lord Krishna.  Other poets who deserve mention are Dhurjati, author of Kalahasti Mahatmyam, and Tenali Ramakrishna, the reputed author of Panduranga Mahatmyam.  Their notable successors were Pingala Surana (1520-80) whose celebrated work was Kalapurnodayam, Bhattumurth who wrote Vasuchaitra, and Sankasala Narasimha Kavi, author of kavikarana Ramayanam.  Among the poets who flourished at Tanjore in the seventeenth century, the greatest was Chemakura Venkata Kavi whoseVijaya Vilasam ranked among the Panchama nakavyas of Telugu literature.  Pedakempa Gauda of Mysore composed Ganga Gouri Vilasam and dedicated it to Lord Somesvara.

Chinnaya Suri (1808-1862)  and Kandukuri Viresalingam (1848-1919) are the two stalwarts two inaugurated the modern period in Telugu language and literature.  Chinnaya’s contribution is confined mainly to the preparation of the comprehensive grammar and laying the foundations of Telugu prose in its present form.


The most significant development of the medieval period was the birth of Urdu.  Persian was the court language of the Sultans and the Mughals.  It came into contact with Khari Baoli, a dialect of Hindi, which was spoken in Delhi.  A mixed language thus grew up.  For over four hundred years (1200-1700), Urdu and Hindi were almost identical.  This is apparent from the dhoas and ghazals of Amir Khusro who flourished during Ala-ud-din’s time.  Similarly, Prithvi Raj Raso by Chand Bardai contains not only Khari Baoli, Haraini, Braj Bhasha and Rajasthani, but also Arabic and Persian.  This heterogeneous language was originally known as Dehlvi or Hindawi, the only difference being that of script.  Later on, Muslim writers began to use Persian and Arabic words profusely in their works.  Slowly similes and even themes began to be drawn from Persian and Arabic words profusely in their works.  Slowly similes and even themes began to be drawn from Persian and Arabic and these developments eventually led to the emergence of a distinct languagewhich came to be known as Urdu.

It is, however, interesting to note that while this language remained a spoken dialect in the north,  it assumed a literary shape in the south. It flourished under the patronage of the Bijapur and Golconda kings.   The famous Delhi saint, Syed Gesu Daraz who had migrated to Gulbarga, wrote his treatise on mysticism known as Miraj ul Ashiqin  in the fifteenth century.  Khushnama and Khushgnagh by Shah Miran Ji and Shams ul Ushshaq, and Jammatul Baqa by Burhan ud din Janum deserve mention.  Ibrahim Adil Shah of Bijapur composed his famous book Nau Ras inabout A.D. 1599.  Mihammad Quli Qutub Shah (1580-1611) of Golconda wrote more than a hundred thousand couplets. Many urdu poets and writers flourished under his patronage.  Of these, Mulla Wajhi was the most important. His Sab Ras in prose and Qutub Mushtari in poetry are highly esteemed works.  Even after the conquest of the Deccan by the Mughals, Urdu continued to flourish.  Wali, Bahri and Siraj reigned supreme in the Deccan.  Meanwhile, the Delhi school of poets was founded by Hatim.  The famous poets of this school were Sauda, Mir and Hasan.

In the North, Urdu literature came into full blossom during the period of political decadence in the early 18thcentury, when Persian lost ground.  Distinguished poets like the mystics Mirza Jan-i-Janan Mazhar (A.D. 1699-1781), the social satirist Mohammad Rafi Sauda (A.D. 1713-1780), the lyricist Mir Taqi Mir and the mathnawi writer Mir Hasan (A.D. 1727-1886) raised the Urdu language and its poetry to near perfection and set standards for posterity in ghazal  (lyrical poem composed of self-contained couplets with a single metre and mood,) qasida (panegyric) and mathnawi (a long amorous or mystical narrative poem).  Mushairahs or symposiums, in which poets recited their verses before a cultured and critical audience, also gave great impetus to Urdu.  Mir Babar Ali Anis (1802-1874), who excelled in the art of writing marthias (elegies), is noted for the chastity and effortless charm of his style.

Alaf Hussain Hali (1837-1914), the harbinger of the modern movement in Urdu, wrote on subjects such as hope, justice and patriotism, and thereby represented a conscious new trend in Urdu poetry.

A new tradition of plain and matter-of-fact prose was created by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-1898).  Among the present day Urdu writers the names of Krishnan Chander, Sajjad Zaheer, Ismat Chughati, U.N. Ashk, KJ.A. Abas, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Tarlok Chand Mahrum, Arsh Malsiani, Josh Malihabadi and Sahir Ludhianvi deserve mention.

Literary Personalities

Amir Khusro:  A renowned Indian poet, scholar, courtier and master of music who adorned the courts of Muizuddin Kaiqudad, Jalaluddin Khalji, Alaudin Khalji etc.

Abul Fazal:  (1551-1602 A.D.) Muslim scholar and a student of Hinduism whose work Akbar-namah and Ain-i-Akbari provided detailed accounts of Akbar’s rule.

Alberuni:  Author of Tarikh-i-Hind (10th – 11thcentury A.D.) giving detailed information about Hindus, their philosophy, customs and manners.  His original name was Abu Rihan Muhammad and he came to India with Sultan Mahmud (A.D. 997 A.D. 1030) and stayed on in India.

Bankim Chandra Chatterjee:  1838-1894) Great Bengali novelist, composer of Bande Mataram, a great social and political thinker and a literary author, he shaped Bengali novel starting with historical subject in modern sense.  Among his famous novels are Anada Math, Devi Chaudhurani, Sitaram and Kamala Kanta.

Bhaskara:  A renowned Brahmana mathematician and astronomer who wrote on algebra, astronomy and arithmetic (Lilavati).  He had no rival in medieval or modern times.  His astrological work is Siddhanta Siromani (1128).  He said to have known principle of differential calculus.

Firaq Gorakhpuri: A renowned Urdu poet, some of his prominent publications areAndaze, Shola-o-saz, Ruhe-e-kayanat, Rubaiyat, Shabnamistan, Dharti Ki Karwat, Gul-e-nagama, Bazme Zindagi and Range Shairi.   He was honoured with Sahitya Akademi and Bharitya Jnan pith award.

Hiuen Tsang:  Chinese Buddhist monk who visited India in A.D. 630 to collect sacred Buddist literature.  He stayed in India for about 13 years and left a detailed account of his observations on persons, places and customs and manners of people.

Jayadeva:  A great Sanskrit poet, born in Bengal in last quarter of 12thcentury A.D., became an ascetic but returned to the world when he fell in love with and married Padmavati.  He wrote many poems in praise of Krishna.  His masterpiece is Gita Govinda, originally intended to be sung (as evident from musical directions given in it ) but also has characteristics of drama as it is in form of lyrical monologues.

Katyayana:  (400 to 200 B.C.).  A great grammarian whose Sanskrit grammar, Vartrika is a commentary on the Asthadhyayi.  Sometimes identified with Vararuchi, a grammarian and poet who flourished at the court of Vikramaditya.

Krishna Deva Raya:  I (1509-1529). A scion of the Tuluvas, he was the greatest ruler of Vijayanagara kingdom and a noted poet and scholar also.  He patronized art and literature, particularly Tamil and Kannada poetry, gave large sums for advancement of Sanskrit studies and encouraged musicians, scholars, philosophers, religious teachers and saints.

Panini:  One of the world’s earliest grammarians, he was born in Gandhara (north-west India).  Educated at the university of Taxila he became a famous scholar and founded the present system of Sanskrit grammar in his treatise on Vedic Sanskrit, the Ashtadhyayi, the earliest extant grammar in the world and the greatest ever written.  The discovery of Panini’s grammar and his great achievement by Europeans in the 18thcentury opened the way to the new science of philology.

Patanjali:  (150 B.C). Born at Gonarda (or at Goda, Uttar Pradesh), a great grammarian of Sunga times, he wrote famous grammar Mahabhasya.

Michael Madhusudan Dutt (1824-1873):  Originally a Hindu, became a Christian taking the name of Michael.  A many sided genius and a great poet he wrote successfully in Bengali and English, broke new ground by striking out against the artificiality and stilted Bengali dramas, etc., of his days.  As a poet left a permanent mark on Bengali literature and poetry as he first used blank verse which freed the poetic form from its stereotyped moorings.  Produced successfully nearly all literary forms.  Indo-Anglican poetry began with him.

Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi:  (1862-1938) Hindi essayist and poet, influenced Hindi style.  Was given the title ‘Acharya’.  He also translated Sanskrit and English literary pieces.

Prem Chand (Munshi):  (1880-1936).  World renowned novelist, short story writer and a pioneer of progressive literature, his real name was Dhanpat  Rai.  He started his literary career as a free-lance journalist in Urdu, collection of his stories Soze Watan proscribed.  He switched over to Hindi in 1914.  He pioneered writing fiction with a social purpose, portrayed real problems of urban middle class society and peasants.  Some of his well known novels are Rangabhumi, Godan, Goban, Premashram, etc.

Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya:  (1876-1938) Greatest Bengali novelist and social thinker.  Major works like Srikanta, Palli-Samaj, Pandit Mashai, Grihadaha and Sesh Prashna were serialized in Bharatvarsha. His only political novel, Pather Dabi, was published in Bangabasi and was banned when it appeared in book form.

Subhadra Kumari Chauhan:  (1904-1948).  Known for her ballad Jhansi Ki Rani, she was born poet, short story writer and social reformer.  During the freedom struggle she wrote patriotic poems to arouse the masses.

Subramania Bharathi:  (1882-1921).  He was awarded the title of “Bharati” for successfully taking part in a literary contest.  He met his political Guru, Sister Nivedita, at Calcutta.  Feeling strongly for the need for a Tamil journal through which he could express the nationalist aspirations he founded the daily, India,.  Bharati composed fiery patriotic poems.  Retiring to Pondicherry in 1908 to escape police prosecution he wrote brilliant poetry and prose for ten years before returning to British India.

Suryakant (Nirala)Tripathi:  (1896-1961) Great Hindi poet and innovator, set a new style in Hindi poetry, called ‘Nirala’ because of innovative poetical style and originality of conception.  A mystic and deep observer of nature, he enriched poetry with bold natural descriptions. ‘Juhi ki kali’, his first poem, and others like ;Shefalika’ are suffused with vibrant personal and emotional notes.  Deep national consciousness was also reflected in his poetry.  Among his famous poetry books are Anamika, Geetika, Tulsidas, Anima, Apsara, Sakhi, Schoor ke Bibi.

Thyagaraja:  He was saint of South India and a great composer of South Indian music and a great composer of South Indian music and devotional songs.

Vagbhatta:  (flourished in latter half of 7thcenturyA.D.). He produced a treatise summarizing in one volume the eight sections of the original Ayurveda (ancient system of medicine); which became a popular book and was used by physicians throughout India.

Vinayak Krishna Gokak:  The 82-year old, noted Kannada writer, former Vice-Chancellor and former President of Sahitya Akademi, died on April 28, 1992.  He was the recipient of Jnanpith Award, 1990 for his memorable epic, ‘Bharata Sindhu Rashmi’.


Indian Arts and Crafts

India, with a rich cultural heritage, is well known for her deep rooted tradition in arts and crafts.  The centre of traditional crafts in India has always been the village community.  During medieval period Indian crafts reached their acme of perfection.  Mughal emperors like Akbar  and Shahjahan were particularly known for their love of the crafts and their love of the crafts and their patronage to artisans.  Influence of Arabic and Persian elements made a strong impact on Indian crafts.

Indian crafts are classified into three types: 1) folk crafts which are created by the people for their personal use, or by the village craftsmen for a limited clientele; 2) crafts associated with religious centres; 3) commercial crafts which are made by specialized craftsmen who belong to a group or a caste, who work together often in centres specializing in specific skills.



Cotton Weave

          Among  cotton weaves Daccai sarees of West Bengal are famous for of the finely woven cotton called mulmul or muslin.  The fine varieties of mulmul are shabnam (dew) and abi-rawan or running water.  West Bengal is also known for its cotton weaves,  Jamdani or inlay technique of patterning.  This technique is also found in centres like Tanda in Uttar Pradesh (here patterns are more leaborate), Venkatageri in Andhra Pradesh, Morangfi in Manipur and Kodialkaruppar Saree of Tamil Nadu.

The Paithani technique which resembles tapestry technique of weaving and involves  the interlocking of non-continuous wefts threads is used to make borders and pallus of sarees, shallus and patkas.  Once popular in Chanderi it now survives only in Paithan.  The other notable cotton weave sarees are Maheshwari sarees of Maharashtra, Illkal sarees of Karnataka, Narayanpet sarees of Andhra Pradesh. The cotton sarees of Andhra Pradesh have a rich variety such as Gadwal, Wanaparti, a Nander and Venkatagiri. Kalashetra sarees from Tamil Nadu are also very popular.  Karalkudi sarees of Kerala are woven from unbleached cotton with rich broad gold borders and pallus.


Tie-Dye, Bandhani Technique

The important centres of this technique are Kutch, Jamnagar and Saurashtra in Gujarat and Jaipur, Jodhpur and other places in Rajasthan.  The Gharchola saree of Jamnagar uses tie & dye patterns within the gold checks of the saree.  Lahriya and mothra, a form of tie and dye, is a specialty of Rajasthan.  The technique of tie and dye of threads before weaving is known as patola or ikat.  Ikat weaving is done in Andhra Pradesh (Pochampalli) and Orissa.  The distinctive style of ikat in Orissa is known as bandha.


Hand printing &Dyeing and Painting

Batick printing and Kalamkari printing are important examples of hand printing & dyeing.  The important centres for hand printing in Rajasthan are Jaipur, Sanganer, Bagroo, Palia and Barmer.  Masulipatnam in Andhra Pradesh specializes in hand-printed Lamkari prints, resit prints, block printing band batik.


Folk Embroidery

The famous folk embroidery are Heer embroidery of Saurashtra, Bagh and Phulkari of Punjab, Chikan of Lucknow, bead and mirror work of Sauashtra and Kutch, Chamba rumal – a double sided embroidery of Himachal Pradesh, Kashida of Bihar, Kantha of Bengal, appliqué work of Orissa and Kasuti of Karnataka.


Shawls & Woollen Weaves

Kashmir shawls are known all over the world for their superfine wool and intricate designs.  The various varieties of it are Kani shawl, which are woven pashmina shawls also called jamewars, double coloured pashmina, the soft shahtoosh, majestic woolen shawl-dhussa, and very fine amli or embroided shawls.  The Shahtoosh and pashmina shawls are made from special wool taken from the underside of wild pashmina goats  which are found at high altitudes.  The Kulu shawls of Himachal region have checks and motifs inspired by Buddhist traditions.


Tribal Weaves

Among tribal weaves are Tusungkotepsu – a warrior shawl of Nagaland, Mekhla (a type of lungi) and Chaddar (to be worn over mekhla) of Assam, Morangfi sarees of Manipur are notable.


Floor – coverings and carpets

The duree, which is essentially a cotton woven thick fabric, is an indigenous floor covering produced in India in varied designs.  It includes the panja duree of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, woolen durees of Jaislmer and Barmer, jah-namaz (a prayer mat of Muslims) of Uttar Pradesh, Jamkhans or Navalgund duree of Karnataka, bhawani duree of silk and cotton from Salem (Tamil Nadu) and bandha or ikat durees of Warrangal (Andhra Pradesh).

The important centres of carpet weaving in India are Srinagar in Kashmir, Bhadohi, Mirzapur and Agra in Uttar Pradesh, Jaipur in Rajasthan, Amritsar in Punjab and Warrangal and Elluru in Andhra Pradesh.  Kashmir specializes in weaving designs based on Persian and Central Asian traditions. Kashmir besides producing carpets also produces other floor coverings such as namdas, hook rugs and gabbas.



Though India has known glazed pottery since centuries ago, it produces the finest pottery of unglazed type.  The wide range of unglazed pottery includes the fine paper-thin pottery produced in Kutch, Kahnpur and Alwar, kagzi. (paper like) or highly refined light-weight pottery of Alwar, black- pottery for domestic use of Kangra, stylized pottery with incised decorative patterns of Pokhran, Slim-necked surahis of Meerut and Jhajjar (Haryana), black pottery with the patterns worked in silver-developed in Kutch but now found only in Nizamabad, in Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh.

Glazed pottery has only a few centres of production, Chief among them are Delhi, Khurja and Jaipur which produce blue- pottery.  Some new forms of pottery have also been developed.  Chunar where raised designs made on surahis were adapted for glazed pottery.  These raised forms were given a slip of brown glaze and sections were then coloured blue, green and yellow, but now only brown slip is given to the finished pottery.  In Karigari in Tamil Nadu biscuit ware is created with incised patterns and given a blue or green glaze.



Clay figures of god and goddesses are created during a number of festivals.  The common examples are sanjhi figures made on the walls of clay hut during Navaratri celebrations in the villages around Delhi, figures of Govardhan during Diwali day, Bankura horse of West Bengal, relief-worked plaque of Moela –a village in Udaipur, Aiynar figures of Tamil Nadu and figures of horses with riders of Poshina made by Bhils of Gujarat.



Innumerable metal techniques have been mastered in India.  Indian craftsmen are also experts at creating shapes out of sheet metals using hammer strokes.  The objects of daily use are normally not engraved, but the decorative pieces and those used for rituals or on ceremonial occasions are.  One important technique of sheet metal perfected in India is the deep repousse work.

Moradabad in UP and Jagadhri in Haryana use a technique wherein first the mould of vessel to be made is prepared and then cast.  Decorating the surface of metalware is also done by combining of two metals using techniques such as Ganga-Jamuna technique (brass representing Ganga and copper Jamuna) and damascening technique.  In damascening other metals are encrusted on the basic material such as in bidri or bidar work (silver  on oxidized vessels made of copper and zinc) of Mysore, kaftagiri (silver wire inlaid on iron metal sheets ) of Kerala, zarnishan, tarkashi (wire patterns) and Tanjore plate work.  Deep repousse and surface engraving is another form of decoration to which is added enamelling work and meenakari Different styles of motifs used in enameled metalware are chikan, marori, bidar and siah kalam. Siah kalam is the finest engraving in enamel work of Morabad and Jaipur.  The niello work similar to siah kalam is done in Kashmir.


Basket and mat weaving

Baskets in India are made of twigs, bamboo, cane and the wild monsoon grass and are covered with the golden grass or the golden outer skin of rice plant.

Some of the famous baskets are sturdy spirally-built baskets using sarkanda (wild grass) in Punjab, willow baskets using fresh twigs of willow tree in Kashmir, baskets made by using monsoon grass moonj in UP, coiled baskets in Bihar, bamboo and cane baskets in the north-eastern region, chettinad baskets having intricate patterns using date palm leaves in Tamil Nadu and kulas or winnowing baskets in Bengal.

Mats in India are made of materials such as reeds, grass, cane and bamboo.  Varieties of mats woven in India are: pattamadai mats- the finest ones of Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, kora grass mats having intricate designs of Kerala, screw-pine mats of Kerala, reed mats called phak of Manipur and sitalpatti mats woven with green cane of Bengal.


Floor and wall decorations

Floor and wall decorations form an important part of festivals and rituals in India.  Flowing linear patterns are made on the floors which have different names for different places – it is alpana in Bengal, aripana in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, mandana in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, rangoli in Gujarat and Maharashtra and kolam in South India.

Wall decoration is done by painting on walls for festive occasions.  Madhubani style of painting  of Bihar is an important example of wall decoration.  Sanjhi figure is made using mud on walls during Navaratra in Rajasthan, UP and Haryana.  Mud work created by Dhebaria Rabaris of Kutch is bold and large mirrors are embedded in the walls.  Pattachitra of Orissa are paintings made by painters for the pilgrims who visit Puri.



Indian Music


Music in India has had a long tradition. Not much can be said about the music of the Indus valley civilization period.  The Vedic period developed what is collectively known as Sama music.  Sama music relied on hymns taken from the Rigveda.  Further, running parallel to the ritualistic samamusic, were the narashamshigathas, i.e., songs of the common men (folk music).

However, the earliest tratise on music, drama and dance is Bharata’s Natya Sastra, which shows that India had fully developed these arts by the time it was composed.  Numerous, other texts, composed after that of Bharata’s Natya Sastra, such as Brihaddeshi by Matanga, Bharatabhashya by Nanyadeva and Sangitratnakara by Sharangadeva are comprehensive work on music.  In India, the arts have been classified into two – margi  and desi that can be roughly translated as classical and folk.


Basics of Indian music


The basic concept of Indian music (Hindustani andCarnatic) is Raga (meaning melody). Raga India’s contribution to world musicology.  Raga, is a basic note pattern formed by selecting ntoes from the thirteen tonal intervals conventionally established in the octave space.

Ragas are made of different combinations of Sapta (Seven) Swaras: Sa (Sadjam), Ri (Rishabam), Ga (Gaandhaaram), Ma (Madhyamam), Pa (Panchamam), Dha (Dhaivadam), Ni (Nishadham).However, it is not necessary that all the seven swaras (notes) are present in a raga.  Yaman in Hindustani and its Carnatic counterpart Mecha Kalyani have all the seven swaras both in the ascending and descending order.  However, it is acknowledged that a minimum of five notes are compulsory in the formation of a raga.  The irrepressible music maestro Dr. M. Balamurali Krishna questioned this and composed a raga with just four notes.

What makes Indian classical music unique is its adherence to permutations and combinations of swaras.  In Western classical Piano one octave consists of twelve notes whereas in Indian music the same octave contains 22 (srutis) notes.

The twenty two Srutis Are Called Siddha, Prabhavati, Kantha, Suprabha, Shikha, Diptimati, Ugra, Hladi, Nirviri, Dira, Sarphara, Kshanti, Hridayonmulini, Visarini, Prasuna, Vibhuti, Malini, Chapala, Vala, Sarvaratna, Sitantaj And Vikalini.

Swara is generally defined as a note whereas sruti constitutes the microtonal intervals between two swaras.  The nuances of these can be best understood in prayoga (practice) rather than theory.

The principal ragas are 6 namely, Raga Bharavi, Raga Sree, Raga Depaka, Raga Megha, Raga Hindola and Raga Malkaunsa and their offshoots, known as ragapatnis (ragins) and ragaputras, vary from 84 to 108.  Each raga or its offshoots has the capacity of invoking one human emotion or the other.

  • Raga Bharavi: The Lord or ragas is supposed to have emanated from the throat of Shiva and sung prior to dawn for invoking vitality.
  • Raga Vilavals: Bhairavi’s regaputra, it represents, charm, gaiety, fortune and longing for love.
  • Sriraga: a ragini of Raga Sree, was considered to have emanated from the sound of warriors’ swords and the twang of their bows and arrows. But later it was associated with romance blended with chivalry.  Rajasthan’s famous love lore ‘Dhola Maru’ now symbolizes this ragini.
  • Raga Dipaka: Now rarely sung, once said to possess the miraculous power of invoking light and heat which could consume even its singer. It is said to have emanated from the eye of the Sun.  dipakas (lamps) and fire which symbolize it are invariably used for visualizing the raga.  The time suited for this raga is summer evening.
  • Raga Todi: A melody of unhappy love, loneliness and a detached attitude towards life.
  • Raga Megha: as its name indicates, is a melody of clouds and rains.
  • Ragini Vibhasa: A ragini of raga megha, represents unending dalliance such as only Kamdeva and Rati enjoyed.
  • Raga Hindola: A melody sung to celebrate the festivity o swing and ‘Sravan’.  It is named after the Hondola used for young couple for enjoying the season.
  • Ragini Madhumadhavi: The ragini of Hindola, represents the blooming of flowers during spring.
  • Raga malkaunsa: A raga of great depth, sung after midnight, relates to riches, royal grandeur and youthful love. It is said to have emanated from Vishnu’s throat.
  • Ragini Gauri: The ragini of Malkaunsa is a melody of devotion in love.



It is the second concept of Indian music, especially classical music.  Raga & tala taken together, go a long way in distinguishing Indian music from other systems of the world.  Of the two major dimensions of music, the melodic and rhythmic, the former is expressed through musical notes (raga) while the latter chiefly explores the dimension of time through beats (tala).

The term tala is derived from Sanskrit word tal, to strike with palms.  Tala is a time measure which marks rhythm.  It is an arrangement of beats in cylindrical manner.  Whether in vocal music or instrumental musictala plays a creative and organic part in bringing out the essence and elevating the musical expressions to new dimensions.  The major talas are:Aadi tala a  cycle of eight maathras (beats).Chautal or Eaka consisting of twelve maatharas, Jhaptal consisting of twelve maatharas, Jhaptal consisting of ten maathras, Roopak tala of seven maathras, and Teen tala of sixteen maathras.



The third concept of Indian music, bandish is loosely translatable as composition.  In Hindi, it means binding together, which a fairly correct description of function carried out by a bandish. Usually, the term is used to refer to the basic compositions employed by vocalists to launch their musical elaborations.




Streams of Indian classical music

There are two major streams of Indian classical music: Hindustani and Carnatic. Through today they appear to be quite distinct styles, they in fact have their origins in a common theory and source as is reflected from ancient treatise.

Hindustani music: Prevalent  in north India, is a mixture of Indian and Persian musical systems.  Other features of this music are: it is emotional and is associated with emergence of gharanas.  Some famous vocalists of Hindustani music are: Gangubhai Hangal, Bhimsen Joshi, ishori Amronkar, Pt. Jasraj, Mallikarjun Mansur etc.

Carnatic music: Music of south India it is totally indigenous and canonized, has intellectual and spiritual basis (distinct from gharanas).  Carnatic music is a single unitary system with a  common and accepted lakshan for its ragas, talas and musical forms.  Raga is the very soul of carnatic music.  Thyagaraja, Muthuswami Deekshithar and Shyama Shastri, popularly known as the trinity of Carnaticmusic, laid the foundation for the development of Carnaticmusic with their innumerable compositions in hundreds of ragas.  These compositions paved way for the present concept of a stage programme.

Some famous vocalists of Carnaticmusic are Shemmangudi R. Srinivasa Iyer, M.S. Subhulakshmi, D.K. Pattammal, Palghat K.V. Narayanaswami.

Raga’s relation to mood, time & season
Ragas Mood Season Time
1. Hindola Sweetness March-April (Spring) Dawn
2. Sri Raga Gladness Nov-Dec (Autumn) Evening
3.  Megha Courage July-Aug (rainy) Mid-way
4. Deepak Compassion May-June(Summer) Evening
5. Bharavi Peace Sept. – Oct. Morning
6. Malkaunsa Relaxation Jan-Feb (Winter) Midnight
7. Darbari Meditative Dec-Jan Midnight
8. Bageshwari Romantic Midnight
9. Bahar Joy March-April (Spring)
Raga-time association

1. Morning Ragas: Raga Jaunpuri, Raga Bilaskhani, Todi Lalit, Bhairavi, Ahir Bhairva, Milan Ki Todi, Vibhasa, Bhatiyar, Sudh Sarang

2. Afternoon Ragas: Raga Brindabani Sarang, Madhmad Sarang, Dhani, Multani Pilu, Sughrai, Bhimpalas, Mand, Patdeep.

3. Evening Ragas: Pooriya, Shyam Kalyan, Suddh Kalyan, Nand, Yaman, Shankar, Marwa, Shree, Hamsadhwani.

4. Night Ragas: Durga, Kedar, Kanhara Darbari, Desh Jhinjhoti, Suddh Nat, Maru Bihag, Jaijaiwanti, Malkaunsa, Hamir, Kamod, Bageshwari.




Distinctive features of Hindustani &Carnaticmusic

Distinctive features are used in the two systems of music for interpretation and actual rendering of ragas, which results in various sound pictures.  In Hindustani music, an instrument follows in the alaap with a faster movement called jod, which has no tala. Jod is succeeded by jhala, which again is devoid of tala. In Carnaticmusic an alapana is followed by a tanam.  While free of tala, it is faster than alapana and resembles, in a way, the jod of Hindustani instrumental music.

The Carnatic music follows the old tradition in its nomenclature, division and structure, but the Hindustani tala system uses a different terminology.  The internal division of the talas is also different in the two musicsystems.

Also, the manner of interpretation and the shift of emphasis from structural bondage to free improvisation in Hindustani music is one of the main differences between the two.  This was followed by a host of ancillary changes in alapa and tala, which resulted in two almost separate systems of music.

While the names of the ragas remained common to the North and the South, the corresponding content varied in each case; in the intonation of notes and the execution of graces (gamakas) stylistic divergence arose, so, to in the method of elaborating and expounding a raga.

Again, unlike the Carnatic music, the Hindustani school began to observe strictly a time theory of ragas, but it is so overdone as to impose limitations on concert programmes.  Besides, the ragas came to be classified in different ways in the two systems: the North took six  ragas as primary and also arranged them on the analogy of family relationship – husband, wife, sons and daughters.

In fact, the difference that we notice today between the two systems is because of different methods employed in pronouncing the swara. In the north the swaras are comparatively long and pronounced with pauses, while in the South such pauses are less or negligibly marked.

Both schools survive mainly through an oral tradition passed on by the teacher to the disciple.  Even though clearly distinctive, Hindustani and Carnatic music have several common features.

Open and closed type music

There two broad categories of musical forms in Indian music:

  • The Open (anibandha) music: It is ancient and most important of this type is the Here the raga is developed and elaborated slowly, note by note, phrase y phrase.
  • The Closed (Nibandha) music: This music is one in which there are meaningful words or set tunes to definite rhythm.


Hindustanimusical forms


The oldest vocal style of Indian classical music which  traces its origin as far back as the Sama Veda.  From the chanting of Om, which is the sacred syllable and source of all creation, evolved the rhythmic chanting of Vedic scriptures.  This developed in the chhanda and prabandha  in which verse and metre were introduced.  From the fusion of these two elements emerged Dhrupad.

Inspite of traces of earlier existence, the Dhrupad made its presence felt from the 15th century A.D.It was patronized by Raja Mansingh Tomar of Gwalior and Emperor Akbar.  The main exponents of that time were Swami Haridas, Tansen, Baiju Bawra and Gopal.

Traditional dhrupad composition is a prayer sung to the accompaniment of pakhawaj.

Dhrupad ahs four distinct vanis of Gharanas such as Gudiya Goarhar, Khandar, Dagar and Nauhar.  However, the Dhrupad fundamentalist position that all other forms of classical music such as Khayal etc. are vicious aberration is unsustainable.



The first and primary connotation of the term dhamar is a tala of fourteen beats played chiefly on the pakhawaj.  However, it is also the name of a form sung after rendering a dhrupad.  The composition is sung in a style similar to dhrupad but is always set to tala dhamar, characterized by a quicker and inherently sensuous movement.  Further, the content of the composition might be a description of the famous Indian festival of colours, Holi, in which case the composition is called Hori.  Evenotherwise, the content is likely to be secular and a mild eroticism is not excluded.  The intention behind coupling dhamar with dhrupad is to bring together two forms which may complement each other and, hence, ensure wider musical appeal.  It is very often seen that dhrupad-dhamar is presented on instruments such as the veena.



The form can succinctly be described as a dhrupad in tala jhaptal of ten beats.  According to the lore, two brother Shivmohan and Shivnath, followed the style of Baiju Bawra to compose the songs described as sadras.  As they hailed from Shahadras, the form is said to derive its name from the place.


Langda Dhrupad

As the name indicates, compositions in the form are ‘lame’  dhrupads.  It tries to avoid the extreme rigidity of dhrupad as also the extreme flexibility of khayal.  The most noticeable feature of the form is that the words do not strictly follow the tala-beas, through the tendency is to  indicate the main divisions of the tala concerned.  The genre is also known as munda dhrupad, that is, one with an uncovered head.



Khayal emerged from the 13th and 14th centuries.  This word of Persian origin means imagination.  This style gave an entirely new dimension to Hindustani classical music tradition.  Amir Khusro is considered the proponent of this style.  This could be called the dominant from of contemporary art music.  Niyamat Khan ‘Sadrang’ is given the credit for making it an art of high order in present items.  So rich is the basic format of khayal that it has made room for number of styles.

There are four schools or gharanas of Khayal: 1) The Gwalior gharana is the oldest and most comprehensive in technique.  Natthan Khan and Peer Baksh are among its doyens 2) The Agra gharana was founded by Hazi Suijan Khan. Faiyyaz Khan gave it a new and pleasant lyrical colour, which merited for it’s the sobriquet of Rangeela Gharana. 3) The Jaipur gharana is associated with Alladiya Khan. 4) The Kirana gharana was developed mainly by Abdul Wahid Khan and Abdul Karim Khan.



In Persian, numa means ‘according to’.  Hence, Khayalnuma means according to Khayal.  This form indicates compositions which consist of meaningless words/sound-syllables in place of the meaningful words of a Khayal.  However, in other respects it is similar to a Khayal.



Tarana mainly relies on meaningless words/sound-syllables.  Sound produced are imitation of Arabic and Persian words.  The form consists of sound-syllables used to describe sounds produced by string instruments or drums to create a composition in a raga.  The tempo is generally medium or fast.  The form is  not restrited to any particular raga or tala.  Tradition credits Amir Khusro (1253-1325) with having invented the form.  He is said to have combined Farsi Rubai and sounds without meaning.  It may be recalled that in India there has been a long tradition to use meaningless sounds in music.



Yet another from which consists of meaningless words/sounds is known as trivet.  It is a composition set in a raga and tala but consisting of the syllables of pakhawaj.  The sonorous bols of the drum and the fast tempo of the composition are quite captivating.



A form in whichbols from the kathak dance are used for compositions in raga and tala is known as ras.



The rich array of forms ahs one which tries to pack in all the attractive features.  Known as chaturanga (literally meaning ‘four aspects’), it has  the sthayi and antara couched in meaningful words to be followed by two parts, one of which consists of sitar/drum sounds and the other of the shorter names of the musical notes.

It can be seen that khayalnuma, tarana, trivet, ras and chaturangu have one feature in common  – the use of meaningless sound-syllables in place of words.



A composition conceived entirely in terms of the names of notes used in a particular raga and tala is known as sargamgeet.


Jayadeva, a sain-poet from medieval Bengal composed the trendsetting dance-drama Geetgovinda.  In it, he employed a poetic form, the ashtapadi, consisting of eight lines.  The form was brought back into musical circulation by musicians from Gwalior in the early nineteenth century, but only a vocal genre.  Ashtapadis are set in ragas, and talas, and their special feature, of course, the lilting language of the poet Jayadeva and the inherent dignified but often sensuous eroticism of his compositions.



Once again we get a form which combines two independent forms.  Tapkhyal is a khayalwhich has the features of a khayal as well as those of a form of semi-art music called tappa.



The term is derived from Hindi verb thumakna, meaning ‘to walk with dancing steps so as to make the ankle-bells tinkle’.  Thumri is, thus, connected with dance, dramatic gestures, mild eroticism, evocative love poetry and folk songs of UP, though there are regional variations.

Though there are earlier references to singers of thumri, generally Wajid Ali Shah of Lucknow is given the credit for having an encouraging attitude towards the form.

Three basic types of thumri are: 1) Lachau – characterized by movements approximating dance; 2) Punjabi – sung in expansive tala of same name, it is similar to Khayal but steeped in an evocative mood; 3) Badishki – sung in fast tempo this type has greater word density.

Main gharanas of thumri are: 1) Benaras gharana – dignified in movement, expansive in treatment controlled in emotional utterance; 2) Lucknow gharana – Decorative and more explicit in expressing emotion, has close ties with dance and shows affinity with ghazal; 3) Punjab gharana (or Patiala gharana) flashy but highly moving, less expansive and displays parallels to the tappa.



A form of music in dadra tala.  In other respects, the form resembles thumri.  It is, therefore, logical that this form should always be coupled with thumri in performing tradition.


Kajri / Kajli

In its original form and context, it is a folk song sung by women of UP and adjacent regions.  Kajri is sung by women throughout the night on the third day of second half of Bhadrapad (August) to the accompaniment of folk dance.   In concerts the form has found a place along with chaiti, yet another form of seasonal music.  However, as a form of popular musickajri  has developed a variety which is more formalized and deliberately processed.  The variety is and deliberately processed.  The variety is mentioned here only because the music used in the form hs affected the concert-version.



Musical forms & Associated singers

Dhrupad & Dhamar : Nasir Moinuddin Dagar, Nasir Aminuddin Dagar

Khayal : Mushtaq Hussain Khan, Faiyaz Khan, Gauhar Jan.

Tarana: Mogubai Kurdikar

Tappa: Padit Krishnarao Shankar, Siddeshwari Devi

Thumri: Rasoolan Bai, Siddeshwari Devi, Gauhar Jan

Dadra: Siddeshwari Devi

Rajri, Chaiti, Hori : Rasoolan Bai

Sawan: Begum Akhtar

Bhajan: Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Omkar Nath Thakur

Qawali: Iqbal, Affzal and Sabri, Azad Yusuf Qawaal.


The form is a class of songs sung during the rainy season, and to that extent is closely linked witht eh concept of seasonal music.  However, sawan compositions differ from kajris in that, they are parts of the traditional repertoire of art musicians.  The theme of separation from the lover finds conventional treatment.  Sawan songs sung while sitting on a swing are known as sawan hindola.



Folk songs of Uttar Pradesh and adjacent areas, sung during the month of Chaitra (march) are called chaitis.  Thus, the genre belongs to the category of seasonal music.  Special constructional features include poetic lines beginning witht eh word Rama and ending with Ho Rama.  Chaiti follows musical strategies developed by thumri.



This form has been inspired by the folk songs of camel – drivers in the Punjab area.  Couched in Punjabi and Pushtu languages and set in ragas generally used for other lighter vocal music such as thumri, the tappa is characterized by jumpy, flashy and quick tonal movements.



The genre originated as a song in praise of god with the lyrics relying onsayings or aphorisms from the Holy Koran.  The genre was also associated with kalbana which enjoyed similar structure and intent.  Later, the qawwali came to include compositions in Persian.

In India, the form stabilized around the thirteenth century and the sufis enlisted it for propagation of their doctrine.  Amir Khusro, a sufipoet-musician is credited with introducing many new features in the genre and for popularizing it.  A disputed tradition holds that khayal, the dominant vocal form in art music, can be traced to the early qawwali singer.

A qawwali performance is a fascinating example of their interchanging functions of solo and choral singing.  Usually sung by a party, and two parties if the competitive element is involved,  one or two of the signers are the main artists while others provide support – in the melodic aspect by repeating the refrain, and in the rhythmic aspect by highly efficient clapping.


The term originally meant ‘a love-song in Persian’. Later, Urdu literary tradition, while deriving inspiration from the Persian sources, extended the thematic range and admitted other subjects. From the beginning of the tradition the love of god was interwoven as a strand of the thematic fabric, considerably and qualitatively strengthened by the sufis who took to ghazal as a form of expression.  In India, the sufis registered an early presence, near about the early ninth century, a point to be remembered when the Indianness of the form is discussed.

On account of the metrical conventions and other norms governing the structuring of material, the genre puts considerable limits on the talas which could be used without distorting the poetic lines and their movements.  famous poets of ghazals are: Bahadur Shah Zafar, Mirza Galib, Mir Taqi Mir, Zauq, Momin, Iqbal, Faiz Firaq Gorakhpuri.



Like ode in English poetry, a nazm is a poem with irregular metres where the idea put forth is more important than the rhythm.  It is, therefore, considered the most powerful form of Urdu poetry.



It is term of abuse in Urdu poetry and refers to poems composed in blind praise of the patrons.  This style declined after independence as the princely states disappeared.


Carnatic musical forms

Padam and Javali

Padam and Javali are Carnatic music forms.  They are analogous to thumri and tappa in Hindustanimusic.  Padams are slower and cover more serious themes, and are allegoric i.e., love-life sung in human terms really refers to yearning of the human mind for the God.  The greatest of such songs are the Sanskrit astapadi of Jayadeva (12th century) and Telugu padams of Kshetrayya (17the century). Javalis are love lyrics sung to suitable ragas.  They are direct descriptions of human love.



Otilana is the carnatic counterpart of the tarana of Hindustanimusic.  Besides being sung in the later part of a concert, it invariably is an item in repertoire of a dancer.



This is an experimental form of music developed over the past two decades by musicians of the Hindustani and Carnatic styles.  The moving spirits behind the experiment have been Bhimsen Joshi (vocal – Hindustani), Balamurli Krishna (vocal-Carnatic), Lalgudi Jayaram (violin-Carnatic) and Amjad Ali Khan (sarod-Hindustani).


Devotional music

In the wake of the Bhakti movement devotional music came into existence due to the confluence of folk and classical music.  Its major forms in North India are bhajans, keertans of Bengal  and adhanga of Maharashtra.

The subject of bhajan is praise of Lord.  Some of the greatest bhajans were written by Kabir, Nanak, Surdas, and Meera.

Keertan of Bengal derives its inspiration from the Gita Govinda of Jayadeva.  Keertan involves both song and dance and was popularized by Chaitanya (15th – 16th century).

The abhangas of saints Eknath (16th century), Janaeswar (13thcentury), Tukaram (16-17thcentury) are very popular.

In the south India, earliest known hymns were the Tevarams composed by Tirujnana Sambandar, Tirunavu  Kharasu and Sundaramurthy Nayanar and sung by a class of singers known as oduyars and others.  The other devotional music compositions of south India are Tiraativachakam of Munikkavachagar, Tiruppugazh of Arunagirinatha.  Some of the south Indian Keertana singers were Bhadrachala Ramdas, Thyagaraja (his famous keertanas are uthsav Sampradaya and divya nama keerttana, Tallapakkam brothers.


Musical instruments of India

Music is firmly interwoven with India’s social fabric and no social or religious assembly is complete without it.  A few instruments are considered specially auspicious.

India has evolved and developed an unrivalled variety of musical instruments, which is not surprising given that its civilization goes back to Vedic times.  There are references in the Vedas to the veena played by Saraswati, Krishna’s flute, and Shiva’s damaru.  All these instruments have stood the test of time and are relevant even today.  Marginal changes have been made, but only in a few instruments.

The adaptation of Guitar to Hindustani Music by Viswa Mohan Bhatt and similar adaptation of saxophone by Kadri Gopinath deserve appreciation.


Classification of Instruments

The age-old classification of instruments adequately serves the purpose of explaining the nature of Indian musical instruments. Instruments are traditionally classified according to their major and active sound producing agents.  The four identified classes are:

1) Tata vadya or Stringed instruments: The earliest stringed instruments of India were harps-bow shaped with varying number of strings made of either gut or fibre.  The better known instruments are sitar, veena, sarod, sarangi, santoor etc.

2) Ghana Vadya or Idiophones or Solid Bodied Instruments: Perhaps the earliest of instruments, have remained comparatively undeveloped even to this day.  They are more rhythgm beaters, suitable for folk music and dance.  Example pots and pans, bell and jingles, rods and sticks etc.

In art (classical) music, however, there are two popular instruments of this type: ghatam and jaltarang.

3) Sushira Vadya or Hollow Aeroplane wind Instruments: These instruments are hollow tubes, with or without appendages, in whichsound is produced by the vibration of air columns.  E.g. flute, shehnai, nadaswaram etc.

4) Avanatha Vadya or Membrane Covered Instruments: These include drums – hollowed instruments covered with skin.  E.g. mridangam, table, khol, nagara etc.


Wind Instruments (Sushira)

Nadaswaram : The most auspicious instrument, it is a must in temples and at all religious and social function.  It is double reeded, and has a wooden tubular body fitted with a large wooden bellow at the lower end.  On the side are eight finger holes and four vent holes.  The sound emanates from a wooden double reed inserted at the upper end.  Essentially an open air instrument, it has in recent times been muffled to be used in concerts.

Flute: Made of seasoned bamboo, it is reedless, with one end closed and the other having the blow-hole.  On the side are eight finger holes.  It is held horizontally.

Bansuri: In construction it is like the Carnatic flute, but much longer.

Shehnai : Double reeded, tubular, gradually widening towards the outer end, with a metal funnel.  It has eight holes but only the upper seven are used.  The eighth is for regulating the pitch by applying wax.

Surnai : It is prevalent in Himachal Pradesh.  Conically bored, it has an integrated bellows.  It has seven finger holes and one thumb hole at the rear.

Mohuri : From Madhya Pradesh.  Also of conical bore with bellows and seven finger holes.  A bunch of hair fixed  in front of the bellows helps to mellow down its shrill sound besides being a decoration.  Mohuri is used as an accompaniment in community dances.

Karna (Rajasthan):  A straight brass traumpet with a conical bore.  It has a wide funnel-shaped opening at the end.  Played at social ceremonies and community dances.

Khung (Manipuri): Its small ball-shaped gourd serves as the air chamber; a protruding nozzle fitted with a bamboo serves as the blow-pipe.  Six bamboo tubes having small holes at the sides are fixed on the upper side of the gourd in two rows.  At the end of each tube is a beating reed.  Khung is an accompaniment for tribal dances in North-eastern India.

Singa (Orissa and Madhya Pradesh): Made of natural horn. The horn tip is sawn and fitted with a small mouthpiece.  Makes a loud sound.

Pungi (Rajasthan): A snake charmer’s flute, it combines two bamboo flutes, each with a single beating reed and finger holes bored into the lower end of the air chamber.  It has a sonorous and hypnotizing sound.


Membrane Covered Drams (Avanadha)

Mridangam: The Nobel laureate, Dr. C.V. Raman established by research that on the percussion side the mridangam is the most perfect and sophisticated instrument.  Its right wing has three strata: a thick layer of buffalo hide, a thin inset of calf leather and black paste for tonal embellishment.  The left wing, made of buffalo hide, is coated with flour paste for the purpose of mellowing to ensure vibration.

Khunjira: Shaped like a broad bangle, it varies from six to ten inches in diameter.  One side is open, and the playing side is covered with hide.  The bangle has brass jingles for occasional use.

Edakka (Kerala): Slung on the left shoulder.  The right face is struck with a stick.  The left hand controls the tension on the parchment by varying the pressure on the tape wound round the centre.  It accompanies Kathakali and other dances of Kerala.

Chenda (Kerala): A cylindrical drum made out of a single block of wood and covered with thick parchment held by leatherstraps.  It is vertically slung from the waist and struck with two sticks.  An essential accompaniment for Kathakali.

Thaval (Tamil Nadu): It tapers on both sides.  The right side face is played by hand and the left with a drum stick.  It is capable of the most intricate patterns.

Tabla: The most popular instrument and a must in music and dance.  Made out of seasoned walnut wood, it is covered with parchment with a permanent black paste at the centre.  The ‘hayan’, meaning the left wing, is also covered with parchment and black paste slightly off centre.  It is fastened with leather braces.

Pakhawaj: A two-faced barrel drum with shell made of hollowed wood, it is similar in construction to mridangam.  A must for Dhrupad music.

Stringed Instruments (Tata)

Tambura: Made of jackwood, often beautifully carved and even ornamented with ivory, the tambura helps to provide the drone.  The strings are plucked by fingers and the vibrations are brought out by inserting a thin silk thread on the spring board.

Veena: A highly developed stringed instrument.

Gottuvadhyam: Same as the veena except that it has no frets.  Legend has it that Lord Ganesha was its originator.  Vibrations are harnessed by a cylindrical piece of horn or wood.  It is used mostly as a solo instrument.  As it has no frets, its playing is very difficult as a single slip in pressure would cause musical havoc. Its practitioners can be counted on fingers.

Tanpura: Same as the South Indian Tambura, but there are variations.  Some tanpuras have huge bellies made of gourd.  Again, while the tambura has only four strings, some tanpuras have four to five.

Sitar: A fretted instrument, it was reputedly brought to India by Amir Khusro.    It is held diagonally.  The gourd serves as the resonator.  It consists of seven strings and eleven to twelve sympathetic strings for ensuring residuary vibrations.  It has now become internationally famous owing to its portability and maneuverability.

Sarod : Another plucked instrument of classical order.  The body is made of wood and the finger board fretless and chromium coated metal plate to facilitate gliding of the fingers.  As in the sitar, there are six main strings and twelve sympathetic strings.  It has gained international popularity.

Sarangi : A fretless bowed instrument of classical order  played solo or as accompaniment.  There are three main gut strings and a number of sympathetic strings made of steel.  A very wayward instrument as it is fretless and in inexpert hands will turn music into cacophony.  As its sound approximates the human voice, it is an ideal instrument for vocal concerts.

Santoor : Fitted with innumerable strings, the santoor is played with wooden stringers, with the instrument laid flat.  It is very difficult to coax gamakas out of it but some experts have devised an ingenious method by which they make it yield gamakas by tapping residuary vibrations.  Practitioners are few in view of the limited musical resources of the instrument.

Rabab (Jammu and Kashmir):  It is a plucked stringed instrument with a wooden sound box.  There are three turning pegs on each side.  It has five main strings, three of gut  and two of steel.  There are also eleven sympathetic steel strings tied to the pegs.  The strings are plucked with a wooden plectrum.  It has a covered neck and a notched bone bridge.

Kamaicha (Rajasthan):  Made out of a single block of wood with an integrated peg box, finger board and resonator.  There are three main strings of gut and a number of sympathetic strings on the side.  It is played with a long curved bow made of wood and horse-hair.

Ravan Hatha (Rajasthan): Reputedly the ancestor of violin and resembles the latter in structure.  It is bored:  the reasonator is made of coconut shell and is elongated.  It has two main strings of horse-hair with sympathetic strings of steel.  The bow sticks are also of horse-hair with jingle bells at the top.  Used mostly by touring balled singers.

Dilruba : A fretted instrument played with a bow.  It is turned with the help of pegs placed on the top right of the instrument.

Famous musicinstruments &instrumentalists

Sitar : Pr. Ravi Shankar, Ustad Vilayat Khan, Manilal Nag, Shahid Parvez, Shujaat Khan, Jaya Biswas, Debu Choudhary, Nishant Khan, Shashi Mohan, Nikhil Banerjee etc.

Sarod: Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Ustad Alauddin Khan, Ashok Kumar Rai, Chandan Rai etc.

Shehnai: Istad Bismillah Khan, Hari Singh, Shailesh Bhagwat, Jaganath, Bholanath Prasanna etc.

Santoor: Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, Bhajan Sopari, Tarun Bhattacharya etc.

Veena: S Balachandran, Doraiswamy Iyengar, Kalyan Krishna Bhagvatar,  Ramesh Prem, Gopal Krishna, Asad Ali, Etc.

Sarangi: Pt. Ramnarayanji, Bundu Khan, Aruna Kale, Santosh Mishra, Indralal, Sawari Khan, Ashiq Ali Khan, Bazeer Khan, Ramzan Khan etc.

Guitar: Vishwa Mohan, Bhatt, Brijbhushan Kabra, Srikrishna Nalin, Keshav Talegaonkar

Violin: T Smt. N. Rajam, Vishnu Govind Jog, Shishir Choudhary, T.N. Krishna, Lalgudi Jayaraman, R.P. Shastri, Satyadev Pawar, L. Subramanyam, Govind Swami Pillai, Balamurali Krishnan, etc.

Mandolin: U. Srinivas, Khagen Dey, Nagen Dey

Bansuri: Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pannalal Ghosh, Raghunath Seth, Prakash Vadhera, Vijay Raghav Rai, Prakash Saxena, Rajendra Prasanna etc.

Flute(carnatic): T.R. Mahalingam

Rudra Veena: Asad Ali Khan, Zia Moinuddin Dagar, etc.

Vichitra Veena: Ahmad Raza Khan, Abdul Aziz Khan, etc.

Piano : V. Balsara

Nadaswaram: Sheik Chinna Maulana, Namagiripettai Krishnan, Neeru Swamy Pillai, etc.

Tabla: Allah Rakha, Zakir Hussain, Ustad Shafat Ahmad Khan, Latif Khan, Sheikh Dawood, Fazal mridangamT.K. Moorthy, Umayalpuram K. Sivaram, Palghat Raju, Karaikudi R. Mani

Mridangam: T.K. Moorthy, Umayalpuram K. Sivaram, Palghat Raju, Karaikudi R. Mani.

Ghatam: T.H. Vijayakaram

Kanjira: G. Harishankar

Pakhawaj: Arun Sejwal, Gopal Das, Chatrapati Singh, Ramakant Pathak

Harmonium: Jhan Prakash Ghosh, Shri Purushottam Walawalkar, Appa Jalgaonkar

Jaltaran: Himanshu Biswas, Jagdish Mohan, Ghasiram Nirmal

Mridang: Paldhar Raghu

Surbahar: Imrat Khan, Annapurna Devi


Solid Bodied Instrument (Ghana)

Ghatam: An earthen pot with a small mouth and a big belly, made of burnt clay.  The fingers and palms are used for play on the body of the pot; its mouth is pressed against the belly of the artiste and released after every stroke

Jaltarang: A set of water filled porcelain cups struck with bamboo sticks.


The term gharana is derived from the Hindi word ghar traceable to Sanskrit word griha meaning family or house.  Not long before, performing arts, as also many other crafts in India, were carried on as family-traditions passed on from father to son for many generations.  Now these arts continue to survive mainly through an oral tradition (Guru-Sishya Parampara)  being passed on by the teacher to the disciple and this has led to the establishment of family tradition called the gharanas.  At one point, gharanas suggested places of origin of hereditary musicians.  Therefore, even today many of gharana names refer to places.

Gharanas & Associated Classical Singers

Gwalior Gharana (oldest & most comprehensive gharana) : Pt Krishnarao Shankar, Mushtaq Hussain Khan, Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur
Agra Gharnana : Faiyan Khan, Latafat Hussain Khan, Sharafat Hussain Khan,
Jaipur Gharana : Mallikarjun Mansur, Rajab Ali Khan, Kishori Amonkar
Patiala : Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Khan,
Patiala Gharnana : Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Nazakat Ali and Salamat Ali
Benaras Gharnana : Siddeshwari Devi
Kirana Gharnana : Abdul Karim Khan, Abdul Wahid Khan, Gangubai Hangal, Bhimsen Joshi
Rampur Gharnana : Nissar Hussain Khan, Ghulam Mustafa Khan
Lucknow Gharnana : Begum Akhtar
Sahaswan Gharnana : Hafeez Ahmad Khan
Indore Gharnana : Amir Khan
Mewati Gharnana : Maniram J., Pt. Jasraj Pratapnarayan


Distinguished exponents of music

Swami Haridas (1480 A.D.): A mystic of north India, perhaps was a strong force in the spread of dhrupad particularly, in the period of Raja Man Singh Tomar.  He belonged to the tradition of madhura bhakti – adoration expressed in erotic forms.  He started the Haridasi school of mysticism.

Jayadeva: Belonged to 12thcentury A.D. and is considered the last of the ancients and the first of the moderns in the field of music.  Jayadeva was the greatest lyric poet in Sanskrit in prabandha form. He was a composer, musician and mystic poet, and was one of the five gems who adorned the royal court of Maharaja Lakshmanasena the last Hindu King of Bengal.  Jayadeva composed several sangita prabhandha such as Radha-Vinod, Prasanna Raghvani and Geet Govinda.

Gopal Nayak : Belonging to 13-14thcentury A.D., he was one of the last and greatest prabandha exponents and Adi-guru or founder preceptor of dhrupad traditions.

Baiju Bawra: Belonged to early 16thcenturyand  Tansen were Disciples of Swami Haridas.  The texts of Baiju’s dhurpadas cover a wide range of dignified themes such as mythology, mysicology, the origins of notes  (swaras), systems of philosophy (Tantric, Sankhya etc.), descriptions of spring season, the joys and sorrows of the rainy season, metaphysical aspects and so on.

Nanasaheb Panse: (1775-1880 A.D.): He founded the Pakhawaj gharana which  has produced many outstanding Mridanga artists.  There are three main gharanas of Pakhawaj or the mridanga of north India: Nanasehab Panse Gharana, Kudau Singh Gharana and Nabhadwara Gharana

Ustad Bade Ali Kahn: A veena maestro, Ustad Bande Ali Khan of the Kirana gharana of classical music belonged to mid 19thcentury.

Sadarang and Adarang: They are prolific Khayal composers of 19thcentury, who ushered in the Khayal era.  Sarang and Adarang often composed jugalbandi khayals (pairs), the former composing a khayal as a challenge, and the latter creating his version as a jawab (answer).

Pt. Vishnu Digambar Paluskar: (1872-1931): Pt. Vishnu Digambar Paluskar is responsible for reviving the art of Hindustanimusic during the late 19th and early 20thcentury, when the art had gone  into a decline.  Vishnu Diagambar Paluskar travelled all over India travelled all over India and established the first Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in Lahore in 1901 he was also a nationalist and set the song Vande Mataram  to a tune appropriate for public participation, singing it for the first time at the Lahore Congress.  His devotional rendition of the bhajan Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram inspired even Muslims to join the singing in Hyderabad.

Ustad Bundu Khan (1880-1955): A true  Sarangi nawaz, Bundu Khan wrote several parts o Sangit Viveka Darpan, the first part of which was published in 1934.  It contains a large number of tans and ragas, Malkauns and Bairavi. He belonged to the Delhi gharana.

Pandit Kanthe Maharaj (1880-1969): A veteran of Benaras gharana of table, Kanthe Majaraj remained an independent performing artiste and guru. Producing sonorous modulations on the bayan by varying pressures was one of the special features of his style.

Govindrao Tembe(1881-1955): A multitalented personality, he was an outstanding harmonium expert.  As the harmonium has no parampara (traditions) like some of the other musical instruments, Tembe evolved his own technique through which he used to do full justice to Khayal, Thumri, Natya Sangit and Dhuns on the harmonium in his solo recitals and also as an excellent accompanist for maestro Pt. Bakhle.

Pandit Bhasarbuwa Bakhale (1862-1922): Pandit Bhaskarbuwa is also called ‘a titan of the golden age of music’.  His own style is often referred to as the Bakhle Gharana.  His style was non-imitable and hence admirers called him Avghad-das (master of a complex, difficult style).  Bhaskarbuwa’s repertoire was equipped with all types of compositions from dhrupads and khayals to tappas, Marathi stag songs, ashtapadis and bhajans.

Gauhar Jan (1870-1930):Gifted with beauty, brains and melodious voice was quite a legend in her lifetime. She was the greatest signer of khayal and thumri among women in India.  The appealing behalavas of swaras (notes) make her thumris effective.

Gyanacharya Pt. Anant Manohar Joshi (1881-1967): He belonged to Gwalior gayaki’.  With his highly devotional temperament, he enjoyed setting tunes for the numerous songs in Hari kathas.  He also composed a large number of songs and created new raga combinations like Triveni-Lalit, Hamirani, Gaud Mlav Malkausika and others.

Ali Bux and Fateh Ali (1850-1920): Belonging to Patiala darbar, they were popularly called as Alia-Fatu because they formed an inseparable duo and their jugalbandis won country-wide fame and popularity.

Gayan Maharish Ustad Alladiya Khan(1855-1946): Founder of Japipur gharana, he is said to have belonged to the Dagar Bani in his dhrupad renditions with shades of Gabarhar Bani imbibed from his maternal ancestors.  But he became famous as a great exponent of khayal singing.

Pandit Shankar Pandit (1862-1917): Pillar of the Gwalior gharana, Pandit Shankar Pandi and his son Krishnarao Pandi loyally stuck to their royal patron in Gwalior and upheld their Gwalior gayaki  in all its purity.  This is considered as the fountainhead (gangotri) of all Khayal-gharanas.

Thyagaraja (1767-1847): Considered greatest among the music composers of his age; he greatly influenced music in South India during the 18th and 19thcenturies.  He revolutionized the very nature of Carnatic music.  His works were of delicate spirituality, full of melodic beauty.  He was an expert in producing something utterly new from ragas and talas  usedover and over again in the past.  He built a unique musical empire with only one type of composition, the kriti.

Tansen (1506-1580): Original name Ramatanu Tansen was born with talent in music.  His talent  was nurtured and developed by the famous musician of the time, Swami Haridas of Brindavan.  Raja Ram Chand noticed his talent and readily accepted him as one of his court-singers.  When Akbar occupied the throne at Agra he took the earliest opportunity to invite the poet-singer to his court.  Akbar conferred the title of Tansen on the veteran musician who remained in his court till the end.  He was a renowned discoverer of several ragas and a few instruments including Rudra Veena and is said to be the innovator of the  two famous ragas, ‘Miyan-ki-todi’ and ‘Darbari Kanada’.

Parur Sundaram Iyer (1895-1974): belonging  to Kerala, he was a pioneer in popularizing violin in the north.  He also initiated North-South integration through the medium of music by developing a unique style of music having components of both the Hindustani and Carnatic music.  This integrated stream came to be known as Bharatiya Sangeet.

Dr. Vasantrao Deshpande (1920-1983): One  of the most accomplished and versatile personalities of Hindustanimusic, he was an impressive concert singer who had an extraordinary repertoire of songs ranging from khayals, thumris, dadras and taranas to natya-sangeet and bhajans.  For his thesis on ‘Samagana se thumri tak’, he was awarded a Doctorate by the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya.

Dattatreya V. Paluskar (1921-1955): Describe as ‘the Vivekananda of Hindustanimusic’, he had a very rich repertoire of ragas  and compositions.  He always preferred to present popular expansive ragas and traditional bandishes in different ragas.

Pandit Gopal Misra (1921-1977): A sarangi Maestero, he was honoured with special title of Sarangi Samrat in appreciation of his mastery over swara and laya, alike.  He belonged to the Benaras gharana of  sarangi.

Bhaiya Ganpatrao: Bhaiya Ganpatrao, a scion of the Gwalior royal family belonged to  late 19th – mid 20thcentury.  He was a genius on the harmonium and also a widely loved exponent of the light classical type of music.

Pandit Shankarro Vyas (1898-1958): A good classical musician, an excellent guru and composer, Shankarrao wrote and published a series of textbooks: prathamik Sangeet (two volumes); Madhya Sangeet (three volumes); and sitar Lahiri (three volumes).  Jhala Prakar was his  last book.  He in association with his brother founded the Gujarat Sangit Vidyalaya in Ahmedabad.  He sang khayals  in the typical dignified ‘Gwalior style’ with elaborate alaps and vaired tans. He was also adept at rending taranas and thumris.

Pandit Vinayakrao Patwardhan (1898-1975): Known as a versatile scholar-musician-guru, he founded Gandharava Mahavidayala in 1932, in Pune.  In 1952 he establsiehd the Vishnu Digambar Sangeet Vidyalaya, and wrote and published many text books on music for the benefit of music students such as Raga Vigyan in seven volumes, Tala Sangeet in three volumes, Natya Sangeet-Prakash, Majhe Guru Charitra and others.

Pandit Anokhey Lal (Misra) (1914-1958): A table Maestro he had developed his own unique and sonorous style of playing just the basic tals, which had a haunting sweetness.

Radhika Mohan Moitra (1917-1981): A sarod maestro of the Seniya gharana, he was a cultured and polished, a highly educated and intellectual maestro whose art reflected not only his intellectual temperament but also a rare emotional quality.  Mitra’s sarod style was an instant reminder of the legacy of rabab  to sarod.

M.S. Subhulakshmi: Trained from childhood in the of singing Carnatic music by her mother, a gifted veena player; stepped into fame from the time of her performance at All India Music Conference (1943), was acclaimed still more all over India as singer of Mira Bhajans request, the bhajan Hari Tum Haro, on his birthday.  She won many awards including the Bharat Ratna in 1997.  She held a concert under the auspices of United Nations (1966), an honour given to very few creative artists.  She has sung for many benefits, charity performances and philanthropic causes receiving in recognition, Ramon Magsaysay Award (1974), has tried innovations and also to synthesise Carnatic and Hindustanimusic.

Amir Khusro: APropagated Muslim – or rather Persian – musical feelings and technique.  He was a sufiand loved poetry and music.  Khusro composed quawaali and taranas, and wrote in Persian and Braj.  More than anything, he attempted to ‘synthesise’ Persian music and Indian musicwhich he learned.  The origin of khayal and the invention of sitar are attributed to him.

Ravi Shankar: Younger  brother of famous dancer Uday Shankar, in whose dance troupes he danced in Paris, London and other continental capitals. He gave  up dancing and specialized in the sitar under the famous Allaudin Khan (whose daughter he married).  He became a brilliant sitarist.  He was the first Indian to present Indian music at UNESCO meeting at Paris and composed music for the famous film Pather  Panchali and for ballets Discovery of Indiaand India Immortal. He received several awards including Silver  Bear Award (Berlin, Sangeet Natak Akademi award for Hindustanimusic, etc.

Ali Akbar Khan: Son of famous sarod maestro, Allaudin Khan, he founded Ali Akbar College of Music,  Calcutta (1956).  As a court musician of Jodhpur, toured abroad extensively, received Sangeet Natak Akademi award for instrumental music (1963), film  award for music in Hungry Stones and composed new ragas.

Allauddin Khan: Eminent sarod player and instrumentalist of Senia gharana who played various (Indian) instruments.  he is a composer and pioneer in orchestration.  He established Mahiar Nand(1924).  He has received Sangeet Natak Akademi award for Hindustaniinstrumental music, Padma Bhushan and Desikottama (Visva Bharati).  He composed new ragas like Hemant, Prabhat Kali, Hem Behag, etc.  his prominent students include Ali Akbar (son), Annapurna (daughter), Ravi Shankar (son-in-law), Timir Baran, Sharan Rani, Bhadur Khan, Pannalal Ghosh, Nikhil Nanerjee and others.

Zubin Mehta (1936): Amusical child prodigy, who studied music, at Academy of Music, Vienna.  He won international acclaim for conducting competition in England (1948).  He conducted New York Philharmonic with outstanding achievement, conducted Los Angeles and Montreal Orchestras (1961) becoming  youngest conductor of a symphony orchestra in USA and first person to become conductor of two orchestras simultaneously.  New York Philharmonic made worldwide search for ‘best music director ‘ and appointed him as conductor in 1978.

Bismillah Khan: Maestro of Hindustani Shehnai;received Sangeet Natak Akademi award, Padma Sri (1961), Padma Bhushan, etc.

Bhimsen Joshi: A vocalist of Hindustanimusic, he is the most popular singer in Maharashtra and Bengal

Dagar Broterhs: Ustad Zahiruddin Dagar and Ustad Faizazuddin Dagar are the 19th generation of descendants in the line of great Dhrupadiyas.  They are custodians of an old and rare culture.

Iryakudi Ramanuja Iyengar: Pioneer of the concert style of music without sacrificing the spirit of classicism.

Kumar Gandharav: vocalist of immense originality in Hindustanimusic.

  1. Subramanyan (Dr.): Violin maestro, he was the musical advisor of Peter Brooke’s serial on Mahabharat.

Rabindra Nath Tagore: No account of Indian music and its modern cultural impact is complete without a study f Rabindranath.  Belonging to family of Bengal Brahmins, his genius found definite outlets at the age of twenty when Sandhya Sangeet, written by him, elicited warm tribute from Bankin Chandra.  His songs are well chiseled and finely proportioned.  The compositional forms included dhrupad, thumri and tappa though the majority were just songs.

Pandit Hari Prasad Chaursia: Maestro of flute, he plays rare ragas like Hemavati, which is primarily that of the Carnatic tradition.

Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur: Hindustani classical vocalist trained in Gwalior gharana.  He can present an amazing variety of as many as 200 ragas.

Purandara Dasa: His writings and songs were called Purandara Dasa Upanishad.  A supreme artist, pioneer in musical pedagogy, called Adi Guru, he had standardized and brought into order the teaching methods in Carnatic music.

Shyama Sastri: He was the most lyrical of the musical trinity (composed of himself, Thyagaraja and Muthuswami Dikshitar), with a penchant for laya.  Few of his works have lasted, which include a few swarajatis.

Budalur Krishnamurthi Shastrigal (1894-1978): one of the greatest masters of the gottuvadyam, with intense musical knowledge and the ability of produce accurate gamakas on this difficult instrument.  After his guru, Sakharama Rao, Budalur Krishnamurti Sastrigal was considered the greatest vidwan of the gottuvadyam.  He was invited by Rukmini Devi Arundale to join her institute, Kalakshetra, where she had collected the most eminent artists of the time.  Till the end of his life, he remained Principal of Kalakshetra as well as Visiting Professor of the Central College of Carnatic music.

Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar (1890-1967): His style of singing is emulated as the Ariyakudi Baani, was a disciple of Poonchi Srinivas Iyengar, a disciple of Pattanam Subramaniya Iyer.  His rich voice and purity of tone were combined with his dignified style of performance, which was marked by simplicity, grace and a medium tempo.  The present Katcheri format, in whichmusicians render a variety of kritis in different ragas, wasinitiated by Ariyakudi.

Madurai Mani Iyer (1912-1968): Was known as the master of romantic manodharma.  The immaculate perfection of his concert pattern and the cascading flow of music with unpredictable and sparkling bhrigas, swaras and neraval rendition,  were the notable features of his exposition.  He was an expert in apoorva ragas and brilliant in swara singing.

T.R. Mahalingam (Mali) (1926-1986): Mali the lengender flautist who shot to fame from the age of seven, wrought a revolution in Carnatic flute playing by pioneering a special method of cross fingering that created such mellifluous music.   It nearly wiped out, in terms of popularity, the original fingering technique developed by Sarabha Sastri and propagated by his disciple Palladam Sanjeeva Rao.

Pt. Omkarnath Thakur (1897-1967): Achieved fame as one of the most outstanding vocalists of the century.  He received his training from Pt. Vishnu Digambar Paluskar at the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in Bombay.  Though officially trained in the Gwalior gharana, Pt. Omkarnath Thakur’s singing was a gharana unto itself, and rose above classification.  He was the first Head of the Department at the Benaras Hindu University.


The Media

The media besides entertaining, plays an important role in creating people’s awareness of policies and programmes for their development and in motivating them to be active partners in the national building endeavour.  In the Indian context the most effective media today comprises a synthesis of traditional and folk forms of communications on one hand and the modern print and audio visual media including satellite communication on the other.

Print media (The Press)

The first newspaper (Weekly) published in India was Bengal Gazette also called Hickey’s Gazette.  It was in English and started in 1780 in Calcutta by an Englishman James Hicky.  Dig Darshan (Bengali) was the first language newspaper also from Calcutta (1818)

The Gujarati daily Bombay Samachar (circulation 1, 59, 236) published form Bombay is the oldest existing newspaper not only in Indiabut in Asia.  It was established in 1822.  The print media in India consists on 41 centenarians.


Registrar of newspapers in India (RNI)

It was set up in 1956.  The RNI allots newsprint and recommends import of printing machinery for newspapers.  as a part of non-statutory functions, the Registrar’s office issues Entitlement Certificates to the small and medium newspapers/periodicals, whose annual entitlement of newsprint mills.  Every newspaper/periodical has to be registered with the RNI.


News Agencies

India has 4 news agencies: Press Trust of India (PTI), United news of India (UNI), Samachar Bharati and Hindustan Samachar.

PTI was set up on August 27, 1947.  It took over from the Associated Press of India (API) and Reuters.  It has 140 news bureau in the country including computerized offices in the 4 metros.

UNI was registered as a company in 1954 and started news operation in 1961.  In 1982 it launched its Hindi news services ‘UNIVARTA’.  It operates a news service to the media in four Gulf countries.


Press Information Bureau (PIB)

PIB, the central agency of the Government of India, through its network of 40 regional/branch offices, disseminates information on its policies, programmes, decisions and activities.  With a countrywide teleprinter network and airbag facilities.  PIB reaches newspaper organization all over the country.  PIB arranges photo coverage of government activities.  PIB is linked with 20 of its Regional offices over computer.  The Bureau also has a PIB window in the Internet system which makes information internationally accessible.  PIB distributes press material to over 8,000 newspaper establishments.



Publication Division

Set up in Jan. 1940 under Home Dept., then called Foreign Branch of the Bureau of Public Information a media unit of the Min. of I & B (since Dec. 1944), provides up-to-date and authentic information on all subjects of national importance through books.

Press Council of India

It owes its origin to the recommendations of the First Press Commission.  The Press Council of India Act, 1965 was enacted and under it the first Press Council was set up in 1966.  This body continued to be in existence till Dec. 1975.  The present Council was set up under the Act 37 of 1978.  It is meant to safeguard the freedom of the press, maintain and improve the standard of newspapers and news agents.


The total number of newspapers and periodicals, as on 31st December 1995, was 37,254 consisting of details, tri/bi-weeklies, weeklies, monthlies, fortnightlies, quarterlies, annuals and publications with periodicities like bi-monthlies, half yearlies etc.  newspapers were published in as many as 100 languages and dialects during 1996.  Apart from English and 18 principal languages enumerate din the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, newspapers were published in 81 other languages, mostly Indian languages or dialects and a few foreign languages.  The highest number of newspapers were published in Hindi.  Daily newspapers were brought  out in 17 principal languages except Kashmiri and Konkani.


Important Indian Daily newspapers/Periodicals

West Bengal: The Statesman, Hisdustan Standard, Amrit Bazar Patrika (English), Basumati, Jugantar, Anand Bazar patrika (Bengali), Likmanya (Hindi), Telegraph, Sunday, Asian Age (English).

Assam: Asam Tribune (English), Nutan Assamiya (Assamese)

Bihar:Indian Nation, Searchlight (English), Viwamitra (Hindi), Time of India, Hindustan Times (English)

Maharashtra: Times of India (completed 150 years in 1988), Indian Express (English), Mumbai samachar, Jam-e-Jamshed and Janmabhoommi (Gujarati), Dainik Bharat (Marathi), Nava Bhrat Times (Hindi), Nav Yug (Kannada), jai Hind (Gujarati), Illustrated Weekly (competed its centenary in 1979) now discontinued, Blitz (Weekly), Mumbai Kesari of Pune.

Gujarat: Times of India, Indian Express (Ahmedabad).

Tamil Nadu  and Andhra Pradesh: Hindu (English), (Competed its centenary in 1978), Indian Express (English), Andhra Patrika (Telugu), Daily Thanthi (Tamil), Dinamani (Tamil) Deccam Chornicle (English), Kalki, Ananda Vikatan, Kumudam (Tamil Weeklies) Chennai, Frontline, Business Line.

Madhya Pradesh: Hitavada (English), Matribhoomi (Oriya)

Delhi: Hindustan Times, The Statesman, Indian Express, Times of India, Hindu, Pioineer, Asian Age, National Herald and Patriot (English), Tej, Pratap, Milap and Quami Awaz (Urdu), Nav Bharat Times, Hindustan, Vir Arjun, Jansatta, Sahara (Hindi), Jathedar (Punjabi).  The Business and Political Observer, Economic Times, Financial Express (English Daily), India Today, Business Today and Business Standard.

Rajasthan:Rajasthan Pathrika, Jagriti and Lokvani (Hindi), The Times (Jaipur)

Uttar Pradesh: National Herald, Northern Patrika, Pioneer (English), Time of India (Lucknow)

Punjab: Punjab Kesari (Hindi & Urdu), Akali Patrika (Punjabi), Ajit, Hindi Samachar, Pradip (Urdu), Tribune (English, Hindi and Punjabi), Indian Express.

Kerala: Matribhoomi, Kerala Bhushanam, Malayala Manorma (Malayalam), Indian Express, The Week.

Karnataka: Daily News, Daily Post (English),  Janvani, Samyukta Karnataka (Kannada), Indian Express, Deccan Herald.



In India Akashvani broadcasting started in 1927 with privately owned transmitters at Bombay and Calcutta.  In 1930, Government took  over the transmitters and started operating them under the name of Indian Broadcasting service.  It was changed to All India Radio (AIR) in 1936 and it came to be known as Akashvani since 1957.  AIR is serving as an effective medium to inform and educate people besides providing wholesome entertainment.  FM service is available at AIR stations in Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai and Panaji.  Time slots are allotted to private parties as well as for broadcasting programmes.

The External service of AIR broadcasts programmes every day in 24 languages – 8 Indian languages, English and 15 foreign languages.  it serves in projecting Indian point of view in world affairs besides disseminating information on Indian life, thought, culture, tradition and heritage.

AIR network comprises 185 broadcast centres, 293 transmitters and 30 Vividh Bharati commercial centres.  There are 148 mw transmitters, 51 short-wave transmitters and 94 FM transmitters.  The present national coverage is 90.6% by area and 97.3% by population (’95 – 96).

Internet users numbering 80 million can now listen to AIR – programmes in audio mode.  The programmes are broadcast in mono, as stereo programme cannot be transmitted over telephone lines.  But users having leased line on ISDN can receive stereo transmission.



Doordharshan Television started in India as an experimental service in September 1959, with a limited transmission on three days a week.  The regular service began in 1965.  In 1976.  Television was delinked from AIR to from an independent organization-Doordarshan.  Doordarshan aims at promoting national integration, dissemination of message to promote family planning and welfare, dissemination of essential knowledge  to stimulate agricultural production, promote environmental preservation, projection of social protection for women and children, promote interest in game4s and sports and to create values to appreciate artistic and cultural heritage.  It witnessed unprecedented growth after 1982.  In 1995-96, Doordarshan reached 86% of the population and 68.4% of the area of the country through a network of 750 transmitters.  There are 38 programme production centres at different parts of the country.  There are 50 other transmitters giving terrestrial support to the other channels and Doordarshan uses a large number of transponders on the INSAT.  The international Channel beams its programmes on a transponder on PAS-4.

Doordarshan’s primary viewership is of the order of 270 million.  Doordarshan  telecasts programmes more than 1021 hours every week on its primary service. In 1995-96.  Doordarshan had 19 satellite channels and two terrestrial channels.


Indian cinema

India today produces largest number of films, annually in the world.  The first motion picture India saw was in 1896 when the Lumiere Brothers’ Cinematography screened six soundless short films at Watson Hotel, Esplande Mansion, Bombay on July 7.  The first exposing of celluloid in camera by an Indian and its consequent screening took place in 1899, when Harishchandra Bhatvadekar (Save Dada) shot two short films and exhibited them under Edison’s projecting kinetoscope.  J.F. Madan and Abdullah Esoofally launched their carrier with Bioscope shows of imported short films.  N.G. Chitre and R.G. Torney made a silent feature film Pundalik which was released in May 1912, but it was half British in its make.

However, the real beginning of Indian film industry was made only in 1913 when India’s first fully indigenous silent feature film Raja Harischandra was released.  It was produced by Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, more propularly known as Dada Saheb Phalke. Therefore, he has been rightly called as the ‘Father of Indian Cinema’.  The year 1917 marked the birth of first Bengali feature film – Satyawadi Raja Harishchandra, made by Madan’s Eliphinstone Bioscope Company.  In 1919, the first feature film of south India – Keechaka Vadham was made by Nataraja Mudaliar.

Indian cinema gradually assumed the role of a regular industry during 1920s.  it also came under the purview of law.

The year 1931 marked the beginning of talkie era when first Indian Talkie Alam Ara, produced by the imperial film company and directly by Ardeshir Irani was released on March 14.  The same year marked the beginning of the talkie era in Bengal and South India also.  The first talkie film in Bengali Jamai Shasthi, Telugu – Bhakta Prahlada and Tamil  – Kalidasa were released 1931.

The thirties is recognized as the decade of social protest in the history of Indian cinema. The decade also witnessed the release of the first talkie films in Marathi (Ayodhiyecha Raja, 1932);  Gujarathi (Narasinh Mehta, 1932); Kannada (Dhurukumar, 1934) Oriya (Sita Bibaha, 1934); Assamese (Joymati, 1935); Punjabi (Sheila, 1935) and Malayalam (Balan, 1938).

The decade of World War II and Indian independence was a momentous one for cinematography all over India.  Some memorable films making a strong plea against social injustice were produced during the 40s such as Shantharam’s Dr. Kotnis Kitnis Ki Amar Kahani, Mehboob’s Roti, Chetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar, Uday Shanker’s Kalpana, Abbas’s Dharti Ke Lal.  In 1949 Sohrab Modi set a new standard in historical film with Pukar.  He later made historical films like Sikander, and Prithvi Vallabh.  The forties also saw B.H. Wadia’s Court Dancer, S.S. Vansan’s Chandralekha, Vijay Bhatt’s Bharat Milap and Ram Rojya, Rajkapoor’s Barsaat and Aag.

The first International Film Festival of India held in early 1952 at Bombay had great impact on Indian Cinema.  The big turning point came in 1955 with the arrival of Satyajit Ray and his classic Pather Panchali.  This film got international recognition when it received the Cannes Award for ‘the best human document’ followed by other foreign and national awards.

In Hindi cinema too, the impact of neorealism was evident in some distinguished films like Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zamin, Devadas and Madhumati, Rajkapoor’s Boot Polish, Shri 420 and Jagta Raho, V. Shantharam’s Do Aankhen Brah Haath and Jhanak Janak Payal Baaje, Mehboob’s Mother India.  The  first Indo-Soviet co-production Pardesi  was also made during fifties by Abbas.

The sixties was a decade of mediocre films made mostly to please the distributors and to some extent, meet the demands of the box office.  The sixties began with a bang with the release of K. Asif’s Mughal-E-Azam, which set a record at the box-office.  Notable productions were: Rajkapoor’s Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, Sangam, Dilip Kumar’s Gunga  Jumna, Gurudutt’s Sahib Bibi our Gulam, Dev Anand’s Guide, Bimal Roy’s Bandini, S. Kukherji’s Junglee, Sunil  Dutt’s Mujhe Jeene Do and the experiemental Yaadein, Basu Bhattacharya’s Teesri Kasam, Pramod Chakravorthy’s Love in Tokyo, Ramanand Sagar’s Arzoo, Sakhti Samantha’s Aradhana, Hrishikesh Mukherji’s Aashirwad and Anand, B.R. Chopra’s Waqt, Manoj Kumar’s Upkar’s, and Prasad Productions’ Milan.

Malayalam cinema hit the headlines for the first time when Ramu Kariat’s Chemmeen (1965) won the President’s Gold Medal.  Towards the end of the decade, Mrinal Sen’s Bhuvan Shome, signalled the beginning of the new wave in Indian Cinema.  Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen were the founding fathers of the new cinema in India.  Pather Panchali, Aparajito, ApurSansar, Charulata, Jalsaghar, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, Seemabhadha, Jana Aranya, Ashani Sanket and Agantuk are some of Ray’s outstanding films.  He was fortunate enough to present his films in almost all the leading film festivals of the world.  The national and international awards won by Ray are numerous.  Mrinal Sen’s notable films are Chorus, Mrigya, Ek Din Pratidin, Geneses etc.  like Ray, Mrinal Sen also has won several national &international awards.  Ritwik Ghatak films constitute a record of the traumas of change from the desperation of rootles and deprived refugees from East Bengal.  Some of his films are Meghe Dhaka Tara, Komal Gandhar etc.

The seventies saw the coming up great director and films like Govind Nihlani (Aakrosh), Saeed Mirza (Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Atta Hai), Sai Paranjape (Sparsh), Rabindra Dharmaraj (Chakra) and Muzaffar Ali (Gaman).

The seventies’ popular Hindi hits were Kamal Amrohi’s Pakeeja, Rajkapoor’s Bobby, Devar’s Haathi Mere Saathi, Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay, Zanjeer, Deewar, Yaadon Ki Baarat, Kabhi Kabhi, Dharamveer, Amar Akbar Antony, Hum  Kisise Kum Nahin, Muquaddar Ka Sikandar.

Down in the South, the new wave cinema originated in Karnataka and Kerala.  Pattabhi Rama Reddy’s Samskara (1970) and Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Swayamvaram (1972) were the trend setter in Kannada and Malayalam.

The new cinema movement continued with full spirit in the next decade (eighties) also.  Shyam Benegal presented some good movies like manthan, Bhumika, Nishant, Junoon, and Trikal.  Nihlani’s Aaghat and Tamas were remarkable works.  Other important films with new style of tremant include Damul (Prakash Jha), 26-Chowringhee Lane (Aparna Sen), New Delhi Times (Ramesh Sharma), Mirch Masala (Ketan Mehta), Rao Saheb (Vijaya Mehta), Debshishu (Utpalendu Chakraborthy), Massey sahib (Pradeep Kishan), Tirhsgni (Nabayandu Ghosh), Ijaazat (Gulzar), Umrao Jaan (Musafir Ali), Dakhal, Paar (Gautam Ghose), etc.

The new wave masters of Kerala, Adoor and Aravindan consolidated their position in the eighties with their films Elippathayam, Mukha Mukham, Anantharam, Esthappan, Pokkuveyil, Chidambaram, and Oridath.Shaji N. Karun’s maiden filmPiravi (1988) bagged several national and international awards and was shown in nearly forty filmfestivals.

Mira Nair, the young woman-director, won the Golden Camera award at Cannes for her first filmSalaam Bombay in 1989.  In 1990, Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Mathilukal won the FIPRESCI and UNICEF awards.  The late 80s and early 90s saw the revival of the musical love stories in Hindi cinema like Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Chandini, Hum Aapke Hai Kaun, etc.,

The first half of nineties witnessed the release of some better films in Hindi as well as in other regional languages.  Drishtti and Drokhkal (Nihalani), Lekin (Gulzar), DIsha (Sai Parajpe) Prahar (Nana Patekar), Parinda (Vinad Chopra) Diskha (Arun Kaul), Rudaali (Kalpana Lajmi) Maya Memsaab (Ketan Mehta), Kujhse Dosti Karoge (Gopi Desai), Suraj Ka Satwan Ghoda & Mammo (Benegal), Who Chokri (Subhankar Ghosh)& Ek Doctor Ki Maut (Tapan Sinha)weresome of the notable Hindi films.  from Bengal, Orissa, Assam and Manipur came films like Tahader Katha, Bagh Bahadur, Charachar (Buddhadeb Dasgupta), Uttoran (Sandeip Ray), Wheel Chair (Tapan Sinha), Unishe April (Rituparno Ghosh), Adi Mimansa, Lalvanya Preethi (A.K. Bir), Nirbachana (biplab Roy Chowdhari), Halodhia Choraya Baodhan Khai, Firingoti (ahnu Barua), Haladhar (Sanjeev Hazarika) and Ishanou (Aribam Shayam Sharma).

In the nineties, Malayalam cinema presented some notable films including Vidheyan (Adoor), Bharatham (Sibi Malayil), Amaram (Barathan) Sagam (Hariharan), Kilukkam(Priyadasan) Deivathinte Vikruthikal (Lenin Rajendran) Kadavu (M.T) Manichitrathazhu(Fazil) Ponthanmada (T.B.Chandran) and Swam (Shaji). Tamil and Telugu cinema, there came Anjali, Roja and Bombay (Mani Ratnam), Marupakkam and Nammavar (Sethumadhavan), Karuthamma (Bharathi Raja), Surigadu (Desari Narayana Rao), etc. English films like Miss. Beatty’s Children (Pamela Rooks),and English August (Dev Benegal)were produced during this period.

Some of the hits of the 1994 to 1996 are: Roja, Hum Aap Ke Hai Kaun, Bombay, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Kalapani, Rangeela, Kathapurushan, Manichitrathazhu, Indian (Hindustani), Agnisakshi and Khamosi.

Some of the hits of 1997 include Raja Hindustani, Border, Desadanam Avai Shanmughi, Kulam, and Lal Darja.

National Film Festival

The scheme of national filmfestival (earlier called National Awards for films) was instituted in 1953.  It aims at promoting India’s film art by acknowledging outstanding achievements in several categories film art and film making.  This includes an award for the best book on cinema, instituted in 1982 for the first time.  The golden lotus (Swarna Kamal),  the silver lotus (Rajat Kamal), and cash prizes are given under the national awards scheme.  The regional awards are meant for films produced in the principal languages of the country.   Besides, the Dada Saheb Phalke Award, instituted in 1969, is given for the outstanding contribution to the cause of Indian cinema.  The Phalke Award is decided by the Government and entries for the national filmfestival are examined by the two national juries for films, one for short films and the other for feature films.

The film and television institute of India

It was established in 1960 at Pune, by the Government of India, with the object of imparting technical training in a systematic manner in the art and craft of film making.  On October 1, 1974 the institute became a society registered under the Registration of Societies Act of 1860.  The Film wing offer courses leading to Diploma in Cinema with specialization in areas like direction, cinematography, editing sound recording and sound engineering.

Central Board of Film Certification

The certification of this regular body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is essential for the public exhibition of films in India.  The Central Board has several regional offices at Bangalore, Mumbai, Calcutta, Hyderabad, Chennai, Thiruvanthapuram and New Delhi.  The Board examines certification in accordance with the provisions contained in Cinematograph Act 1952, Cinematograph (Certification) Rules 1983 and the guidelines issued by the Central Government in this regard.  Film Certification Appellate Tribunal, with headquarters in New Delhi, bears appeals against the decision of the CBFC.  Normally films are certified U (Universal Showing – no restrictions) and ‘A’ (Restricted to adults only).

Films division

Established in 1948, it is perhaps the world’s single largest producer and distributor of news reels and documentaries.  Besides, it also produces 16 mm featurette for rural audience in regional languages.  It also produces cartoon films and educational films.

National Film Development Corporation Limited (Nfdc)

NFDC is a central agency established to promote good cinema in the country.  The NFDC was formed by the merger of the erstwhile Film Finance Corporation (FFC) and Indian Motion Picture Export Corporation (IMPEC) in 1975.  NDFC also plays an important role in the import of foreign films and the export of Indian films.

Directorate of Film Festivals

The Directorate of Film Festivals was set up in 1973 with a view to promoting good Indian films in India and abroad.  The Directorate is entrusted with the organization of national and international filmfestivals, film weeks under cultural exchange programmes and participation in International filmfestivals.  It also organizes the National Film Awards annually.  Film awards are given every year to outstanding films.

National Film Archive of India (NFAI)

With headquarters at Pune, it is a pioneer institution set up in 1964 with the objective of acquisition and preservation of National Cinema, film classification, documentation and research encouraging film technology and spread of film culture in the country.  The Achieve has a collection of more than 6500 films from all over the world.  NFAI has regional offices at Calcutta, Bangalore and Thiruvannanthapuram.

Children’s Film Society

Established in 1955, it is engaged in the production, acquisition, distribution and exhibition of films for children.  The Society also organizes International Children’s Film Festivals in India and participates in filmfestivals abroad.

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