Indian Art Forms: And All You Need To Know About It

Indian art forms are diverse and rich in cultural heritage, reflecting the country’s long history, diverse traditions, and spiritual beliefs. Indian art forms are not only a source of aesthetic pleasure but also a means of preserving and transmitting cultural and spiritual values. In this article, we will take go through the various Indian art forms that will surely be a good inspiration for your child’s artistic vision. 

History of Indian art forms

 Indian art has been influenced by various cultures, religions, and historical periods, resulting in a unique and vibrant artistic heritage. Here’s an overview of the major phases and developments in the history of Indian art forms:

Stone age – 

The earliest traces of human settlement in India can be traced through Bhimbetka rock shelter cave paintings located in Madhya Pradesh, central India. These rock shelters were inhabited by humans 100,000 years ago. People living here created the oldest Indian art discovered. Known as Bhimbetka petroglyphs, this prehistoric cave art involved people drawing or carving rocks that consisted of many couples or cup-shaped depressions hammered into the rock surface. Furthermore, many paintings representing animals and humans depicting dancing and hunting from the stone age era. The oldest painting dates to 10,000 BCE. 

Indus Valley Civilisation (circa 2500-1500 BCE)

The Indus valley civilization, which now is a part of modern-day Pakistan, one of the world’s earliest urban civilizations, produced a variety of artifacts, including pottery, seals, and sculptures.  These artifacts often featured intricate designs and depictions of animals and human figures. They also made small bronze as well as terracotta figurines. These figures depicted animals as well as humans in various dancing positions. 

Vedic Period (circa 1500-600 BCE)

The Vedic period saw the emergence of early Hindu religious texts and rituals, influencing artistic representations. Temples and religious symbols began to appear in art, with a focus on rituals and worship. Buddhism began in the 6th century BCE, during which, religious artists then began creating Indian traditional art forms like sculptures made of stone and bronze. These art forms decorated the walls of caves. By the 5th century CE, this was common among Buddhists and Hindus. 

Images of Enlightenment: Aniconic vs. Iconic Depictions of the Buddha in  India (article) | Khan Academy

Mauryan and Shunga Period (circa 322-185 BCE)

The Mauryan Empire, followed by the Shunga Dynasty, marked the expansion of Buddhist art and architecture. The Great Stupa at Sanchi is a notable example of early Buddhist architecture.

Gupta Empire (circa 4th to 6th centuries CE)

The Gupta period is often considered the golden age of Indian art. Sculpture and temple architecture flourished, with iconic works like the Ajanta and Ellora cave paintings and the temple at Deogarh.

Islamic art (circa 7th to 17th centuries CE)

In the 12th century India, many states converted to Islam. This resulted in the establishment of the Mughal Empire, and with it the remarkable Mughal art and architecture. This form of art was a blend of Turkish, Persian, and Indian techniques. The buildings constructed mostly consisted of white marble or red sandstone. Furthermore, they contained majestic gates, mausoleums, mosques and sarais. Persian miniature painting and Mughal miniature painting became prominent, characterized by intricate details and vibrant colors.

15 Examples of Islamic influence in the architecture of South India - RTF |  Rethinking The Future

South Indian Dravidian Architecture (circa 7th to 17th centuries CE)

In the southern regions of India, the Chola, Chera, and Pandya dynasties built magnificent temples with distinctive Dravidian architecture. These temples are known for their ornate sculptures, towering gopurams (entrance towers), and intricate carvings.

These temples contained statues of the deities as well as beautiful carvings on the pillars and walls. The deities like Shiva, Vishnu, and Shakti were depicted with many limbs and heads. Furthermore, the carvings on the walls contained repeated holy symbols. One example of this is om, which is a symbol of the divine knowledge of God. Additionally, the lotus flower, a symbol of beauty, fertility, purity and transcendence was also present. The temple wall also had the swastika, a symbol of auspiciousness. 

Roots of Hinduism (article) | Khan Academy

Colonial era

This era, brought in the European influence with the British rule. Furthermore, the British set up many art schools introducing the different art forms to Indian artist as the demand for Indian art was increasing in UK as well as across Europe.  Therefore, Indian art forms began to incorporate several international art styles in their paintings and sculptures to please European buyers. 

Modern and Contemporary Period (20th century-present)

Indian art has continued to evolve and diversify in the modern and contemporary era.Prominent artists like Raja Ravi Varma, Jamini Roy, and Amrita Sher-Gil made significant contributions to Indian art. Contemporary Indian artists explore a wide range of mediums and themes, reflecting the changing cultural and social landscape.

Contemporary Indian art is globally influenced as well as culturally diverse. However, they still contain elements of the long and rich Indian art history. 

Types of Indian art forms

India is a diverse country with a rich cultural heritage, and it is home to a wide variety of traditional art forms. These art forms vary in style, technique, and purpose, often reflecting the unique cultural, regional, and historical backgrounds of different Indian communities.


The first known sculpture was made by the people in Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa in the Indus valley civilization. The sculptures excavated include figurines made of stone and bronze. After this, the next known sculpture was from the Buddhist era in 1500 BCE. Thus, the great tradition of Indian sculpture began. 

Some examples of famous sculptures in India

  • From 270 to 232 BCE, under the reign of Ashoka, the Pillars of Ashoka contained sculptures of animals mainly lions.  
  • Early Buddhist pilgrimages in Sanchi made figurative sculptures out of wood.
  • In the 1st century BCE, artists created sculptures describing the teachings of Buddha in Gandhara, which is now part of modern-day Pakistan and Afghanistan. These sculptures had a heavy Persian and Greek influence. 
  • The celebrated lost-wax bronzes of the Chola dynasty from south India is another example. These sculptures include one of Shiva as Natraja as well as a massive granite carving of Mahabalipuram.
  • The rock-cut Buddhist Ajanta caves also contain several paintings and sculptures created in the 2nd century. These art forms are considered to be one of India’s best-surviving examples of architecture as well as Indian art and culture. 


Indian art paintings can be best described as a window into prehistoric India. People began to draw animal and human forms on cave walls as early as 10000 BCE, during the Mesolithic period. As time progressed, people began to use special tools to carve out images onto the walls. The Bhimbetka rock shelters, as well as the Ajanta caves, are good examples of this. These caves have overcome harsh climates as well as the passage of time and still stand today. People all over India travel to visit the caves unique architecture.   

From the sixth century BCE, paintings began to appear at Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim places of worship as well. Murals were made with natural pigments and depicted the various forms of the diety as well as humans and animals. 

The art form eventually transferred mediums to more modern ones like canvas, cloth and paper. 

Some examples of Indian art paintings

Madhubani Paintings

Madhubani Paintings are one of the most popular folk art styles from India. The style originated in the Mithila region of Bihar as a form of wall art and became widely known to the Western world when British art historian W.G. Archer discovered it in 1934. The Madhubani art style shows the tradition, culture as well as beliefs of the people. They typically contained mythological scenes. Furthermore, artists use vibrant imagery with simplistic patterns, often bearing floral, animal, or bird motifs. The art form is practised in various different styles like Kitchen, Bharni and Godna.

Madhubani Art Painting by Sabitha Ramakrishnan

Warli Paintings

Warli paintings, the tribal art by tribal people in Maharashtra is based on elements of nature. The beautiful art use basic geometrical shapes including triangles, a circle as well as a square to portray human activities. This art uses primary colours for its paintings. These paintings are traditionally white figures on a dark red background. Due to its simplistic and monochromatic look, the art form shows several similarities to pre-historic cave paintings. Warli art is not only visually appealing but also holds cultural and historical significance for the Warli tribe. It reflects their way of life, their connection to nature, and their deep-rooted traditions. Today, it continues to thrive as a vibrant art form, with both traditional and contemporary artists creating stunning Warli-inspired works.

Warli Art: An Ancient Tribal Art form from Western Ghats » NewsViewsNetwork

Tanjore Paintings

Tanjore Paintings are from the magnificent temples of Tamil Nadu in South India. The paintings depict the region’s rich artistic tradition. They showcase Hindu deities and the myths surrounding them. Tanjore paintings are famous for the use of gold foil, vibrant colours, glass and stone on wooden boards made of teak wood or jackfruit. Painters depict the deities to have a round face and oval eyes. The main body is arched shaped. Tanjore paintings are auspicious and preserved as antiques valued for they beautiful craft and religious meaning. 

Gond Paintings

Gond Paintings, made by the people of Gond tribes of Madhya Pradesh, expressed their religious sentiments as well as devotions through the paintings. The themes in Gond paintings range from god, nature, humans, to various daily life objects. The paintings contain lines, dots, as well as dashes drawn from naturally derived objects like charcoal, colored soil, leaves, cow dung, and tree sap. Painters create vivid images by arranging dots in an upwards, downwards, and sideways manner over previously painted ones. One will find plenty of Gond paintings in Madhya Pradesh during festivals like Diwali or Holi. These paintings are of high quality and can last for at least 20 years without any tampering. 

Gond : The Tribal Art of the Heart of India

How to create Indian art paintings?

Indian traditional and folk paintings can be an excellent source of inspiration for a child. They contain bright colors as well as simple representations of humans and animals that can be easily recreated. Given below are some tutorials one can follow. 

  • Madhubani Painting of a woman
  • Easy folk art
  • The basics of Warli art 

3. Miniature art

Miniature art refers to small paintings, sculptures and cravings created on wood, palm leaves, paper and marble. Painters use natural minerals like gold, silver and stone dust, to create the beautiful and bright colors used in the paintings. 

The earliest Miniature paintings can be traced back to the 7th century. The Palas of Bengal created scriptures on 3-inch-wide palm leaves with images of Buddhist deities. This art contains subdued colors and curved lines, reminiscent of the murals in Ajanta.

The 16th century saw Muslim miniature art appear under the Mughal reign. These paintings were influenced by the existing Indian miniature art style as well as the Persian one. The paintings showed various plants, animals, humans as well as other aspects of the world. 

Miniatures were used either for illustrated books or for single works for muraqqas or albums. The style slowly spread and influenced both Hindu and Muslim princely courts, thus, developing many regional styles called “sub-Mughal”. These include Rajput, Pahari, and Company painting. This Indian art form continued to develop till the nineteenth century.

From the 16th to 19th century, another art style, known as the Deccani style emerged in Ahmednagar, Golkonda and Bijapur. This style was developed independently of Muslim influences. Instead, they adopted European, Turkis and Iranian elements. 

Some examples of miniature painting 

  • Kalpasutra manuscripts contained intricate paintings depicting the biographies of Jain Tirthankaras.
Jaina kalpasutras: some manuscript images | historyreads
  • The Atmananda Jain Gnana Mandir, decorated with several miniature illustrations depicting deities as well as animals like elephants and cows is also a good example.
  •  Padshahnama, a group of written work documents the history during the rule of Emperor Shah Jahan. They contain beautiful miniature paintings portraying the major events that occurred during that time. 
  • Another example is the Kishangarh painting, a Rajasthani style of art that emerged in the 18th century in the state of Kishangarh. This style of miniature painting showcases humans with elongated faces. Furthermore, people can find several religious elements and scenes in the paintings. 
Nihal Chand and the Kishangarh School - Eastern world

How to create miniature paintings?

Indian miniature paintings can be difficult to replicate. These contain intricate images of nature as well as the humans living in it and can be best copied only by expert artists. One can follow the below tutorials to create their own miniature paintings.

4. Jewelry

India has long been the home of exquisitely designed gold jewelry. The first people to start jewelry-making were those of the Indus Valley Civilization. Since then, jewelry has come a long way and is used to celebrate occasions like marriage, childbirth or given during festivals. North Indian jewelry consists of crystals, gemstones and diamonds while South Indian jewelers preferred yellow gold. 

The style of jewelry changed as different cultures and religions arose to power in India. Thus, the ancient simplistic designs were replaced to incorporate floral and geometrical shapes. Crescent and stem shapes along with pearls are a regular feature of Mughal jewelry. Additionally, Kundan, the method of setting stones in pure gold was utilized to create thick, ridged collar type necklaces. Another technique developed during the period was the inlaying of stones with gold.

In the colonial period, Indian jewelry included elements of European and Russian art. In fact, the 19th and 20th centuries saw a large influx of different styles of art. Jewelry houses like Cartier, Tiffany, Chopard, Graff, Lacloche Feres, Van Cleef & Arpels, Mauboussin as well as Mellerio arose in popularity. This jewelry contained precious stones like emeralds, rubies, diamonds and sapphires. 

 Modern-day Indian jewelry also contains elements of the history and culture of ancient India. Temple jewelry is still popular today and can be easily made with modern machines and tools. 

Some examples of Indian jewelry art

  • The Taj Mahal Emerald is a hexagonal shaped emerald stone, intricately engraved with flowers that are similar to the carvings on the walls of the Taj Mahal.
Taj Mahal emerald, India, 1650–1700 - Art & Antiques Magazine
  • The stunning Nizam of Hyderabad diamond necklace, gifted to Queen Elizabeth II when she married Prince Philip is an exquisite piece from the treasury of Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan.
  • Nizams’ jewelry collection also contained fabulous head decorations, known as Sarpech (derived from the word sar meaning head and pech meaning screw). They were worn by the Nizams’ as a turban ornament. These pieces contained several expensive gemstones like emeralds and diamonds. 
  • Another piece in Nizam’s collection, a seven-strand pearl necklace, also known as Satlada, contains 465 Basra pearls.
  • The temples of South India showcased intricate temple jewelry made of yellow gold. These pieces contained carvings of deities and gemstones like rubies.
  • Cartier’s famous “tutti frutti” style bracelet is based on the floral motifs of South Indian jewelry. Furthermore, The bracelet is embedded with sapphires, rubies and emeralds. 
Cartier Tutti Frutti Bracelet Fetches Online Record Of $1.3 Million At  Sotheby's

How to create Indian style jewelry?

DIYing Indian jewelry can be a fun art project for kids to use in plays or fancy dress competitions. Therefore, you can follow the tutorials below to create your own jewelry.  

5. Architecture

Similar to Indian art paintings, architecture were of different forms and styles. Furthermore, architectural styles changed over time. Cave architecture was the earliest form of art. These were created by Hindus, Jains, as well as Buddhists who made temples from rock.  

Soon after, in the 5th century BCE, people began constructing large and free-standing temples. These included elements such as a shelter for travelers and an altar for worship. 

In the 12th century, Islamic architecture became widespread after Delhi was made a Muslim capital. Muslim leaders hired local craftsmen to build structures different from the traditional ones created in India. These included mosques with large open courtyards and sarais. 

Following this, Indo-Muslim architectural styles emerged that influenced modern-day India, Bangladesh and Pakistani architectural styles.  

Modern architecture appeared in India in 1947. The swiss-french architect Le Corbusier was appointed by the Punjab government to head the urban planning of Chandigarh city. This plan renewed interest in Indian architecture. 

Some examples of Indian architecture

  • One of the most famous rock-cut temples, Kailasa Temple, in the Ellora Caves, is known for its size and sculptural treatment.
Kailash temple in Ellora | Times of India Travel
  • The Iron Pillar, built in the 4th century, is a marvel of science. It features a Sanskrit inscription in the Brahmi script. The text states that it was created to honour Lord Vishnu. 
Iron pillar of Delhi - Wikipedia
  • The Konark Sun Temple, built in the 13th century, is dedicated to Lord Surya. It is carved from stone to look like a 100-foot-high chariot with large wheels and horses. 
  • The Taj Mahal is one of the most popular examples of Indian architecture. Constructed by Shah Jahan, this marvel is made purely of white marble. Shah Jahan employed Hindu as well as Indo-Islamic techniques to create the structure and its beautiful carvings.
Taj Mahal | Definition, Story, Site, History, & Facts | Britannica

Final thoughts

Indian art forms represent the history and culture of Indian people over the years. Furthermore, they make for some remarkably graceful and aesthetic expressions. Made with earthly simplicity without any expensive implements. Practiced by several individuals to this day, these Indian art forms keep the rich culture and heritage of our country alive. 

As enthusiasts of Indian traditional art forms, Team Podium invites you to join us on this exciting journey. Read our update on the Promising Indian Art Forms that make Excellent Storyboards to know more about the world of grace as well as divinity.


1. What are the elements of Indian art?

Indian art forms contain six elements of painting including color, line form, texture, tone, shape as well as space. Without these elements, no Indian painting is considered complete or finished. 

2. What are the principles of Indian art?

The principles of Indian art are as follows: diversity, scale, proportion, unity and body as well as rhythm, balance, viewpoint, volume and depth. 

3. What is the purpose of Indian art?

Ancient Indian art forms beautifully expressed the emotions of people from diverse social and cultural groups. They depicted the lives of people who were in tune with the rhythms of nature. Additionally, they were also made to honour great leaders and kings. Art was also used to spread religious teachings. 

4. What did ancient artists use to paint?

Prehistoric painters used crushed rocks and minerals as well as natural dyes and pigments to paint. These include earth pigments from hematite, limonite, yellow ochre, red ochre and umber. Additionally, burnt bones, charcoal and ground calcite were also used. These pigments were ground, then mixed with gum or animal glue to make them workable and fixed onto the surface being decorated. 

5. How to make your own natural paint?

You can make your own paints by crushing soft rocks, flowers, leaves as well as vegetables. Follow the below tutorials to learn how to do this. 

6. What are the styles of Indian temple architecture?

The Indian temple architecture is categorized into three types. Firstly, the Nagara or the northern style. Secondly, the Dravida or the southern style. Lastly, the Vesara or mixed style. All these styles contain their unique regional influences and lineages.

7. What substances were used to build sculptures in ancient India?

Marble, limestone granite and porphyry were used to create sculptures. Artists also used precious metals like silver and gold in their paintings. 

8. What methods were used to create sculptures in India?

People made sculptures using one of two methods: carving, meaning the removal of material as well as modelling, meaning sculpting from a soft malleable material like clay. 

9. How was paper made to paint on in ancient times?

Chinese prisoners of war bought paper to India in AD 751. The paper was made from linen, flax or hemp rags using methods from China. Soon, people began to supplement linen with flax and other vegetable fibres. 

10. How to make ancient paper?

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