|India is a
land of diverse cultures. The variations in physical, climatic conditions
and the extent of exposure to other cultures have greatly influenced the
traditions and culture of the different regions. There is an underlying
basic factor common to the whole of India, with variations in the practices
based on their local needs and influences. Further, the greatness
of India has been in accepting the best from all the invaders and intermingling
the new customs and styles with the existing - this is visible in all aspects
- music, dance, painting, sculptures, architecture.
This article, an excerpt from the introduction to the book "The Art and Architecture of India" by Benjamin Rowland puts it all in a nutshell.
The cultural divisions of India proper have always been determined and dominated by the great river systems, the watersheds of the Indus and Ganges, the Deccan plateau and South India.
Climate, no less than geography has played its part in the development of the peculiarly indigenous traits of Indian history and art. All the races of martial character have grown up in the dry and hilly districts of north-west and centre, whereas the fertile plains of Bengal and South have been inhabited by peaceful and unwarlike cultivators.
The overpowering nature of India has in a way forced upon the inhabitants an inability to act, a situation responsible for the Indian races having become lost in religiosity.
The mystery of Indian myths and Indian art lies partly in the fact that it suggests rather than states. It could truly be said that Indian symbols of art voiced the same truth as Indian philosophy and myth.
In India, all art, like all life, is given over to religion. Indian art is life, as interpreted by religion and philosophy.
Indian art may, in a general way, be described as theological, hieratic, or, perhaps best of all as traditional. The purpose of Indian art, like all traditional art, is primarily to instruct men in the great first causes, which according to the seers, govern the material, spiritual and celestial worlds. Art is dedicated to communicating these great truths to mankind and, by the architectural, sculptural and pictorial reconstruction of the powers that maintain the stars in their courses.