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India, Arts

Gandhara school, Hindu sacred texts, sculpted figures, Prose literature, Street magic

The arts in India date back thousands of years. India’s earliest known civilization, the Indus Valley civilization (about 2500-1700 bc) produced fine sculpted figures and seals. The basis for Indian music may well be traced to the chanting of the Vedas, the Hindu sacred texts composed between about 1500 and 1000 bc. Architecture from the time of the Buddha (563?-483? bc) includes stone structures called stupas that resemble earlier wooden ones. Much of Indian literature has its roots in the great Sanskrit epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana, which date from 400 bc. Secular literature in the form of story and drama has been important since the classical age of the 4th century ad. Royal patronage of these art forms continued throughout history, and the government of independent India also supports the arts with national academies for music, art, drama, literature, and other programs. There are yearly prizes for work in all the Indian languages, and in the several musical, dramatic, and art traditions. The government’s national radio network is a major employer of musicians.

As India has incorporated different peoples, so, too, has its culture absorbed outside influences. Sculpture derived from the Greeks developed a uniquely Indian style over time (the Gandhara school). Musical instruments brought by the Muslims in the 15th century were incorporated into existing musical methods in Hindu devotional poetry and song. Similar patterns are found in painting and architecture in the period of Mughal rule and patronage. British rule had no influence on classical music, but popular music was changed, particularly in the 20th century. Prose literature, and to a lesser extent poetry, was transformed by the model of the English novel, short story, and romantic poem. The British adapted Indian domestic architecture (the bungalow) and blended Mughal, Hindu, and European forms into a distinctive monumental architecture, visible most significantly in New Delhi.

Folk culture varies among regional and ethnic groups. Street magic shows and episodes from religious texts are dramatically staged in urban and rural areas. India is known for artistry in jewelry, textiles, paintings on the walls of mud houses, and images cast in metal through the lost-wax method (a process using wax to form a mold). Music and dance are performed in temples, at festivals, and at ceremonial functions at home.

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Article key phrases:

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