This short essay traces the development of art in ancient India and different art forms in ancient India.

Art in Ancient India

Each era is unique in its distinctive culture. In the same way Indian art forms have continuously evolved over thousands of years. In ancient India, various art forms like paintings, architecture and sculpture evolved. The history of art in ancient India begins with prehistoric rock paintings. Such rock paintings can be seen in the Bhimbetaka paintings, belonging to the prehistoric age. Thereafter, an advanced town planning is seen in Harappa and Mohenjodaro, with their centrally planned cities indicating a highly developed architecture. Another remarkable example of sculpture from Harappan civilization comes in the form of the dancing girl from Mohenjodaro. 

The use of symbolic forms in India is as old as the Harappan seals. The fire altars of the Vedic period, with their astronomical and mathematical significance also play an important role in the evolution of the later temples. It was followed by a period in the history of Indian art that is important for rock-cut caves and temple architecture. The Buddhists initiated the rock-cut caves, Hindus and Jains started to imitate them at Badami, Aihole, Ellora, Salsette, Elephanta, Aurangabad and Mahabalipuram. The rock-cut art has continuously evolved, since the first rock cut caves, to suit different purposes, social and religious contexts, and regional differences. 

Alongside the art forms like architecture, paintings and sculpture, there have been evolving, changing, transforming, folk and tribal art traditions in India. These art forms are expression of people belonging to different cultural and social groups of India. It is the expression of people whose life is tuned to the rhythms of nature and its laws of cyclic change and whose life is knotted with natural energy. It's been a tradition in India that gods and legends are transformed into contemporary forms and familiar images. Fairs, festivals and local deities play a vital role in the development of these arts forms. 

It is an art where life and creativity are inseparable. The tribal arts have a unique sensitivity, as the tribal people possess an intense awareness very different from the settled and urbanized people. Their minds are supple and intense with myth, legends, snippets from epic, multitudinous gods born out of dream and fantasy. Their art is an expression of their life and holds their passion and mystery.