The Dominance of Religious Paintings in India

“Worship is a way of seeing the world in the light of God”

Abraham Joshua Heschel

The mantra of life is subjective. Everyone believes in cultures and religion because that’s what they think is the right way to live a life. India, being the epicenter of cultural diversity has accepted almost every religion here.

You can find Hindu, Christian, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, and Jews, quite easily in India. With so much impact of religion and such rich history, India became a goldmine for the artists for a long time now.

Seeing the traditional paintings and their themes one thing is clear; People of India were, and still are a strong believer in the eternal power, ‘The Supreme One’.

Even though India is a nation with 80% or more Hindus, other religions have their moments sooner or later. And as far as art goes, like love, art knows no line of control. Artists have encapsulated the tales of supreme ones from each of the religion quite phenomenally.

Religion is a major influencer in the decision-making process of people in India. Not only art, career, relationships, politics, business, and almost everything is strongly impacted by the religions.

Today, however, I am going to throw light on the dominance of religion on Indian art. Since the demand for religious artifacts such as Krishna, Rama, Ganesh, and Shiva paintings have increased, it got a lot of people thinking how art is influenced by religion.

The entire discussion will be to see what factors stimulated the rise of religious paintings and compelled artists to craft the tales of Gods and Goddesses in forms of colors and patterns.

Let’s start:

The dark ages

When there was no electricity, no roads, no well-constructed houses, and when humans didn’t even have the sense to dress up, then also, art blossomed. It’s amazing to see the cave art. Cave art reminds us that humans’ love for art is from the beginning.

And what are these cave artworks about? Mostly, unearthly figures, mythological tales, and the representation of the greats of the powerful deities.

This show that before even nations were made, religion started its journey of global dominance. Whether it’s the caves of Afghanistan, where a few years back a mural artifact was found by a group of archaeologists. It is estimated that the mural is approximately 20000 years old.

Whatever happened; whether we came from dark ages to the modern world, or whether we were more advanced and nuclear war threw us in the dark ages, art was always there and so was religion.

The Ramayana and Mahabharata

India, a nation where around 1000 years ago only Hinduism prevailed, was a land of Gods and Goddesses. Saints, philosophers, and thinkers around the world believed that because of the piousness of this land, deities always end up living in India.

When it comes to art, what are the favorite subject matters of the artists in India? Without an iota of doubt, Ramayana and Mahabharata have been artist’s inspiration for thousands of years.

The famous scene where Lord Krishna is educating Arjun by narrating Geeta is every Indian artist’s beginner’s sample. The Greats of Lord Rama in Ramayana is another preferred topic for artists across India.

The Religious Paintings

Every day our life is somehow influenced by religion if we are living in India. Same goes for art. For an instance, at the time of Mahashivratri, the sale of Shiva paintings increases tremendously.

Similarly, at the time of Diwali, artworks depicting Lord Rama, and Ganesha are in high demand. Ganesh Chaturthi is another major festival, where Ganesha paintings are sold.

But why do religious paintings are so much in demand? What difference can a painting hanging on the wall of your home or office make in your real life?

In India, the depiction of so many Gods is the indication of acceptance without any boundaries. The imagery of Gods is the imagination of the artists who thousands of years back started producing such impeccable paintings.

In those times, the tales of the Supreme Ones was told verbally and that’s how the stories were passed from one generation to the other. So, I suppose when the first artist picked the brush to give a recognizable figure to the eternal power, he took the inputs he heard about the deities and presented an approximate imaginary portrayal.

People of India more than the physical appeal of the paintings believe in the meanings that artists try to convey through the representation of the Godly figures.

Like when you see Ganesha painting, the big head represents that there is nothing more valuable than knowledge. His big belly tells us to absorb good and bad in the same spirit. His small eyes tell us to increase our focus and so on.

There a lot of beautiful Shiva paintings, and artworks of Krishna that can be seen hanging in a lot of people’s house in India.

Seeing the commercial market and the meditative feeling starting to get attached with the religious paintings, even contemporary and abstract artists are now trying their hands on Gods.

Today, it is not that surprising to find a contemporary representation of Ganesha in a painting.

Apart from these, you can also have a look at the wide collection of Mughal paintings depicting the style of art that persisted in the times when Islam was on the rise.

For Buddha paintings, there is no better place to visit than the caves of Ajanta and Ellora.

Final Words

India has been a humungous vault of subject matters for the artists who were and are interested in reflecting the lives of Gods or depiction of some event from religious epics.

It won’t be wrong to say that art has been driven by religion for a long time now. Thanks!

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