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India has very strong but ancient traditions in painting. The evidence lies in the frescoes of Ajanta and Ellora, the Buddhist palm leaf manuscripts and the Jain texts. Religion had a great influence on the early Indian paintings. There are several series depicting the life of Lord Krishna. The Islamic period saw many schools bearing Persian and Indian influence, produce miniatures in tempera on paper.

The Ragini paintings, depicting the musical modes, are unique in the world. Some of the well-known Indian painting schools are the Rajput, Deccan , Kangra and Moghul. The Bengal renaissance and modern art, influenced by Europe , also made their mark.

The doyen of Indian modern art, Abanindranath Tagore, used Japanese and Chinese techniques in his paintings and drawings. The Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, was an accomplished painter. His contemporaries, Nandalal Bose, Samarendranath Gupta and A.K. Haldar among them, laid the foundation of modern Indian painting. Jamini Roy was another founder of modern Indian painting and graphic art. Amrita Shergill, half Hungarian, represents the best among the European style painters of early 20th century. The art scene in India is enriched today by artists like M.F. Hussain, J. Swaminathan, N.S. Bendre, Krishen Khanna, Vivan Sundaram, Bhupen Khakar, Ghulam Shaikh and many others.


The origin of classical dance in India goes back to 2BC when the ancient treatise on dance, Natya Shastra, was compiled. Dance in India is guided by the elaborate codes in the Natya Shastra and by mythology, legend and classical literature. Both classical and fold form of dances are performed in India. Classical dance forms have rigid rules for presentation. Among the leading forms of classical dance are Bharat Natyam, Kathakali, Kathak, Manipuri, Odissi, Kuchipudi and Mohini Attam. Bharat Natyam, originating in Tamil Nadu, has movements of pure rhythm, rendering a story dramatically in different moods. Kathakali, the dance drama from Kerala, requires the artist to wear an elaborate mask. The principal classical dance of north India, Kathak, originated as a religious performance but later developed as a court dance under the Moghuls. The lyrical style of dance, Manipuri, comes from the eastern State of Manipur. It described the games of Krishna and the “Gopis”. Odissi was once a temple dance in Orissa. Kuchipudi, the dance-drama from Andhra Pradesh, is based on themes from the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. In addition, there are numerous forms of folk and tribal dance in india.


The classical theatre survives only in a few cities. But the folk theatre thrives in almost every linguistic region. Its themes are becoming modern.The professional theatre is largely confined to big urban centres. It draws on the work of modern playwrights and also likes to experiment with various forms including folk theatre.

The plays are performed in Indian languages as well as English. The rich tradition of puppet theatre also survives in many parts of the country. The National School of Drama not only trains students, but also conducts research in classical, traditional and modern drama.


The country leads the world in the output of movie films, with more than 900 produced annually. They command an enormous domestic market and have become increasingly popular abroad, particularly in Asia , Africa and West Asia . The major production centres are Mumbai, Madras and Calcutta . Movies are the most popular medium of entertainment. Much of the commercial cinema revolves around social dramas and thrillers with many songs and dance sequences thrown in. But an art cinema which takes a serious look at Indian society is becoming increasingly popular. There has been widespread recognition of Indian artistes and directors at film festivals in different parts of the world. The late Satyajit Ray was awarded many prestigious international awards including the Oscar in 1992 for Lifetime Achievement in Cinema.


The ancient Indians believed in the divine origin of music. The purest form of sound was considered equal to cosmic energy. As a result, music and religion were always closely intertwined. Classical music tradition was probably evolved from the religious poems and chants of the Vedic period. It was later codified by Bharata Muni.

At present, there are two schools of classical music-the Hindustani style of the North and the Carnatic of the South. All classical music is set to the raga arrangements of musical notes that have a characteristic mood and are repeated in any composition. Musicians, however, have considerable freedom to improvise within the framework, and performances are judged very often by the brilliance of the improvisation.

As in dance, music has a rich and vigorous folk tradition and music is inextricably woven into the fabric of rural India .


Hockey, in which India has an impressive record with eight Olympic gold medals, is officially the national sport. Other popular games are football, cricket, basketball, volleyball and badminton. Cricket has become a very popular game and India , once one-day cricket champions, staged the World Cup in 1987 and again in 1996. Sunil Gavaskar’s aggregate of 10,122 test runs and 34 test hundreds remain unbeaten world records.

In games like tennis and billiards, which are played by a very small percentage of the population, Indians have nevertheless made a mark in the international arena. At the young age of 17 Vishwanath Anand became an international chess grandmaster. Geet Sethi has won the both the World Amateur and Professional Billiard Championships, while in 1990 Leander Paes became the third Indian Wimbledon Junior Champion.

After the IX Asian Games in New Delhi in 1982, the capital city now boasts of some very modern sports facilities. Such facilities are also being developed in other parts of the country. With the introduction of new equipment and techniques of coaching and training, there is hope that India will show a marked improvement in various disciplines of sports.

Besides the sports and games which are included in the international sporting agenda, there are many which have developed indigenously and are played by people in the villages. Among these is wrestling, a sport which has developed many local styles and schools. It is taught for the most part in traditional gymnasia with packed mud floors. There are also several indigenous systems of martial arts.

Among the indigenously developed games, the most popular are kabaddi and kho-kho. National competitions are held in these two games. Among equestrian sports, tent-pegging has a uniquely Indian flavour. Camel races and elephant races are also uniquely Indian. Among the indigenous water sports, the snake-boat race which takes place in the backwaters of Kerala during the Onam festival has now become an international tourist attraction.