The visual Art of India starting from 3rd millennium BC can be classified into specific periods.
This classification could be based on religious, political and cultural developments in India during different historical period of ancient India.
Indus Valley Civilization
There is ample evidence of Arts from various sculptures, seals, pottery, gold jewellery, terracotta figures that has been excavated from the sites of Indus valley civilization. It has been found that people of Indus civilization were great lovers of the fine arts, particularly of dancing, painting and sculpture. Their works of Indus art indicate that they had fine artistic sensibilities and their Art was highly realistic, considered much advanced for their time period.
The most conspicuous part of the Indus Art is the anatomical details that are noted for its extremely careful modelling of animal figures.
Their terracotta art is also unique for this purpose. Sir John Marshall who discovered many Indus cities reacted with surprise when he saw the famous Indus bronze statuette of the slender-limbed "dancing girl" in Mohenjo-daro.
He said; when I first saw them I found it difficult to believe that they were prehistoric; they seemed to completely upset all established ideas about early art. Modeling such as this was unknown in the ancient world up to the Hellenistic age of Greece, and I thought, therefore, that some mistake must surely have been made; that these figures had found their way into levels some 3000 years older than those to which they properly belonged.
Now, in these statuettes, it is just this anatomical truth which is so startling; that makes us wonder whether, in this all-important matter, Greek artistry could possibly have been anticipated by the sculptors of a far-off age on the banks of the Indus."
Indus people loved the art of dancing. The bronze, terracotta, and stone sculptures in dancing poses reveal this facet of their lives. They were also found of music. The people of Indus used stringed musical instruments. This is confirmed from a harp-like instrument depicted on an Indus seal and two shell found from the Lothal site in Rajasthan.
Indian rock-cut architecture
The earliest tradition of rock cut architecture is to be found in the artistic monuments related to Buddhism. The Buddhist art first developed around the 1st century BCduring the Gandhara period and Amaravatiperiods.
It greatly flourished during the Gupta periods and the Pala periods that comprise the Golden Age of Arts in India Subsequently,the Hindus and Jains too imitated the Buddhist rock cut style. Empires like the Pallava, Chola, Hoysala and Vijayanagaradeveloped their own styles rock-cut architecture.
Badami, Aihole, Ellora, Salsette, Elephanta, Aurangabad and Mamallapuram are some of the examples of rock-cut architecture. The rock-cut temples continued to be excavated until the 12th century.
The Chola period is also remarkable for its bronze sculptures. The fine figures of Siva in various forms, Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi, Siva saints and other bronze sculpture found among the existing specimens ofChola period are found in the temples of South India. The bronzes sculpture was created during Cholaperiod using the lost wax technique. It is known in artistic terms as "Cire Perdue".
This technique took two to three days to set and within that period, such large paintings were painted with natural organic pigments.. The Chola frescoes have an ardent spirit of Saivism expressed in them. During the Nayak period the Chola paintings were painted over.
The tradition of fresco art is also found in Kerala mural paintings. The mural paintings are well preserved on the temple walls at Pundarikapuram, Ettumanoor and Aymanam and elsewhere.
There is a deep symbolic meaning attached to not only the objects but also the materials and techniques used to produce them.
The visual expressions of Folk art also include the wandering nomads, who are exposed to changing landscapes as they travel over the valleys and highlands. They carry with them the experiences and memories of different spaces and their art consists of the transient and dynamic pattern of life. The rural, tribal and arts of the nomads constitute the matrix of folk expression.
Fairs, festivals, local heroes (mostly warriors) and local deities play a vital role in these arts. Examples of folk art are to be found in Warli, Madhubani and Gond paintings.