An Introduction

This comprehensive survey of Art and Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent was originally written as Google-Earth file. With over 100'000 downloads it has remained my most popular essay. For this pdf-edition, which can downloaded and read like an e-book, it has been reprogrammed and revised, and sections on Sri Lanka and the Havelis of Rajestan have been added. I hope that this new version brings pleasure to many more people.
The selection of places follows my interests. There are many more worthy sites. I would appreciate, if they were brought to my attention at : .
Pacific Palisades, July 2011

For each section there exists a Google-Earth.kmz file which locates the places on the globe. These files open only in GE, which you must have on your hard-disc.
The complete GE file is found here

The History of Indian Art and Architecture

Hariti and her children. Greco-Gandharan sculpture, 300 AD.
Photo from Jennifer Gowan, U of Oregon

Few cultures have as long a history of their artistic expression as India and even fewer have shown a comparable resiliency: Over five millenia India has successively absorbed the creative impulses of the Indus Valley Civilization, the Indio-European and Vedic tribes, of the Greeks who followed Alexander of Macedonia, Kushans, Parthians, Mongols, and Turks and melded them into a syncretic artistic idiom which eventually even turned 400 years of Islamic influence into an thoroughly Indian product: When we think of India today it is the Taj Mahal and 1001-Nights that come to mind.

The Indian icon, the Taj Mahal in Agra, 17th cent.
Photo Wikipedia

An examination of the sculptural record of this development shows another peculiarity of Indian art. In no other culture does the female play a comparable role: from the early Greek-Gandharan depictions of Hariti and the temples of Kajuraho to the Taj Mahal woman is celebrated with a sensuous voluptuousness and an explicit power, that may well be the chief characteristics of Indian art - and its secret source of strength.

The western side of the Kandariya Mahadev Temple, Kajuraho, 1050 AD.
Photo by RWFG

It was left to the British Victorians to turn this Indian exuberance into a narrow-minded Christian morality in exchange for economic success and a Western education. Cricket replaced the Kamasutra....

This post traces the development of Indian art and architecture across the subcontinent, shows their varied sources and the up and downs of their development. I primarily tried to present pictorial evidence and avoid loaded arguments about Aryan vs. Dravidian styles or the non-identity of Indus, Harangue and Vedic cultures. I also tried to find dates for all objects, buildings and periods.