A Continuing Tradition
The cultural policy of the Government has three objectives: preserving the cultural heritage, inculcating art consciousness among the people and promoting high standards in the performing and creative arts. Eminent persons from the field of fine arts are nominated by the President to the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Indian Parliament.
The tradition of painting in India goes back to antiquity, as is evident from the murals of Ajanta, Ellora and other frescoes, the Buddhist palm-leaf manuscripts, the Jain texts and the Deccan, Mughal and Kangra schools. A touch of modernisation came with the Bengal renaissance while many contemporary painters have adopted abstract and other modern styles.
Architecture and Sculpture
Religious motifs mainly inspired the trends in Indian architecture and sculpture. The temples, mosques, forts, palaces and other monuments testify to that. But after independence, modern architecture in buildings came to India in a big way with Chandigarh, designed by Corbusier, acting as a sort of beacon to the young aspirants in the field.
The Indian mythology, legends and classical literature provide the themes of the Indian dance, both of the classical and folk variety. The classical dance is based on rigid rules and dance discipline. Its forms include Bharat Natyam, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Odissi and Kathak.
Theatre in India is perhaps as old as its music and dance. But classical theatre in the country survives only in some cities. The tradition of folk theatre, on the other hand, is alive in nearly all the linguistic regions of the country. In addition, there are a large number of puppet show practitioners.
Sangeet Natak Akademi
Founded in 1953, the national academy of music, dance and drama (Sangeet Natak Akademi) has performed the role of sponsoring, research, dissemination, appreciation and patronage of the performing arts. It gives awards to outstanding performers and provides assistance for theatre production and teaching and offers scholarships to students. It also arranges exchange of troupes.
The National School of Drama was founded in 1959. It has produced some outstanding theatre personalities of India. Its faculty has been served by some well-known names in the fields of direction, teaching and designing. It also has a repertory company of its own.
The country leads the world in the output of movie films, with more than 800 produced annually. They command an enormous domestic market and have become increasingly popular abroad, particularly in Asia, Europe and Africa. The major production centres are Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. 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 artists and directors at film festivals in different parts of the world. India has been a regular participant in film festivals all over the world. Many Indian actors have won international acclaim; some have served on the jury of film festivals abroad. The late Satyajit Ray was awarded many prestigious international awards including the Oscar in 1992 for Lifetime Achievement in Cinema.
Documentary and short filmmakers have also played an important role in spreading knowledge and awareness among the masses who are yet to get the benefits of modern education.
The two main classical schools of music in India are Hindustani, popular in the northern, eastern and western parts of the country, and Carnatic, which has its roots in south India. The classical music tradition has survived through the practice of Guru (teacher) passing on his skills orally to the Shishya (disciple). This led to the existence of the system of Gharanas and Sampradayas in classical music.
Folk and tribal music has also thrived in India and, lately, it has been brought to the cities. Light music has also become very popular in urban centres.
Bhimsen Joshi, Jasraj, M.S. Subbulakshmi, Dr. M. Bala Murali Krishna, Yamini Krishnamurthy, Sonal Mansingh, Swapna Sundari, Girish Karnad and B. Alkazi are some of the well-known names in performing arts.
From the Vedas and Upanishads to the Ramayana and Gita, India has produced great works of literature, philosophy and religion. The tradition has continued in contemporary India. Nearly every major Indian language has a rich tradition of literature. Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel Prize for his work 'Geetanjali'. Many Indians writing in English have gained international acclaim. Raja Rao, Kamala Markandaya, Nirad C. Chaudhuri, R.K. Narayan, Mulk Raj Anand, Manohar Malgonkar, Amitav Ghosh, Vikram Seth - the list is long. The prestigious Booker Prize of 1997 went to Arundhati Roy for her maiden novel "The God of Small Things" and Kiran Desai won the Booker Prize in 2006 for her Novel "The Inheritance of Loss".