Religion, Culture & Arts of India

India Religion

India is a land of diversities. This diversity is also visible in the spheres of religion. The major religions of India are Hinduism (majority religion), Islam (largest minority religion), Sikhism, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and the Bahá'í Faith. India is a land where people of different religions and cultures live in harmony. This harmony is seen in the celebration of festivals. The message of love and brotherhood is expressed by all the religions and cultures of India. 

Whether it's the gathering of the faithful, bowing in prayer in the courtyard of a mosque, or the gathering of lamps that light up houses at Diwali, the good cheer of Christmas or the brotherhood of Baisakhi, the religions of India are celebrations of shared emotion that bring people together. People from the different religions and cultures of India, unite in a common chord of brotherhood and amity in this fascinating and diverse land.

Religion & Beliefs

  • Hindu 79.8%, Muslim 14.2%, Christian 2.3%, Sikh 1.7%, other and unspecified 2% (2011 est.)
  • India has the second largest Muslim population in the world
  • Religious practises are an integral part of daily life
  •  From the Hindu culture arose three other major religions: Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.
  • Hinduism has long established roots in India dating from 2000-1500 B.C.E
  • In Hinduism there is no single founder, specific theological system, or central religious structure
  • Vedas and Upanishads are the holy books of Hinduism
  • Hinduism teaches meditation, yoga and ascetic practices to cultivate self-discipline and unity
  •  The cow is considered a sacred animal

Culture of India

The culture of India is one of the oldest and unique. In India, there is amazing cultural diversity throughout the country. The South, North, and Northeast have their own distinct cultures and almost every state has carved out its own cultural niche. There is hardly any culture in the world that is as varied and unique as India. India is a vast country, having variety of geographical features and climatic conditions. India is home to some of the most ancient civilizations, including four major world religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

A combination of these factors has resulted into an exclusive culture- Indian culture. Indian culture is a composite mixture of varying styles and influences. In the matter of cuisine, for instance, the North and the South are totally different. Festivals in India are characterized by color, gaiety, enthusiasm, prayers and rituals. In the realm of music, there are varieties of folk, popular, pop, and classical music. The classical tradition of music in India includes the Carnatic and the Hindustani music.

Origins of Art in India

The art of India begins way back in the Paleolithic culture of the Stone Age, with the famous Bhimbetka petroglyphs at the Auditorium Cave, Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh, as well as other petroglyphs at Daraki-Chattan, a narrow, deep rock shelter in the Indragarh Hill, near Tehsil Bhanpura, Madhya Pradesh. These primitive cupules and instances of rock art have been dated to as far back as 290,000-700,000 BCE. (For other prehistoric artworks in the Far East, see also: Chinese Neolithic art.) Later, Buddhists were associated with many instances of cave art, which was imitated in the seventh century by Hindus at Badami, Aihole, Ellora, Salsette, Elephanta, Aurangabad and Mamallapuram. In addition, Buddhist literature is full of descriptions about late Iron Age royal palaces in India being decorated with a variety of religious art including frescoes and panel paintings but no such works have survived. The best early frescoes to have emerged are those from the Brihadisvara Temple at Chola, and the murals on temple walls in Pundarikapuram, Ettumanoor, Aymanam and Trivandrum. (See also: Prehistoric Art Timeline.)

Sculpture in India

There is almost no individuality in Indian sculpture, because figures are conceived of as shapes that are more perfect than any to be found in human models.

Sculpting in India dates from the Indus Valley civilization of 2500-1800 BCE, when small items of bronze sculpture and terracotta sculpture were produced. An early masterpiece is The Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-Daro (c.2500-2000 BCE, National Museum, New Delhi), arguably the finest surviving statuette of the Indus Valley culture. This was followed by the great circular stone pillars and carved lions of the Maurya period (c. 250 BCE), and the mature Indian gigurative sculpture of the second and first centuries BCE, in which Hindu and Buddhist themes were already well established. (For 2nd millennium arts in China, see Shang Dynasty art c.1600-1000 BCE.) A wide range of sculptural styles subsequently emerged in different parts of India over succeeding centuries, but by 900 CE Indian plastic art had reached a form that has lasted with little change up to modern times. This sculpture is distinguished not by a sense of plastic fullness but rather by its linear character: the figure is conceived from the standpoint of its outline, and typically is graceful and slender with supple limbs. From 900 CE onwards, this sculpture was used mainly as architectural decoration with huge numbers of relatively small figures of mediocre quality being produced for this purpose.

Note: For a guide to the principles behind Eastern painting and sculpture as exemplified by art in China, see: Traditional Chinese Art: Characteristics. For a comparison with another Far Eastern culture, see: Korean Art (c.3000 BCE onwards). See also: Chinese Buddhist Sculpture (c.100-present).

Schools of Painting

There is no one style of painting in India. Geography, climate, local cultural traditions, demographics all help to shape art along regional lines. Also, outside artistic influences are more strongly felt in border regions. Not surprisingly therefore, Indian painting is a complex patchwork of differing styles, with different approaches to both figure drawing and figure painting. Here are a few examples.


Practiced in the Mithila region of Bihar state, India, the origins of Madhubani painting traditionally derive from the time of the Ramayana, when King Janak commissioned artists to portray the marriage of his daughter, Sita, with Sri Rama who was regarded as the incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu.


Mughal painting is a miniaturist style of Indian painting, typically executed to illustrate texts and manuscripts. It emerged and flourished during the the Mughal Empire in the sixteenth-nineteenth centuries, coinciding with the upsurge in the art of illumination in Persia, which reached its heyday during the Safavid Dynasty (1501-1722). In fact, Mughal pictures were a blend of Indian and Islamic art. One of the key patrons of Mughal painting was Akbar (1556-1605). At Fatehpur Sikri, he employed the two Persian master painters Abdus Samad and Mir Sayyid Ali, and attracted artists from throughout India and Persia. They painted on cloth using vivid reds, blues and greens, as well more muted Persian colours of pink and peach.


Another type of miniature court-style art, Rajput painting flourished in particular during the eighteenth century, in the royal courts of Rajputana. Typically it depicts a variety of themes, including Krishna’s life, epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, as well as landscapes, and people. Colours used were usually extracted from minerals, plants, even conch shells. Brushes used by Rajput artists were typically very fine and tapered.


Noted for their elegance, subtle colours, and intricate detail, Mysore painting is an important form of classical art from Southern India. Mysore paintings portray Hindu Gods and Goddesses and scenes from Hindu mythology. The process of making a Mysore painting involves a preliminary sketch of the image which is then covered by a gesso paste made of Zinc oxide and Arabic gum to give a slightly raised effect. Afterwards a thin gold foil is pasted. The rest of the drawing is then pasted using watercolour.


An avant garde, nationalist movement which reacted against the dominant academic style of art in India as promoted by both Indian and British art schools, the Bengal School of Art was an influential style of painting that developed in India during the British Raj in the early twentieth century. Its influence waned with the spread of modernist ideas in the 1920s.


Arguably the two greatest examples of architecture from the Indian subcontinent, are the 11th century Kandariya Mahadeva Hindu Temple (1017-29) at Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh - noted for its Nagara-style architecture, and extraordinary erotic relief sculpture - and the 17th century Taj Mahal (1632-54) in Agra, Uttar Pradesh - noted for its Mughal (Mogul) designs and serene Islamic art - either of which can compare with the finest architectural works in the West. For a comparison with South-East Asian architecture, see: the 12th century Angkor Wat Khmer Temple (1115-45) in Cambodia.

Arts And Crafts

As well as painting, sculpture and architecture, India has a rich tradition of crafts including gold-work, silver and other precious metalwork, paper-art, weaving and designing of artifacts such as jewellery and toys. Not surprisingly, this wealth of talent and ingenuity now includes some of the world's most innovative computer software and graphics designers.