The Essentials Of Aesthetics In Music, Poetry, Painting, Sculpture And Architecture

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The period extending from the 4th through the 5th centuries is marked by the most flourishing artistic activities. In addition to the Buddhist monuments, there are the first strong indications of specifically Hindu patronage. Works of remarkable beauty and elegance were produced in this period, which is commonly called the Golden Age of India. The disintegration of these two empires toward the close of the 5th and the 6th centuries ushered in what has been called the medieval period c. Their rise to power and their decline was part of a constantly recurring process, for none of them was able to hold onto a position of even relative paramountcy for any extended period of time.

Most of the dynasties of medieval India were Hindu, though some Jaina and a very few Buddhist kings are also known. The various faiths, however, existed in comparative harmony; and Buddhist and Jaina monuments continued to be built, though most of the surviving works are Hindu. By the end of the 12th century, almost all of northern India had been conquered. The Muslim powers were also divided into many kingdoms, despite attempts made by the sultanate of Delhi, and later by the Mughals, to achieve paramountcy over large portions of India.

These attempts were successful only for short periods of time. As a whole, the European advent was marked by a relative insensitivity to native art traditions, but rising nationalism attempted a conscious revival of Indian art toward the end of the 19th century. In modern times, the absorption of European influence is a more natural, freer process that affects artistic development in a vital and profound way.

Indian art is spread over a subcontinent and has a long, very productive history; but it nevertheless shows a remarkable unity and consistency. Works produced in the several geographical and cultural regions possess decidedly individual characteristics but at the same time have sufficient elements in common to justify their being considered manifestations of a general style.

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The existence of this style is evidence of the essential cultural unity of the subcontinent and to the uninterrupted contact between the various geographical units, at least from the historical period onward. Developments in one area have been quickly reflected in the others.

The regional idioms have contributed to the richness of Indian art, and the mutual influences exercised by them have been responsible for the multi-faceted development of that art throughout the course of its long life. The style of Indian art is largely determined not by a dynasty but by conditions of time and space. It has, essentially, a geographical rather than a dynastic basis, which is to say that the evolution of regional schools appears to have been largely independent of any particular dynasty that happened to rule over a specific region.

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The style does not change because of the conquest of one area by another dynasty; rather the influences exercised by one area on another are usually through the agency of factors other than conquest. The political history of India is itself quite vague, and the areas in possession of a dynasty at various points in its history are even less susceptible to precise definition.

For all these reasons, the classification of Indian art adopted here is not based on dynasties, for such a division has little meaning. Nevertheless, names of certain dynasties are used, for these have passed into common usage.