India for Kids
Music, Dance, Art
India is exceptionally rich in art, architecture, literature, music, and dance. From ancient Buddhist shrines to huge and ornate temples carved out of rock, to paintings, statues, sculptures, folk art, tapestry, embroidery, myths and stories, and more, the many arts of India have offered a wealthy of imagination, engineering, and artistry for thousands of years.
Statues & Pottery: Way back in 2500 BCE, the early people in the Indus Valley created high quality pottery of graceful designs. They also made very small statues of clay, bronze and silver. Archeologists have found bowls made of brass and silver and many glass beads. Since silver and brass is not found in the Indus Valley, they had to bring it in from somewhere else. They also created paintings that show us glimpses of daily life in ancient times.
Religious Influence: When Buddhism began in ancient India, at first statues of Buddha did not represent anything that looked like a person. But this changed over time. The Buddhist stupa was a building, dome shaped, that housed religious objects. Rangoli or colorful chalk and sand works of art are often used to celebrate Diwali, a Hindu holiday. Another art form uses colored rice, candles, and flower petals.
Rock-cut Structures and Cave Architecture: Rock-cut structures were mostly religious in nature, and could hold many people. They were cut out of rocks and rock caves. The rock-cut structures called Viharas were the homes of monks. They were like monastaries. Rock-cut structures called Chaityas were places of worship. The smaller rock cut structures were about 42 feet long, 35 feet wide, and about 40 feet high. But those were the small ones. Most were much bigger. Each structure was carved as if the artists were using wood. But these artists were carving into huge rocks or rock caves, which shows the skill of these ancient Indian architects and artists. They are spectacular, amazing, and cut by hand.
Buildings and Other Temples: Other temples were also impressive, mostly because of their fabulous designs and sculptures and attention to detail, and gates and courtyards. Nothing small about temples. Archaeologists have found ruins of hospitals for people and hospitals for animals built around 200 BCE.
Literature: The stories of Rama and Sita are famous throughout the world and their tales are told in the Ramayana. Their tale, simply put, goes like this: Rama and Sita are husband and wife. Sita is kidnapped by Ravena and Rama goes to rescue her. He and she have many adventures and troubles along the way. In the end, Rama and Sita are reunited. There is much, much more to the tale then that, of course. And along the way, there is a good dose of how people lived in ancient India. India is also rich with other sagas, and myth and folklore and stories, like the marvelous Jataka Tales.
Music: India is also rich in musical history. Various flutes and stringed instruments have been unearthed by archaeologists working sites in the Indus Valley. The ancient Vedas, part of Hinduism, were created to be sung like hymns. Classical music is based on a single melody, with no harmony, but sometimes accompanied by a drum or another percussion instruments. The three-stringed sitar became popular in the 16th ad 17th centuries and is used mostly in classical and Hindu music. It has a unique and haunting sound.
Dance: A small figure was found at an archaeological site in the Indus Valley that looks like a dancer. Whether these ancient people danced for enjoyment, or just to honor their gods we do not know. During the Gupta Empire, however, the Golden Age of culture, art, and literature in ancient India, dance was a form of entertainment as well as part of many religious ceremonies. People flocked to see entertaining and fabulous dancers and their colorful costumes in staged performances that were open to the public.