The Traditional Decorative Designs of India

Storehouse of Indian Art

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Indus stamp-seal 2500BC-2000BC, Previously thought to depict a unicorn, now thought to be a bull. Unicorn Mold of a seal from the Indus valley civilization, 2500-1500 BC.Collection of seals of the Indus Valley Civilization. also showing SwastikasIndus valley seals showing unicorns Seals of the Harappan Civilization on display in the National MuseumSeals of the Harappan Civilization on display in the National MuseumSeals of the Harappan Civilization on display in the National MuseumSeals of the Harappan Civilization on display in the National MuseumSeals of the Harappan Civilization on display in the National MuseumSeals of the Harappan Civilization on display in the National Museum
Indus stamp-seal 2500BC-2000BC, Previously thought to depict a unicorn, now thought to be a bull.
Indus stamp-seal 2500BC-2000BC, Previously thought to depict a unicorn, now thought to be a bull. | Source
 Unicorn Mold of a seal from the Indus valley civilization, 2500-1500 BC.
Unicorn Mold of a seal from the Indus valley civilization, 2500-1500 BC. | Source
Collection of seals of the Indus Valley Civilization. also showing Swastikas
Collection of seals of the Indus Valley Civilization. also showing Swastikas | Source
Indus valley seals showing unicorns
Indus valley seals showing unicorns | Source
 Seals of the Harappan Civilization on display in the National Museum
Seals of the Harappan Civilization on display in the National Museum | Source
Seals of the Harappan Civilization on display in the National Museum
Seals of the Harappan Civilization on display in the National Museum | Source
Seals of the Harappan Civilization on display in the National Museum
Seals of the Harappan Civilization on display in the National Museum | Source
Seals of the Harappan Civilization on display in the National Museum
Seals of the Harappan Civilization on display in the National Museum | Source
Seals of the Harappan Civilization on display in the National Museum
Seals of the Harappan Civilization on display in the National Museum | Source
Seals of the Harappan Civilization on display in the National Museum
Seals of the Harappan Civilization on display in the National Museum | Source

Introduction

The history of India reveals the great importance attached to the craftsmen and how happily they lived under the patronage of the temple, the state or the court. The common folk in such a surrounding developed an eye for the object ‘d’ art and thereby they cherished and took pleasure in owning a thing of beauty, thus revealing the responsive taste.

It was the appreciation of their work and genius that encouraged the craftsman to specialize in one particular discipline, so as to create an unusual quality in an object intricately executed. The essential details and know-how and the secrets of trade passed on from father to the son, which thus survived through generations maintaining the great tradition of superb craftsmanship in objects even in daily use.

However during the last century or so the diverse interests of people distracted them and they began patronizing the mechanically produced things. The foundation of the ancient art which was firmly laid down by the ceaseless struggle of many luminaries came to be neglected so much that these foundations were ruthlessly demolished. In the storm of modernity, many families of these masters withered away like autumn leaves.

Whatever might have been behind these changes, it is now time to repair the damage done and retain the olden glory and pomp in the interest of Indian art for the posterity.

From time immemorial the man has tried hard to satisfy the innate desire of personal adornment. In the beginning he used the dried grass, stalks of creeper, seeds, fruits, sea-shells, bones, pebbles, stones and boulders to make himself distinct and attractive. He created different forms out of these materials to soothe his aesthetic needs, depending upon the availability of each material. He also took into consideration the human body, its form and needs, while giving individuality to the material.

Being in direct contact with nature, which he carefully observed, he imaginatively some of its fine forms and elements. The straight lines and curves he observed in nature showed him how to utilize a simple design to which he gave a meaning.

Different people evolved different shapes depending upon their surroundings on which their basic inspiration rested. Different habits, religious rites and rituals also helped him in the adoption of different rarities of natural objects somewhat differently.

In Persia for instance the fruits and flowers were important motivations; in Japan it was Fujiyama and cherry; in Greece it was olive and pal; in Rome it was grapes and pine; in china it was dragon; in India and Egypt it was lily and lotus and so on.

A culture based mainly on achievements of craft and art, forms the basis on which the general standard and prosperity of its people rests, and by which it is judged.

Toys of India

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Bengal art of 19th century, Horse and Cart, copper alloyWooden Bullock cartClay toysChildren's toy from Mohenjo-daro at National Museum in New Delhi.Harappa. Miniature Votive Images or Toy Models of  2500 BC, Hand-modeled terra-cottaClay toysPair of famous Kondapalli toys at a house in VijayawadaKondapalli toys at VijayawadaLady playing with a Yo-yo, the Rajashtan, Bundi or Kota painting of 1770 AD
Bengal art of 19th century, Horse and Cart, copper alloy
Bengal art of 19th century, Horse and Cart, copper alloy | Source
Wooden Bullock cart
Wooden Bullock cart | Source
Clay toys
Clay toys | Source
Children's toy from Mohenjo-daro at National Museum in New Delhi.
Children's toy from Mohenjo-daro at National Museum in New Delhi. | Source
Harappa. Miniature Votive Images or Toy Models of  2500 BC, Hand-modeled terra-cotta
Harappa. Miniature Votive Images or Toy Models of 2500 BC, Hand-modeled terra-cotta | Source
Clay toys
Clay toys | Source
Pair of famous Kondapalli toys at a house in Vijayawada
Pair of famous Kondapalli toys at a house in Vijayawada | Source
Kondapalli toys at Vijayawada
Kondapalli toys at Vijayawada | Source
Lady playing with a Yo-yo, the Rajashtan, Bundi or Kota painting of 1770 AD
Lady playing with a Yo-yo, the Rajashtan, Bundi or Kota painting of 1770 AD | Source

Toys

Click thumbnail to view full-size
 Hand-propelled wheel cart, Indus Valley Civilization (3000–1500 BCE)Wooden DollsDusasana kathakali dollTanjore dolls of ClayWooden Dolls at Seethammadhara in Visakhapatnam
 Hand-propelled wheel cart, Indus Valley Civilization (3000–1500 BCE)
Hand-propelled wheel cart, Indus Valley Civilization (3000–1500 BCE) | Source
Wooden Dolls
Wooden Dolls | Source
Dusasana kathakali doll
Dusasana kathakali doll | Source
Tanjore dolls of Clay
Tanjore dolls of Clay | Source
Wooden Dolls at Seethammadhara in Visakhapatnam
Wooden Dolls at Seethammadhara in Visakhapatnam | Source

Toys and Pottery

The basic study of the culture of the nation is the study of its toys and pottery. The Indian toys pots and pans seem to derive their origin from the civilization of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, with a view to have a greater economy of material and ornamentation. The perfect designs occupy the fields in the form of dolls and toys with various representations of miniature characters in clay or wood. The customs, manners, dress, habits, occupations and amusements etc. form the subject matter of these toys. Besides fruits, flowers, vegetables, birds, beasts, gods and goddesses along with various other happenings of the village life also appear in them.

The Indian toys chiefly of wood, clay, cloth, paper, and soft stones. Punjab is famous for its terracotta and straw dolls. Rajasthan is famous for its clay toys and Orissa has a variety of toys in many media. The figurines of Jaganathpuri are most attractive for their intricate value. In South India the toys are carved out if sandalwood. The modals in clay and wood from the epics like Puranas and folklore not only stimulate the imagination but produce upon one’s mind a perennial impression of the moral teachings that are invariably connected with the rich legendary lore of the nation.

The wealth of India is indeed bewildering. There is a vast field with impressive varieties such as pottery, mud wall paintings, jewelry, coins, arms and finally textiles of all kinds.

The curious resemblance of the pottery of today with that of Harappa era is not accidental. The tradition remains unbroken and its even flow permeates leaving a distinct stamp of an era with its rich historical background. The brush work executed with black on the surface of all the pots and pans has floral and geometrical patterns. The main shapes of the pots are clearly of Harappa origin.

Pottery

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Goblet from Navdatoli, Malwa, ca. 1300 BCE Terracotta of Mohenjodaro, Larkana District, Sind, Pakistan. About 2500-2000 BCEpottery with geometrical design in the harrappan gallery of the National MuseumAn ice cream pot made of clay in India.Storage jar. C. 2700-2000 BC. Mature Harappan periodAn artist giving finishing touches to her clay pottery workHarappa Fragment of Large Deep Vessel, circa 2500 B.C.E.
Goblet from Navdatoli, Malwa, ca. 1300 BCE
Goblet from Navdatoli, Malwa, ca. 1300 BCE | Source
 Terracotta of Mohenjodaro, Larkana District, Sind, Pakistan. About 2500-2000 BCE
Terracotta of Mohenjodaro, Larkana District, Sind, Pakistan. About 2500-2000 BCE | Source
pottery with geometrical design in the harrappan gallery of the National Museum
pottery with geometrical design in the harrappan gallery of the National Museum | Source
An ice cream pot made of clay in India.
An ice cream pot made of clay in India. | Source
Storage jar. C. 2700-2000 BC. Mature Harappan period
Storage jar. C. 2700-2000 BC. Mature Harappan period | Source
An artist giving finishing touches to her clay pottery work
An artist giving finishing touches to her clay pottery work | Source
Harappa Fragment of Large Deep Vessel, circa 2500 B.C.E.
Harappa Fragment of Large Deep Vessel, circa 2500 B.C.E. | Source

Mud wall Paintings

It is another outlet through which decorative patterns employed by the common folk becomes manifest. It is an attempt at beautifying the surroundings giving an aesthetic meaning to the otherwise drab walls. It is associated with religion and propitious occasions, so as to encourage its use by all. In the remote areas of our country some exquisitely painted walls are found in form and motives in different regions and designed for different purposes. The deity always occupies a central place with floral and animal forms providing an appropriate decorative design. At places and on some occasions, only geometric arrangement as a motif is preferred.

Mud Wall Painting

Click thumbnail to view full-size
First Night of Bride & Groom in Mud Wall PaintingGod Vishnu in Fish Incarnation in Mud Wall Painting  The Ten Mahavidyas,Siva and Sakti, with Serpent Coiled Shri Yantra in Mud Wall PiantingHouse Wall PaintingPainted mud wallPainted Mud wallInterior Painting of Mud Wall 7th century mud wall paintingWarli paintings are painted white on mud walls. Wall apiinting at Ahmedabad,GujaratPainting above the doorway Warli art on the wallWall Painting on wooden tray The delicate piece of Wall PaintingThe art was traditionally practiced by rural women who painted on the walls and floor of their house during social events like marriage, sacred thread.Wall Painting
First Night of Bride & Groom in Mud Wall Painting
First Night of Bride & Groom in Mud Wall Painting | Source
God Vishnu in Fish Incarnation in Mud Wall Painting
God Vishnu in Fish Incarnation in Mud Wall Painting | Source
The Ten Mahavidyas,Siva and Sakti, with Serpent Coiled Shri Yantra in Mud Wall Pianting
The Ten Mahavidyas,Siva and Sakti, with Serpent Coiled Shri Yantra in Mud Wall Pianting | Source
House Wall Painting
House Wall Painting | Source
Painted mud wall
Painted mud wall | Source
Painted Mud wall
Painted Mud wall | Source
Interior Painting of Mud Wall
Interior Painting of Mud Wall | Source
 7th century mud wall painting
7th century mud wall painting | Source
Warli paintings are painted white on mud walls.
Warli paintings are painted white on mud walls. | Source
 Wall apiinting at Ahmedabad,Gujarat
Wall apiinting at Ahmedabad,Gujarat | Source
Painting above the doorway
Painting above the doorway | Source
 Warli art on the wall
Warli art on the wall | Source
Wall Painting on wooden tray
Wall Painting on wooden tray | Source
The delicate piece of Wall Painting
The delicate piece of Wall Painting | Source
The art was traditionally practiced by rural women who painted on the walls and floor of their house during social events like marriage, sacred thread.
The art was traditionally practiced by rural women who painted on the walls and floor of their house during social events like marriage, sacred thread. | Source
Wall Painting
Wall Painting | Source

Carvings

The patterns and motifs used in carvings on the wood, stone, textiles and arms like swords and shields are the same. Sometimes it seems that the same design has been in various objects of different sorts and utilized for different occasions.

The seals of Mohenjo-Daro, the sculptor of Sanchi and Mathura and the wall paintings of Ajanta are the storehouse of Indian art.

Carving

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Gateway Stupa 1 SanchiExcellent SculpturesSanchi stupa.Ancient Sculpture Ancient Sculpture Carvings on the Sanchi Gate Sanchi (Sculpture at Stupa 1Ancient Buddhist Monuments at SanchiAncient Sculpture Archaeological Remains of Ancient IndiaHead, Probably of the Buddha of  2nd centuryAD  Kushan periodkandariya-temple  2nd century AD  Kushan periodKushan Empire, Ancient India, 2nd centuryADIndus Valley, Nal Culture of Baluchistan, 2900 - 2500 BC. The terracotta oil lamp. The body rounded with raised disk foot, the corners pinched to form spouts, brown line decoration on each. Intact with earthen encrustation
Gateway Stupa 1 Sanchi
Gateway Stupa 1 Sanchi | Source
Excellent Sculptures
Excellent Sculptures | Source
Sanchi stupa.
Sanchi stupa. | Source
Ancient Sculpture
Ancient Sculpture | Source
Ancient Sculpture
Ancient Sculpture | Source
Carvings on the Sanchi Gate
Carvings on the Sanchi Gate | Source
 Sanchi (Sculpture at Stupa 1
Sanchi (Sculpture at Stupa 1 | Source
Ancient Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi
Ancient Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi | Source
Ancient Sculpture
Ancient Sculpture | Source
Archaeological Remains of Ancient India
Archaeological Remains of Ancient India | Source
Head, Probably of the Buddha of  2nd centuryAD  Kushan period
Head, Probably of the Buddha of 2nd centuryAD Kushan period | Source
kandariya-temple  2nd century AD  Kushan period
kandariya-temple 2nd century AD Kushan period | Source
Kushan Empire, Ancient India, 2nd centuryAD
Kushan Empire, Ancient India, 2nd centuryAD | Source
Indus Valley, Nal Culture of Baluchistan, 2900 - 2500 BC. The terracotta oil lamp. The body rounded with raised disk foot, the corners pinched to form spouts, brown line decoration on each. Intact with earthen encrustation
Indus Valley, Nal Culture of Baluchistan, 2900 - 2500 BC. The terracotta oil lamp. The body rounded with raised disk foot, the corners pinched to form spouts, brown line decoration on each. Intact with earthen encrustation | Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Ancient Indian JewelryAncient Jewelry of Kushan period in 2nd centuryADkushan sealkushan coins
Ancient Indian Jewelry
Ancient Indian Jewelry | Source
Ancient Jewelry of Kushan period in 2nd centuryAD
Ancient Jewelry of Kushan period in 2nd centuryAD | Source
kushan seal
kushan seal | Source
kushan coins
kushan coins | Source

Jewelry

The Indian jewelry is as varied as any other form of art and craft and is embedded in tradition. Ornaments lure all. They are not in any way less enchanting. We have in our old literature, vivid descriptions of different types of ornaments used by our ancestors. The jewelry is mainly of two types, one is Jaraoo Kundan or cast gold and the other is Chitra or enameled work. The design and motif are usually the same in both these types. The details of Chitra work are executed with great precision. The peacock is the man symbol used in jewelry. The other motifs are fairies flowers and birds. Some motifs and some techniques have often been used in the inlay of the metal or in embroidery and embossing works. The mesh or Jali work of the Mughal period is worth mentioning.

Indian Jewelry

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Antique Nose Ring from India, with Gold, Pearls and Jadau work. 19th centuryAncient India JewelryThe necklace of three rows of agates from  Indus Valley dating back to Harappa and Moenjo Daro from 3500 to 1500 BCWorn on the back of the hand as wedding jewelry, this Indian Hathphul made of gold,
Antique Nose Ring from India, with Gold, Pearls and Jadau work. 19th century
Antique Nose Ring from India, with Gold, Pearls and Jadau work. 19th century | Source
Ancient India Jewelry
Ancient India Jewelry | Source
Source
The necklace of three rows of agates from  Indus Valley dating back to Harappa and Moenjo Daro from 3500 to 1500 BC
The necklace of three rows of agates from Indus Valley dating back to Harappa and Moenjo Daro from 3500 to 1500 BC | Source
Worn on the back of the hand as wedding jewelry, this Indian Hathphul made of gold,
Worn on the back of the hand as wedding jewelry, this Indian Hathphul made of gold, | Source

Phulkari

Ancient Textile Design of India
Ancient Textile Design of India | Source

Textile

The Indian textile has a rightful claim to be the foremost industry, the credit of which goes to the rich artistic heritage in all forms of plastic creations. The series of Benaras, Patola, Decca and Balachaur give us any number of patterns, forms and motifs to see and wonder for their creation in the first instance. The richness of our textiles is due to the inspiration derived from the ancient paintings.

The best example of how a thing of pure domestic use prepared by the uneducated and rustic village women can assume such a great value as a work of art. The best example is provided by the Kantha or bed sheet or quilt embroidery of Bengal. It is a type of embroidery in folk manner which shows the deft hands and perfect color selection at its best.

Similarly in the remote villages of Tripura, Manipur and other interior places in Assam, one can find a rich panorama of woven, painted and embroidered textile.

The blankets first woven and then embroidered with figures and geometric designs are very strong and aesthetic in their execution and beautiful conception. The colorful borders with figures from Ajanta and monochromes from the temples of Orissa offer a beautiful array for the fiber to build their design upon.

Apart from the decorative and fine specimens in other materials, some of the best embroidered textile is found in Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. The shawls of Kashmir with grapes and fruit designs and floral motifs are famous throughout the world. The shawls of Himachal Pradesh too have beautiful geometric designs.

The Phulkari of Punjab, especially from the Bhatinda region till present times has an unsurpassed richness, with exquisite designs, perfect color combination and beautiful patterns.

The Chamba Rumal or handkerchief still lure the beholder with its artistic beauty as it looks same on both sides of the texture.

Conclusion

The vast storehouse of innumerable traditional motifs and patterns is a subject of further research. These artifacts inspire and stimulate many a generation. All these designs from different regions of sub- continent are influenced from local conditions and environment which can be clearly seen in their local color. There are endless possibilities for the adoption of these forms in the modern industrial designing.

A great care is however necessary to ensure that the old motif should smoothly integrate into the next object. The cursory adoption of ancient designs will hardly serve any fruitful purpose. Mere copying of these designs here and there will not do anything and will earn a bad name to the tradition without adding anything new. Every motif has a special value relating to the functional utility of its being an object meant for adornment or beautification.

Now a stage has come when the countless and infinite verities of decorative designs should not be considered merely a subject of academic studies and research. Instead, every possible endeavor should be made to recapture something of the form and inherent beauty of the designs, and adopt them in modern objects, thus deriving maximum benefit and enjoyment.

More by this Author


2 comments

SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

SANJAY LAKHANPAL 2 years ago from Mandi (HP) India Author

The isolation of centuries in inaccessible places has given the chance to the people to develop the handicrafts.


mylindaelliott profile image

mylindaelliott 2 years ago from Louisiana

The craftsmanship is just amazing. Great hub and pictures.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working