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Indian Art

Clothing and jewelry show status and honor.



Clothing and jewelry have long shown status in Indian society. Little remains from long ago, but fashions can be observed in art. Although most Indian art from that time depicts gods or spiritual figures, the gods wear the finest styles worn by Indian royalty.

The rejection of fancy clothing and jewelry could be symbolic as well. The princes who founded Buddhism and Jainism gave away all they owned, including their clothes. With that act, they left the concerns of the physical world behind them.

Around 1500 a new style of art took hold in India. Muslim rulers from Central Asia introduced a style of miniature painting popular in Persian courts. Islam discourages pictures of people or animals in a religious setting. At court, however, royalty enjoyed miniature paintings showing a variety of scenes from real life. Like the portrait of a man and his sons at left, these pictures are a good record of the styles of the time.

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1. This illustration from a Jain manuscript shows Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, giving away all his possessions.
2. A Hindu priest might wear a necklace like this one during special ceremonies. Temples often have large collections of jewels, gifts from wealthy patrons.
3. Indian textiles have been famous since ancient times. Different regions of India are known for different styles.


January 2004