Forgotten Art of the Subcontinent
The Indo Pak subcontinent has a vast, diverse, and extensive history with a rich and deep cultural significance. It is the land where human civilization began in the Harappan Civilization. The best way to learn about the history of any region or culture is through the arts, literature, culture, and architecture. Today we take a short trip down history lane and try to relive this land’s beautiful history through arts.
Long before the invaders from Central Asia attacked the Indus valley lived the Dravidians, who inhabited the Indus Valley civilization. The prominent cities of Harappa and Mohenjo had an organized and well-planned urban infrastructure. Archeologists discovered many small wooden, metallic, and clay statues or toy models within the Indus valley civilization’s remains. The most iconic work of art turned out to be a statuette of the Dancing Girl.
This sculpting passion did not die with the Dravidians when the Aryans attacked them. Instead, it was revived in the form of Gandhara Art. Gandhara Art mainly included sculptures of the Buddha in a meditating pose. Gandhara Art’s remains have been discovered in Taxila, Swat, and other Northwestern parts of Pakistan to the Bamiyan valley in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, this rich art form is almost out of practice by now, with only a couple of artists left in this genre.
The sculptures of the Gandhara art left their influence in the region as they inspired many Chinese, Japanese sculptures. Gandharan Sculpture became the foundation in crafting various statues of the Hindu and Jain Gods and Deities in South Asia. Overall the Hindu arts prevailed after the Gandhara civilization under the Gupta, Mauryan, and other Hindu empires. The art forms of Sculpting and painting grew, but dances like Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi became popular until the Arabs came.
The arrival of the Arabs and Persian brought with them a variety of different artistic genres. The introduction of Kashikari (blue pottery and tiles) is often affiliated with the Arabs though its origin can be traced back to Central Asia to the Chinese city Kashghar. Overall this handicraft is recognizable due to the vibrant blue color, mostly decorating the mosques and shrines in the Indo Pak region. The art was made eternal by the Mughals, who used it during the architectural revolution they brought in the Subcontinent. The Shah Jahan Mosque in Thatta and Wazir Khan Mosque, Lahore, and many other shrines in Punjab and Sindh are outstanding works of Kashikari. Nowadays, the art, practiced widely in Multan and Sindh, observes a recline due to modern tiles and marble works in architecture.