This text looks at the role of art in the Indian subcontinent and then analyzes early art from the Indus civilization (2000 BC) to the time of Buddha (c.5000 BC). The Mauryan emperor Ashoka (4th century BC), was an important player in the dissemination of Buddhism, using art to this end. A stable ecomic base and the rise of a mercantile community were important in Buddhism's growth. Inscriptions show that the contributions to pay for art came from housewives, householders, merchants, traders and a range of other common people. The vibrant narrative tradition displayed in this art is analyzed. The text goes on to examine the development of the Buddha image and the art of later esoteric Buddhism; the Islamic aesthetic; the art of the Mughal empire; the art and architecture of Rajasthan; and British imperial art and architecture.
Vidya Dehejia is Associate Director and Chief Curator at the Arthur M Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. Her publications include Discourse in Early Buddhist Art, Visual Narratives of India and Slaves of the Lord: The Path of the Tamil Saints.