The tradition of art in India goes back to antiquity. Richly evolved and refined, art was quintessentially a spiritual practice and was seen as an expression of philosophic thought in ancient India. The experience of art was aimed at creating a sublime moment of uninterrupted unification with the ‘Spirit within us,’ and the experience of beauty in art was comparable to the ecstasy of salvation itself.
Little wonder, then, that the sublime 5th century murals of Ajanta depicting the Jatakas or earlier incarnations of Buddha mesmerized art lovers the world over for their ‘vision of life.’ While international art historians and critics were unanimous in their appreciation of the murals of Ajanta as the finest art of humankind, they also saw these paintings as momentary flash of creative genius, unaware, as they were of the rich Indian tradition of painting before or after the Ajanta murals.
Internationally acclaimed filmmaker, art historian and photographer Benoy Behl takes us on an inspiring journey through the centuries to the many exquisite ancient murals dotting the length and breadth of India and beyond. We are transported to the caves of Ajanta, Bagh, Badami, Ellora, Pitalkhora, Sittanavasal; the Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram, the Talagirisvara temple at Panamalai, the Brihadeeshvara temple at Thanjavur which houses the oldest surviving mural of Shiva as Nataraja, the Lepakshi temples, the Shivadwara temple at Chamba, the Viranchi Narayana temple at Buguda; the monasteries of Alchi in Ladakh and Nako in Kinnaur; the monuments of Fatehpur Sikri; the Mattancherry Palace at Kochi, the Amer Palace and many other lesser known locations not only in India but also in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Western Tibet and China.
Benoy Behl not only expounds on the details and techniques enumerated in the Chitra Sutra, the oldest known treatise on painting in the world, but establishes without doubt that Indian Painting was, indeed, a continuous tradition of painting in India from the ancient times to the medieval.