Indian Art: Materials, Techniques and Artistic Practices

By Prof. Rajarshi Sengupta   |   IIT Kanpur
Learners enrolled: 557
This course introduces the diversity of art practices and material culture from the Indian subcontinent and situates them against their socio-cultural, political and temporal settings. The content is arranged according to materials and techniques to support an immersive approach to understanding Indian art. Focus on materials and practices will enable students to draw connections between the historical artifacts and contemporary objects from the immediate surroundings. This course is beneficial for art practitioners, aspiring art historians, educators, and those preparing for competitive examinations in India.
After Partha Mitter’s concise compilation (2001) of the essential facets of the art in the Indian subcontinent from the Indus valley period until contemporary times, a comprehensive book on this area is eagerly anticipated. In the last two decades, dedicated studies on Chola sculptures (Dehejia 2006, 2021), Mughal architecture (Koch 2001, 2006; Michell 2011), Pahari miniature paintings (Goswamy 2009, 2021) and art after the independence of India (Kapur 2000; Mathur 2019; Khullar 2017) have presented fresh perspectives on these topics calling attention to examining the critical themes in Indian art, such as tradition, rupture, continuity and innovation. Drawing on these studies, the proposed course brings together the recent findings in Indian art and directs to the possible ways the students can explore these thematics.

INTENDED AUDIENCE: Students enrolled in BFA, BA, B. Tech. Candidates preparing for competitive examinations in India. Students enthusiastic about art, culture and design histories.
Course Status : Completed
Course Type : Core
Duration : 12 weeks
Category :
  • Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit Points : 3
Level : Undergraduate
Start Date : 25 Jul 2022
End Date : 14 Oct 2022
Enrollment Ends : 08 Aug 2022
Exam Date : 30 Oct 2022 IST

Note: This exam date is subjected to change based on seat availability. You can check final exam date on your hall ticket.

Page Visits

Course layout

Week 1 :  Clay: Terracotta and Terracruda 
How is clay processed into objects? 
Brick structures and urns from the Indus Valley and Megalithic sites in south India
Sculptures of terracotta and bronze from Harappa
Terracruda or unbaked clay-made objects and rituals 
Week 2 : Architecture I: Basics of Buddhist and Jain architecture
Wood, stone and living rock 
Stupa, vihara, caves and temples from Shunga, Kushana, Maurya and Gupta periods 
Week 3 :  Pigment: Mineral and vegetal colours 
How pigment-based paints are processed and applied to walls
Bhimbetka drawings
Murals of Sittanavasal and Ajanta
Week 4 : Architecture II: Hinduism and temple building 
Architectural treatise and utilisation of Vastupurusha mandala for making temples 
Temples of Badami Chalukyas, Rashtrakuta, Chola, Chandela and Eastern Ganga dynasties 
Week 5 : Stone: Memorials, Architectural Remnants and Objects 
Types of stone in India: Mathura Sandstone, Deccani Basalt, Rajasthani Marble 
Stone carving for architecture
Hero stones and their social significance 
Household items and objects in royal court 
Week 6 : Garden
Islam, the garden of paradise and afterlife 
Tombs, palace, garden and waterways from the Mughal and Deccani context
Regional and foreign flora and fauna in Mughal and Deccani gardens 
Week 7 : Paper
How does paper affect the character of painting and calligraphy? How are ink and pigments prepared? 
Jain manuscripts and Islamic treatise
Mughal, Deccani, Rajput and Pahari miniature paintings 
Mysore and Tanjore paintings 
Week 8 : Printing: European Interventions 
Printmaking techniques and their application in books and images 
Bazar paintings of Kalighat and Battala woodcuts
Lithograph and Oleograph from Calcutta, Pune and Lucknow
Week 9 : “New” Colonial Media
Company paintings, European watercolour and Indian artisans 
Oil painting in the Princely courts 
Raja Ravi Varma 
Week 10 : Daily Practice and Nationalism 
Gandhian philosophy and stress on day-to-day practices such as spinning, weaving and self-sustainability as decolonisation
Alterative art education in Santiniketan, stress on habitual practice, co-existence of cultures
Nandalal Bose, Gandhi and Haripura posters 
Overview of the significance of craft in nation-building 
Week 11 : Multimedia Approaches I:
Introduction to the key developments in Indian Art after 1947
Post-independence artistic and design practices 
Canvas painting, textile, furniture making between the 1950s and 1990s
Week 12 :  Multimedia Approaches II:
Neoliberalism, transnational connections and “new media” approaches 
Curatorial and collaborative projects between artists, educators and communities 
Biennale, entrepreneurship and expansive notion of “art” after 2010

Books and references

  1. Ali, Daud and Emma Flatt eds. 2020. Garden and landscape practices in pre-colonial India: histories from the Deccan. New Delhi: Routledge.
  2. Dehejia, Vidya. 2006. Chola: Sacred Bronzes of Southern India. London: Royal Academy of Arts.
  3. Goswamy, B. N., and Eberhard Fischer. 2017. Pahari Paintnings: The Horst Metzger collection in the Museum Rietberg. New Delhi: Niyogi Books.
  4. Hardy, Adam. 2007. The Temple Architecture of India. Chichester (GB): J. Wiley and Sons.
  5. Huntington, Susan. 1993. The Art of Ancient India: Buddhist, Hindu, Jain. New York: Weatherhill.
  6. Koch, Ebba. 2001. Mughal Art and Imperial Ideology: Collected Essays. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  7. Meister, Michael., and M. A. Dhaky. 1999. Encyclopedia of Indian Temple Architecture. New Delhi: Manohar Publishers.
  8. Mitter, Partha. 2001. Indian Art. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
  9. Sengupta, Paula. 2012. The Printed Picture: Four Centuries of Indian Printmaking. New Delhi: Delhi Art Gallery.
  10. Singh, Kavita., ed. 2018. Scent upon a Southern Breeze: the synaesthetic arts of the Deccan. Mumbai: Marg.
  11. Subramanyan, K. G. 2007. The Magic of Making: Essays on Art and Culture. Calcutta: Seagull.

Instructor bio

Prof. Rajarshi Sengupta

IIT Kanpur
Prof. Rajarshi Sengupta is a practitioner and art historian, presently an assistant professor in Fine Arts, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur, India. He previously taught at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Kangra (2021), and University of Hyderabad (2019-21). Sengupta completed his Phd in art history from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada (2019). His thesis, titled “Making Kalamkari Textiles: Artisans ad Agency in Coromandel, India,” reconstructed the understudied histories and knowledge structure of the dyed, painted and printed textile makers of southeastern India. Sengupta received the IARTS Textiles of India Grant, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (2017-18), and has co-curated an art-research project titled ‘WE’, a शब्द/ شبد ”, with Baishali Ghosh and received a curatorial grant from the Korean Cultural Centre, New Delhi, India (2016). He was involved in the exhibition Cloth That Changed the World: The Art and Fashion of Indian Chintz (2020), Royal Ontario Museum, curated by Dr. Sarah Fee, and contributed to the exhibition catalogue.

Course certificate

The course is free to enroll and learn from. But if you want a certificate, you have to register and write the proctored exam conducted by us in person at any of the designated exam centres.
The exam is optional for a fee of Rs 1000/- (Rupees one thousand only).
Date and Time of Exams: 30 October 2022 Morning session 9am to 12 noon; Afternoon Session 2pm to 5pm.
Registration url: Announcements will be made when the registration form is open for registrations.
The online registration form has to be filled and the certification exam fee needs to be paid. More details will be made available when the exam registration form is published. If there are any changes, it will be mentioned then.
Please check the form for more details on the cities where the exams will be held, the conditions you agree to when you fill the form etc.


Average assignment score = 25% of average of best 8 assignments out of the total 12 assignments given in the course.
Exam score = 75% of the proctored certification exam score out of 100

Final score = Average assignment score + Exam score

YOU WILL BE ELIGIBLE FOR A CERTIFICATE ONLY IF AVERAGE ASSIGNMENT SCORE >=10/25 AND EXAM SCORE >= 30/75. If one of the 2 criteria is not met, you will not get the certificate even if the Final score >= 40/100.

Certificate will have your name, photograph and the score in the final exam with the breakup.It will have the logos of NPTEL and IIT Kanpur .It will be e-verifiable at nptel.ac.in/noc.

Only the e-certificate will be made available. Hard copies will not be dispatched.

Once again, thanks for your interest in our online courses and certification. Happy learning.

- NPTEL team

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