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Exploring Generations of Indian Identity

In a quest to understand the essence of being Indian, individuals spanning generations grappled with questions of shared identity, echoing sentiments across the diverse landscape of the country. From the musings of Rabindranath tagore’s father to the ponderings of MF Hussain’s grandfather, each sought to unravel the threads that bind us as one people.

The journey into this collective identity led them to India’s cultural heritage, where the vibrant traditions of far-flung villages impressed our ancestors. Amidst rich diversity, strong strands of unity were discovered, anchored in shared beliefs and practices. This cultural nationalism became a precursor to the political struggle for freedom and the subsequent nation-building post-independence.

Evolution of Indian Art: Connecting Traditions

The development of painting and sculpture in Modern India became intimately entwined with the exploration of cultural roots and the quest for identity. Visionaries like Rabindranath Tagore and his intellectual successors, Abanindranath and Gaganendranath, delved into the living traditions of rural India, collecting ritual and handicraft objects that reflected the pulse of the nation.

As the mid-20s witnessed a surge in interest in folk art, urban artists like Shayon Devi began avidly collecting artifacts from undivided Bengal, mirroring the simultaneous call for rural mobilization by Gandhi and the need for rural reconstruction voiced by Rabindranath Tagore. The cultural ethos of the time shaped artists like Nandalal Bose and Jamini Roy, guiding them toward the living traditions of rural folk art.

The 1930s marked a significant shift as Rabindranath Tagore experimented with folk styles, revealing a lesser-known facet of his artistic endeavors. The national movement during this period explored Western models, while Bengal ports became a gold mine for academically trained artists seeking inspiration from folk sources.

Post-Independence Transformation: Fusion of Tradition and Technology

The post-independence era witnessed a transformation in Indian art, driven by technological advancements. Individual artists emerged with distinctive identities, drawing inspiration from traditional art forms. Paper and non-traditional pigments became catalysts for change, exemplified by artists like Mithila in Bihar and the warli of Maharashtra.

A pivotal moment was the discovery of tribal art traditions, distinct from folk traditions. The work of J Swaminathan and KCS Paniker laid the foundation, recognizing talented folk and tribal artists as equals to their academically trained counterparts. KG Subramanyan played a pivotal role in reviving mural painting, terracotta sculpture, and glass painting, demonstrating how folk art could be transformed into modern expressions.

Today, thanks to these pioneers, we now have better understanding of India’s tribal and folk heritage, fostering a reconnection between the grassroots expressions and the high urban art forms that thrived in precolonial India. This artistic journey stands as a testament to the resilience and richness of India’s cultural identity.

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