Greek and Indian Art From Ancient Times Essay

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Ancient Art from Greece and India: A Comparison

Art is a cultural phenomenon that perpetuates consistently throughout the world. Each time period and culture has its own artistic sensibility, often connected to the cultural, political and religious values of the time. The art of ancient Greece and India is no exception to this. While significant changes occurred throughout the centuries that could be consider "ancient," a comparison of certain works shows the similarities and differences between what could be essentially regarded as the Western and Eastern cultures of ancient times.

In ancient India, for example, art tended towards being largely introspective. Hence, environmental and political elements did not play as important a role as the internal elements of mind and introspection. In terms of iconography, therefore, religious and metaphysical concerns take precedence over influences of culture and environment. In terms of this, the Indian idea of Pramana, or "creation of truth," was the ultimate concern. Art was concerned about creating the ideal proportion in terms of physical representation. This was the ultimate concern, as opposed to any distracting influences such as emotion. Environment remains secondary.

In this sense, symbols play an essential part in depicting the mentality and devotion of the work of art (, 2015). During the medieval period, for example, convention played a primary role in Hindu aesthetics and art, where conventionality was seen as a means understanding nature and making it intelligible. Communication is an act made possible by means of symbols, which is why symbols are such an essential element in Indian art. Convention works with symbolism to express the true meaning of the visual object.

The wall paintings of Ajanta and Bagh show the use of symbolism and perspective to represent culturally held values at the time. The man-made caves where these paintings appear are lavish, reflective of its patronage from royalty. During the time of the carving, King Harishena was in power in central India.

The figures in the paintings are part of crowded, intricate images involving the narration of stories around the Buddha's past lives. These are also known as jakatas. Further paintings depict the historical Buddha, who was an Indian prince of ancient times. The purpose behind the paintings is to inspire devotion and awareness of spirituality. The fact that the images are seen as emerging from the dark links the past and present. Although arcane, the images have a powerful effect on many visitors, including photographer Benoy Behl (, 2015). The photographer spent two years photographing every part of the paintings and published them in a book to the inspiration and awe of onlookers.

In ancient Greece, there was also a concern with depicting religious figures for certain purposes. The parapet relief that includes Nike adjusting her sandal, for example, was created during the Peloponnesian war (during 410 BCE). The Athenians at the time had suffered various defeats and the empire was in jeopardy. The relief depicts victory in a perpetual and repetitive way, with little variety in terms of form or the actions being depicted. Hence, narrative takes a secondary position to apparently meaningless phenomena such as the folds of Nike's chiton.

In contrast to the Indian murals, the Greek depiction of Nike showed a move away from human anatomy and narrative towards an almost exclusive focus online and contrast (, 2015). The purpose of these is to create an impression for the audience rather than a description of physical events. Like ancient Indian art, the focus is on the symbolic interaction between the viewer and the art rather than on a realistic depiction or narrative of events.

In the same way, it could be said that the Indian murals have as their central purpose to depict the Buddha and other religious figures in a symbolic rather than realistic…

Sources Used in Document:

References (2015). Athena Nike Parapet Frieze. Retrieved from: (2015). Ancient Indian Art. Retrieved from:

Pisani, L. (2013, Aug. 6). The Ajanta Cave Paintings. The Global Dispatches. Retrieved from:

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