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Books on Hindu Art

Vishnu, Shiva and Devi are the basic visual images of Hinduism. Each of these deities is worshiped in a concrete icon (murti) that can be seen and touched. The sacred compound that enshrines these images is the Hindu Temple, an auspicious enclosure for collective worship.

The image of a god or goddess in Hindu art is conceived in anthropomorphic terms but at the same time it transcends human appearance. Towards this end, with certain exceptions, the gods of Hinduism are visualized with more than two arms. Their hands, posed in definite gestures, hold the attributes that represent the deity’s power and also establish its identity.

While Hindu art is concrete in its substantiality, it is but a means of conjuring up the divine presence. This is their essential function. The Hindu image serves as a yantra, an “instrument” that allows the beholder to catch a reflection of the deity whose luminescence transcends what our physical eye can see.

The vast literature available on Hindu art includes ancient texts delineating the exact iconographic features of deities and Hindu temples. These are known as silpa sastras. Several books on the art of Hinduism delineate the iconometry of individual Hindu gods and goddesses. Also displayed here are numerous encyclopedias and reference works, providing handy, but comprehensive information on all aspects of Hindu art, including history, aesthetics, and iconography, all at one place.


Q1. What is the purpose of Hindu art?


Hinduism incorporates both mythological and secular themes, narrating the religion's four goals of life for which each human being aspires: achieving spiritual salvation (Moksha), righteous living (Dharma), Kama, or love, and prosperity (Artha) acquired.

Hindu art represents a multiplicity of beliefs and has deeply influenced the painting, sculpture, and architecture of the Indian subcontinent. Architecture and sculpture are intimately linked to Hindu temples, which are usually devoted to varieties of deities. Hindus don't worship idols, rather, they view the statues and images as physical representations of God to help them focus on an aspect of prayer or meditation.

Q2. How does art influence Hinduism?


All forms of Art, be it music, sculptures, paintings, or any other art, has cast a major influence on Hinduism. Indian artists inspired by Mythological tales of Hinduism, specifically from   Mahabharata and Ramayana, have carved out such dazzling pieces of paintings that have become a benchmark.


The Mysore and Tanjore paintings that are known to hold the stature of Indian art for centuries have been inspired by the Hindu epics. The artists have crafted some engrossing and graceful pieces of art depicting the actions or tales of Krishna, Kalighat paintings, and famous murals art styles in temples of Southern India.

Q3. Is art important in Hinduism?


From dance to sculpture, song to architecture, craftwork to poem, myth, or sacred history, the arts present a range of cultural artifacts. The arts are the key to important strands of Hindu religious thought, although recognizing this requires us to overcome certain secularist discrimination against ‘religious’ arts that exist within the academy. For centuries the arts, particularly the literary and performing arts, were recognized as one of the great boons of Indian culture to the world, opening up a palette of rich sensory experiences in every media, from architecture to music, food to dance.

Q4. Who has written the best books on Indian art?


B.N. GOSWAMY, The Spirit of Indian Painting: Close Encounters With 101 Great Works, 1100 – 1900 articulating the themes, materials, values, and influences of regional Indian art forms.


PARTHA MITTER, Indian Art : Discusses legendary tribal, modern, and contemporary female artists.


GAYATRI SINHA, Indian Art: An Overview of different schools, movements, and artists that shaped modern and contemporary Indian art.

AMRITA JHAVERI, A Guide To 101 Modern And Contemporary Indian Artists describes artworks by 101 artists including paintings, photographs, sculptures, and new media.


DEEPTHA ACHAR AND SHIVAJI K. PANIKKAR, Articulating Resistance: Art And Activism studies on gender and sexuality by Geeta Kapur and Shivaji K. Panikkar.

Q5. What were the main features of Hindu architecture?


Essential elements of Hindu architecture are symmetry-driven structures, with many variations, when viewed from all four sides and above, on a square grid of padas, depicting perfect geometric shapes such as circles and squares, the square form and grid ground plans, soaring towers, and elaborately decorate sculpture which includes gods, worshippers, erotic scenes, animals, and floral and geometric patterns. Hindu architecture has many varieties of style, though the basic nature of the Hindu temple remains the same, with the essential feature of an inner sanctum, the garbha griha, where the primary idol of the main deity is housed in a simple bare cell.

Q6. What are 3 basic components of the Hindu architecture?


While the architecture of Hindu temples varies from region to region, the major components of a temple remain constant:


Garbhagriha or the sanctum where the idol of the main deity is housed. It was a small cubicle with a single entrance which grew into a larger chamber in time.


Mandapa or the portico: The pathway leading to the garbhagriha is the mandapa where the worshipers accumulate to have darsana


Shikhara is a mountain-like spire that is tapered above the sanctum. The roof became pyramidal. Vaahan is the mount or vehicle of the main deity of the temple.

Q7. What are the three styles of Hindu temple architecture?


Nagara: style temples are found in Northern India


Dravida:  style temples are found between the Godavari - Krishna rivers and Kanyakumari.


Vesara:  is a hybrid style with adaptations from both Nagara and Dravida styles, found in the region between Vindhyas and the river Krishna.

The distinction can be made by comparing the elevation of the temple, the forms of the spire, and the plan of the temple. The main difference between Nagara and Dravidian styles is that Nagara style architecture has multiple towers, whereas Dravidian style architecture has a single central tower. A Nāgara temple generally rests on a high platform- jagati

Q8. What are the two types of Hindu temple architecture?


The Nagara style of temple architecture that became popular in northern India is known as Nagara. In North India, it is common for an entire temple to be built on a stone platform with steps leading up to it. Another unique characteristic is that it does not usually have elaborate boundary walls or gateways.


The Dravida temple is enclosed within a compound wall. The front wall has an entrance gateway in its center, known as a Gopuram. The shape of the main temple tower known as vimana is like a stepped pyramid that rises geometrically rather than the curving shikhara of North India.