Visit the Ashmolean’s permanent collection of Indian Art
Explore the early development of Indian art from the artefacts of the Indus Valley to the Hindu and Buddhist sculpture of north India and Gandhara.
Religion has played a central role in Indian life and culture for at least four thousand years. Between 500 BC and AD 500 the major historic religions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism were developing to maturity. Most surviving works of art from that period were inspired by their teachings.
This gallery begins by showing the development of early Indian art, from the Indus Valley Civilization to the first flowering of Hindu and Buddhist sculpture in the Mathura region of North India. It also surveys the Buddhist art of the Gandhara region (north Pakistan and east Afghanistan). Strong Greco-Roman cultural influences in the north-west gave rise to a naturalistic style of sculpture which adapted classical models in depictions of the Buddha and his life.
Explore Hindu, Buddhist and Jain art from India, the Himalayas and Southeast Asia
'The divinity draws near willingly if images are beautiful' (Vishnudharmottara Purana, AD 500-600)
Many of Hindu, Buddhist or Jain images in this gallery were once installed in temple or household shrines as objects of daily devotion and meditation. They convey the serenity, compassion and supreme power or insight of deities and enlightened beings. Images like these remain in worship today throughout India, as well as in the Himalayan region and Southeast Asia, whose cultures were transformed by the spread of Buddhism and Hinduism.
From AD 600 the form of the temple was developing, within India and beyond, into a symbolic microcosm of the universe. Towers and outer walls teem with carved imagery of gods, men, animals and plants. Distinctive regional styles of sculpture soon developed throughout the subcontinent. As in earlier times, professional sculptors often worked for patrons of different faiths, so that Hindu, Buddhist or Jain images may share a similar regional style.
Discover the paintings and decorative arts of the Mughal period - the most powerful and lasting of the Islamic dynasties in India.
The most powerful and lasting of the Islamic dynasties in India was that of the Mughal emperors. Founded by Babur in 1526, the empire was consolidated by his grandson Akbar (1556-1605). Ruling from Agra, Delhi, and Lahore, Akbar and his successors became lavish and innovative patrons of art and architecture. For over a century, the Mughal court arts achieved a brilliant synthesis of Persian, Indian, and European styles. In Europe, the ‘Great Mogul' became a byword for absolute power and courtly magnificence.
Mughal artistic influence also spread to the provincial courts of the Deccani sultans and the Hindu Rajputs. By the 1760s, the empire was in decline and the British East India Company had begun to dominate the subcontinent. The arts of this later, ‘Company' period show increasingly strong European features.
Jameel Centre: Eastern Art Study Room
Visitors are welcome to come and enjoy the reserve collections Indian sculpture, textiles, works on paper dating back from the 3rd millennium to the 19th century in the Jameel Centre, located on the first floor of the Museum, off gallery 29. Members of staff at the Information Desk on the ground floor can provide information on how to get to the Jameel Centre.
All items in the collection are available for viewings by appointment. Bookings are taken over the phone, in writing, or by email. A week’s notice is recommended as some areas of the collection are stored offsite, but we shall endeavour to accommodate viewings on a shorter notice if possible.
For more information visit: www.ashmolean.org/departments/easternart/studycentre/
To make an appointment contact:
The Jameel Centre for the Study of Eastern Art
T: +44(0)1865 288107