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Why India does not have a Leonardo or Michelangelo? Explores author Gaurav Sharma...

Updated: Mar 23, 2022

Yes! Leonardo and Michelangelo are among the greatest masters of art this planet has ever produced.

Have you ever wondered why India didn’t produce a Leonardo da Vinci or a Michelangelo? When I was asked this question I lapsed into deep thought. Rumination and a little research into history helped me with ample and adequate reasons.

If you have even an iota of belief in Indian mythology, you would not mention anyone else but the great Vishwakarma as the greatest artist ever lived. The deity craftsman had built cities like Lanka and Dwarka. He made weapons like Vajra. If these are not enough, he also made the Pushpak Viman for Brahma which was later snatched by Ravana.

Or, you might name Mayasura, the demon architect whom Shri Krishna asked to build a Palace for Pandavas. We all know how mesmerising it was. Duryodhana failed to differentiate between land and water and was laughed at by Draupadi.

Indian mythology is rich in Science, Astronomy and Art. It had everything which the rest of the world could imagine only after one and a half millennium into Anno Domini. I strongly feel that the world casually discard it as fiction because they cannot digest any supremacy over them. The fact, that civilisation chose the vicinity of our holy land to first manifest itself is enough proof that nature also considered India the world leader.

Even if the rest of the world discard the rich Indian mythological art in absence of evidence to prove the existence of Vishwakarma and others, there is a written account of the great craftsmanship of these deities. If a wordsmith gives an account of something or perceives something, I see no reason to not believe it.

If we do not consider the Vedas, even then the sculptures and paintings which still exist in the temples and caves, showcase the dexterity of our artists. The architecture of the ancient Indian temples has numerous riddles still unanswered by the scientists of the west. They have surrendered after investing years in the research.

Another reason, we do not know of any Indian art or artist is the series of invasions and the subsequent loot. Do you expect the greedy invaders to leave behind the precious paintings and sculptures when they could think of translocating the Tajmahal?

The inhumane foreign rulers including the Mughals were concerned about self-glory and not about the recognition of the artists. They only exploited the artists to satiate their wild aspirations and imaginations.

Art and artists strive for perfection and thrive on recognition. The reward for one creation is the encouragement to create another. The then rulers were surrounded by flatterers and the artists had no direct access to the king. Lack of recognition kills the art before killing the artist. Only the benevolence of the rich can make art the mean of survival. People like Tansen and Baiju Bawra earned fame because they got the patronage of the Mughal Kings.

On the other side, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo was a product of the Renaissance. The fourteenth to Seventeenth century, known as Renaissance, was a fervent period of cultural, artistic, political and economic rebirth in Europe. People had made a fetish of promoting all forms of art. Not only Vinci and Michelangelo, many artists and philosophers like Galileo, Dante, Erasmus along with many others made an unforgettable mark and mention in world history. Another product of this epoch was William Shakespeare. Known as the world’s greatest wordsmith, his name is often used as the adjective for glorifying other writers. Taking nothing away from him and not being jealous of his popularity, I think the vast English speaking population of the rest of the world gave him an edge over the Indian poets and authors. Had Kalidas written in English, Shakespeare would have idolised him. The most significant reason for the sudden surge of the artistic army in the Renaissance period was the maniac zeal of commoners for art. The countries where Renaissance hit were not slaves.

Another reason the Indian artists remain unknown is the distorted history. The vested interests of people in and out of India censored the accounts of actual happenings letting us know only what they wanted us to know.

There is no periphery of human interest where Indians have not excelled. May it be mathematics, astronomy, dance, music, art, sculptures, architecture, science or literature, we have guided the world and have provided initial knowledge to pave ways to trod further. Our land has produced Aryabhatta, Brahamgupta, Tansen, Kalidas, Rabindranath Tagore, Raja Ravi Varma and numerous unknown, unsung artists who were crushed by the ruthless monarchy. But, art cannot be killed. Nor it can be suppressed. When people visit the majestic temples of south India, Khajuraho, Ajanta and Ellora caves, they applaud the art. And, the artists get the dues they deserve. The browless Monalisa will always smile at the ignorance of its admirers because art can never be unjust.

Author of this article is acclaimed Gaurav Sharma. He has written five literary fictions.


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1 Comment

Ajay RH
Ajay RH
Jun 25, 2023

Although there are a few lines in your piece here that are quite accurate, the overall theme is quite pathetically written. Vishwakarma and mayasura? Laughable accounts.

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