cenfrated mainly on Indian religious llterafure. Whal was more 
obvious Ihan Ihe legend of an Indian arl which was no more 
fhan symbolism, abslraction, mysticism? Of course Indian religious 
arf, like all religious arf, grew ouf of mystical experience and is 
sfeeped in rieh mystical symbolism. Of course the overwhelming 
majority of monumenfs surviving from early firnes are religious 
in nafure because, as in other counfries and wifh other culfures, 
religious monumenfs are always more sfrongly built and less 
damaged, even less neglected, fhan secular monumenls. The 
Iheory was, however, soon spun ouf to absurd lenghts to fhe 
point of denying utferly the evidence of monumenfs, as well of 
Indian liferature as a whole wilh its greaf receptiveness to all 
thaf is beautifui and fo all the joys of human life. 
To-day we return fo a quieter judgmenf. The spade of the archae- 
ologist turns up a hundred secular works of arf for every piece of 
religious arf. The ruins of Ceylon and Grealer India reveal royal 
palaces which puf the Palatine and Versailles in the shade. The 
historians have reconstructed, from thousands of inscripfions, a 
lively polifical, economic and social history where, half a Century 
ago, we knew hardly more than tangied myths. The art of the 
past fits more and more closely inio fhis framework, and was clearly 
subjected fo fhe same trends of development as the arf of ofher 
counfries. And modern India lives on fhis soll. 
Natural preconditions 
Indian arf is best understood by reference fo the natural con- 
ditions of life in the country. India is a sub-continent of Asia, be- 
longing fo the tropic Zone, the sub-fropic zone, the rainy, luxuri- 
anlly ferfile monsoon area of ihe soufh-east and fhe dry, hot 
deserf area of the Near East. Boih areas, clamped together by fhe 
Indian Ocean and the mounfains of Assam, the Himalayas and 
Afghanistan, are closely dovetaiied into one another because fhe 
mounfains, highlands and plains produce a mutual encroachment 
between Ihe climatic zones and because, according to the sea- 
son, the monsoon and desert climafes succeed each other, at six- 
monthly intervals, over a large of the country. The dry heaf, 
predominantly in fhe north-west and in the central highlands, 
drives the people fo fhe water, behind walls or under ground, 
and requires light clofhes which still profect the body, and par- 
ticularly the head — hence the turban — againsf the sun; ex- 
hausfed by day, fhe people revive all the more keenly at nighf. 
The shimmering, giowing mid-day air and fhe darkness of Ihe 
night create a stränge mixture of unreal fanlasy and clear logical 
fhought. Again, the hot steam of the monsoon forces the people 
fo build airy living quarters, as high up as possible and swept by 
fhe wind; opens them fo nafure, plants and animals of many kinds, 
reduces clothing to a minimum, sfimulates and relaxes at the same 
time, promotes flaring aefs of violence and sexual excesses and a 
rapid decline into passive lethargy, and fhis mood, together with 
the soft distance-dissolving haze, encourages an endlessly rieh 
World of sensual shapes. For a few monihs in winter, however, a 
moderafe warm and dry climafe prevails over a great part of the 
country: even woollen clothing is agreeable at night, fhe air is 
clear, the landscape can streich fo its full breadth, the people 
can think soberly and become excepfionally aefive. And finally 
in fhe high mounfains, especially in Ihe Himalayas, reigns fhe 
happiness of immense distances, where the eye can survey the 
summif of half the sub-confinent, soaring from a sea of brown 
haze, half-real in its majestic size, unless shrouded in massive 
banks of cloud. These opposites fif fhe dynamic of Indian culture: 
Submission Io nafure and superman ideals, wildest fanlasy and 
hair-splitting dialecfics or cynical realism, all-embracing sensu- 
aÜly conirolied by discipline to the extremes of ascelicism, joy in 
life and the denial of life, pleasure in nafure and abstraefion. 
Cultural Background 
In the same way, India fakes pari in lwo cultural traditions, Ihaf 
of the jungle and thaf of the dry lands. In Ihe jungle grows the 
village, surrounded by rice-fields and banana plantations, narrow 
in ifs views, earth-bound, seeking to placate the earth-gods and 
dreadfui demons who bring snakes, fertility or death with human 
sacrifices and orgiasfic rifes. The steppes were dominafed by the 
nomad and semi-nomad who developed from caftle-thief to con- 
queror, nobleman or trader, and he worshipped gods of his own 
paffem, savage warriors, heavenly rulers, profactors of right and 
moralily. India's culture came into being through the interlacing 
of both forms of sociefy in successive periods of conquesf and colo- 
nisation of fhe jungle territories — at one time, before the forests 
were cieared, far more extensive than to-day — by prolo-medi- 
ierranean and mediterranean immigranfs, by the bearers of the 
"Indus" or "Harappa" culfure, related to the culfure of ancieni 
Sumeria, by the Aryans, Seyfhians and Parthians, closely related 
to fhe Persians, by Buddhist and Muslim Turks, and finally by 
small groups of Negroes, Arabs, Syrien Christians, Jews, Parsees


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