Indian culture is a diverse topic. It encompasses cultural aspect from ancient, medieval to modern times. Coming to questions from this section, aspirants finds them difficult to solve. There are many reasons for this. Quite understandably culture is quite factual and not an easy to prepare. Moreover, it has unending aspects to be covered that is beyond anyone’s capability. Again, the best way to prepare is from analysis of past year papers and following a simple strategy. What can be a simple strategy if the subject is tough ?

Indian culture comprises of Art, Architecture and Literature. Almost every single book available in the market will explain in length and breadth about the syllabus and domains. To tell you frankly even if you memorize everything, you cannot solve the questions as some of them are analytical. Hence, the very purpose of this article here is to create an easy mind map for your preparation.

Sources to prepare

  • Class 11th NCERT (Old)- Textbook on fine arts-Specific book on Art and Culture
  • New NCERT-Class 12th-Themes in Indian History
  • Tamil Nadu edition -11th and 12th
  • CCRT Website
  • NIOS material
  • The Hindu

All you have to do is be selective in reading the books. Following the strategy given here will make sure that you have prepared culture without much difficulty. Also, a standard source to prepare culture is Current Affairs.

Since this section, overlaps with Ancient, Medieval and Modern History, you will see certain topics repeated here.

From Mauryan Empire the developments in the above field became prominent.If we start dividing and covering each and every ruler’s domains based on them, then we will end up writing a book that we definitely don’t want. Let us make it simple.




  • Indus Valley Civilization: Architecture
    • Focus on town planning and various sites associated with architecture like Lothal, Kalibangan and Harappa etc. – their significance and location
  • Sculptures– male and female figurine Dancing girl, Bearded Male and terracotta figurine etc; Pottery.
  • Buddhist Architecture
    • Chaitya and Viharas, Sanchi Stupa, Ashokan Pillars, Location of stupa and pillars, why were they built?
    • Sculpture: Lion Capital, Bull capital, yaksha and Yakshi, various Buddha’s sculpture- Its significance like seated Buddha and Standing Buddha, significance of different postures



  • Famous Temples constructed during the reign of different Empires
  • Their location
  • Different styles of Temples like Dravida, Nagara, Vesara, Panchayatan
  • Rock cut temples, specific features of temples- Garbgriha, Shikhara etc.
  • Gupta Era – Golden age of Indian Architecture- Caves- Ajanata and Ellora- Religious aspects of these caves
  • Temple Architecture in South India – Nayaka, Vesara, Dravidian and Vijayanagara etc
  • Sculpture – Chola- Nataraja etc.
  • Other school of arts – Pala, Rashtrakuta and Hosala etc. Their religious themes
  • Indo-Islamic Architecture – Decoration, Dome etc, Difference between Indo-Islamic and ancient architecture

Post Mauryan Art


  • School of Art- Gandhara, Mathura, Gupta, Amravati
  • Difference and similarities among them
  • Significant features associated with each School



  • Prehistoric Paintings like Bhimbetka Rock paintings
  • Wall Paintings
  • Mural Paintings (Badami)
  • Cave Paintings at Ajanta and Ellora
  • Themes associated with these paintings
  • Special features/styles associated with different
  • Their locations

Miniature Painting


  • Pala School of Painting
  • Western Indian Paintings ( Rajasthan, Gujrat and Malwa)
  • Mughal School of Painting
  • Deccan School of Painting (Tanjore, Ahemadnagar, Bijapur etc)
  • Pahari School of Paintings (Basholi, Kangra and Guler etc)
  • Special features/styles associated with different paintings
  • Similarities and Differences
  • Their Location

Modern Painting


  • Bengal School of Painting
  • Santiniketan school
  • Specific personalities like Raja Ravi Verma, Rabindranath Tagore’s, Amrita Shergil and their works etc.

Note: In 2014, UPSC asked more questions based on locations and terms. You should be prepared to handle such questions. Do not read extensively, just focus on few aspects that we mentioned above like Locations, Features, Similarities and dissimilarities etc. Nobody can remember everything. Try to make your learning simple.

Performing Art

This can be broadly divided into Indian Music forms, Folk Music, Dance forms, Martial Arts, Tribal Arts, Languages, Theatres, Puppetry and traditional activities

Indian Dance


  • Classical Dance forms like Bharatnatyam, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Kathak, Odissi and Sattriya dance forms.
  • A general idea about the Features of these dance forms
  • Similarities and dissimilarities.
  • Difference between Hindustani and Classical Music - Styles
  • Other forms of Music- Ghazal, Khayal etc
  • Martial Arts – Kalaripayattu, Gatka, Mardanikhel, Silambam, Sqay, hang-Ta – their styles or weapons used and region famous for.

Example: Silambam is a weapon-based Indian martial art from Tamil Nadu. The term silambambu referred to a particular type of bamboo from the Kurinji hills in present-day Kerala. Thus silambam was named after its primary weapon, the bamboo staff.

Famous Tribal and Folk Arts: Folk music and Communities associated.

Example: The Manganiar and related Langha caste are Muslim communities in the desert of Rajasthan, India. They are famous for their classical folk music. They are the groups of hereditary professional musicians.

Theatre Forms and Puppetry forms

Example: Bhand Pather, the traditional theatre form of Kashmir, is a unique combination of dance, music and acting. Satire, wit and parody are preferred for inducing laughter. Bhand Pather are mainly from the farming community, the impact of their way of living, ideals and sensitivity is discernible.

Example: The string puppets of Karnataka are called Gombeyatta. They are styled and designed like the characters of Yakshagana, the traditional theatre form of the region. The Gombeyatta puppet figures are highly stylized and have joints at the legs, shoulders, elbows, hips and knees. Episodes enacted in Gombeyatta are usually based on Prasangas of the Yakshagana plays. The music that accompanies is dramatic and beautifully blends folk and classical elements.

Note: Try to find relevant issues from newspaper and prepare it from there as well. This way on daily basis, you will be in touch with culture.

Indian Languages– Classical language; recently, few languages were added to the category of classical languages, so UPSC asked a question in 2014.

Theatre and Puppetry forms – not every form is important, if there is any news regarding a particular form read about it.



  • Ancient Literatures like Veda, Upanishada, Shruti and Smriti etc.
  • Buddhist and Jains literature– Features, VinayaPitaka and Tri Pitaka, Scholars associated, purpose of these literatures
  • Sanskrit Literature ,Sangam Literature and famous scholars- Aryabhatta and Kalidas etc.
  • Important writers Poets and their works – Kabir, Meera, Surdas etc



  • On regional traditions
  • Tribal Arts
  • Handicrafts and crafts of specific regions

Note: Tribal arts and traditions are regularly in news. The Hindu has a separate section on it where articles on Music, Dance, Traditions, Art and Culture of specific era are regularly updated. You should focus on them but smartly, since reading the entire article is ‘not’ relevant from the exam perspective.

Note: While preparing from texts, focus on such terms and make a list of it. Keep on revising them.

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