Cultural Trends in Ancient Medieval India

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For a period that has become so unequivocally connected with the Islamic impact and rule in India, Medieval Indian history went for right around three centuries under the purported indigenous rulers, like the Chalukyas, the Pallavas, the Pandyas, the Rashtrakutas, the Muslims rulers lastly the Mughal Empire.

We are going to deal with the topics listed below.

  • Temples
  • Monastic institutions
  • Sankaracharya
  • Islam
  • Sufism
  • Ancient Indian Literature
  • Alberuni’s “India”
  • Art and architecture- Brief explanation

Cultural trends in medieval India

Temples and Monastic Institutions

It was a steady advancement beginning from the rock-cut temples to monolithic rathas which at long last finished in basic temples. The fundamental type of a Hindu basic sanctuary comprises of the following


  • It actually signifies ‘womb house’ and is a cavern-like sanctum.
  • In the earliest sanctuaries, it was a little cubical structure with a solitary passageway.
  • Later it developed into a bigger complex.
  • The Garbhagriha is made to house the primary symbol (fundamental god) which is itself the focal point of much custom consideration.


  • It is the passageway to the sanctuary.
  • It might be a porch or colonnaded (arrangement of sections set at customary stretches) lobby that consolidates space for countless admirers.
  • Dances and such other entertainments are polished here.
  • A few sanctuaries have various mandapas in various sizes named as Ardha Mandapa, Mandapa, and Maha Mandapa.

Shikhara or Vimana

  • They are mountain-like towers of a detached sanctuary.
  • Shikhara is found in North Indian sanctuaries and Vimana is found in South Indian sanctuaries.
  • Shikhara has a bending shape while vimana has a pyramidal-like structure.


  • It is a stone circle like structure at the head of the sanctuary and they are regular in North Indian sanctuaries.


  • It is the highest purpose of the sanctuary and usually found in North Indian sanctuaries.

Antarala (vestibule)

  • Antarala is a change region between the Garbhagriha and the sanctuary’s principal corridor (mandapa).


  • It is a raised stage for sitting and praying and is normal in North Indian sanctuaries.


  • It is the mount or vehicle of the sanctuary’s primary god alongside a standard column or Dhvaj which is set pivotally before the sanctum.
  • Indian temples can be classified into two broad orders as
  1. Nagara (in North India)
  2. Dravida (in South India)
  • At times, the Vesara style of temples was an independent style created through the mixing of Nagara and Dravida orders.

Monastic Institutions

The times of the fifth to the fourteenth century were not just the time of the improvement of Hindu sanctuaries yet additionally was the similarly dynamic time frame for the Buddhist and Jain models.

Buddhist Architecture

  • At the point when the Gupta domain disintegrated in the sixth century CE, the eastern locale of Bihar and Bengal, generally known as Magadha, seems to have stayed brought together while various little Rajput territories jumped up toward the west.
  • In the eighth century, the Palas came to control in the locale.
  • The second Pala ruler, Dharmapala, turned out to be gigantically ground-breaking and set up a domain by vanquishing the Rajput Pratiharas.
  • Dharmapala united a domain whose riches lay in the solidification of farming along with the fruitful Ganges plain and worldwide exchange.
  • Bodhgaya became a pilgrimage site since Siddhartha achieved enlightenment here and became Gautama Buddha.
  • The monastic University of Nalanda is a Mahavihara as it is a complex of several monasteries of various sizes.

Jain Architecture

  • Jains were also prolific temple builders like Hindus and their sacred shrines and pilgrimage spots can be found across the country.
  • The oldest Jain pilgrimage sites are to be found in Bihar.
  • In the Deccan, some of the most architecturally important Jain sites can be found at Ellora and Aihole.
  • Karnataka has a rich heritage of Jain shrines and the Shravanabelagola, the famous statue of the Gomateswara, the granite statue of Lord Bahubali which stands eighteen metre, is the world’s tallest monolithic free-standing structure.
  • It was commissioned by Camundaraya, the General-in-Chief of the Kings of Mysore.
  • Gujarat and Rajasthan have been strongholds of Jainism since early times.
  • The Jain temples at Mount Abu (Dilwara Temples) were constructed by Vimal Shah. One can see a complex of temples carved of white marble.


  • He was born in Kalady, Kerala in 788 CE.
  • He propounded the Doctrine of Advaita (Monism).
  • Sankaracharya composed on the Vedic standard (Upanishads, Brahma Sutras and Bhagavad Gita) in Sanskrit.
  • His significant work is Brahma Sutra Bhasya (Bhashya or critique on the Brahma Sutra).
  • His most celebrated stotra is Bhaja Govindam Stotra and he additionally formed the Nirvana Shatakam.
  • He ventured to every part and broadness of India spreading Advaita Vedanta.
  • He restored Hinduism in India by and large when Buddhism was picking up prominence.
  • Sankaracharya adored Lord Shiva.
  • He criticized the Mimamsa School of philosophy and clarified a significant purpose of abnormality among Hinduism and Buddhism. While Buddhism declares that there is ‘no Soul, no Self’; Hinduism, as indicated by Adi Shankara, says that ‘Atman (Soul, Self) exists’.
  • The essential subject of Advaita is that the one constant element (Brahman) alone is genuine while changing elements don’t have a supreme presence. The world is Maya or hallucination and just the Self is genuine. An individual who understands this accomplishes moksha (freedom of the spirit).
  • Shankaracharya set up four Mathas in the four corners of India and the convention proceeds right up ’til the present time.
  • He lectured renunciation and reception of the information way to acknowledge Brahman.


  • The religion of Islam instructs that so as to accomplish genuine true serenity and guarantee of heart, one must submit to God and live as indicated by His Divinely uncovered Law.
  • The word ‘Muslim’ signifies one who submits to the desire of God, paying little mind to their race, nationality, or ethnic foundation.
  • Muslims accept that the entirety of God’s prophets which incorporate Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, brought a similar message of Pure Monotheism.
  • Consequently, Prophet Muhammad isn’t considered as the author of another religion, the same number of individuals erroneously thinks, yet he was the Final Prophet of Islam.


  • Belief in the existence of Angels of God as the honored creatures
  • Belief in God’s Revealed Books
  • The Belief in the Prophets and Messengers of God
  • Belief in the Day of Judgement and Life after Death
  • Belief in Predestination – God’s complete authority over human destiny

Islam originally came to India at the Malabar Coast of Kerala through Arab dealers in 6 AD. A few centuries later the nearby populace that grasped Islam turned into a well-sew social and social gathering known as the Moplas.

Inside the following 200 years, the principal Muslim realm, the Delhi Sultanate, was set up in India with its capital in Delhi. This was trailed by a few other Muslim traditions like the Khiljis, the Tughlaqs, the Lodis, and the Mughals.

The time of the Mughals was the brilliant time of Islam in India. The religion thrived under the Mughal rule and numerous Indians grasped Islam.

Today Muslims establish about 12% of India’s populace and are amassed to a great extent in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and Kashmir.


Sufism is a type of Islam, a school of practice that focuses on the spiritual search for God and shuns materialism. There is a great deal of accentuation on adoration and commitment towards God. There are numerous schools of Sufism everywhere throughout the world and in India as well.

The vast majority of them follow their genealogy to early Islamic history, from the hour of Prophet Muhammad himself. he terms ‘Sufi’ is likely gotten from the Arabic ‘suf’ word which signifies ‘one who wears wool’.

This is on the grounds that woolen garments were for the most part connected with religious zealots. Another source of the word is ‘safa’ which implies pure in Arabic.

Islam entered India in the seventh century CE as traders from Saudi Arabia who traded in the western beachfront locales of India. After that in the north, the religion entered Multan and Sind when the districts were caught by Muhammad Bin Qasim in the eighth century CE.

Sufism picked up unmistakable quality in the tenth and eleventh century during the rule of the Delhi Sultanate.

In India, Sufism embraced numerous local Indian ideas, for example, yogic stances, music, and dances. Sufism discovered disciples among the two: Muslims and Hindus.

There were two broad Sufi orders:

  1. Bashara – Those who complied with Islamic laws.
  2. Beshara – Those who were increasingly liberal.

There were twelve silsilas or orders under the Bashara. The most significant ones were Chisti, Suhrwardi, and so forth.

The Beshara was additionally called ‘pole kalandar’. They included meandering priests who were additionally called Baba. They didn’t leave any composed records.

Ancient Literature

The Earliest known works of Indian writing was Rig Veda, which is an assortment of 1028 psalms written in Vedic Sanskrit.

Indian writing incorporates everything that can be comprehensively strict and unremarkable, epic and verses, sensational and instructional verse, account, and logical exposition alongside oral verse and melody.

  • The Rig Veda was trailed by Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and Atharva Veda. There are different works after Vedas are known as Brahmanas and Aryankas followed by philosophical conventions of Upanishads. This structure is a piece of Shruti writing.
  • Yajur Veda – deals with directions for the performance of the Yajnas.
  • Sama Veda- deals with prescribed tunes for the recitation of the hymns.
  • Atharva Veda- deals with prescribing rites and rituals.
  • Brahmanas- contains a detailed explanation of Vedic literature and instructions.
  • Aryankas- are a treatise of forest which explain the rituals while dwelling into the philosophical discussions of the Brahmanas. They record the transitions between the ritualistic symbolism of Brahmanas and the philosophical aspects of Upanishads.
  • Upanishads- deals with concepts about origin of universe, death, and birth, material and spiritual world, which are written in poetry and prose, as expressions of philosophical concepts. Earliest Upanishads are Brihad-Aryanaka and Chanddogya. They explain the highest thoughts described that can be realized by a man, according to ancient sages, in simple and beautiful imagery.

Ramayana And Mahabharata are two sagas from Ancient Indian Literature. These have created their current structure over hundreds of years, consequently, they speak to the ethnic memory of the Indian individuals. They were transmitted orally over the time by artists and narrators and were presumably put to their compositions from around the second century BC.
Ramayana is made out of 24000 stanzas which are spread across seven books alluded to as Khandas. Mahabharata comprises one lakh stanzas that are spread across ten books, thus, it is the longest sonnet in the world. It is viewed as Itihasa Purana, which means Mythical history(because this history isn’t simply the delineation of occasions that occurred, however, these are the events that will consistently occur and repeat).

  • Shastras contain the work of theory and science. They cover territories like workmanship, arithmetic, and different sciences. Arthashastra is work on the study of administration.
  • Smritis manage the presentation of obligations, customs, and laws that are recommended as per Dharma. Manusmriti is the most significant model, known as the laws of Manu.
  • The earliest Buddhist writing is written in the Pali language. The Sutta Pitaka comprises conversations between the Buddha and his adherents. The Vinaya Pitaka manages rules of association of the monasteries.
  • Milindapanho is a work of conversation between Buddhist Nagasena and Indo-greek lord Menander. The Jatakas are another significant commitment to early Buddhist writing comprising stories that have additionally been fused in various models.
  • The Sangam writing covers topics of war, love, and legislative issues generally.
  • Tolkappiyam and Ettutogai, Pattuppattu are significant works of these occasions. Thiruvalluvar is the most popular creator of these occasions who composed Kural, which manages numerous parts of life and religion.

Alberuni’s “India”

Abu Rihan Mohammad Bin Ahmad is prominently known as Alberuni who was born in 973 AD in Khiza. He was one of the Jewel of Mahmud’s Courts.

He was a famous rationalist, a mathematician, and a historian and came in contact with Mahmud when he had invaded Khiva and he was presented before him as a prisoner.

Here is how he described India:

  • Impacts of Mahmud’s Indian attack: Alberuni composes, ” Mahmud ended the prosperity of India and so cruelly exploited and penalized the people that the Hindus became disgruntled like the dust particles. Hinduism became a matter of history.” It implies that there came the destruction of Hinduism. The sentiment of contempt won in the hearts of residual Hindus.
  • Shifting of educational centre: The educational centres subjugated by Mahmud, prompted the breaking down of education. Thus the educational centres moved in Kashmir, Banaras, and different places due to their distance from Islamic centres.
  • The sentiment of Hindu about Muslims: Alberuni composes that Hindus experience the ill effects of certain imperfections, for example, they want to live in disconnection from different nations. They considered the Muslims as ‘Mleccha’ as untouchables and boycotted them.
  • Political Situation: Alberuni composes that the whole nation was partitioned into little states which every so often used to fight among themselves. Malwa, Sindh, Kannauj, and Kashmir were unmistakable states among them.
  • Social System: The caste system prevailed and the spirit of seclusion and difference existed. Early marriages were generally vogue. Guardians masterminded relationships. He doesn’t make reference to the arrangement of shares however he expounds on the StreeDhan which the family members introduced to her.
  • Religion: Alberuni says that the Hindus of the country revered numerous divine beings and goddesses. In any case, the informed Hindus considered God as ” Permanent, beyond beginning and end, all-powerful, omnipresent, Giver of life and nourisher, working at his will”
  • Legal executive System: Describing the elements of Judiciary, he composes that for getting equity, it was important to compose applications in which the centres against the denounced were referenced. There were courses of action for oral equity. Equity relied on the observers. Prior to directing observers, it was important to make a vow.
  • Rule of law: Punishment was as per Hindu customs and gentler components dependent on profound quality. Equity was not similarly granted to all individuals. It was distinctive for various stations. The Brahmans were excluded from capital punishment. On the off chance that a Brahman killed somebody, he was required to apologize through diets, supplications, and noble cause. The discipline for robbery relied upon the idea of huge or little burglary.
  • Cults and Culture: The custom of Sati was prevalent and there was a refutation of widow remarriage.

Art and Architecture

  • The historical backdrop of India has been rich and different across a large number of years. In these years the social existence in India has experienced different changes. The Indian art and architecture are the living articulation of these adjustments in the Indian culture since the beginning. The engineering and models bear the engraving of the different times throughout the entire existence of India, for example, the Indus Valley Civilization, The ascent of Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, Delhi Sultanate, Mughal realm and the pioneer history of India. Every one of these times in Indian history carried with it the assorted variety in Indian art and architecture that we see today.
  • Rock-cut architecture locates a significant spot in Ancient Indian History. A large portion of these structures is related to the Buddhist and Jain Religion. Various caves were unearthed by Buddhist and Jain priests for supplications and home reasons. Some significant cases of rock-cut architectures are Chaityas, Viharas, Temples, and so on.
  • Three significant schools of art prospered in old India which are Mathura, Gandhar, and Amravati. These schools had a particular style yet the subjects of these schools were religion and strict images.
  • Bronze craftsmanship is one of the most antiquated works of art in India. Archeological examinations have affirmed that Indians knew about bronze around 4000 years prior. Bronze has been utilized to make different figures and fine arts in sanctuaries, the famous among them are Natraj, Indo – Greek Coins, Chola Sculptures, and so on.
  • The Art and Architecture of Jain thrived with the spread of Jainism in the Indian Subcontinent. Rock cut caves and Jain Temples were the noticeable building structures created in the period. Brilliant Jain engineering and figures can likewise be found in the stone cut caverns found in Mathura, Bundelkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Orissa.
  • Chaityas, Vihara, and Stupa are the most significant Buddhist architecture. Buddhist engineering picked up an unmistakable quality during the rule of Ashoka who perceived Buddhism as a state religion. Buddhist architecture was created and thrived during his rule. Later different realms upheld Buddhism and it prompted the improvement of different architectural structures in various areas of the nation.
  • Indo Islamic Architecture is created by the combination of Indian Architecture with the Islamic Architecture. Indo Islamic Architecture began to prosper during the Delhi – Sultanate and Later accomplished its apex during the Mughal Period. Different Architectural wonders created during this period some unmistakable models are Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Qutub Minar, and so on.
  • During the early 7th century CE, The Indian subcontinent was fractured in various kingdoms. During this period different models grew locally however these figures had a provincial subject. The territorial subject fluctuated from North to South and the East. A portion of the noticeable realms which belittled design during this period was Parthiharas and Chandela In North, Palas, and Odisha in East and Rashtrakutas, Chola, Pallava in the south.


According to the Alberuni, people of the Indian sub-continent were excellent philosophers, good mathematicians, and astronomers.

He criticized the hypocrisy of Brahmins Scholars because despite explaining the scientific values of ancient text preferred to mislead the masses and keep them steeped in ignorance and superstitious.

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