Indian Art: A History (Online)

Course summary

Indian Art: A History (Online)


The god Shiva dancing in a ring of fire and the white marble Taj Mahal: two of the most famous, best-known images from the Indian Subcontinent – and all too often the only icons widely recognized from a rich artistic heritage.

Join us as we look at the great range of sculptures, paintings and buildings produced in South Asia over two thousand years, and relate them to the contemporary religious and political environment.

We will examine the Buddha image, the multitude of Hindu deities and their temples, the rich and delicately ornamented court paintings of the Mughals and Rajputs, and the impact of European colonialism on the traditional arts of South Asia.

This course will enrich the knowledge of participants who have travelled in South Asia or who wish to travel there for work or pleasure, and will appeal to anyone with an interest in the history of art outside Europe and the West.

For information on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here.

Programme details

1. Introduction and a starting point: Where is South Asia?

  • India and South Asia
  • Themes in Indian art
  • In the image of man
  • Ornamental delight
  • Telling tales in a divine world
  • The religions of India

2. Stupas and storytelling Relics, ritual and Buddhist architecture

  • Buddhism and the Mauryan empire
  • Sanchi and the Stupa
  • Relics and the symbolism of the Stupa
  • Absence and presence: representing the Buddha in symbols
  • Narrative sculpture: the life of the Buddha

3. The image of the Buddha

  • Identifying the Buddha: the posture
  • Identifying the Buddha: the head
  • Identifying the Buddha: the hand gestures
  • Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and the Jatakas
  • Style and the development of the Indian Buddha

4. Who's who in Hindu India

  • Hindu and Buddhist art
  • Shiva
  • Vishnu
  • Devi
  • Know your deity

5. Approaching the Hindu temple

  • The foundations of form
  • Ritual and function
  • Meaning and symbolism
  • Approaching the Hindu temple

6. Seeing God – Hindu art and ritual

  • Image and ritual in Hinduism
  • Contexts for viewing: temple and museum
  • Architecture and sculptural programmes

7. Mosques and mausolea

  • India and the Islamic mosque
  • Technology and design at the first mosque in Delhi
  • The Mughals and the Taj Mahal

8. Paintings for the Mughal emperor

  • Artists at the Mughal court
  • Buddhist and Jain painting
  • Islamic book illustration and European sources
  • Looking at Mughal painting

9. Art from the Rajput courts

  • The Mughals and the Rajputs
  • Sources and style
  • Portraits and epic tales

10. Colonialism and Modernity 1750-1950

  • European encounters with South Asia
  • Indian paintings for the British
  • Colonial art and the foundations of Indian modernism
  • Architecture, empire and the Nineteenth-Century ‘Dilemma of Style’

Recommended reading

To participate in the course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following paperback book:

Dehejia, Vidya, Indian Art (Phaidon, London, 1998) ISBN 0714834963


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.

For more information on CATS point please click on the link below:

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.

All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting both course assignments and actively participating in the course forums. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.


Home/EU Fee: £270.00
Non-EU Fee: £295.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00


Dr Malini Roy

Malini Roy is an art historian and Curator of Visual Arts at the British Library. Research interests include late 17th and 18th century South Asian painting, the East India Company and art commissions, and British artists in India. 

Recent publications include, Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire, co-authored with J.P. Losty (British Library, 2012) and 50xIndia: the 50 most beautiful miniatures from the Rijksmuseum (Nieuw Amsterdam, 2008).

Course aims

This course aims to introduce students to the art of South Asia by:

  • Examining a range of approaches to understanding works of art from South Asia.
  • Discussing specific case-studies alongside directed reading.

This course will:

  • Provide an overview of the religious and cultural history of the Indian Subcontinent over 2000 years.
  • Introduce the main developments in the history of South Asian art in this period, including Buddhist and Hindu architecture and sculpture, paintings and architecture from the Rajput and Mughal courts, and the impact of European colonialism.
  • Examine the religious, ritual, social and political contexts in which these buildings and objects were made and used.

Teaching methods

  • Guided reading of texts.
  • Group asynchronous discussion of issues, vocabulary and specific objects/images.
  • Individual internet research on specific images or topics.
  • Questions to be answered in personal folders.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to understand:

  • The religious, social and political contexts for the production and use of South Asian art and architecture.
  • The vocabulary appropriate for the analysis of South Asian art and architecture.
  • The broad chronological and historical development of South Asian art from the 3rd century BC to the present.
  • The ways in which the presentation of South Asian art, whether in the context of a museum, temple, or exhibition, affects our perceptions of it.

By the end of this course students will have gained the following skills:

  • The ability to critically analyse sculpture, paintings and architecture from South Asia using appropriate vocabulary.
  • The ability to constructively criticise the approaches and methods of art historians.

Assessment methods

Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment of 500 words due half way through the course and one longer assignment of 1500 words due at the end of the course.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.