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Jainism: An ancient Indian religion that preaches tolerance, non-violence and is by and large agnostic. Its founder Mahavira was an elder contemporary of the Buddha. He lived and preached during the 6th Century BC. By its very nature it was strictly ascetic. According to its belief there were 23 prophets (Tirthankaras) who came before Mahavira. Jainism influenced Indian sculpture greatly. 

Japanese Paper: A very popular drawing paper with rice straw fibers, which gives a good emphasis to the picture plane. 

Jataka: Tales that relate the previous lives of the Buddha. 

Jnana: Knowledge. In Indian thinking Jnana, like Bhakti (devotion) and Karma (action), is one of the three ways to Salvation. 

Jugendstil: German term for a stylistic movement around 1900 characterized by a linear, ornamental, decorative, formal language. 


Kala: Motif that depicts a monster. Kala can be used to mean Time. 

Karma: Action, Moral duty, fate. In Indian ethics and philosophy, Karma is the doctrine of action, reaction and interaction. Philosophically it means reaping the results of one’s good works or misdeeds in this life, or in later rebirths. Karma can also mean suffering or enjoying the fruits of previous birth or births. It is the theory of ‘ as one sows so one reaps’. It is similar to the Judeo-Christian idea of the ‘Wrath of God’. God is not angry according to this theory, Wrath, is the consequence of sin. Wrath like Karma is impersonal. Creation and everything in it hangs together on a delicate, fine and subtle ethical balance. The wrath descends only when this balance is disturbed. Karma similarly is the consequences of a person’s deeds. 

Karuna: Compassion. 

Karunaghana: the Compassionate one. It is an epithet of the Buddha. 

Karun rasa: In Indian poetics it means the semblance of pathos depicted in artistic creation. 

Keechakas: Dwarfish demon figures. They are clustered in a group of five around the pillar with their backs to it. They offer additional support to the roof.  

Kinetic Art: Kinetic works are objects or paintings in which effects of movement are presented or suggested. 

Krishna: ‘The black one’. One of the main characters of the Sanskrit epic, Mahabharata, and an incarnation of Vishnu. He is a mythical amorous hero who plays the flute. The chief protagonist of the ‘Gita’. 

Kshatriya: The royal and the warrior caste. The Varna that comes after the Brahmins.  

Kundalini: According to Yoga, kundalini is the energy at the base of the spine. If released, it can lead to great spiritual excellence. 

Kushana: Name of a clan belonging to a tribe called yati (Yuehchi of Chinese sources). In Indian context a royal family. They began with a small kingdom in upper Afghanistan and extended up to Bihar. They ruled roughly from last quarter of 1st century BC-262 AD.


Lakshanas: Superhuman physical characteristics that set Buddha apart from the depictions of ordinary mortals. There are 32 major and 8 minor lakshanas. 

Lampblack: Soot from carbonized oils. 

Landsape Painting: Representation of pure landscape. Heyday of the landscape was the Dutch Baroque. 

Life drawing: Drawing the human figure from live model.  

Linear: A painting technique in which importance is placed on outlines.  

Linear perspective: A system of drawing or painting in which the artist attempts to create the illusion of depth on a flat surface. 

Linga: grammatically means Gender. Also it can mean the male organ. Shivalinga means the phallus of Shiva. 

Lingam: Phallus. In sculpture it is a monolith phallus that signifies energy. It is the symbol of Shiva. 

Linoleum Cut: A simple method of Relief Painting. 

Linseed Oil: Oil extracted from the seed of flax. 

Lithograph: A greasy material is used to make a drawing on a zinc plate or limestone block. The plate is then wet and a greasy ink is applied to it. The ink sticks only to the lines that have been drawn. A moist paper is applied to the plate and a special press is used to rub the paper all over to make a print or a lithograph. 

Lithography: A printing technique invented by Aloys Senefelder of Munich in 1798. A method of printing from a prepared flat stone or metal or plastic plate. A drawing is made on the stone or plate with a greasy crayon, and then washed with water. When ink is applied it sticks to the greasy drawing, but runs off the wet surface allowing a print - a lithograph - to be made of the drawing. The plate is then covered with a sheet of paper and run through a press under light pressure. For colour lithography separate drawings are made for each colour. 

Lithographic Ink: Ink made up of a mixture of soot and linseed oil. 

LKA: Lalit Kala Akademi (National Academy of Fine Arts) having the headquarters in New Delhi, INDIA. 

Local Color: Actual color of an object independent of any additional colors brought to it by particular fall of light. 


Magical Realism: Form of painting of Neue Sachlichkeit. 

Mahayana: Mahayana is a later variety of Buddhism. It branched off from Hinayana and emphasized the worship of the Buddha. The mythology of the Bodhisattvas distinguishes it from Hinayana variety. In sculpture, it is for Mahayana that we get the figures of the Buddha and the depiction of the story of his life. It was because of them that the legends of the Bodhisattvas were included in Buddhist mythology and iconography. Furthermore, they took over and accommodated the whole gamut of tree spirits and other deities of popular folk religion. All these changes added an imaginative ambience to Indian art, especially sculpture. 

Maheshamurti: The triad icon of Shiva manifesting his majesty, femininity and his terror. In a single piece of sculpture the three aspects of Shiva are depicted with great vigour. 

Maithuna: Copulation, marriage, union. Male and female figures copulating in various poses are carved on temple walls. 

Makara: Crocodile. In sculpture this is depicted as crocodile-like sea monster. It is the vehicle of the River Goddess Ganga, also called Makaravahini. 

Mandala: A circle. The imagined shape of the cosmos. It is a diagram of a magic circle and also of the Buddhist hierarchy. 

Mandapa: Originally it was a columned porch in Indian architectural design. From it evolved a hall with pillars. 

Mannerism: Name given to the formal development of the late Renaissance of the 16th century. 

Mara: The devil of the Buddhist scriptures who attempted to distract Buddha during his meditation under the Bodhi tree. According to Christian belief, Satan tempted Christ after his forty days of meditation in the wilderness. Both won a resounding victory. 

Mastic: A resin used in painting, obtained from the Tropical and Sub Tropical zone from the mastic bush in the form of pale yellow balls.   

Matrika: Mother Goddess. There are seven Matrikas (saptamatrika) embodying seven different kinds of feminine energy. 

Maurya: Chandragupta Maurya, contemporary of Alexander the Great, founded the Mauryan dynasty in the 4th Century BC. Emperor Ashoka was its greatest ruler.
Mauryans ruled over a vast part of the subcontinent. In 183 BC the last Mauryan king, Brihadratha, was overthrown by his general. They were the first to introduce stone sculpture on a large scale. 

Medium: The material or technique used by an artist to produce a work of art. It may also refer to the solvent with which powdered pigments are mixed to make paint of the proper consistency. The plural form is media. During painting, the pigment that is being used to get the required colour has to be suspended in some liquid. This liquid is called the medium. For example, an oil painting would mean when linseed oil is used as the medium. Medium also refers to the substance used by an artist for giving expression to his art. Like, a sculptor uses stone as his medium of expression.  

Merz: Term for the collages of Kert Schwitters. 

Mezzotint: A technique of intaglio printing using copper plates. 

Minimal Art: Movement in contemporary art since the 1970s. 

Mithuna: Figures of loving couples, generally donor couples. A person paying the expenses for building a temple was sculpted with his wife in a loving pose. 

Monochrome: Paintings painted in a single color. 

Monotype: A print that can be pulled only once. 

Moral Pictures: Type of picture developed by William Hogarth.  

Mortar: A mixture of lime, sand and water. 

Mosaic: A graphical technique involving a network of colored stones placed on flat coarse plaster. 

Mudra: A system of signs made with fingers. In art the Buddha is seen using these symbolic gestures to impart mystical powers of at-one-ness and well-being. In Indian sculpture they are depicted in the dance of gods, goddesses, and people using a variety of mudras. In dance and mime they signify various kinds of action.  

Mural: Wall painting. A large design or picture, generally created on the wall of a public building. 

Mythology: Tales of the gods and heroes, a favorite subject for artistic representation since classical antiquity. 


Nabis: French group of artists influenced by Gauguin. 

Naga: Literally ‘Serpent’. Water spirits. They are depicted as serpents. They protect cisterns and waters. 

Nagarika: Citizen. Primarily the word means one who lives in a city. 

Naďve Painting: A kind of amateur art free of academic traditions. 

Nataraja: The master of dance. One of the names of Shiva. Especially in South Indian bronze sculpture, he is depicted dancing and destroying the whole of creation. He does this to create the right condition for a new one. Sometimes there is a garland of flames around him. At others, there is a child under his feet being crushed. The Nataraja sculpture intrigued and moved the great modern sculptor, Auguste Rodin. 

Naturalism: Movement in the second half of the 19th century, which attempted to achieve the naturalistic painterly reproduction of the outside of an object. 

Navarasa: Nine rasas. They are: Adbhuta (wonder), Bibhatsa (disgust), Hasya (humour), Karuna (pity), Raudra (anger), Shanta (tranquility), Shringara (erotic love), Vatsalya (parental love) and Vira (valour). 

Nayaka: Hero. 

Nayika: Heroine. 

Nazarene: A group of Romantic German artists who formed a 'brotherhood' on the medieval model in 1809-10 in Vienna and then in Rome. 

Nazi Art: The only art permitted in the Third Reich. With its glorifying transfiguring representations of strong people, noble heroes, peasant life and wholesome families, it served the purposes of ideological propaganda. 

Neo-Dadaism: Art of the 60s, which rather than relying on depiction, used actual everyday objects to assemble new pictures. 

Neo-Expressionism: Trends in the German art of the 80s, which showed an affinity with the expressive, gestural painting of Expressionism. 

Neoclassicism: Stylistic movement between 1750 and 1840, which refers to the Antique, and chiefly to Greek models. 

Neue Sachlichkeit: Realistic painting at the beginning of the 20s in Germany. 

Neue Wilde: Painters in Germany in the 80s, who employed an expressive, gestural style and paid little attention to artistic stylistic traditions. 

NGMA: National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, INDIA. 

Nirvana: The final state of stepping out of the trials and tribulations of the world. It also implies escaping the cycle of rebirth. 

Nouveau Realisme: Artistic movement from 1960 onwards, which wanted to open up art to everyday life. 


Object Trouve: Object removed from its original context and  employed in collages and assemblages. 

Oeuvre: An artist's complete body of work. 

Oil paint: Show drying paint made when pigments are mixed with an oil, linseed oil being most traditional. Oil paints are usually opaque and traditionally used on canvas. This represents a class of paints in which drying oils are used for binding together the pigments. 

Oil Painting: Painting technique in which paint pigments are bound with oil. It was first introduced in the 15th century. 

Op Art: A contemporary art form with dynamic effects of color and movement. 

Orphism: Term for the primatic dissections of color by R and S.

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