How to Prepare Art and Culture for UPSC ?

How to Prepare Art and Culture for UPSC ?


Art and Culture is one of the varied topics that UPSC prescribes for the Preliminary Examination. It’s a topic where lot of uncertainty is involved. The number of questions asked differed every year from the previous year. So, one should have a holistic strategy to prepare this topic. Here’s a post on Art and Culture that will be helpful in your UPSC prelims preparation.

First, let’s see why this topic garners utmost importance in the preparation.

  • The number of questions asked in 2014 is as high as 10.
  • Guided preparation can fetch you good amount of marks.
  • Easy to understand when prepared scientifically.
  • Useful in mains preparation too.

Now the syllabus to be covered under this topic

  1. Religion and philosophy
  2. Architecture and sculptures
  3. Indian Paintings
  4. Indian Music
  5. Indian Dances
  6. Indian Theatre
  7. Indian Cinema
  8. Indian language and literature
  9. Arts and crafts
  10. Indo Islamic culture

[sc name = “ad1”]


  • NCERT FINE ARTS Class 11
  • NCERT Crafts
  • NCERT RS Sharma OLD
  • The Facets of Indian Culture
  • CCRT website
  • Nitin SInghania notes (selective reading only)


Before starting preparation, one should keep in mind that the questions asked will not require in depth study but a surface level study. The entire syllabus should be completed as UPSC always pays attention to the unasked part of the syllabus.

To know the pattern and type of questions asked, first and foremost thing is to look at previous questions from all the prelims question papers. After getting an overview of questions asked previously you will have a preformed way of study and can concentrate on the points that are required for the examination.

Religion and Philosophy

The schools of philosophy must be divided into two parts classical (6) and heterodox schools (3).

The classical philosophies (where they believe cycle of karma and rebirth) should all be bunched together and find similarities and differences among them. If possible just make table format so that it can be revised quickly before exam.

Heterodox Philosophies are very important, and questions are asked every year either from Jainism Buddhism or Charvaka.Here too understand the differences and similarities. Many previous questions are also available in this topic.


It’s a very important topic and it takes time to complete this part. One should study this topic chronologically so that one can remember scientifically. Find how art evolved from prehistoric rock cut caves to Chola Pandya temples.

  • Hindu temple architecture and its styles
  • Divide the topics into NAGARA DRAVIDA and VESARA.
  • Memorize different parts of the temple architecture like MANDAPA, VIHARA etc.

Indus valley Civilization

The buildings and their scientific nature. The usage of materials and seals. The geography and its relevance. Also study their faiths.

Jain and Buddhist Architecture

Different universities and Temples are to be studied here. Also, different sects in Buddhism and their respective faiths and architectures belonging to them.

Indo Islamic Architecture

Different styles like imperial style, decani style etc and their influences on Indian Art and Architecture should be studied.

Every topic under this part can be found with exact points in NCERT FINE ARTS Book. It’s a bible for this topic. Make a chronological chart and write different types of architecture prevailed in those times.

[sc name = “ad3”]

Indian Paintings

This is a small topic and different genres of Indian paintings like cave, Mughal, miniature, Rajput are to be studied. Also, Mural paintings need to be stressed. Don’t go deep but find important elements and why such prominence is attributed to each painting.

CCRT Website is an importance source to this topic.

Indian Music

  • Types of Indian music like Hindustani and Carnatic. Different parts and their meaning like Bhajan in Hindustani and Tanam –Pallavi in Carnatic Music.
  • Different Instruments used and their uses.
  • Also, important personalities need to be studied.
  • For this again, CCRT website is a source. Also Facets if Indian culture is an important book.
  • Don’t go into details just find differences and remember the meaning.

Indian Dances

8 Classical dances and some folk dances.

Classical dances are to be read with comparing each other. Find their origins and evolution too. Different parts of dances and their meaning. The dresses used, makeup styles and any peculiar thing related to a dance forms. Famous personalities are also to be studied.

Folk dances like bhangra and any news related topics are to be studied.

Indian Theatre

Not many questions are asked lately but cannot be left keeping in view of UPSC unpredictable nature. See previous papers so that the level of study required can be known. Puppetry, Jatra, koodiyatam, Bhavai are some of the important topics and study with regional importance. Find what each theatre form is associated with and what stories they tell.
CCRT website is a source here too.

Indian Cinema

The origin and important personalities of Indian cinema. The evolution of sound and dialogues is very important in this topic. The Facets of Indian culture is a source on can refer too. Not many questions are asked in the recent times.

Indian Language and Literature

Find the news items if any author is rewarded for any of his work in classical languages. Also know all the classical language names.
Hindi literature and English literature and the ideas of novel and series borrowed from different modern literatures are to be studied.

Famous literatures and personalities like Tagore, Vikram Seth, Anita desai and their works need to be given special importance, Personalities from different languages are to be memorized.

CCRT website is a source

Arts and Crafts

Here the culture of India reflects in the crafts. The history and design should be studied.

Various types like kalamkari have been asked in UPSC and this part with regional importance should be studied.

Best source is the NCERT book Crafts.

Indo Islamic Culture

This involves mostly the previously read above topics but with special attention to Islamic culture. The architecture of tombs and styles, their evolution and the regional differences, Kings who patronized. The materials used, different forts in India, Minars, Masjids etc. need to be given importance. Islamic Music, Sufi and Sufi saints are also to be studied.

NCERT fine arts book again is an important resource.


Previous questions, textbooks, mock test, revision should summarize the strategy in short.

All the best!


Director of Veda IAS, Completed his Masters in Sociology, Having more than 6 years of UPSC Mentoring Experience.

2 thoughts on “How to Prepare Art and Culture for UPSC ?”

Leave a Comment