Art and Culture Preparation Strategy for UPSC IAS Prelims Examination By Yuvraj IAS

Art and Culture Preparation Strategy for UPSC IAS Prelims Examination By Yuvraj IAS

As everyone is aware UPSC Syllabus is vast and a year would not be sufficient to cover the entire syllabus and moreover with current affairs being the part of the syllabus which can be classified as dynamic because the syllabus of current affairs is not defined and aspirants have to create their own syllabus and notes for this section which makes candidates to think the syllabus is difficult more than vast.

Hence, here we bring some easy tips and effective strategy to cover the art and culture section of the IAS Prelims Exam.

Essential things required for the preparation one must be aware:
  1. Newspapers for current affairs
  2. NCERT old textbook of Ancient History
    Spectrum book for Indian culture
    Nitin Singhania notes
  3. UPSC Previous Year Questions Paper (prelims and mains)
  4. Mock tests 

Before starting with the strategy tips, candidates should know that they have to answer 97% questions on Art and Culture and leave the rest 3% questions if you have no clue but if you are 100% sure about the answers for the remaining 3% questions then go for it. If you answer that 97% Questions then chances are there you would qualify the prelims.

Read below to know the strategy for art and culture part of the UPSC Prelims Syllabus.


Analyse UPSC previous years civil services prelims exam questions papers (at least refer 10 years back question papers) and make a note of the topics on which questions have been asked in the prelims exam.



Once you are done with the analysis of UPSC Previous years question papers, then jump to the NCERT Book, make a timetable like how many chapter you want to finish in a day or week, as time management plays crucial role in your preparation.

While reading the NCERT books highlight the topics on which questions were asked in the previous years, here it is advised to cover the syllabus in both prelims and mains perspective and try to write short notes on the topic which would be helpful for you as answering writing practice for mains and also develop tactics to make probable questions for prelims and mains both. 

Likewise also refer spectrum and Nitin Singhnia notes and do the same. One can see that UPSC focusses on mostly a handful of topics such as architecture, temple styles, Jainism and Buddhism etc in which aspirants should be thorough.

If one see the UPSC previous years question papers one can observe mostly questions are repeated but in a twisted form.



Use techniques while making short notes, like include figures, maps for cities and states famous for their dance forms and cultures as it will be easy to revise as well. 



For mock test series enroll to our UPSC 2019 prelims mock test series and note down those points for questions you felt it is difficult or you if feel it is new for you. 



Lastly, don’t forget the ultimate mantra i.e. to revise, revise and recall.

Now revise and revise and revise these marked sources or the notes that you have made and UPSC previous papers as they are mostly repeated in a twisted form (my personal experience) 

The 97% percent questions on art and culture would be certainly asked from the above mentioned sources only, and always remember that you need to clear the prelims and need not top it as the prelims marks will not be counted for the final result, hence save your stamina for the UPSC Civil Services Mains Exam.

Dealing with Indian Art and culture UPSC

Indian Art can be classified under three headings:-

  1. Performing Arts
  2. Visual Arts
  3. Literary Arts

Performing Arts

Performing arts include the various dance forms, music, Indian theatre and puppetry.

Dance forms are further divided into:

Classical Dances & Regional (folk) Dances

Classical dance forms of India:-

  1. Bharathanatyam (Tamil Nadu)
  2. Mohiniyattam (Kerala)
  3. Kathakali (Kerala)
  4. Kathak (North and West of India)
  5. Odissi (Odisha)
  6. Manipuri (Manipur)
  7. Kuchipudi (Andhra Pradesh)
  8. Sattriya (Assam)

Regional dance forms of India: There are many folk dance forms in India from different parts. You must learn about the major ones like Chhau, Bihu dance, Garba, Dhamal dance, Dumhal, Chakyar Koothu, Lavani, Bhangra, etc.

Coming to the next topic, i.e., music of India; this can be divided into three styles:-

  1. Carnatic music
  2. Hindustani music
  3. Regional music (folk)

Carnatic and Hindustani are two classical music styles in India. There are some differences and some similarities between these two styles.

You must also read about musical instruments in India. There are four basic kinds of instruments. They are:-

  1. Tata Vadya (Chordophones) – stringed instruments like Sitar, Veena, Santoor, etc.
  2. Sushira Vadya (Aerophones) – wind instruments like flute, Shehnai, Nadaswaram, etc.
  3. Avanaddha Vadya (Membranophones) – percussion instruments like Mridangam, Tabla, Dholak, etc.
  4. Ghana Vadya (Idiophones) – solid instruments that don’t require tuning (mostly used as accompaniments for tribal and folk music and dance).

Theatre and puppetry are also important aspects of performing arts in India.

Theatre forms in India – traditional and modern

Puppetry – string puppets, rod puppets, shadow puppets and glove puppets.

Visual Arts

Visual arts can be divided into three:-

Architecture, sculpture and painting.

Indian architecture can be studied under the following:

  • Pre-historic architecture
  • Indus valley civilization
  • Temple architecture
  • Buddhist architecture
  • Indo-Islamic architecture
  • Modern architecture

Indian sculpture can be read under the following:

  • Pre-historic
  • Indus valley civilization
  • Buddhist sculpture
  • Gupta sculpture
  • Medieval sculpture
  • Modern India sculpture

Indian painting can be studied under the following:

  • Miniature paintings
  • Wall paintings of India
  • Modern Indian painting

Literary Arts

Literary arts can be studied under:

  • Vedic literature
  • Puranas
  • Classical Sanskrit literature
  • Early Dravidian literature
  • Pali and Prakrit literature
  • Medieval literature
  • Trends in medieval literature
  • Women poets in Bhakti literature
  • Modern Indian literature
  • Emergence of nationalism
  • Literature of nationalism, reformism and revivalism
  • Indian romanticism
  • Emergence of Gandhi
  • Progressive literature
  • Literary scene after independence
  • Dalit literature
  • Use of mythology
  • Contemporary literature

Under Indian culture, you should study religion and Indian philosophy. Apart from that, you should also include while reading history for IAS exam, the ‘culture’ of a particular time period, like the position of women, royal patronages for the arts, etc.

Shortlisting the resources for art and culture paper

It is important to shortlist the study material for Art and culture for UPSC IAS Exam. Like the topic, the availability of study materials for Art and culture is also vast and diverse. UPSC aspirant should choose right books for preparation. Here we are giving the essential reference books for Art and culture of India for UPSC IAS Exam.

Resources for art and culture for UPSC IAS Exam

  • Class XIIth NCERT- An introduction to Indian Art
  • Class XI NCERT- Ancient India by R.S Sharma
  • Class XII- Medieval India by Satish Chandra
  • Facets of Indian culture –Spectrum
  • CCRT website
  • NIOS materials
  • Byju’s classes

Area of focus in Indian Art and Culture for UPSC Exam

  • Indian Architecture
  • Indian Music
  • Indian sculpture
  • Indian Painting
  • Indian Handicrafts
  • Heritage sites in India
  • Performing art
  • Indian Dance forms
  • Indian languages
  • Religions in India
  • Indian literature
  • Schools of Philosophy
  • Awards and honors
  • Martial arts
  • Cultural institutions
  • Different movements


Nothing can substitute the revision. Practice makes a man perfect. For UPSC IAS Exam also one has to do revision in order to retain the colossal amount data relating to Art and culture, History, Geography, Polity, and Economics etc. most of the data in Indian art and culture in factual in nature. Only a thorough and daily revision can escalate candidates retaining power. Attending mocks test answering previous year question paper will also help you to increase the memory power.

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