The story

Gandhara Lions & Genii Relief

Art in Ancient India

The history of Indian architecture can be traced back to the Chalcolithic Age as is evident from the progress of the Indus Valley Civilisation. The buildings of Indus Valley culture though made of bricks, possessed little aesthetic material.

In fact, we hardly come across any architectural remains of the pre-Mauryan period which have reached artistic value. This may be due to the fact that the buildings were not made of stone during this period.

However, it is difficult to believe that the intervening centuries between Indus Valley civilisation and Mauryan Age could have been barren of architectural development because we find the Mauryan architecture very mature, which suggests that it was the result of long evolutionary process.

Magasthenes has mentioned the palace of Chandra Gupta Maurya which was built of carved and gilded wood. It appears that even the earlier buildings were made of wood which have since been destroyed. It is thus evident that we are handicapped in forming an idea about the Indian architecture on the basis of the architectural remains.

However, we can form an idea about the Indian archi­tecture from the various literary works and architectural texts, which have come to us chiefly in fragmentary condition. The art of build­ing underwent changes with the progress of time.

In the Agni and Garuda Puranas, nine types of buildings along with their details have been described. Similarly Matsya and Bhavishya Puranas described twenty types of edifices with great details.

One of the most important architectural texts is Manasara which contains complete details about the architecture and sculpture. This work deals with both the methods and principles as well as construction details of all architectural and sculptural objects.

This work has taken the term architecture in a very broad sense and includes everything which is built or constructed according to a design with an artistic finish. Thus it includes sculpture also. The work also emphasises the importance of village scheme, town plan­ning and other allied subjects in great details.

Form of Art # 2. Mauryan Art:

The Mauryan period is a great land-mark in the history of Indian art. The Mauryan kings were great builders and some of the monuments and pillars belonging to this period survive even to this day and are considered as the finest specimens of art. Chandra Gupta Maurya built buildings, palaces and monuments mainly with wood which have perished with the time.

The use of stone started only during the times of Ashoka and many monuments of his time have come down to us which enables us to form an idea about the technical perfection of Indian stone work of the age.

It also indicates a mature form of art pre-supposing a masonic tradition many centuries old. The art of sculpture also shows a perfection which is indicative that it was the result of a long period of continuous and steady development.

Appreciating the achievements of Ashoka in the domain of art Dr. R.S.Tripathi says “Ashoka’s claim to the remembrance of posterity rests not merely on his victories of Dharma but also on his achievements in the domain of art and architecture.”

The monuments built by Ashoka may be grouped into four categories:

The stupa was a massive hemispherical tumulus intended to serve as a receptacle for the relics of the Buddha and was supposed to symbolize the decease (Parinirvana) of the Master. Subsequently, stupas were also set up without the relics of Buddha as offering to the lord.

Though stupas were mainly religious monuments of the Buddhist the Jains also constructed them. The Stupas were usually enclosed by railings with an entrance in each cardinal direction and these were usually decorated with beautiful sculptures.

It is said that Ashoka built 84,000 stupas all over India and Afghanistan, but most of them have now perished. Hieun Tsang, the famous traveller has also testified, that he saw a large number of stupas in the seventh century A.D.

From the sculptural point of view the most important stupas which deserve mention are those located at Bharhut, Bodhgaya and Sanchi in North India and Amravati and Nagarjunakonda in the South. The Stupa at Sanchi near Bhopal is the most prominent of all the stupas. Its diameter is 12 1 /2 feet, the height about 77 1 /2 feet and surrounding railings about 11 feet high.

As there is gradual improvement in the artistic skill and aesthetic ideals of the sculp­tures, it has been suggested by certain scholars that the stupas built by Ashoka were subsequently enlarged and improved.

For example Sir John Marshall says that the stupa at Sanchi was originally built with bricks by Ashoka and was probably half the present dimension. It was subsequently enlarged by the addition of a stone casing faced with concrete.

The monolithic pillars set up by Ashoka are perhaps the finest specimens of the remains of the Ashokan art. They repre­sent a triumph of engineering, architecture and sculpture. Huge and entire pieces of fine grained sand-stones were chiselled into the shape of these pillars.

Each pillar was about fifty feet high and weighed about fifty tones. The pillars were completed at Chunar quarries and transported to the various parts of the country for installation. Sometimes they were also installed on the hill tops. According to V. A. Smith their erection and transportation is a proof of high quality of skill and resourcefulness of the people of that time.

The pillar consisted of three parts—the prop, the shaft and the capitol. The prop was buried in the ground and the shaft or main pillar supported the capitol. The capitol consisted of fine polished stone containing one or more animal figures in the round and are re­markable for vigorous design and realistic beauty.

The capitol of the Sarnath pillar, which was erected to mark the spot where the Blessed One first ‘turned the Wheel of Law’, is the best of the series and is the finest piece of sculpture.

The wonderful life-like figures of the four lions standing back to back and the smaller graceful and stately figures of animals in relief on the abacus, all indicate a highly advanced form of art and their remarkable beauty, majesty and vigour.

This capital has evoked admiration of the art critics. While John Marshall considers these lions as a masterpiece in style and technique, Dr. V.A. Smith is of the opinion that “It would be difficult to find in any country an example of ancient sculpture or even equal to this beautiful work of art, which successfully combines realistic modeling with ideal dignity and is furnished in every detail with perfect accuracy.”

Ashoka is also credited with excavating rock-cut caves, some of which are remarkable for the finely polished surface of the walls. The caves were cut out of hard and refractory rocks and were meant for the residence of the monks. They also served as churches assembly halls.

These caves are mainly found on the Nagarjuna Hills and the Barabar Hills near Gaya. It is said that one of the caves in the Barabar Hills called the Sudama Cave was dedicated by Ashoka to the monks of the Ajivika sect.

It has rightly been said that Ashoka inaugurated a style of architecture which spread in different parts of the country and expressed itself at its best in the magnificent masterpieces of Karla, Ajanta, Ellora and Elephanta.

A number to palaces were also built by Ashoka which evoked the admiration of the various travellers like Fa-Hien who visited India. It is said that Fa-Hien was so much wonder (ruck by the palace of Ashoka at Patliputra that he expressed the view that no human hand could accomplish it, and it was the work of the spirits. However, most of these buildings have since perished.

Ashoka is also credited with the founding of two cities of Srinagara in Kashmir and Lalita-Patan in Nepal, but they are now in ruins. The excavations on the site of Patliputra have led to the discovery of certain ruins of the monumental buildings built by Ashoka. The most outstanding of these buildings is the hundred-pillared hall.

The artists of the period tried to impart religious instructions to the people by representing stories about the Buddha from the Jatakas in their works. They adopted the technique of representing each legend as a pictorial entity sculptured in a single panel or medal­lion.

The best examples of this type of narrative sculptures are found at Amaravati, where the elephant Nalagiri is shown running amuck in the streets of Rajagriha and the Blessed one subdues it. As it was considered sacrilegious to give new life to Buddha, he is represent by certain symbols like the tree and the seat (which represent enlightenment) and the Wheel of Law (Dharma Chakra) which represents his preaching’s.

However the image of the Master also appears in certain sculptures at Amaravati, which may be taken as an indication that this was a transition period between Bharhut, and Sanchi on the one hand and the Gandhara and Msihura on the other.

The sculptures of the period also portrayed the gay and secular aspects of life, which suggests they had a thirst for the sparking pleasures of life. Often the female figures betray saturated sensuality.

Describing the figures of the Yakshinis on the Sanchi gateway Grousset says “Never has the poetry of the female form been rendered with a more sensuous power than in the statues of female genii”. It may look strange that so much emphasis was laid on love of the sensuous aspect of life in the sculptures associated with a religion which emphasised the futility of earthly pleasures.

It only indicates that in spite of the great emphasis on the final release people did not run away from the charms and pleasures of life. It confirms their belief in the principle that only a harmonious blending of righteousness (Dharma), acquisition of wealth and enjoyment of pleasure (kama) could lead to the final release (moksha).

A fundamental change took place in the attitude of the people towards life. This is borne out by a comparison of the sculptures of Bharhut and Sanchi on the one hand and those of Mathura and Amaravati on the other hand. Dr. Nihar Ranjan Ray gives the following explanation for this change. He says in the earlier centuries was nurtured “a civilisation and a structure of society, that was mainly rural and agricultural.

The art of such a social economy naturally reflected the essential oneness with nature, a healthy and spontaneous joy in, and acceptance of life, preference for stable and permanent values and faith in calm and” composed strength.”

But with the growth of commerce with the West and the rise of a prosperous mercantile class, art “naturally reflects the disposition and attitude of a mercantile social economy which manifests preference for transient pleasures and temporary values, exuberant expression of joy and passion, and courtly elegance and sophistication.”

According to Dr. S.K.Saraswati,

“The most important functions of the Mauryan art was to impress and overawe the populace with the power and majesty of its rulers. Mauryan art is thus indivi­dualistic in its essential character and ideology. Like Ashoka’s Dharma Vijay, it lacked deeper roots in the collective social will, taste and preference, and was therefore destined to have an isolated and short life, coeval and co-existent with and within the limits of the powerful Mauryan court. This explains why Mauryan Court art, with all its dignified bearing, monumental appearance and civilized quality, forms but a short and isolated chapter of the history of Indian art. Like the columns and the animal figures themselves, Mauryan Court art stands aloof and apart.”

Form of Art # 3. Gandhara and Mathura Schools:

In the meanwhile two important schools of sculpture developed in Northern India viz. Gandhara and Mathura. The Gandhara School of sculpture was intimately connected with the Mahayana school of Buddhism and flourished sometimes between 50 B. C. and 500 A. D., specially under the Kushans.

The large number of monasteries, stupas and statues were constructed during the times of Kanishka which display a distinct influence of the old Greek School of Art.

In fact, the region of Gandhara, where this school flourished was geographically so situated that it was exposed to all sorts of foreign contacts and influences—Persian, Greek, Roman, Saka and Kushans. As this art was adopted to Indian genius and applied to Buddhist subjects it is also known as Greeco-Buddhist School of Art.

However, Dr. R. C. Majumdar is of the opinion that “though the technique was borrowed from Greece, the art was essentially Indian in spirit, and it was solely employed to give expression to the beliefs and practices of the Buddhists. With a few exceptions, no Greek story or legend, and no Greek art motif has been detected among the numerous specimens of Gandhara sculpture.”

The Gandhara art differed from the earlier art in so far it gave up the old technique of referring to the Buddha through symbols and represented him in anthropomorphic forms. Though the images of Buddha were made according to the basic principles of Indian iconography, they bear close resemblance to the deities of the Greeco-Roman pantheon.

The artists added moustache, turban or ornaments to these deities according to the current local taste.

The drapery of these sculptures has also been arranged in a Roman style. The drapery has been used separate from the body, but it is so disposed that certain parts of the body are made visible from underneath the garment.

In the Gandhara art there is also a tendency to mould the human body in a realistic manner with great attention to accuracy of physical details, especially by the delineation of muscles and the addition of moustaches etc.

Another outstanding feature of the Gandhara Art is the rich carving, elaborate ornamentation and complex symbolism. It is believed that with the coming of the Kushans, “an all-round schematization in art begins.

The drapery is shown in small and narrow folds symmetrically arranged and at times becomes reduced to a decorative display. The figures themselves are shorter in stature, stumpy in appearance and treated in a rough manner, exhibiting a king of crude rustic strength.”

It may be noted that though the artists employed a technique which was essentially Hellenistic, tempered by Iranian and Scythian influences for representing the Indian Buddhist themes, but the genius of the Gandhara artist was essentially Indian.

In course of time these artists started asserting their independence and Hellenistic influence completely disappeared. Certain scholars have asserted that this was inevitable if we keep in view the differences in the art ideals of the Hellenes and the Indians.

No doubt, therefore Gandhara Art proved only a passing phase in the history of Indian art and lost its ground before the resurgence of national classical art under the Guptas.” John Marshall has also admitted that the Gandhara School of Art could never take real roots into Indian soil, because the Indian and Greeks were radically different and dissimilar.

However, it cannot be denied that the Gandhara art greatly influenced the development of the various school of arts in Khotan, Kucha, Turfan etc. In the history of the Hellenistic art it represents a phase of east-ward expansion of Grecian art Dr. Kramrisch has rightly observed, “If it is Indian and colonial from Hellenistic point of view, it is Hellenistic and colonial when viewed from India.”

The Mathura School represents the indigenous art movement and came to prominence during the times of Koshans. “This art chiefly flourished at the holy city of Mathura. The artists of Mathura school particularly specialised in the making of huge statues of Buddha, which served as a model for the local artists.

Though initially the artists of the school made the images in accordance with the primitive traditions, but gradually they developed the, iconographic details more fully. In addition to the Buddha statues certain other sculptures belonging to the Mathura school of art have also been discovered. One of the sculptures illustrates the Bhagvata’s episode of Vasudeva carrying Krishna across the Jamuna.

Certain scholars are of the opinion that the Mathura school of art was greatly influenced by the Gandhara art. Some of the European scholars go to the extent of suggesting that the Mathura art was not only influenced by the Gandhara art but it had its origin also in the Gandhara art.

However, this view is not acceptable to other European and Indian scholars. For example Rawlinson says “At the same time (when the Gandhara art flourished) a purely indigenous school of contemporary art, lineally descended from that of Bharhut and Sanchi appears to have flourished at Mathura, Bheta, Besnagar and other centres.”

Chirstman Humphrey also shares this view of Rawlinson. Similarly Dr. Fogale also believes that Mathura art is Indian in thought and style, but he admits that it is not fully free from the influence of Gandhara art. Dr. Nihar Ranjan Ray is of the opinion that the ancient idols of Mathura belonging to mid second century B.C. are related to Bharhut art.

The artistic creations of Gandhara were not unknown to them. The help of Gandhara art has been taken in decking the idols, but this tendency of borrowing in Mathura art cannot be found prior to second century B.C. He contends that the Mathura style is purely indigenous and not exotic.

Thus we can draw the conclusion that the Mathura art had its origin in the indigenous sources, though later on it was influenced by the Gandhara art. The independence of the Mathura art is further evident from the fact that it possessed certain distinct fea­tures of its own. The statutes built by the artists of this school are large and bulky. The idols do not have moustaches and beards as in the Gandhara art.

Similarly in the Mathura idols Gautama Buddha is shown sitting on a throne, while in the Gandhara art he is shown sitting cross-legged. No doubt certain foreign themes were borrowed from the Gandhara school by the Mathura art but they were merely a passing phase and did not leave any mark on it.

As the Mathura style was native it was adopted by the Guptas. The artists of the Gupta age removed the draw-backs and deficiencies present in the Mathura art and perfected it. It may be noted here that though the Gupta art originated from Mathura art yet it is wholly devoid of its artificiality and sentimentalism.

Form of Art # 4. Gupta Art:

Gupta period is an important epoch in the history of Indian art. During the Gupta period, which has been designated as the Golden Age, the peace and prosperity of the people coupled with enlightened patronage of the kings, gave rise to a general artistic impulse and resulted in the evolution of a national and classical art which embodied the aesthetic tendencies of the age and was fully shorn of foreign traditions and influences. Under the Guptas “sculpture, architecture, painting and terra-cotta attained a maturity, balance and naturalness of expression that have forever remained unexcelled.”

Gupta art introduced new ideals and possesses a special charm. The various masterpieces of the earlier schools of art, though techni­cally perfect and vibrating with beauty, failed to satisfy the spiritual urge of the people because they were saturated with luscious sensua­lity.

Even the images of gods made by them appeared to be more earthly than divine. During the Gupta period the sculptures and images were given a poise and balance of body indicating a mental and physical response following the conquest of the flesh, dropping eye-lids, suggestive of contemplative concentration and perfect tran­quility of soul, and a detached and serene disposition characteristic of the blending of the external form with the inner spirit.

The best examples of the outstanding specimens of the Gupta sculpture are the high-relief statue of Buddha preaching his first sermon, which was discovered in the ruins of Sarnath the standing Buddha discovered at Jamalpur and preserved in the Mathura museum, and the colossal copper statue of Buddha discovered at Sultanganj, now preserved in the Birmingham Museum.

These sculptures represent the “fullest fruition of the original genius in carving out a figure in perfect harmony with spiritual conceptions.”

Similarly the sculptures and images of Shiva, Vishnu and other Brahmanical gods like Sun, Kartikeya have also been discovered and testify the high quality of Gupta sculpture But probably the most effective specimens of the sculpture of this category are the epic stories form the Rama and Krishna cycles at the Deogarh temple.

In the field of architecture the Gupta period has two fold importance. On the one hand it marked the culmination and ulti­mate exhaustion of the earlier tendencies in architecture, and on the other hand it marked the beginning of a new style of Indian temple architecture.

Consistent with the revival of Hinduism a large number of fine temples were constructed during the Gupta period, but most of these were destroyed by the invaders like the Huns and the Muslims. But the few which have survived to this day testify the excellence of the architecture of the times.

Amongst the temples of the Gupta period which have survived mention may be made of Dasavatara temple at Devagarh near Jhansi, temple at Bhitargaon near Kanpur, Vishnu temple at Tigawa near Jabbalpur, Shiva temple at Bhumara, Shiva temple at Khoh, Parvati temple at Nachna-Kathara, and the Buddhist shrines at Sanchi and Bodh-Gaya.

These temples were well designed and were decorated with fine sculptured panels. The practice of providing elaborately worked towers (shikaras) did not exist during the Gupta period, although we find some traces of it in the temple at Bhitargaon.

The cave architecture also made remarkable progress during the Gupta period. The Chaitya and Vihar caves at Ajanta and those of Ellora are the best specimens of the cave-architecture of the period. The most outstanding features of these caves is the beautiful pillars with varied designs and the fine paintings.

The caves at Mogulrajapuram, Undavilli and Akhannamadana in south and the cave temple at Udayagiri near Bhilsa also belong to the Gupta period.

The period also witnessed a great progress in working on metals. The huge iron pillar at Delhi, as discussed in Chapter on sciences, was a remarkable achievement in the field of metallurgy. The art of casting copper statues was also practiced on a large scale. The coins of the Gupta period are known for their high bullion value and artistic richness.

Form of Art # 5. Post-Gupta Arts:

During the next six centuries art was chiefly confined to the evolution of the different types of temple architectures. The Art critics have divided this period into two parts on the basis of the evolution of the temple architecture. The first period lasted from 600 to 900 A.D. and is known as early Rajput period. During this period there was a regular progress in the evolution of the architecture.

The second period lasted from 900A.D to 1200 A.D., and is known as later Rajput period. During this period the temple architecture was characterised by abundance of ornamentation. The artists tried to give expression of grandiose. Certain obscene figures were represented on the stone which shows the moral dege­neration in taste.

During the early Rajput period architectural monuments such as rathas of Mamallapuram, Kailash temple and masterpieces of sculpture like Ellora and Eliphanta were created. However, during the later-Rajput period six regional architectures, with peculiar quali­ties of their own, were developed.

These regional architectures were those of Orissa, Khajuraho, Rajasthan and Madhya Bharat, Gujarat and Kathiawar, Chola and Hoysala of Deccan and Brindaban near Mathura. In spite of the peculiar qualities of the various architec­tures there was a sort of under-current of thought, which shows that they all belonged to the same movement viz. the northern or Indo- Aryan style of architecture.

The most important temples constructed in India in the northern style are those of Somnath in Saurashtra, Bhubaneswar, Puri and Konark in Orissa, Khajuraho in Bundelkhand (Madhya Pradesh), Abu in Rajasthan.

The earliest temple to be built in the northern style was the Parameswara temple at Bhubaneswar in 750 A.D. It may be noted that the style of architecture in the temples of Orissa is somewhat different from those of other states.

According to Percy Brown the most remarkable characteristic of the Orissa temple is “the plain and featureless treatment of the interior contrasted with the profusely ornamented walls of the exterior, the surfaces of which are studded with superfluity of plastic patterns and forms.”

Another prominent temple in Orissa is the Jagannath Temple at Puri which was built around 1100 A.D. It is larger than the Lingaraj temple built at Bhubaneswar, but from architectural point of view it is merely a replica of the temple at Bhubaneswar.

The grandest example of the Orissan architecture is the famous Sun temple of Konarak which was constructed during the reign of King Narasingh Deva (1238—1264). This temple has been described by Percy Brown as the grandest achievement of the Eastern School of Architecture.

The whole structure is fashioned like a Ratha or wheeled-car being whirled along by the seven horses of the sun. Around the basement of the temple are twelve giant, wheels with beautiful carvings. At the main entrance are two caparisoned steeds straining to drag the chariot through space.

The whole building is ornamented with exquisite sculptures presenting an alluring pageant of sculptured magnificence. Some of the figures worked out on the temple are erotic and obscene. They represent a number of amorous unties described in the Kama sutra, which has been criticised by various art critics.

The temple, though now in complete ruins, won the admiration of people for long. For example Abul Fazl was greatly struck by the grandeur of the temple and recorded in his Ain-i-Akbari “even those whose judgement is critical and who are difficult to please stand amazed at the sight”.

The temples at Khajuraho are the most refined and finished specimens of the Indo-Aryan architecture. They are known for the beauty of proportion, artistic quality of outline, compact architectural harmony and vibrant decorative exuberance. These temples were built by the Chandella Rajput kings between 950 and 1050 A.D. and were dedicated to the Saivite, Vaishnavite and Jain gods.

It is said that originally there were eighty-five temples at Khujaraho, but out of them only thirty are in existence now. Even these temples are in various stages of ruin. However, we are able to form a fair idea about their architectural character. Each temple stands on a high and solid masonry terrace.

Though these temples are not very imposing edifices they are known for the elegant proportions, graceful contours and rich surface treatment. Their Sikharas are also very refined and elegant. The exterior as well as the interior of the temples have been decorated with the finest sculptures.

Dr. Kramrisch has also said: “With every movement of the eye of the beholder a new perspective shows the images from a different angle to avoid being bewildered he has to concentrate on each of them and then give his attention to the next”

Another outstanding specimen of the north Indian architecture in Rajasthan is the Jain temples at Mount Abu. The artists have shown delicate workmanship in the working of the white marble hall and the central dome of eleven concentric rings. Beautiful sculptured forms cover every inch of the surface.

The other important temples in Rajasthan and’ Madhya Bharat group of temples include sixteen Brahmanical and Jain temples at Osio near Jodhpur, Kalika Mata temple at Chittorgarh, Ekling temple near Udaipur, Shiva temples at Nemavar (Udaipur), Sas-Bahu temple of Gwalior.

In the western region of India the Solanki rulers of Anhilavad gave encouragement to architecture and a number of temples were constructed there. Amongst the notable temples in this region mention may be made of Nilkantha temple at Sunak, Sun temple at Modhera, Gondeswara temple at Sirnar in Nasik, Jain temples on the Shatrunjaya and Girnar hills in Kathiawar, the temples at Balsane in Khandesh etc.

In Kashmir the temple architecture made remarkable progress during the 8th and 9th centuries A D. Lalitaditya and Avantivarman were instrumental in the construction of the Sun temple at Martand and the Shiva and Vishnu temples of Avantipur.

Form of Art # 6. Dravidian Architecture:

The development of the Dravidian architecture was mainly due to the patronage of the Pallavas, the Chalukyas, the Rashtrakutas and the Cholas. The age of the Great Pallavas lasted from about the beginning of 1 the seventh century to nearly the close of the ninth century and was perhaps the most formative period of South Indian architecture.

Broadly speaking the Pallava architecture can be divided into two phases—the rock cut architecture from 610 to 690 A.D. and structural form from 690 to 900 A.D. During the first phase mandapas or rathas (monolithic temples) were excavated in the rock. A mandapa was an open pavilion, a hall with cells in the back wall.

The ratha was a monolithic shrine. The best specimen of the niandapa or cave- temples of the Pallavas are available at Mahaballipuram, about thirty miles from Madras. It is the grandest of all the sculptures and represents the descent of the Ganges on a huge granite boulder. It is a rock-cut drama of an epic theme executed with epic grandeur.

On either side of the Ganga descending from heaven we find men, animals, gods, nagas and semi-divine beings offering their prayers to Lord Siva for his precious gift of the sacred river. In short as Rane Grousset puts it, “What we have before us is a vast picture, a regular fresco in stone.

The relief is a masterpiece of classic art in the breadth of its composition, the sincerity of the impulse which draws all creatures together round the beneficent waters and its deep fresh love of nature.”. It may be noted that the rock-cut architecture of the Pallavas was their original contribution from which all the vimanas in South India copied and continued to copy till very late period.

During the second phase the mandapa architecture was given up and structural edifices were constructed. In the temples lofty towers were built tier upon tier, diminishing in size towards a summit. The most wonderful example of this type of architecture is the Kailash temple at Kanchi.

It was hewn from solid rock like a statue from the hillside. Shrine room, hall, gateway, votive pillars, lesser shrines and cloisters etc. were also created from the same rock and were adorned with the divine figures and scenes. It possesses a grace and strength which is rarely seen in the Indian art.

The temple of Vaikuntha Perumal at Canjeevaram is another example of this type of architecture. This temple is larger and more spacious than the Kailash temple. In this monument the principal parts, the cloisters, portico and sanctuary instead of being separate buildings have been amalgamated into one architectural whole. This has resulted in a unity of conception of high merit.

Though stone architecture was not unknown, the Pallavas were the first to make full and free use of stores in buildings. Pallava temple architecture and portrait sculpture attained forms and excel­lence that served as models not only in India but in the Far East also.

It also spread to countries of South-East Asia like Indonesia “where its effulgence, reflected in the vast monuments of those civilizations, shown with even greater splendour than in the country of its origin.” (Percy Brown).

The Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas also continued to patronize architecture, but it was on the pattern of the Pallava architecture. The best specimens of the Rashtrakutan art are found at Ellora and Elephanta.

A reference has already been made to the architectural beauty of the Kailashnath temple which is a unique architectural masterpiece of unsurpassed splendour and is worthy of ranking amongst the wonders of the world.

In the western India the best specimens of architectural sculpture are found in the cave temples on the island of Elephanta in the Bombay harbour. These have been executed in the same style in which the caves at Ellora were excavated. In all there are seven caves in the island.

The central one contains some masterpieces of sculpture representing some of the 16 lila-murtis of Siva as Nataraja, Lakulisa, Andhakari, Gangadhara, Ardhanariswara, Somakanda, Ravanunugraha etc. But the best representation of Siva is as Mahesamurti, also known as Trimurti.

Admiring the architectural beauty of this cave Grousset says: “The three counten­ances of the one being are here harmonized without a trace of effort there are few material representations of the divine principle at once as powerful and as well-balanced as this in the art of the whole world.

Nay, more here we have undoubtedly the grandest representation of the pantheistic God ever made by the hand of man….Indeed, never have the exuberant vigour of life, the tumult of universal joy expressing itself in ordered harmony, the pride of a power superior to any other, and the secret exaltation of the divinity immanent in all things found such serene expres­sion”.

The Cholas who flourished between 900 A. D. and 1150 A. D. were responsible both for the development and perfection of the Dravidian style of architecture. Like the Palkvas, the Chola rulers executed works on most stupendous scale.

One of the earliest example of Chola temple architecture is found in the temple of Koranganatha at Srinivasanalur in the Trichinopoly district. This temple has considerable amount of sculpture on the wall surfaces. These images of Hindu gods and goddesses have been installed with­in recesses. This marks the beginning of the voluptuous treatment of the human figure.

The maturity of the Chola architecture is reflected in the temples built by Rajaraja Chola and his son Rajendra. The Shiva temple at Tanjore built by Rajaraja Chola in 1011 A.D. is the largest and the most ambitious production of temple architecture. The main structure of the temple is 180 feet and has a great sikhara or tower consisting of fourteen successive storeys rising to a height of 190 feet.

It is crowned by a massive dome consisting of a single block of stone, 25 feet high and weighing about 80 tons. The massive temple building is covered with sculptures from top to the base. Without any doubt this is the finest single creation of the Dravidian craftsmen.

“The massive grandeur of the basement and the sikhara which is crowned by a big monolithic dome, the profuse and elegant decorations and sculptures and the huge and beautiful monolithic Nandi have never been surpassed by anything known in Dravidian architecture.”

Another imposing work of the Chola temple architecture is the Gangaikonda-Cholapuram temple erected by the Chola King Rajendra around 1030 A. D. Its great size, immense walled enclosure, assembly hall containing over ISO pillars, huge lingam bf solid granite, the tall pyramidal vimana or tower and the delicate carvings in stone are its more striking features.

Form of Art # 7. Paintings:

Painting was highly developed art in ancient India. Though the paintings of the early period have since perished, on the testimony of the various literary works, it can be safely concluded that the art of painting was quite advanced in ancient times.

For example the Vinay Pithaka, a Buddhist Pali work of the fourth or third century B. C. says that King Pasenada’s pleasure-houses contained picture-halls (Chittagara) which were adorned with large number of painted figures and decorative patterns.

In Ramayana also we get references of the painted halls. The Kama sutra of Vatsyayana, written probably in the third century A. D. includes paintings amongst the sixty-four kalas or fine arts.

Similarly Chltrasutra, a section of Vishnudharmottara Purana, which was most probably composed during the Gupta period, makes a mention of the technical details regarding painting. All this suggests the existence of the art of painting and its develop­ment on scientific lines.

We can also form an idea about the art of painting from the various remains of ancient India paintings. These paintings mainly consist of the murals in some of the cave temples. Certain caves in outlying areas contain only very rough painted sketches in the primitive style, which according to certain critics belong to the pre-historic age.

But the specimens of paintings found at the artificial caves dedicated to religious purpose are highly developed. According to A. L. Basham “few would dispute that these are among the greatest surviving paintings of any ancient civilization.”

As in case of other branches of art, the artists in the field of painting also were interested in depicting the underlying reality, the inner essence rather than outward semblance. . Therefore we find not merely philosophical truths but also universal feelings like sex, emotions, heroism, hatred, compassion etc. in their works.

The feminine charm has been best depicted in the various feminine figures at Ajanta and the dancing apsaras in the Siva temple at Tanjore. Similarly the picture of the dying princess at Ajanta is a classic representation of the pathos and sentiment.

It may be noted that though the artists tried to externalize the internally drawn forms, they were also aware of the importance of faithful representation of the adjective realism. Great importance was attached to perspective.

Emphasizing the importance of pers­pective the Chitrasutra says that an artist at all. Therefore the artist was supposed to depict the inter­nal states of emotions but at the same time he had to give a life-like representation. It also emphasised the importance of careful obser­vation of the things of nature and the landscape.

Very few paintings of ancient India are available. They are mainly concentrated at Ajanta in Deccan, Bagh in Central India, Jain cave of Sittannavasal and Siva temple at Tanjore. Some of the paintings at Ajanta belong to the period before the beginning of the Christian era while others were executed some centuries later.

According to A.L. Basham, “The earlier paintings are more sharply outlined and the later show more careful modelling, but there is no clear evidence of the progressively developing style, as in contem­porary sculpture, and the differences may be accounted for by the personal tastes of the craftsmen who supervised the work in the respective caves.”

The murals at Ajanta chiefly depict scenes from the life of the Buddha and from the Jatakas. Though they were painted mainly for religious purposes they convey a secular message. We get a panoramic view of the life in ancient India from these murals.

As Basham has put it “Here are princes in their palaces, ladies in their harems, coolies with loads slung over their shoulders, beggars, peasants and ascetics, together with all the many beasts and birds and flowers of India, in fact the whole life of the time, perpetuated on the dim walls of caves by the loving hands of many craftsmen. Everything is gracefully drawn and delicately modelled.”

The most notable pictures at Ajanta include those of the Mother and the Child, the Monkeys, the Hunting Scenes and Dying Princess. These pictures have been greatly appreciated by the art critics. For example appreciating the picture of the Dying Princess V.A.

Smith says, “For pathos and sentiment and unmistaken way of telling its story this picture cannot be surpassed in the history of art. The Florentine could have put better drawing and a Venetian better colour, but neither could have thrown greater expression on it.”

Similarly admiring the beauty of the picture of the Bodhisattva, Benjamin Rowland remarks, “In a marvelous reconciliation of beauty, physical and spiritual, the great Bodhisattva is realised as the very embodiment of that compassion and tenderness that his mission of allaying the miseries of the world implies .This is a loveliness so refilled away from transitory human appearance that it becomes a symbol of celestial beauty and purity. The figure as a whole in its tranquil suavity and virile sweetness is the perfect realisation of this deity of salvation and refuge.”

Commenting on the technique of Ajanta Paintings Basham says: “No frame divides a scene from the next, but one blends into the other, the minor figures and the pattern skillfully leading the eye to the central figures of each scene. There is no perspective, but an illusion of depth is given by placing the background figures some­what above those in the foreground. The effect of this convention is rather like that of a photograph taken with a telescopic camera, and makes the figures stand out from the flat wall as though coming to meet the observer.”

Certain paintings of ancient India have also been found on the walls of the verandah of a cave at Bagh. They depict the procession of elephants and the scene of a dancer and women musicians. According to Basham these paintings are perhaps more impressive in composition than the paintings of Ajanta.

The paintings of the Ajanta style are also found in the caves of Badami and Ellora. Certain splendid paintings of the Chola period have been found in the Rajarajesvara temple at Tanjuvur.

Form of Art # 8. Music:

The traditional accounts, archaeological and literary evidences show that music and dance formed an important part of both reli­gious and secular life in ancient India. The Indian traditions posit the origin of music not with man but with the Highest Deity mani­fested in His triune aspect, of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesvara. Rudra is always associated with song and dance and vina on which he played is named Rudra Vina.

It is one of the vinaars of northern India use. In South the Sarasvati Vina was an adaptation or a fit­ting up of the frest on the tanpura board, is popular. Mahadeva is known as Nataraja 01 king of dancers. His dance is cosmic and it represents a process in that evolution.

The damaru or the kettle­drum on which he plays to keep time, is again cosmic in its nature, representing the akasa tattva (principle of ether) from which all sounds are produced.

Vishnu is associated with the flute on which he plays the Song of Life, the Song of Evolution, while the Gopis, the cosmic powers, sing and dance in unison with waving hands and woven feet. Similarly, Brahma is ever engaged in the chant of the Vedas bringing forth into manifestation the latent possibilities of souls in accordance with their karma.

The various goddesses like Parvati, Saraswati and Lakshmi are also represented as playing on Vina. The regents of the world like Narada, Tamburu Visvavasu, Chitrasena and various stages and their disciples have also been connected with the science and practice of music.

Vishnu Purana says, “All songs are part of Him who wears a form of sound”. It may be noted that at that stage music was considered an aid to worship of God.

The Vedas speak of different kinds of musical instruments and refer to professional musicians like lute-players, drummers and flute-players etc. The employment of a number of musical similes by Valmiki and reference to various musical instruments shows that music was a popular pastime during his times.

Ravana has also been described as a great musician who won the favour of Shiva by singing the Vedas. In Ramayana we find a number of technical musical terms such as jatis which seems to have served the purpose of ragas in ancient times.

Similarly in Mahabharta we get references regarding the cultivation of music as a mark of refinement. It also refers to the seven svaras (seven notes) and Gandhara Grama, the ancient third mode. We get similar references about the theory of music in Riapratisakhya, a work of 4th .century B.C.

It mentions the three voice regis­ters and the seven notes of the gamut. The Buddhist works and Jatakas also contain references of various musical instruments of musicians.

Much useful information about the early music is provided to us by literary works like Purananuru, Pattuputtu, Paripadal, Silappadiaaram and the Jain Tivakaram, We get the first detailed exposition of the theory of music in Natya Sastra, which is said to have been composed by an ancient sage Bharata.

He is usually placed in the third century. The Natya Sastra is the earliest Indian work on the art of drama, music and dancing. It shows that by this time India had fully developed the system of music out of which the later Indian “classical” music developed.

Music occupied an important position in the social life of the people in India is fully borne out by the dramas of Kalidasa. Music gained in popularity with the spread of the Bhakti movement in the seventh and eighth centuries. It was liberally patronized by the kings, nobles, temples, mathas and other religious institutions.

The Bhaktas lost themselves in the adoration of God and experienced the mysterious unity of life through nadasadhana. The tradition of hadasadhana, which has been in vogue in India since times imme­morial is based on the basic principle “the direct invocation of the Divine through one-pointed concentration on musical notes, which they say opens the windows of the soul through the onslaught of musical vibrations”.

Music was considered to be a sadhana or yoga by the people in ancient India. They tried to attain unity of mind and body in their various functions through this sadhana. It was, according to Havell, an attempt “to realise the life which is without and beyond by the life which is within us and life in all its fullness, mystery which was and is to come.”

It was believed that a sadhaka could express himself best only by identifying himself with the divine. It is said that Akbar was struck by the difference in the music of Tansen and his guru Haridas when he heiard the soul-stirring music of the latter while he was singing before God.

When Akbar asked Tansen for the reasons for this difference, Tansen replied “I have to sing whenever my emperor commands, but he (Haridas) only sings in obedience to the inner voice.”

The chief musical instruments used by the musicians in ancient India was vina, a bow-harp with ten strings. During the Gupta period this instrument fell in disuse and was replaced by a pear-shaped lute which was played either with the fingers or with a plectrum.

This lute was replaced by the instrument which is considered to be the pre­decessors of the modern vina. This instrument with long finger­board and small round body, was usually made of dried gourd.

Flutes and reed-instruments of different types were also used. The instru­ments of the trumpet type though known to the people were promi­nently used in music- They were merely used as signals. But the most frequently mentioned musical instrument used by the people was the conch, the shell of a large mollusc.

It was blown through its sawn-off point before the deity on auspicious occasions. The smaller drums played with fingers were also an essential part of the musical performances.

Form of Art # 9. Dancing:

Like music, Indian dancing was also developed as a form of worship. Shiva, the Mahayogi, is considered to be its originator. His cosmic dance reflects the unity of being. His dance is not merely a graceful and rhythmic movement of the body to the accompaniment of the music but is also a process of attaining unity of soul and body.

The significance of dance as a form of worship is brought out in the following verse of Unmai Vilekkam “The supreme Intelligence dances in the soul for the purpose of removing our sins. By these means, our Father scatters the darkness of illusion (Maya) burns the threads of causality (karma) stamps down evil (Avidya) shows grace and lovingly plunges the soul in the Ocean of Bliss (Ananda). They never see rebirth, who behold this mystic dance.”

The oldest work on Dancing is also Bharata-natya-sastra (or Natya Sastra by Bharata). This work devoted very little space to the discussion of vocal and instrumental music and deals with the dramatic representation (which also includes dancing) in great length.

It mentions thirteen postures of the head, thirty-six of the eyes, nine of the neck, thirty-seven of the hand, and ten of the body. Thus it shows that the Indian dancing is not merely a movement of legs and but that of the whole body. Every movement of the little finger or the eye-brow was considered significant.

Sarangadeva, who was adept in all the three sections of music, made a full and most comprehensive treatment of the nartana (dance). He traces how nartana (dance) came into this world from its abode in the heaven and the occasions when it is most relevant. He also deals with the various types of natya (dance, acting) and their characteristics.

He also deals with the rasas or sentiments in details and tries to establish their relationship with the bhava (emotions) vibhava (exciting causes) and anubhava (indications).

We get a detailed account of the dances in ancient India in the Sanskrit literature. The Rig-Veda mentions about the women dancers with broidered garments and low cut dress. We also learn about the men dancers who performed war-dances with breasts adorned with gold.

In the Ramayana also we get plenty of references to the songs and dances. It is recorded that music and dance lulled the kings to sleep and woke them again to the duties of the new day. Mahabharata mentions Arjuna, the mighty Pandava, as a master musician.

He is said to have offered himself as a teacher of music in the court of King Virata, while he was on exile. Arjuna’s wife Subhadra was also a good artist. In fact music and dance formed a part of lady’s education during the old days.

In the works of Kalidasa also we get a glimpse that the art of dancing was practiced in India. Dancing saloons, specially constructed for the purpose, seems to have formed an integral part of the royal palace.

But the dances were usually per­formed by professionals who had acquired mastery as a result of years of training and practice. However, we get plenty of references in the Indian literature to show that the princes and their ladies also took part in the dances in their palaces.

In appreciation of the natya (dance-acting) Malavikagnimitra has said, “The sages of yore regarded this as dearest to the hearts of the goods—the most acceptable offering to them. It derives its source from Siva himself, who, in his dual aspect of Siva and Parvati, gave to the world two varieties of it, the uddhata, stately and mascu­line, and lasva soft and seductive, suited to the – fair sex. It holds a mirror up to nature and life in all its phases—peaceful, passionate and dark. It is the highest exponent of the varying emotions and feelings. It is the one and only means of pleasing through the eyes and the ear people of diverse tastes and dispositions.”

In the Tamil literature also we find important information about the art of music and dancing, llankovadikal in his Silappadikaram gives us important information about the condition of music and dance in Tamil land about nineteen hundred years ago.

He shows us how the heroine of his work Madhavi, the courtesan, under­goes a course of training in song, dance and vina under the care of the master artists. He also gives a systematic account of the various instruments and dances.

The folk dances were also very popular during ancient India. These were mainly performed at different festivals. Though initially people of all the castes with the exception of Brahmans participated in dancing, in course of time only people of the low caste danced in public.

However, there seems to have been no social taboo on the art of dancing in ancient times because we come across numerous references when the ladies of tile royal family also took part in the dances in their palaces.


Early history Edit

Some very early depictions of deities seem to appear in the art of the Indus Valley Civilisation, but the following millennium, coinciding with the Indo-Aryan migration during the Vedic period, is devoid of such remains. [9] It has been suggested that the early Vedic religion focused exclusively on the worship of purely "elementary forces of nature by means of elaborate sacrifices", which did not lend themselves easily to anthropomorphological representations. [10] [11] Various artefacts may belong to the Copper Hoard Culture (2nd millennium CE), some of them suggesting anthropomorphological characteristics. [12] Interpretations vary as to the exact signification of these artifacts, or even the culture and the periodization to which they belonged. [12] Some examples of artistic expression also appear in abstract pottery designs during the Black and red ware culture (1450-1200 BCE) or the Painted Grey Ware culture (1200-600 BCE), with finds in a wide area, including the area of Mathura. [12]

Most of the early finds at Mathura correspond to what is called the "second period of urbanization" in the middle of the 1st millennium BCE, after a gap of about a thousand years following the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilisation. [12] The anthropomorphic depiction of various deities apparently started in the middle of the 1st millennium BCE, possibly as a consequence of the influx of foreign stimuli initiated with the Achaemenid conquest of the Indus Valley, and the rise of alternative local faiths challenging Vedism, such as Buddhism, Jainism and local popular cults. [9]

Mauryan period Edit

Mathura seems to have been a comparatively unimportant city of central northern India during the period of the Maurya Empire (ca. 320-180 BCE), whose capital was in eastern India at Pataliputra, but it was still called a "great city" by Megasthenes. [13] [8] Mauryan art and architecture flourished during that period in other cities such as Pataliputra, Kausambi, Vidisha or Amaravati, but there are no known examples of stone sculpture or architecture at Mathura that can be securely dated to the Mauryan period. [14] [8] Excavations have shown that the first construction consisted in a mud wall, dating to the end of the Maurya period, around the 3rd century BCE at the earliest. [13] It seems Mathura only rose to prominence as a cultural and urban center around 150-100 BCE. [15]

Terracotta figurines (4th-2nd century BCE) Edit

Although no stone sculpture or architecture from the Mauryan period are known in Mathura, some relatively high quality terracotta statuettes have been recovered from the Mauryan strata in excavations. [18] This would suggest that there was some level of artistic creation at Mathura during the period of the Maurya Empire. [18] The creation of terracotta figurines is thought to have been much easier than sculpting stone, and therefore became the mainstream form of artistic expression. [19] In Mathura, the first statuette were found in strata dating to the late 4th-2nd centuries BCE, and their production, together with associated terracotta miniatures of votive tanks and shrines, seems to have continued for close to a thousand years. [20]

Terracottas generally showed what appears to be female deities or mother goddesses, and from the 2nd century women in elaborate headdress. [19] [21] The ancient Vedic text of the Shatapatha Brahmana describes such figurines as "broad-hipped, of smooth breast-region and slender waisted" and suggests that they are personnifications of the earth, especially the earth goddesses Prithivi and Aditi, as "the container and supporter of the whole world", and the "repository of all Gods". [16] Their headdress is often decorated with lotus stalks, complete with conical lotus pistils with their seeds, which symbolize fecundity and beauty. [16] The lotus would remain an attribute of female deities in later periods. [16] Some terracotta statuettes also show a child or children clinging to the goddess, thereby emphasizing her role as a symbol of fecundity. [16] The cult of these female goddesses, characterized by small and easily manufactured figures, appears to have been essentially domestic. [20]

Several figures of foreigners also appear in the terracottas from the 4th and 3rd century BCE, which are either described simply as "foreigners" or Persian or Iranian because of their foreign features. [22] [23] [24] These figurines might reflect the increased contacts of Indians with Iranian people during this period. [23] Several of these seem to represent foreign soldiers who visited India during the Mauryan period and influenced modellers in Mathura with their peculiar ethnic features and uniforms. [25] One of the terracotta statuettes, a man nicknamed the "Persian nobleman" and dated to the 2nd century BCE, can be seen wearing a coat, scarf, trousers and a turban. [26] [27] [28] [22]

Terracotta figurine production evolved with the adoption of moulds in the 3rd-2nd century BCE. [29] [19]

Terracotta figurine, Mathura, 4th century BCE

Terracotta female coiffure, Mathura, 2nd century BCE

Early depictions of Indian deities (190-180 BCE) Edit

The anthropomorphic depiction of various deities apparently started to appear in the middle of the 1st millennium BCE. Panini and Patanjali seem to mention depictions of Shiva, Skanda, Visaka, Vasudeva and Arjuna. [34] In particularly, the worship of Balarama-Samkarshana and Vāsudeva-Krishna seems to have originated in Mathura, where they were revered as members of the five Vrishni heroes, and spread from there. [35]

Before the introduction of stone sculpture, there may have been an older tradition of using clay or wood to represent Indian deities, which, because of their inherent fragility, have not survived. [36] Apart from the local terracotta figurines generally showing female fertility deities, there are no early remains of such representations of Indian deities. Probably the earliest known Indian depiction of these Mathuran deities is a rock painting found at Tikla, around 170 kilometers south of Mathura, on the road from Mathura to Tumain and Ujjain. [30] This rock painting is dated to the 3rd-2nd century BCE, based on the paleography of the Brahmi inscription accompanying it. [30] Here, the deities are depicted wearing a dhoti with a peculiar headdress, and are shown holding their attributes: a plow and a sort of mace for Balarama, and a mace and a wheel for Vāsudeva. A third smaller character is added, forming what can be called a Vrishni trio, in the person of a female, thought to be the Goddess Ekanamsha, who seems to hold a Chatra royal umbrella. [30]

The "earliest unambiguous" images of these deities, is an indirect testimony appearing with the coinage of the Indo-Greek king Agathocles, who issued coins with the image of Indian deities in Indian style, together with legends in the Greek and Brahmi scripts, circa 180-190 BCE. [33] [32] [37] [31] The coins were probably issued in an area not far west of Mathura, if not in Mathura itself, since they depict Vāsudeva, whose cult was famous in Mathura, and employ the Brahmi script, which was in use in the region, rather than the northwestern Kharoshthi script. [38] The Indo-Greeks may have played a major role in breaking the Vedic tradition of representing deities through symbols only, rather than in human form, since Greek art did not have any such restrictions. [11]

The depictions of Indian deities, as witnessed by the Indo-Greeks transferred on their coinage, are generally thought to refer to Balarama-Samkarshana and Vāsudeva-Krishna, shown together with their rather unambiguous attributes, especially the Gada mace and the plow for the former, and the Vishnu attributes of the Shankha (a pear-shaped case or conch) and the Sudarshana Chakra wheel for the latter. [32] [39] The worship of these deities is known to have originated in Mathura before spreading to other areas of India, [35] [38] especially since Krishna and his brother Balarama were born in Mathura to the Vrishni king Vasudeva Anakadundubhi. [40] It is thought that local Indian images, predating the coins but now lost, may have served as models to the engravers. [39] According to Osmund Bopearachchi, the parasol-like headdress of these deities is actually a misrepresentation of a shaft with a half-moon parasol on top (chattra), as seen in later statues of Bodhisattvas in Mathura. [39] Although the style is generally Indian, the boots or the scabbards may have been added by the Indo-Greeks. [31] The heads of the deities are also adorned with billowing ribons. [31]

A dancing goddess in Indian dress also appears on the coinage of Agathocles and Pantaleon, and she is often interpreted as Lakshmi. [32] According to Harry Falk, such acts of devotion towards foreign gods, as can also be seen in the dedication of the Heliodorus pillar, was a logical practice for the Greeks, in order to appropriate the power of local deties: it "should not be regarded as a "conversion" to Hinduism, but rather as the result of a search for the most helpful local powers, upholding own traditions in a foreign garb." [41]

Early stone sculpture in Mathura (180-70 BCE) Edit

The period after 180 BCE has generally been called the "Sunga period", from the name of the Hindu Sunga Empire (c. 180-80 BCE) which replaced the Mauryan Empire in eastern India. This is now thought to be rather inadequate since the Sungas probably never ruled in Mathura: there is no literary, numismatic or epigraphic evidence of a Sunga presence in Mathura. [43]

Following the demise of the Mauryan Empire and its replacement by the Sunga Empire in eastern India, numismatic, literary and epigraphic evidence suggest that the Indo-Greeks, when they invaded India, occupied the area of Mathura for about a century from circa 160 BCE and the time of Menander I until approximately 60 BCE, with the Sungas remaining eastward of Mathura. [42] [8] An inscription in Mathura discovered in 1988, [44] [45] the "Yavanarajya inscription", mentions "The last day of year 116 of Yavana hegemony (Yavanarajya)", suggesting the presence of the Indo-Greeks in the 2nd-1st century BC in Mathura down to 57 BC. [42] On the contrary, the Sungas, are thought to have been absent from Mathura, as no epigraphical remains or coins have been found, and to have been based to the east of the Mathura region. [42] Coins of local Indian rulers of the Mitra dynasty, their names ending in "-mitra", but not using any regnal title such as "King", are also known from the same period and general area (150-50 BCE, mostly in the area of Sonkh), and were possibly engaged in a tributary relationship with the Indo-Greeks. [46] [47]

Stone art and architecture began being produced at Mathura at the time of "Indo-Greek hegemony" over the region. [48] [8] Some authors consider that Indo-Greek cultural elements are not particularly visible in these works, and Hellenistic influence is not more important than in other parts of India. [49] Others consider that Hellenistic influence appears in the liveliness and the realistic details of the figures (an evolution compared to the stiffness of Mauryan art), the use of perspective from 150 BCE, iconographical details such as the knot and the club of Heracles, the wavy folds of the dresses, or the depiction of bacchanalian scenes: [8] [50]

"Mathura sculpture is distinguished by several qualitative features of art, culture and religious history. The geographical position of the city on the highway leading from the Madhyadesa towards Madra-Gandhara contributed in a large measure to the eclectic nature of its culture. Mathura became the meeting ground of the traditions of the early Indian art of Bharhut and Sanchi together with strong influences of the Iranian and the Indo-Bactrian or the Gandhara art from the North-West. The Persepolitan capitals with human-headed animal figures and volutes as well as the presence of the battlement motif as a decorative element point to Iranian affinities. These influences came partly as a result of the general saturation of foreign motifs in early Indian sculpture as found in the Stupas of Bharhut and Sanchi also."

The art of Mathura became extremely influential over the rest of India, and was "the most prominent artistic production center from the second century BCE". [8] There is a remarkable unity in the style of artistic production across northern India during this early period, circa 150 BCE: the early style of Mathura is highly similar to contemporary examples found in Bharhut, Sanchi Stupa No. 2, Vidisha, Bhaja, Pauni, Amaravati, Jaggayyapeta, Bhubaneswar, Udayagiri (in Orissa), Pataliputra, Sarnath, Bhīta (near Allahabad) [59] and Kausambi. [60]

Colossal anthropomorphic statues (2nd century BCE) Edit

Some of the earliest works of art of the Mathura school are the Yakshas, monumental sculptures in the round of earth divinities that have been dated to the 2nd-1st century BCE. Yakshas seem to have been the object of an important cult in the early periods of Indian history, many of them being known such as Kubera, king of the Yakshas, Manibhadra or Mudgarpani. [61] The Yakshas are a broad class of nature-spirits, usually benevolent, but sometimes mischievous or capricious, connected with water, fertility, trees, the forest, treasure and wilderness, [62] [63] and were the object of popular worship. [64] Many of them were later incorporated into Buddhism, Jainism or Hinduism. [61]

In the 2nd century BCE, Yakshas became the focus of the creation of colossal cultic images, typically around 2 meters or more in height, which are considered as probably the first Indian anthropomorphic productions in stone. [50] [61] The colossal size and quality of these statues shows that they cannot just have been the object of a rural popular cult, but were rather produced in urban workshops and worshipped in shrines by an affluent urban community. [65] Although few ancient Yaksha statues remain in good condition, the vigor of the style has been applauded, and expresses essentially Indian qualities. [50] They are often pot-bellied, two-armed and fierce-looking. [61] The Parkham Yaksha, dated to circa 150 BCE on stylistic grounds and paleographical grounds, is monumental at 2.59 meters high. [66] [67] [68] An inscription says "Made by Gomitaka, a pupil of Kunika. Set up by eight brothers, members of the Manibhadra congregation ("puga")." This inscription thus indicates that the statue represents the Yaksa Manibhadra. [69] The Yashas are often depicted with weapons or attributes, such as the Yaksha Mudgarpani, dated circa 100 BCE, who in the right hand holds a mudgar mace, and in the left hand the figure of a small standing devotee or child joining hands in prayer. [52] [61] It is often suggested that the style of the colossal Yaksha statuary had an important influence on the creation of later divine images and human figures in India. [36] The female equivalent of the Yashas were the Yashinis, often associated with trees and children, and whose voluptuous figures became omnipresent in Indian art. [61]

Some Hellenistic influence, such as the geometrical folds of the drapery or the contrapposto walking stance of the statues, has been suggested. [50] According to John Boardman, the hem of the dress in the monumental early Yaksha statues is derived from Greek art. [50] Describing the drapery of one of these statues, John Boardman writes: "It has no local antecedents and looks most like a Greek Late Archaic mannerism", and suggests it is possibly derived from the Hellenistic art of nearby Bactria where this design is known. [50] Under the Indo-Greeks, the cult of the Yakshas may also have been associated with the Bacchic cult of Dionysos. [70] Since the time of Alexander the Great visiting a city called Nysa in northern India, the Greeks had identified local devotional practices as similar to their cult of Dionysos. [71] They may have promoted a syncretic art which conflated Hellenistic Dionysiac imagery with the local cult of the Yakshas. [72]

In the production of colossal Yaksha statues carved in the round, which can be found in several locations in northern India, the art of Mathura is considered as the most advanced in quality and quantity during this period. [73] In later periods, from the turn of the millennium, Yashkas and Nagas evolved from being benevolent, powerful deities at the center of worship, to becoming frightening demonic creatures acting as subsidiary attendants in the major religions of Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. [65] They also became much smaller in size as they were dethroned by the new religions, suggesting the continuation of a cult at the domestic level. [65]

Simple reliefs (circa 150-100 BCE) Edit

Various reliefs in a style similar to those of Bharhut or Sanchi Stupa No. 2 can be found in Mathura, dating to approximately 150-100 BCE. [76] A dedicatory inscription by Dhanabhuti at Mathura records the donation of railings and a gateway to the Buddhists samgha. [43] [77] It is now lost. [78] The Dhanabhuti in the Mathura inscription could be the same person as King Dhanabhuti in the Bharhut inscription, about 322 kilometers away, and this could suggest some cultural, religious and artistic connection between the two areas. [60] [79] Reliefs are usually rather simple and consist in medallions on railings or balusters, structural elements of stone barriers or "vedikas" probably established around large stupas which have not remained to this day. [80]

The "Mehrauli Yakshi", one of the highest quality work among early sculpture, was found in Mehrauli in the cultural area of Mathura. [81] The high-relief and skillfully carved sculpture shows a female nature divinity, called a Yakshini, holding on the branches of a tree in the Salabhanjika pose, with a long double braid of hair descending down to the girdle. [75] [81] The sculpture probably used to adorn the railing of a sacred site, such as a Stupa. [81] She is dated to 150 BCE, and prefigures by more than a century the Salabhanjika Yakshinis of Sanchi. [82] [75] [81] It is at the same time one of the most artistically beautiful and earliest of the Yakshi sculptures, with detailed patterning contrasting with the smoothness of the skin, standing at the beginning of a long tradition of Yashi sculptures in Mathura and India as a whole. [81] There are many similarities with the Yakshis found in Bharhut, although the Mehrauli Yakshi has rounder volumes, characteristic of the Mathura style and technical proficiency in carving. [81]

Some other sculpted figures also are dated to circa 150 BCE, due to their similarity with equivalent figures in Bharhut. This is the case of a male Chauri-bearer with its sharp lines and stiff expression, held at the Mathura Museum. [83] Sir John Marshall considered the early reliefs of Mathura and Bharhut as part of the same tradition, calling it the "Bharhut-Mathura School", while the reliefs of Sanchi were a second tradition, calling it the "Malwa School of Sanchi". [84]

Crossbar medallion with elephant and riders, Gayatri Tila, Mathura, circa 150 BCE. [85]

Male Chauri bearer, Mathura, c.150 BCE. [83] [86]

Yaksha holding a mudgar mace and a child. 100 BCE. [87]

Crossbar with female head in lotus medallion, circa 2nd Century BCE, Mathura. [88]

Buddhist railing with Bodhi tree and Wheel of Law. 1st century BCE

Railing crossbars, 2nd-1st century BCE.

Crossbar medallion with horse rider. 2nd-1st century BCE.

An anguiped, also seen in Hellenistic and Roman art, c. 1st century BCE. [89]

Complex narrative reliefs (circa 100 BCE) Edit

By 100 BCE, the reliefs represent more complex scenes, defining, according to Sonya Rhie Quintanilla, an age of "iconic diversification and narrative maturation", as shown by the Kankali Tila architrave representing centaurs worshipping a Jain stupa, the dance of Nilanjana, and the renunciation of Rsabhanata, or the Katra architrave representing Brahmins with pots in a sacred precinct. [91] [92] Another relief from the same period shows a Linga inside a railing on platform and under a pipal tree, being worshipped by Gandharvas, an early depiction of the phallic cult in Shivaism. [90]

Several of these reliefs are the first known examples of Jain sculpture. [93] These reliefs show more depth, and a greater richness in their composition. [92] These examples of narrative reliefs, although few remain, are as refined and intricate as the better known narrative reliefs of Bharhut, Sanchi or Amaravati. [94] [92] The centaurs appearing in the Mathura reliefs, as in other places such as Bodh Gaya, are generally considered as Western borrowings. [95]

Kankali Tila architrave with Centaurs worshipping a Jain Stupa, Mathura, circa 100 BCE [96]

The Katra architrave, possibly representing Brahmins and the cult of the Shiva Linga, Mathura, circa 100 BCE [97]

From around 70 BCE, the region of Mathura fell to the Indo-Scythian Northern Satraps under Hagamasha, Hagana and then Rajuvula. [46] During this time, Mathura is described as "a great center of Śaka culture in India". [102] Little is known precisely from that period on terms of artistic creation. The Indo-Scythian Rajuvula, ruler of Mathura, created coins which were copies of the contemporary Indo-Greek ruler Strato II, with effigy of the king and representation of Athena on the obverse. [101] Indo-Scythians are known to have sponsored Buddhism, but also other religions, as visible from their inscriptions and archaeological remains in northwestern and western India, as well as from their contributions to pre-Kushana sculpture in Mathura. [103]

End of 1st century BCE Edit

Some works of art dated to the end of the 1st century BCE show very delicate workmanship, such as the sculptures of Yakshis. [104] A the very end of this period the Indo-Scythian ruler Rajuvula is also known for the famous Mathura lion capital which records events of the Indo-Scythian dynasty as well as their support of Buddhism. It is also an interesting example of the state of artistic attainment in the city of Mathura at the turn of our era. The capital portrays two lions reminiscent of the lions of the Pillars of Ashoka, but in a much cruder style. It also displays at its center a Buddhist triratana symbol, further confirming the involvement of Indo-Scythian rulers with Buddhism. The triratna is contained in a flame palmette, an element of Hellenistic iconography, and an example of Hellenistic influence on Indian art. [105]

The fact that the Mathura lion capital is inscribed in Kharoshthi, a script used in the far northwest around the area of Gandhara, attests to the presence of northwestern artists at that time in Mathura. [106]

Yashi with onlookers, dated 20 BCE. [107]

Yashi with onlookers (detail), dated 20 BCE.

Yashi with onlookers (detail), dated 20 BCE.

Yashi with onlookers (detail), dated 20 BCE.

Mathura sculpture styles in the 1st century CE Edit

The abundance of dedicatory inscriptions in the name of Sodasa, the Indo-Scythian ruler of Mathura, and son of Rajuvula (eight such inscriptions are known, often on sculptural works), [108] and the fact that Sodasa is known through his coinage as well as through his relations with other Indo-Scythian rulers whose dates are known, means that Sodasa functions as a historic marker to ascertain the sculptural styles at Mathura during his rule, in the first half of the 1st century CE. [109] [105] These inscriptions also correspond to some of the first known epigraphical inscriptions in Sanskrit. [110] [111] The next historical marker corresponds to the reign of Kanishka under the Kushans, whose reign began circa 127 CE. [109] The sculptural styles at Mathura during the reign of Sodasa are quite distinctive, and significantly different from the style of the previous period circa 50 BCE, or the styles of the later period of the Kushan Empire in the 2nd century CE. [109]

In-the-round statuary Edit

Several examples of in-the-round statuary have been found from the period of Sodasa, such as the torsos of "Vrishni heroes", discovered in Mora, about 7 kilometers west of Mathura. [118] These statues are mentioned in the Mora Well Inscription nearby, made in the name of the Northern Satraps Sodasa circa 15 CE, in which they are called Bhagavatam. [119] [120] [121] The statue fragments are thought to represent some of the five Vrishni heroes, possibly ancient kings of Mathura later assimilated to Vishnu and his avatars, [114] [122] or, equally possible, the five Jain heroes led by Akrūra, which are well attested in Jain texts. [118] In fact, the cult of the Vrishnis may have been cross-sectarian, much like the cult of the Yakshas. [118]

The two uninscribed male torsos that were discovered are both of high craftsmanship and in Indian style and costume. [122] They are bare-chested but wear a thick necklace, as well as heavy hearrings. [118] The two torsos that were found are similar with minor variations, suggesting they may have been part of a series, which is coherent with the Vrishni interpretation. [116] They share some sculptural characteristics with the Yaksha statues found in Mathura and dating to the 2nd and 1st century BCE, such as the sculpting in the round, or the clothing style, but the actual details of style and workmanship clearly belong to the time of Sodasa. [118] [114] The Vrishni statues also are not of the colossal type, as they would only have stood about 1.22 meters complete. [118] The Mora Vrishnis function as an artistic benchmark for in-the-round statues of the period. [118]

1st Jaina Tirthankara Rishabhanatha torso - Circa 1st Century

Four-fold Jain image with Suparshvanath and three other Tirthankaras - Circa 1st Century CE

Goat-headed Jain Mother Goddess, circa 1st Century CE

Jain reliefs Edit

Many of the sculptures from this period are related to the Jain religion, with numerous relief showing devotional scenes, such as the Kankali Tila tablet of Sodasa in the name of Sodasa. [109] Most of these are votive tablets, called ayagapata. [123]

Jain votive plates, called "Ayagapatas", are numerous, and some of the earliest ones have been dated to circa 50-20 BCE. [124] They were probably prototypes for the first known Mathura images of the Buddha. [125] Many of them were found around the Kankali Tila Jain stupa in Mathura.

Notable among the design motifs in the ayagapatas are the pillar capitals displaying "Persian-Achaemenian" style, with side volutes, flame palmettes, and recumbent lions or winged sphinxes. [126] [127]

"Sihanāṃdikā ayagapata", Jain votive plate, dated 25-50 CE. [129] [130]

Jain votive plaque with Jain stupa, the "Vasu Śilāpaṭa" ayagapata, 1st century CE, excavated from Kankali Tila, Mathura. [131]

Jain relief showing monks of the ardhaphalaka sect. Early 1st century CE. [132]

Jain decorated tympanum from Kankali Tila, Mathura, 15 CE. [133]

The Jina Parsvanatha (detail of an ayagapata), highly similar to the Isapur Buddha, Mathura circa 15 CE, Lucknow Museum. [137] [128]

Sivayasa Ayagapata, with Jain stupa fragment, Kankali Tila, 75-100 CE.

Grapevine and garland designs (circa 15 CE) Edit

A decorated doorjamb, the Vasu doorjamb, dedicated to deity Vāsudeva, also mentions the rule of Sodasa, and has similar carving to the Mora doorjamb, found in relation with the Mora well inscription in a similar chronological and religious context. The decoration of these and many similar doorjambs from Mathura consists in scrolls of grapevines. They are all dated to the reign of Sodasa, circa 15 CE and constitute a secure dated artistic reference for the evaluation of datation of other Mathura sculptures. [117] It has been suggested that the grapevine design had been introduced from the Gandhara area in the northwest, and maybe associated with the northern taste of the Satrap rulers. [138] These designs may also be the result of the work of northern artists in Mathura. [138] The grapevine designs of Gandhara are generally considered as originating from Hellenistic art. [139]

The Vasu doorjamb, dedicated to Vāsudeva "in the reign of Sodasa", Mathura, circa 15 CE. Mathura Museum, GMM 13.367 [117]

Garland bearers and Buddhist "Romaka" Jataka, in which the Buddha in a previous life was a pigeon. [140] 25-50 CE. [141] Similar garland-bearer designs are known from Gandhara, from Amaravati and from Greco-Roman art.

Calligraphy (end 1st century BCE - 1st century CE) Edit

The calligraphy of the Brahmi script had remained virtually unchanged from the time of the Maurya Empire to the end of the 1st century BCE. [143] The Indo-Scythians, following their establishment in northern India introduced "revolutionary changes" in the way Brahmi was written. [143] In the 1st century BCE, the shape of Brahmi characters became more angular, and the vertical segments of letters were equalized, a phenomenon which is clearly visible in coin legends and made the script visually more similarly to Greek. [143] In this new typeface, the letter were "neat and well-formed". [143] The probable introduction of ink and pen writing, with the characteristic thickenned start of each stroke generated by the usage of ink, was reproduced in the calligraphy of stone inscriptions by the creation of a triangle-shaped form at the beginning of each stroke. [143] [146] This new writing style is particularly visible in the numerous dedicatory inscriptions made in Mathura, in association with devotional works of art. [143] This new calligraphy of the Brahmi script was adopted in the rest of the subcontinent of the next half century. [143] The "new-pen-style" initiated a rapid evolution of the script from the 1st century CE, with regional variations starting to emerge. [143]

First images of the Buddha (from circa 15 CE) Edit

From around the 2nd-1st century BCE at Bharhut and Sanchi, scenes of the life of the Buddha, or sometimes of his previous lives, had been illustrated without showing the Buddha himself, except for some of his symbols such as the empty throne, or the Chankrama pathway. [148] This artistic device ended with the sudden appearance of the Buddha, probably rather simultaneously in Gandhara and Mathura, at the turn of the millennium. [148]

Possibly the first known representation of the Buddha (the Bimaran casket and the Tillya Tepe Buddhist coin are other candidates), the "Isapur Buddha" is also dated on stylistic grounds to the reign of Sodasa, circa 15 CE he is shown on a relief in a canonical scene known as "Lokapalas offer Alms Bowls to the Buddha Sakyamuni". [149] The symbolism of this early statue is still tentative, drawing heavily on the earlier, especially Jain, pictural traditions of Mathura, still far from the exuberant standardized designs of the Kushan Empire. [149] It is rather unassuming and not yet monumental compared to the Buddha sculptures of the following century, and may represent one of the first attempts to create a human icon, marking an evolution from the splendid aniconic tradition of Buddhist art in respect to the person of the Buddha, which can be seen in the art of Sanchi and Bharhut. [149] This depiction of the Buddha is highly similar to Jain images of the period, such as the relief of Jina Parsvanatha on an ayagapata, also dated to circa 15 CE. [137] [128]

It is thought that the images of Jain saints, which can be seen in Mathura from the 1st century BCE, were prototypes for the first Mathura images of the Buddha, since the attitudes are very similar, and the almost transparent very thin garment of the Buddha not much different visually from the nakedness of the Jinas. [125] Here the Buddha is not wearing the monastic robe which would become characteristic of many of the later Buddha images. [125] The cross-legged sitting posture may have derived from earlier reliefs of cross-legged ascetics or teachers at Bharhut, Sanchi and Bodh Gaya. [150] It has also been suggested that the cross-legged Buddhas may have derived from the depictions of seated Scythian kings from the northwest, as visible in the coinage of Maues (90-80 BCE) or Azes (57-10 BC). [150]

There has been a recurring debate about the exact identity of these Mathura statues, some claiming that they are only statues of Bodhisattavas, which is indeed the exact term used in most of the inscriptions of the statues found in Mathura. Only one or two statues of the Mathura type are known to mention the Buddha himself. [151] This could be in conformity with an ancient Buddhist prohibition against showing the Buddha himself in human form, otherwise known as aniconism in Buddhism, expressed in the Sarvastivada vinaya (rules of the early Buddhist school of the Sarvastivada): ""Since it is not permitted to make an image of the Buddha's body, I pray that the Buddha will grant that I can make an image of the attendant Bodhisattva. Is that acceptable?" The Buddha answered: "You may make an image of the Bodhisattava"". [152] However the scenes in the Isapur Buddha and the later Indrasala Buddha (dated 50-100 CE), refer to events which are considered to have happened after the Buddha's enlightenment, and therefore probably represent the Buddha rather than his younger self as a Bodhisattava, or a simple attendant Bodhisattva. [153]

Other reliefs Edit

The Buddhist "Indrasala architrave", dated 50-100 CE, with a scene of the Buddha at the Indrasala Cave being attended by Indra, and a scene of devotion to the Bodhi Tree on the other side, is another example of the still hesitant handling of the human icon of the Buddha in the Buddhist art of Mathura. [154] The Buddhist character of this architrave is clearly demonstrated by the depiction of the Bodhi Tree inside its specially built temple at Bodh Gaya, a regular scene of Buddhism since the reliefs of Bharhut and Sanchi. [154] The depiction of the Buddha in meditation in the Indrasala Cave is also characteristically Buddhist. [154] The Buddha already has the attributes, if not the style, of the later "Kapardin" statues, except for the absence of a halo. [3]

Vedic deities Edit

Besides the hero cult of the Vrishni heroes or the cross-sectarian cult of the Yakshas, Hindu art only started to develop fully from the 1st to the 2nd century CE, and there are only very few examples of artistic representation before that time. [156] The three Vedic gods Indra, Brahma and Surya were actually first depicted in Buddhist sculpture, as attendants in scenes commemorating the life of the Buddha, even when the Buddha himself was not yet shown in human form but only through his symbols, such as the scenes of his Birth, his Descent from the Trāyastriṃśa Heaven, or his retreat in the Indrasala Cave. [156] These Vedic deities appear in Buddhist reliefs at Mathura from around the 1st century CE, such as Indra attending the Buddha at Indrasala Cave, where Indra is shown with a mitre-like crown, and joining hands. [156]

Early "Kapardin" statuary (end of 1st century CE) Edit

The earliest types of "Kapardin" statuary (named after the "kapardin", the characteristic tuft of coiled hair of the Buddha) showing the Buddha with attendants are thought to be pre-Kushan, dating to the time of the "Kshatrapas" or Northern Satraps. [3] Various broken bases of Buddha statues with inscriptions have been attributed to the Kshatrapas. [3] A fragment of such a stele was found with the mention of the name of the donor as a "Kshatrapa lady" named Naṃda who dedicated the Bodhisattva image "for the welfare and happiness of all sentient beings for the acceptance of the Sarvastivadas", and it is considered as contemporary with the famous "Katra stele". [3] [158]

One of these early examples shows the Buddha being worshipped by the Gods Brahma and Indra. [3]

The famous "Katra Bodhisattava stele" is the only fully intact image of a "Kapardin" Bodhisattva remaining from the Kshatrapa period, and is considered as the foundation type of the "Kapardin" Buddha imagery, and is the "classical statement of the type". [3]

In conclusion, the canonical type of the seated Bodhisattva with attendants commonly known as the "Kapardin" type, seems to have developed during the time the Indo-Scythian Northern Satraps were still ruling in Mathura, before the arrival of the Kushans. [159] This type continued during the Kushan period, down to the time of Huvishka, before being overtaken by fully-dressed types of Buddha statuary depicting the Buddha wearing the monastic coat "Samghati". [159]

Mathura became part of the Kushan Empire from the reign of Vima Kadphises (90-100 CE) and then became the southern capital of the Kushan Empire. Free-standing statues of the Buddha are mass-produced around this time, possibly encouraged by doctrinal changes in Buddhism allowing to depart from the aniconism that had prevailed in the Buddhist sculptures at Mathura, Bharhut or Sanchi from the end of the 2nd century BCE. [162] The Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara appears to have fully developed around this time too, also under the rule of the Kushans, following on earlier imagery such as the Bimaran casket or the Butkara seated Buddha at the Butkara Stupa in Swat. [162] In 2008 a second sculpture in the distinctive Mathura red sandstone was excavated at Taxila in Gandhara (modern Pakistan). [163]

Dynastic art of the Kushans in Mathura Edit

The Kushans vigorously promoted royal portraiture, as can be seen in their dynastic sculptures from Bactria to the region of Mathura. [164] Monumental sculptures of Kushan rulers, particularly Vima Kadphises and Kanishka I has been found in the ruins of the Temple of Mat in Mathura. The statues are characterized by their frontality and martial stance, with Kanishka being shown holding firmly his sword and a huge mace. [164] They are wearing heavy coats and heavy riding boots typical of the clothing of Central Asian nomads at that time, irrespective of the warm climate of India. [164] The coats are richly decorated with hundreds of pearls, which probably symbolize wealth. [164] These grandiose displays of Kushan dynastic power were accompanied by surperlative regnal titles: the statue of Kanishka is inscribed in Brahmi script with the sentence "The Great King, King of Kings, Son of God, Kanishka". [161] [164]

To some extent, as the Kushans progressively adapted to life in India, their dress progressively became lighter, and representation less frontal and more natural, although they generally retained characteristic elements of their nomadic dress, such as the trousers and boots, the heavy tunics, and heavy belts.

Monumental statue of Vima Kadphises, 1st century CE, Mathura Museum

Statue of the Saka Prince Chastana, with costume details. 2nd century CE. Mathura Museum

Kushan devotee, Mathura Museum

Saka or Kushan Prince in pointed cap. Mathura Museum

"Kapardin" Bodhisattva statuary (2nd century CE) Edit

Buddhism and Buddhist art are already gained prominence in Mathura during the 1st century CE under the patronage of the Northern Satraps. [168] The Kushans adopted the anthropomorphic image of the Buddha, and developed it into a standardized mode of representation, using "confident and powerful imagery" on a grand scale. [169]

The early representation of the Buddha by the Kushans are those of the "Kapardin" Bodhisattva type, "Kapardin" referring to the coiled hair tuft on top of his head. [170] The Buddha is shown with his appearance after Renunciation from princely life, after having abandoned his turban and his jewellery, but before enlightenment and Buddhahood, as he is only wearing a regular shawl and a dhoti, rather than the later "samghati" monastic dress. [170] When inscribed, these statues invariably mention the "Bodhisattva" rather than the Buddha, except for one or two very rare examples. [170] It is thought that the focus on Bodhisattva images may have been in conformity with an ancient Buddhist prohibition against showing the Buddha himself in human form, otherwise known as aniconism in Buddhism, expressed in the Sarvastivada vinaya (rules of the early Buddhist school of the Sarvastivada): ""Since it is not permitted to make an image of the Buddha's body, I pray that the Buddha will grant that I can make an image of the attendant Bodhisattva. Is that acceptable?" The Buddha answered: "You may make an image of the Bodhisattava"". [152]

Statues of the "Kapardin" type inscribed with dates range from the year 2 of Kanishka, to year 39 (129-166 CE). [170] One dated example of statuary from that period is the Bala Bodhisattva, which, although discovered in Sarnath is thought to have been transported from the workshops of Mathura. [171] The statue clearly embodies the state of artistic attainment under the rule of Kushan ruler Kanishka. The Bala Boddhisattva is also nearly identical in style with other known statues from Mathura but definitely dated with its inscription. This is also the case of the Kimbell seated Bodhisattva, inscribed "4th year of Kanishka" and described as a Bodhisattva in its dedicatory inscription. Inscribed "Kapardin Bodhisattva" statues are unknown beyond "Year 39 of Kanishka" (166 CE), and after that time, the Gandharan type with monastic robe covering both shoulders would become prevalent well into the Gupta period, inscriptions now being made in the name of the Buddha, rather than the Bodhisattva. [170]

The style of these statues is somewhat reminiscent of the earlier monumental Yaksha statues, usually dated to a few centuries earlier. On the contrary, despite other known instances of Hellenistic influence on Indian art, very little in Hellenistic style, if anything at all, can be seen in this type of statue. Especially the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara seems to have had little to no influence. [172]

Apart from the seated Buddha triads of Mathura, several seated Buddha triads in an elaborate style are also known from Gandhara, which also belong to the early Kushan period, such as the Brussels Buddha which may be dated to the year 5 of Kanishka. [173] [174]

The coiled tuft of hair, known as "Kapardin". [170]

Seated Bodhisattva, inscribed "Year 32" of Kanishka (159 CE), Mathura. [1]

The "Anyor Buddha": one of the two known "Kapardin" statues mentioning "the Buddha": "Susha (. ) gave this Buddha image", [175] [170]

Standing Buddha of the "Kapardin" type. Early Kushan period.

Type of the Brussels Buddha, a similar Buddhist triad from Gandhara, probably also dating to the year 5 of Kanishka.

Buddha coinage (Circa 130 CE) Edit

From his capital of Mathura or alternatively from the capital of his territories of the northwest, Peshawar, Kanishka issued the first known representation of the Buddha on a coin, and actually one of the first known representations of the Buddha that can be dated precisely, in this case, to the reign of Kanishka (127–150 CE). The Bimaran casket is usually dated to 50 CE, but with less certainty than the Kanishka coin.

Only six Kushan coins of the Buddha are known in gold (the sixth one is the centerpiece of an ancient piece of jewellery, consisting of a Kanishka Buddha coin decorated with a ring of heart-shaped ruby stones). All these coins were minted in gold under Kanishka I, and are in two different denominations: a dinar of about 8 gm, roughly similar to a Roman aureus, and a quarter dinar of about 2 gm. (about the size of an obol). The Buddha is represented wearing the monastic robe, the antaravasaka, the uttarasanga, and the overcoat sanghati. In general, the representation of the Buddha on these coins is already highly symbolic, and quite distinct from the more naturalistic and Hellenistic images seen in early Gandhara sculptures. On several designs a mustache is apparent. The palm of his right hand bears the Chakra mark, and his brow bear the urna. An aureola, formed by one, two or three lines, surrounds him. The full gown worn by the Buddha on the coins, covering both shoulders, suggests a Gandharan model rather than a Mathuran one, and the style is clearly Hellenistic.

Kanishka also issued other types of Buddhist coinage, representation a "Shakyamuni Buddha" standing and walking, as well as a seated "Maitreya Buddha". It should be noted however that Maitreya is a Bodhisattva and not a Buddha according to the Buddhist cannon.

Buddha statues in "Samghati" monastic dress (mid-2nd century onward) Edit

The last known inscribed "Kapardin Bodhisattava" statue is dated to the year 39 of the era started by Kanishka (166 CE). [170] From around that time, the art of Mathura adopted the image of the Buddha with the monastic robe covering both shoulders, a likely derivation from the art of Gandhara. [170] Statues from the art of Gandhara, dating to the 1st-2nd century CE, have been found in Mathura, such as the Saptarishi Tila statue, suggesting they may have influenced local art. [176] [177]

When inscribed, these standing statues mention the "Buddha" rather than the "Bodhisattva". [170] Several are dated to the 2nd century CE, and became the prevalent Buddha type, displaying characteristics which would later be seen in Gupta art, especially with the ever thinner monastic dress seemingly sticking to the body of the Buddha. [170] These statues of the Buddha display characteristics and attitudes seen in the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara: the head of the Buddha is surrounded by a halo, the clothing covers both shoulders, the left hand hold the gown of the Buddha while the other hand form an Abbhiya mudra, and the folds in the clothing are more typical of the Gandharan styles. [178] [170]

In many respect, the standing Buddha of Mathura seems to be a combination of the local sculptural tradition initiated by the Yakshas with the Hellenistic designs of the Buddhas from the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara. [178]

From this period, the quality of the sculptures starts to decrease, possibly owing to the progressive decline of the Kushan Empire. [170]

"Maholi Buddha": an early experiment with the "Samghati" type, using a checkered design, circa 150 CE. [179]

The Buddha in checkered monastic dress in the "Subjugation of Nalagiri", Bhutesvara Yakshis, 2nd century CE, Mathura.

"Anyor Buddha" in Gandhara style, with inscription "year 51" (178 CE). Mathura. [180]

"Buddha Refuses Anupama", late Kushan.

The Buddha in meditation, late Kushan. Mathura.

First known Mahayana inscriptions and sculptures (153 CE) Edit

The earliest known inscription related to the Mahayana branch of Buddhism also appears around this time, with the inscribed pedestal of a standing Bodhisattva with the first known occurrence of the name of "Amitabha Buddha" in the "year 26 of Huvishka" (153 CE). [181] The remains of the statue were found in Govindnagar, on the outskirts of Mathura. [182] The relevant passage of the inscription unambiguously reads "Bu-ddha-sya A-mi-tā-bha-sya" in Brahmi script. [182]

Decorated tympanum showing the Bodhisattva Maitreya, from Jamalpur Tila, Mathura, 150 CE. [183]

Bodhisattva Maitreya (water bottle on left thigh), Mathura, 2nd century CE.

Ornate Bodhisattvas (2nd-4th century CE) Edit

A later type of ornate Bodhisattvas is known, seen in seated or standing statuary, which seems closely related to the bejeweled princely types of Bodhisattvas seen in the art of Gandhara. [186] [187] A dated statue of this type bears an inscription in the "Year 28 of the Kushan Emperor Vasishka", who ruled circa 247–265 CE. [188] The jewelry of these Bodhisattva statues includes heavy necklaces, ornate turbans, bejeweled armbands, a string across the chest with small reliquaries. [187] The types of princely ornaments of these statues were adopted for the depiction of Hindu gods Vishnu or Surya in the following period. [187]

Ornate Bodhisattva with inscription of "Year 28 of Kushan King Vasishka". [188]

Bejewelled Bodhisattva, 3rd–early 4th century. [189]

Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara holding lotus flower. [187]

Other sculptural works Edit

The Mathura sculptures incorporate many Hellenistic elements, such as the general idealistic realism, and key design elements such as the curly hair, and folded garment:

"The second strong element of Mathura art is the free use of the Hellenistic motifs and themes e.g, the honey-suckle, acanthus, Bacchanalian scenes conceived round an Indianised pot-bellied Kubera, garland-bearing Erotes, Tritons, Heracles and the Nemean Lion, the Eagle of Zeus and the Rape of Ganymede, were strictly classical subjects but rendered in Mathura art with admirable insight and freedom."

Specific Mathuran adaptations tend to reflect warmer climatic conditions, as they consist in a higher fluidity of the clothing, which progressively tend to cover only one shoulder instead of both. Also, facial types also tend to become more Indianized. Banerjee in Hellenism in ancient India describes "the mixed character of the Mathura School in which we find on the one hand, a direct continuation of the old Indian art of Barhut and Sanchi and on the other hand, the classical influence derived from Gandhara". [190]

In some cases however, a clear influence from the art of Gandhara can also be felt, as in the case of the Hellenistic statue of Herakles strangling the Nemean lion, discovered in Mathura, and now in the Kolkota Indian Museum, as well as Bacchanalian scenes. [191] [192] [193] Although inspired from the art of Gandhara, the portraiture of Herakles is not perfectly exact and may show a lack of understanding of the subject matter, as Herakles is shown already wearing the skin of the lion he is fighting. [194] [195]

The numerous Bacchanalian scenes with wine drinking and amorous carrousal [ check spelling ] , also echo similar scenes in the art of Gandhara, and seem to be related to the Dionysiac cult, but represent the Indian god Kubera. [196] Sculptured Bacchanalian panels seem to have functionned as supporting pedestals for offering bowls, as seen from the circular indent carved in the middle of the top area. [197] They were likely set up in or near Buddhist shrines. [197]

Bacchanalian/ Kubera scene. A man in Scythian/ Kushan costume appears behind Kubera in this scene (on the right) [198]

Image of a Nāga between two Nāgīs, inscribed in "the year 8 of Emperor Kanishka". 135 CE. [199] [200] [201]

A Mathura relief showing the complete life of the Buddha, from birth to death. The clothing is Gandharan. 2nd Century CE

The Mathura Herakles. A statue of Herakles strangling the Nemean lion discovered in Mathura. For a recent photograph see [1]. Early 2nd century CE. [202] [203]

Bhutesvara Yakshis, Mathura ca. 2nd century CE. On the reverse are sculpted scenes of the life of the Buddha, wearing the monastic dress.

Hindu art at Mathura under the Kushans Edit

Hindu art started to develop fully from the 1st to the 2nd century CE, and there are only very few examples of artistic representation before that time. [156] Almost all of the first known instances of Hindu art have been discovered in the areas of Mathura and Gandhara. [207] Hindu art found its first inspiration in the Buddhist art of Mathura. The three Vedic gods Indra, Brahma and Surya were actually first depicted in Buddhist sculpture from the 2nd-1st century BCE, as attendants in scenes commemorating the life of the Buddha, even when the Buddha himself was not yet shown in human form but only through his symbols, such as the scenes of his Birth, his Descent from the Trāyastriṃśa Heaven, or his retreat in the Indrasala Cave. [156] During the time of the Kushans, Hindu art progressively incorporated a profusion of original Hindu stylistic and symbolic elements, in contrast with the general balance and simplicity of Buddhist art. The differences appear in iconography rather than in style. [208] It is generally considered that it is in Mathura, during the time of the Kushans, that the Brahmanical deities were given their standard form:

"To a great extent it is in the visual rendering of the various gods and goddesses of theistic Brahmanism that the Mathura artist displayed his ingenuity and inventiveness at their best. Along with almost all the major cult icons Visnu, Siva, Surya, Sakti and Ganapati, a number of subsidiary deities of the faith were given tangible form in Indian art here for the first time in an organized manner. In view of this and for the variety and multiplicity of devotional images then made, the history of Mathura during the first three centuries of the Christian era, which coincided with the rule of the Kusanas, can very well be called revolutionary in the development of Brahmanical sculpture"

Cult images of Vāsudeva Edit

Cult images of Vāsudeva continued to be produced during the period, the worship of this Mathuran deity being much more important than that of Vishnu until the 4th century CE. [210] Statues dating to the 2nd and 3rd century show a possibly four-armed Vāsudeva standing with his attributes: the wheel, the mace and the conch, his right hand saluting in Abhaya mudra. [211] Only with the Gupta period, did statues focusing on the worship of Vishnu himself start to appear, using the same iconography as the statues of Vāsudeva, but with the right hand holding a bijapuraka citrus instead of making the abhaya mudra gesture, and with the addition of an aureole starting at the shoulders. [210] [212]

A few triads are known from Mathura, dated to the 1st-2nd century CE, showing Vāsudeva and Saṃkarṣaṇa with their attributes, together with a female standing in the middle, thought to be Ekanamsha. [213] [214]

Some sculptures during this period suggest that the "Vyūha doctrine" (Vyūhavāda, "Doctrine of the emanations") was starting to emerge, as images of "Chatur-vyūha" (the "four emanations of Vāsudeva") are appearing. [215] The famous "Caturvyūha" statue in Mathura Museum is an attempt to show in one composition Vāsudeva as the central deity together with the other members of the Vrishni clan of the Pancharatra system emanating from him: Samkarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha, with Samba missing. [204] [205] The back of the relief is carved with the branches of a Kadamba tree, symbolically showing the genealogical relationship being the different deities. [204] The depiction of Vāsudeva and later Vishnu was stylistically derived from the type of the ornate Bodhisattvas, with rich jewelry and ornate headdress. [187]

Absence of Gopala-Krishna life scenes Edit

On the other hands, reliefs depicting the life story of Krishna, the Krishna-lilas scenes, are extremely rare or possibly inexistent during the Kushan period: only one such relief is known, showing the father Vasudeva carrying his son son Krishna across the waters of the Yamuna, but even its interpretation is contested, and the date may be attributable to the post-Gupta period. [216] During this time, statues pertaining to Gopala-Krishna, the other main component of the amalgamated Krishna, are absent from Mathura, suggesting the near absence of this cult in northern India down to the end of the Gupta period (6th century CE). [217] The first major depictions of the legendary life of Gopala-Krishna appear in the sculptures of Badami in southern India from the 6th-7th century CE. [218]

Sun God Surya, also revered in Buddhism, Kushan Period

Shiva Linga worshipped by Indo-Scythian, [219] or Kushan devotees, 2nd century CE.

War God Karttikeya and Fire God Agni, Kushan Period, 1st century CE

The Hindu God Shiva, 3rd century CE. Mathura or Ahichchhatra. [220]

Kushan-era image of Shashthi between Skanda and Vishakha, c. 2nd century CE

Three-faced four-armed Oesho with attributes, often identified with Shiva, on a coin of Huvishka. [221]

Jain art at Mathura under the Kushans Edit

Goat-faced God Harinaigamesha, Kushan Period, Mathura

Jain god of Childbirth Naigamesha, 1st-3rd century CE. [222]

Jina in Meditation, Kushan Period, Mathura

Tirthankara Head, Kushan Period, Mathura

Tirthankara Head, Kushan Period, Mathura

Following the decline of the Kushan Empire and the occupation of northern India by the Gupta Empire under Samudragupta (r.c. 335/350-375 CE), the art of Mathura continued to prosper and evolve. The Mathura school became one of the two major schools of Gupta Empire art, together with the school of Benares, with Mathura school remaining the most important and the oldest. [224] It is characterized by its usage of mottled red stone from Karri in the Mathura district, and its foreign influences, continuing the traditions of the art of Gandhara and the art of the Kushans in Mathura. [224]

The art of Mathura continued to become more sophisticated during the Gupta Empire, between the 4th and 6th centuries CE. The pink sandstone sculptures of Mathura evolved during the Gupta period (4th to 6th century CE) to reach a very high fineness of execution and delicacy in the modeling, displaying calm and serenity. [225] The style becomes elegant and refined, with a very delicate rendering of the draping and a sort of radiance reinforced by the usage of pink sandstone. [225] Artistic details tend to be less realistic, as seen in the symbolic shell-like curls used to render the hairstyle of the Buddha, and the ornate halos around the head of the Buddhas. [225] The art of the Gupta is often considered as the pinnacle of Indian Buddhist art, achieving a beautiful rendering of the Buddhist ideal. [225]

Gupta art is also characterized by an expansion of the Buddhist pantheon, with a high importance given to the Buddha himself and to new deities, including Bodhisattvas such as Avalokitesvara or divinities of Bramanical inspiration, and less focus on the events of the life of the Buddha which were abundantly illustrated through Jataka stories in the art of Bharhut and Sanchi (2nd-1st centuries BCE), or in the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara (1st-4th centuries CE). [224]

The Gupta art of Mathura was very influential throughout northern India, accompanied by a reducing of foreign influences. [224] [225] It was also extremely influential in the development of Buddhist art almost everywhere in the rest of Asia.

Standing Buddha, late 5th century

Standing Buddha, Gupta dynasty, 320–485, Mathura

Standing Buddha, inscribed Gupta Era year 115 (434 CE), Mathura. [226]

Head of a Buddha, 6th century.

Hindu art at Mathura under the Guptas Edit

The first known creation of the Guptas relating to Hindu art at Mathura is an inscribed pillar recording the installation of two Shiva Lingas in 380 CE under Chandragupta II, Samudragupta's successor. [227]

Development of the iconography of Vishnu Edit

Until the 4th century CE, the worship of Vāsudeva-Krishna seems to have been much more important than that of Vishnu. [210] With the Gupta period, statues focusing on the worship of Vishnu start to appear, in the form of an evolution based on the earlier statues of Vāsudeva-Krishna. [210] Many of the statues of Vishnu appearing from the 4th century CE, such as the Vishnu Caturanana ("Four-Armed"), use the attributes and the iconography of Vāsudeva-Krishna, but add an aureole starting at the shoulders. [210]

Other statues of Vishnu show him as three-headed (possibly with an implied fourth head in the back), the Vaikuntha Chaturmurti type, where Vishnu or his human emanation Vāsudeva-Krishna is shown with a human head, flanked by the muzzle of a boar (his avatar Varaha) and the head of a lion (his avatar Narasimha), two of his most important and ancient avatars, laid out upon his aureole. [210] A fourth avatar is sometimes shown in the back of the sculptures of Kashmir, showing the avatar Trivikrama, but never in the statuary of Mathura. [210] Recent scholarship considers that these "Vishnu" statues still show the emanation Vāsudeva Krishna as the central human-shaped deity, rather than the Supreme God Vishnu himself. [228] [210]

A further variation is Vishnu as three-headed cosmic creator, the Visnu Visvarupa, showing Vishnu with a human head, again flanked by the muzzle of a boar the head of a lion, but with a multitude of beings on his aureole, symbol of the numerous creations and emanations resulting from his creative power. [210] These sculptures can be dated to the 5th century CE. [210]

Incorporation of Lakshmi Edit

In the 3rd-4th century CE, Lakshmi, which had been an independent Goddess of prosperity and luck, was incorporated in the Vaishnava pantheon as the consort of Vishnu. [229] She thus became the Hindu goddess of wealth, good fortune, prosperity and beauty. [230]

Vishnu Caturanana ("Four-Armed"), 5th century, Mathura

Bust of Brahma, Circa 6th Century CE

Jain art under the Guptas Edit

Seated Jain Tirthankara, circa 5th Century CE, Mathura.

Chaumkha, LACMA, circa 6th Century CE

Colossal Head of Jina, Gupta Period, Jain temple of Kankali Tila

Chaumkha, Mathura Museum, circa 6th Century CE

The decline of the Gupta Empire was accompanied by the invasions and the wide-scale destructions of the Hunas Alchon Huns circa 460-530 BCE, and an ensuing disorganization of society. These events mark the end of Classical Indian civilisation. [233] The art of Mathura suffered greatly from the destructions brought by the Hunas, as did the art of Gandhara in the northwest, and both schools of art were nearly wiped out under the rule of the Huna Mihirakula. [232]

The Medieval period followed, in which Hindu art became largely prevalent in the art of Mathura and India as a whole. It was accompanied by the decline of Buddhism in the Indian subcontinent.

In many ways, Gupta art had represented the zenith of the art of Mathura, with its beautiful and elegant creations. [234] In the Medieval period, efforts were made at emulating Gupta art, but the technical level in sculpture decreased significantly. [234] Many of the qualities found in Gupta art start to vanish during this period, such as the spituality of the sculptures, their elegant slimness and suppleness. [235] As the country disintegrated, so did the arts, the artistic rendering becoming coarse, formal and stereotyped. [235] Some decadent effects are obtained by the increase in ornament, the enlargement of crowns, the multiplication of arms and the profusion of attendant deities. [235] The rendering of the human figure becomes rather artificial and highly stylized, relying heavily on the curbed Tribhanga pose. [235]

Hindu art in the Medieval period Edit

Sarvatobhadra Shiva Linga Representing Brahma Vishnu Maheshwar and Surya, Circa 9th Century CE

Architectural Fragment with Divine Figures, circa 10th century CE

Decorative Door Jamb - Medieval Period

Four-armed Seated Vishnu in Meditation, Mediaeval Period

Standing Surya, Medieval Period

Standing Twin Vishnu, Circa 10th Century CE

Ten-armed Ganesha, Medieval Period

Jain art in the Medieval period Edit

Jain art continued to be quite active during the period, with several known and dated works of art. [236]

1st Jain Tirthankara Rishabhanatha, Circa 8th Century CE, Barsana

Jain Goddess Chakreshwari, Kankali Mound, Circa 10th Century CE

Jain Tirthankara Parshwanath, inscribed 1014 CE, Kagarol

Jain Tirthankara Neminath, Circa 12th Century CE

Sack of Mathura by Mahmud of Ghazni (1018 CE) Edit

In 1018, Mahmud of Ghazni laid waste to the city of Mathura, which was "ruthlessly sacked, ravaged, desecrated and destroyed". [237] [238] In particular, Al-utbi mentioned in work Tarikh-e-yamini, that Mahmud Ghaznavi destroyed a "great and magnificent temple" in Mathura. [239] According to Muhammad Qasim Hindu Shah, writing an "History of Hindustan" in the 16th-17th century, the city of Mathura was the richest in India, and was consecrated to Vasudeva-Krishna. When it was attacked by Mahmud of Ghazni, "all the idols" were burnt and destroyed during a period of twenty days, gold and silver was smelted for booty, and the city was burnt down. [240]

Despite the destructions, some level of artistic production continued afterward, as some Jain statues for example are dated to several decades after the 1018 sack of the city. [236]

The art of Mathura in the Early modern period was going through a lower period of activity, with comparatively fewer remaining works of art.

Gandhara Art

Vinaya texts by early Buddhist schools preserved in Chinese translation contain a valuable wealth of information that remains largely unknown to and underutilized by scholars of early Buddhist art and architecture. With very few exceptions, these useful texts have not received much notice by scholars, and almost none at all by art historians. In this presentation, I touch upon what Vinaya texts can tell us about the image of the “Pensive Crown Prince” (siwei taizi思維太子), an image especially popular in Central and East Asia and related to the cult of Buddha Shakyamuni. Several passages from Vinaya texts of the Sarvāstivādins and the Mūlasarvāstivādins shed important light for the more accurate understanding of this iconographic phenomenon and explain the reasons for its lasting and transregional popularity.

The paper was presented at the Society for the Study of Chinese Religions Roundtable “New Voices in the Study of Chinese Religions”
on December 8th, 2020

When the region of Gandhara, located in modern day Pakistan and Afghanistan, began mass producing art, around 100 CE, to when they were invaded by a group called the Ephthalites in 463 CE, depictions of a Buddhist demon called Mara continually changed. In Buddhist mythology, this demon is seen as the physical manifestation of desire. He is predominantly known for being present during the enlightenment of the Buddha. In this thesis, I argue that Gandharan artists depicted Mara in their sculptures and reliefs in the form of the various invaders and armies that threatened the region. Therefore, when the Gandharans were threatened by the Bactrians, they depicted Mara as Bactrian and when they were threatened by the Sassanians, they depicted Mara as Sassanian and so on and so forth. By comparing artwork from Gandhara, Iran and Bactria and examining excavation reports and journals, I show how Gandharan artists repeatedly demonized enemy armies by associating them with the demon Mara. Primarily this was done by equipping Mara with arms and armor typical of the invading forces.

Central to the main ideas of this thesis is the idea of syncretism—the incorporation of iconography from different belief systems or cultural ideas and intermixing them with another cultures. Gandhara was located at the borders of many empires throughout history and was subject to many different invading forces. This led to different people with varying beliefs and creeds to live in close proximity to each other. For example, this led to many examples of syncretism depicting the Buddha in the way the Greeks depicted Zeus. By examining the idea of syncretism in Gandharan art, I will show that artists in the area not only incorporated other religious traditions into their art, but also incorporated the clothing, weaponry and other cultural aspects of invading forces throughout their history into their art of Mara.

Palmyrene Analogies

Amongst these Palmyrene analogies are some relief fragments from the so-called T-foundation of the sanctuary of Bel. [37] They belong to the older temple, and are therefore earlier than CE 32, the date of the consecration of the new sanctuary. [38] Their frontality and the treatment of the drapery are similar to that on the Butkara fragments. Other features common to the two sites are the use of two lines to mark the neck and the wideopen eyes. The plinth of an ex-voto, from the early temple at Palmyra, offers resemblances not only of style but also of composition and of decorative motifs. [39] It is composed in two registers, each of panels framed between Corinthian columns and bearing a carved epistyle. One of the epistyles is ornamented with acanthus leaves, and the other with a row of ovoli. Outside the columns are carved long palm leaves. The upper register contains a frontal male bust with curled hair, and, on his right and left, a griffon and an eight-petalled rosette.

In the lower register appears the bust of a god with radiate nimbus flanked by eagles with spread wings and sixteen-petalled rosettes containing rosettes with eight petals. The busts have been identified as Malakbel. Collart and Vicari have linked this plinth with other monuments from Palmyra which are all dated before the middle of the first century CE [40] One of these (Palmyra Museum BC 449) shows a draped personage and a pine-cone, with the extremity of a wing visible to the personage's left, in a frame of palms surmounted by a row of ovoli. Another (Palmyra Museum B 450) shows within the frame of palms, above which is a vine scroll, an eagle sheltering under each of its spread wings a four-petalled rosette. Further, in the temple of Baalshamin are three niches framed with a vine scroll, and a lintel on which are similarly depicted eagles and rosettes that may represent Baalshamin.

These Palmyrene pieces contain elements borrowed from eastern Hellenism, from the ancient Semitic repertory, and from the newer Orient of the Parthians. [41] The eagle with spread wings and the rosette placed in the field should originate in the ancient Orient the naturalistic treatment of the eagle, the Corinthian columns, the acanthus, the ovoli, and the vine scrolls from Greek Mesopotamia while the frontality is probably Parthian. [42]

Thus the Butkara fragments share with the Palmyrene monuments a common style, make similar use of frontality and low relief, and also depict eagles, rosettes, ovoli and acanthus. It is probable that the Hellenic elements existed in Gandhara before the arrival of the Parthians. However, the manner of their arrangement, no less than other features, resembling those at Palmyra with their Parthian connections, suggest that they arrived via Parthia in Gandhara. The Palmyrene evidence, with its dating horizon of CE 32 provided by the restoration of the temple of Bel, leads to the conclusion that the Gandhara monuments examined here can be estimated to date between CE 20 and 30. Other friezes from Butkara displaying rows of busts executed in similar style can be assigned to the same period (fig. 8). A fragment of a frieze carved from micaceous schist, found between building L and stūpa D 3 at the Dharmarājika, is certainly to be dated as early as the Butkara friezes. [43] On its upper edge is a vine scroll with contiguous arches containing frontal busts beneath. The triangular space between each pair of arches holds an eagle with wings outspread. The motifs once more remind us of the Palmyrene monuments. A similar motif of figures under arches, with spread eagles in the spandrels, is also met in the Bimaran casket.

The dating here suggested for the Gandhara stūpa elements under consideration is corroborated by some of the brackets from Sirkap in the shape of winged male figures with hair treated in the manner of wigs and globular eyes with incised pupils. The folds of their draperies are indicated by multiple incised lines. These brackets were found in strata I and II which, according to the stratigraphic chronology, belong to the first century CE The characteristic letter-forms (notably that of the sa) on the bottom of one bracket are appropriate to the early first century CE [44] A number of similar brackets from various parts of Taxila and Butkara (e.g., figs. 7, 8, 9), despite some conflicting local excavation evidence, may also be assigned to the Parthian period.

Another indication of the link between these brackets and the Butkara and Taxila sculptures can be found in the jewellery represented on two of them. Two of the brackets from Taxila, and another of cruder workmanship from Saidu Sharif (fig. 10), wear torques represented as made of plain wire. The extremities are flattened and twisted round the wire itself. A torque of similar form is worn by one of the male busts on the Butkara facade (fig. 7) and by two standing male donors also from Butkara (fig. 12). A golden torque of that type was found in the Parthian stratum at Sirkap. [45] Its Parthian origin is evident in the fact that the Arsacid king Phraates (c. 3/2 BCE) wears one on his coins. Again the two donors from Butkara are dressed in what appears to be a Parthian costume, a short jacket without a collar, crossing at the front and secured by the belt, and the full trousers covered by horseman's chaps. The costume is identical with that worn by the bronze Parthian noble from Shami (denoted to General Surena), tentatively dated to the second century BCE but possibly later (fig. 12). [46] Similar costume can be seen on coins of Jihonika (Zeionises), which may indicate that it was used also by the Ś akas. [47] However, there is little doubt that the two donor figures from Butkara represent Parthians. One of the two has his trousers, sleeves, and hem of his jacket ornamented with an embroidered band (fig. 14). This piece, stylistically superior to the other examples considered, might be taken as later in date, but its donor stands on a pedestal inscribed with the Kharosthi letter ka in script not greatly different from that of the Shahbazgarhi inscriptions. Hence this sculpture need not be considered significantly later than those discussed previously.

Doubt might be cast on the value of a single coin of Azes II for dating the Butkara monuments. It is true that the coin may have been obsolete when placed in the deposit, and the monuments therefore later, or that the coin had been inserted into a pre-existing structure. However, similar coins were found at Taxila associated with monuments whose decoration is comparable, adding weight to the evidence of the coin for dating. The Azes II coin from Butkara was from the penultimate Arachosian issue. At Taxila, the Azes II issue was associated with specimens of the Kujula Kadphises "Roman bust" type, probably struck after CE 10 and related to events after the demise of the younger Azes. This association suggests that the structures were being erected towards the end of the latter's reign, and that the work continued into the subsequent interregnum. The Parthian features and motifs of the sculptures probably belonging to these monuments strongly suggest that they were completed at the beginning of Parthian domination in Gandhara. At this time, coins of Azes II were still, or had recently been, in circulation, and so help along with the evidence of the earlier sculptures from Palmyra to fix more precisely the appearance of proto-Gandharan sculptures close to the moment of the inauguration of Indo-Parthian rule.

No evidence emerges for the existence of the Buddha image in association with these structures. Thus a lower bracket for the appearance of the Buddha image can be set around CE 30, while the reign of Kaniska, either CE 78 or CE 128, must be taken as the upper bracket. It is not unlikely that the inaugural Buddha image presented features similar to those seen on Kaniska coins, yet closer in style to that of the proto-Gandharan sculptures. In fact, the sculptures from Loriyan Tangai (fig. 14) and Butkara accord with this assumption. [48] One may note that on these examples the Buddha wears a moustache and his hair is dressed in a top-knot tied with a band, as on the Buddha coins of Kaniska. Yet the wide-open eyes, the manner of representing the hair, and the very fine pleating of the draperies with close parallel lines are characteristic of the work which I assign to the Parthian period. According to van Lohuizen de Leeuw, who assumes that the Gandhara Buddha was created towards the end of the first century BCE on the model of a Mathura Buddha, the first two features would be due to influence from the Mathura sculptures and the latter to influence from the early Indian sculptures. However, even though these Loriyan Tangai and Butkara reliefs studied by van Lohuizen undoubtedly present many links with the ancient art of India, it is clear that their style continues an earlier one already in existence in Gandhara and represented by the proto-Gandharan sculptures. As van Lohuizen points out in the only reference that she makes to our protoGandharan sculptures, the latter resemble the reliefs discussed by her in being carved out of chloritised mica schist. This material, according to Marshall, was mainly used when the school was in its infancy, and was afterwards given up in favour of phyllite. [49] A further link between the two phases of sculptures is that an Eros figured on one of the Loriyan Tangai reliefs (fig. 14, upper left) wears a torque with the extremities coiled around the wire, a type almost exclusively represented on the proto-Gandharan sculptures. Both observations argue for placing the reliefs noted by van Lohuizen in an intermediate position between the proto-Gandharan sculptures and the representations of the Buddha on Kaniska coins. Although time must be allowed for such pieces as the Bimaran casket and the fragmentary stucco from Guldara, it may well emerge that these reliefs are not separated by a long interval from the phase of the proto-Gandharan sculptures here examined.

[1] I would like to acknowledge the help I have received in the preparation of this article from my supervisor Dr. A. D. H. Bivar, and also the financial assistance given by the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, from funds made available by the Neil Kreitman Trust.


If there exists an original art amongst all, it would have to be the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara. Born of the union between Greek and Indian cultures on Indian soil and in service to the Buddhist religion between the 1st and the 5th century AD, this art developed in a geographic triangle which today corresponds to the part of Afghanistan situated to the North of the Kabul river, up to the valley of Peshawar in Pakistan.
Following the invasion of this region by Alexander the Great of Macedonia, the presence of Greek soldiers permitted a new interpretation of iconographic elements drawn by the presence of a new religious repertoire, which were skillfully combined with sculptural techniques imported from Greece. In AD 327 the apostle Thomas, while traveling towards India, discovered that the easternmost part of the Old World, though still influenced by classic aesthetic criteria, for the first time began representing Buddha in human form: with a youthful Apollo-like face, dressed in garments resembling those seen on Imperial Greek and later Roman statues.

This constituted a tremendous revolution resulting in the creation of a realistic art of great quality, bound to the techniques of Greco-Roman sculpture. These statues were made of both characteristic local grey shale with inserts of mica or in the rare green phyllite, and later in stucco from the 3rd century AD. Traditionally gilded and painted with lots of red, this material was less expensive and, being easier to work with, could be duplicated more quickly.

This Gandharan Golden Age is contemporary to the Buddhist kings of the Kushan dynasty when Buddhism spread towards China thanks to numerous pilgrimages.
Unfortunately, the invasion of the Huns in AD 450 followed by that of the Sassanids aided by the Turks, put Gandhara back under Persian suzerainty in AD 568, thus signalling the end of this exciting period.

In this section, you will also find several masterpieces pertaining to the Indian culture, with its strong sense of design, as well as its luxurious iconography dedicated among others to the fabulous story of the Hindu gods. The origins of Indian art dates back to the 3rd Mill. BC with the stunning civilizations of the Indus Valley of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, and spreads onto a huge and diversified continent where not only Buddhism and then Hinduism, but also Jainism and at the end Islam played their influence. We have a predilection for the stone carving art created from the time of the Middle kingdoms until Late Medieval India (AD 600 until 1300) and admire the many temples of the Dravidian architecture, the Pallava, Chola and Hoysala sculpture, the Chandela and their Khajuraho group of monuments. The expression of an overjoyed sensuality and sometimes quite submerging sexuality mixed with a skilful technique makes this period a fascinating chapter in human history.

Gandhara Lions & Genii Relief - History

Home / Narratives and Architectural Context

Narratives and Architectural Context

The architecture of Gandhara, like its sculpture, combines local characteristics with elements derived from both Indian and western precedents. The major archaeological sources for the architecture and sculpture of Gandhara are the remains of religious establishments such as stupas and monasteries. Stupas are reliquary structures in monasteries that are the focus of veneration. The first Buddhist stupas were built to house the remains of the historical Buddha, who lived between the fourth and fifth centuries BCE. Later stupas may have contained the remains of the Buddha or Buddhist saints, or such sacred objects as jewelry, precious stones, coins, texts, or sometimes figurative works of art.

Traditionally, a stupa consists of a cylindrical base, a structure called a drum, and a hemispherical dome. This dome supports a post, surmounted by one or more canopies, that represents the axis of the world. Worshippers walk clockwise around the base of the dome, with one circle of the stupa representing the Buddha’s life cycle. In Gandhara a unique type of stupa developed. The drum is elevated and rests on a square podium. Sometimes lion columns mark the four corners of the podium, and Corinthian pilasters are added to the base and drum. Gandharan stupas also frequently featured large, richly decorated false dormers.

The bases, drums, and fences (harmikas) of Gandharan stupas were frequently decorated with images of the Buddha and bodhisattvas, or with narrative reliefs, which are distinguished from North Indian reliefs in their emphasis on the linear unfolding of events. Gandharan reliefs depicted many scenes from the Buddha’s life, although his birth, enlightenment, First Sermon, and attainment of Nirvana are considered the key events. Gandharans also attached great importance to the Buddha’s “Great Departure,” when he left his palace as a young prince to become a mendicant. Donors dedicated many sculptures of the Buddha to monasteries in Gandhara, and shrines surrounding and aligned with stupa courts often contained larger-scale Buddha sculptures like the ones in this section of the exhibition.

The dream of Maya in Kapilvastu Sikri, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province 2nd–3rd century CE Schist H. 7 11/16 x W. 10 1/4 x D. 2 3/16 in. (19.5 x 26 x 5.5 cm) Lahore Museum, G-13

According to Buddhist belief, the Buddha’s incarnation as the prince Siddhartha began with his miraculous conception. Maya, his mother, dreamed that an elephant entered her womb through her side. Here, a halo identifies the elephant as none other than the Buddha. A maid attends the sleeping mother-to-be. This relief probably once adorned the square base of a votive stupa.

Siddhartha about to leave the palace. 2nd–3rd century CE Schist. H. 24 7/16 x W. 20 1/2 x D. 2 3/4 in. (62 x 52 x 7 cm) National Museum of Pakistan, Karachi, NM 507

This fragment was probably the central part of a false dormer (an adornment attached to the surface of a roof). The upper panel is devoted to the courtly entertainments of dance and music. The scene below shows Siddhartha—who would become the Buddha—about to leave the comforts of his palace behind. While his wife and their maids sleep, he asks his chariot driver to saddle his horse.

Siddhartha saying farewell to his horse Kanthaka Sikri, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. 3rd century CE. Schist. H. 6 5/16 x W. 11 7/16 x D. 1 3/4 in. (16 x 29 x 4.5 cm) Lahore Museum, G-1032

In this scene, Siddhartha takes leave of his horse, Kanthaka, and distributes his royal accoutrements—including jewels, a parasol, and a fly whisk—to attendants. A tree spirit (yakshi) serves as a scene divider.

Railing Pillar with a Woman Beneath a Tree India, Uttar Pradesh, Mathura area 2nd century Sandstone H. 32 1/8 x W. 7 5/8 x D. 6 in. (81.6 x 19.4 x 15.3 cm) Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, Asia Society, 1979.1

The popular Indian motif of a woman beneath a tree, seen here in this Indian sculpture from Uttar Pradesh, was often used as a scene divider for Gandharan friezes. Such a figure appears next to the scene of Siddhartha saying farewell to his horse Kanthaka ,pictured here. Like Gandhara, Uttar Pradesh was part of the Kushan Empire, but as seen in this comparative work, western art exerted much less influence there and in other parts of North India.

Part of a false dormer depicting the First Sermon. 3rd century CE. Schist H. 24 13/16 x W. 26 3/8 x D. 4 5/16 in. (63 x 67 x 11 cm). Lahore Museum, G-89

The main scene of this carving shows the Buddha preaching his first sermon to a group of ascetics, his first disciples. The wheel in front of the throne symbolizes teaching, also known as “turning the wheel of the law” (dharmacakrapravartana). The arches above this scene depict the veneration of the Buddha and his begging bowl by the Four Guardians of the World.

Stair stringer with makara-headed mythical creature Sikri, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. 2nd–3rd century CE Schist H. 7 5/16 x W. 10 1/4 x D. 1 3/4 in. (18.5 x 26 x 4.5 cm). Lahore Museum, G-218

This stair stringer is decorated with a winged serpent or sea creature (makara). Stair stringers were located on the sides of the steps that climbed up from the ground to the base of the stupa dome. The mythical animal decoration demonstrated that the stupa was sacred to all living beings.

Buddha 2nd–3rd century CE Schist H. 55 1/8 x W. 18 7/8 x D. 7 1/2 in. (140 x 48 x 19 cm) Lahore Museum, G-381

This second- to third-century image of the Buddha is representative of what has come to be thought of as the classic Gandharan image. A heavy cloak hides the body and its folds form large concentric curves centered on the right shoulder. The face is elongated, the chin is quite prominent, and the corners of the relatively thin mouth are slightly sunken. The eyes are narrow under a heavy lid, gazing downward, and the wavy hair is gathered into a topknot.

Chapter 6

“Atlantis, this is Colonel Sheppard—I need Major Teldy.”

Meredith’s hand curled around the railing as relief seemed to heave like a ocean through the city. Maybe the intelligence governing the city really hadn’t believed the conversations she’d surely been observing.

“This is Teldy, sir,” Anne said and cleared her throat. “If you’ll provide your secondary identification code—we’ll open the shield.”

“Negative,” John said shortly. “I’ve 22…” The sharp report of weapon’s fire sounded through the gate room. “I have 21 enemy combatants on the ground, I’m on the cusp of another feral combat drive, most of my senses are numb, and I’m down to 14 rounds. I’m on a planet the Genii called the Hunter’s Outpost. Ronon, is that familiar to you at all?”

Ronon activated his radio. “Yes, I know the address.”

“Great—bring me a P90, more ammo, and the Sentinel that came from Earth. Teldy—keep my city safe and don’t let McKay out of your sight under any circumstances,” John said and there was another shot fired. “20.”

“Understood, Colonel,” Anne said and motioned to Ronon who trotted up the stairs to where a younger man was sitting at the DHD. “The Sentinel’s name is Captain William Bouchard—Canadian Army and RCMP. He’s Dr. McKay’s Sentinel Conservator.”

“I don’t give a fuck who he is right now. I need his senses—I want every single one of these motherfuckers dead before I leave this godforsaken planet.” The gate closed abruptly.

Anne Teldy unclipped the P90 from her vest and passed it to Ronon who was heading for the gate even as it dialed. Meredith’s grip tightened on the railing as William left her side without a word and went down the central staircase. She watched a Marine pull off his own tac vest for William, who put it on and clipped the gun he was given with no apparent difficulty. She wondered about his military service off and on since they’d went to Hawaii, but she’d never asked about it directly and all she really knew was that he’d come online while in combat. He didn’t like to talk about it.

Ronon accepted a thigh holster which he tossed over his shoulder as the gate connected as he activated his radio. “Sheppard, I’m coming.” He motioned to Bates without a word and the Marine pulled a combat knife and sheath out of his boot. “And Bates just gave up his favorite knife to the cause.”

William glanced up briefly and met her gaze before he stepped through the gate. It snapped off and she started to tremble. Miko appeared at her side and put one small hand over hers. Meredith turned her hand over and laced their fingers together—seeking comfort in the only person on the city who understood exactly what she was feeling.

“For what?” Miko asked. “For bringing my Sentinel to me? I’d never met him otherwise—my country doesn’t share data with the Burton Foundation. What are the odds that I’ve ever met a Canadian Mountie, if not for you?”

“Still, to have him so close, but…thank you for that. You both had ever right to focus entirely on each other the moment you met. No one would’ve said otherwise.”

“John’s…important to me in a way I can’t explain,” Miko said. “There was a part of me that wondered…when I found out he was trauma-dormant because of his mother’s murder…”

“You wondered if he was your Sentinel,” Meredith finished. “You’d probably be a good fit for him.”

“But not perfect.” Miko cleared her throat. “And he needs that for the task ahead of him. You’ll never succeed in keeping him on Earth considering how he came online.”

“I’d never try,” Meredith said. “I understood his imperative before I stepped through the gate. I knew the choice I was making.” She paused. “It helps that Carter isn’t here. I realize she was just a tool in a bigger plot that was controlled by those outside the SGC, but her weakness was appalling.”

“She had no hope of ever coming online as a Guide,” Miko murmured. “She was emotionally absent—nearly all of the time. What little empathy she had was actively suppressed by her intellectual curiosity. She didn’t have room for anything else really and became embittered after O’Neill’s rejection.”

“It was bad?” Meredith questioned.

“It was vicious,” Miko corrected. “He was furious with her for the part she played in endangering your life. He demanded her permanent removal from his personal space and Hammond sent her to Area 51. The one time I saw them in the room together—he radiated fury the entire time. I doubt he’s forgiven her even in death. I think, before Daniel Jackson ascended and came back a Guide, that Jack O’Neill might have felt like you were the best shot he’d ever have at bonding and Carter ruined it for him.”

“Well.” Meredith took a deep breath. “It wouldn’t have been a healthy bond. But he’s honorable, strong, and fantastic in bed so it certainly wouldn’t have been a sacrifice on my part to at least try.”

Miko laughed a little. “He is a great fuck.” She shook her head. “Daniel Jackson is, too. They tucked me up between them for an entire week before the expedition left Earth.” She fanned her face. “Wow.”

Meredith grinned. “That’s filthy. Tell me all about it.”

“Yes, tell us all about it,” Teldy said dryly as she joined them at the railing. “Alison’s been considering asking Jackson to be our baby daddy.”

“He’d make attractive children.” Teyla Emmagan slid into place beside Miko. “Though you’re welcome to ask Dean as well. He says he’d like at least four and I have no intention of birthing four children myself.” She sighed when Meredith couldn’t help, but laugh. “The man is a ridiculous asshole.” She cleared her throat. “Does the distraction help at all?”

“No,” Miko said shortly before Meredith could. “It’s agonizing for more than one reason. It’s not natural, for our kind, to be so close to our perfect match and not bond.”

“How do you know when it’s perfect?” Teyla asked.

“It’s…” Alison trailed off. “I participated in many searches before I met Anne. I prefer women so the whole process was off-putting because I was being thrown genetically compatible matches left, right, and center, but they were all male. Several expressed interest in bonding with me, but were put off when I made it clear that it would be a platonic bond because I’m a lesbian. The Center told me that my sexual preference wouldn’t matter once I bonded—that nature would provide an emotionally and mentally healthy path for me and my Sentinel.

“They told me that plenty of men who believed themselves entirely straight went onto to create deeply intimate bonds with male Sentinels. They always say that sex isn’t a requirement in the bond, but what they don’t really speak to the potential shallowness of platonic bonds. You have to work hard on the psionic plane to create a healthy bond if you aren’t shoring it up with sex on the physical plane. Creating psionic links, physical imprints…etc. It’s just a lengthy and potentially frustrating process that leave some pairs living with half of what they should have. Maybe that’s societal pressure or maybe it’s about emotional trauma before they ever get near a potential bond mate.

“Still, the moment I set eyes on Anne—I was so damn relieved I almost fainted.” Alison glanced toward her Sentinel and grinned. “She was a little less relieved.”

“Why?” Meredith questioned. “You won the Guide lottery.” She motioned toward Alison.

“Alison is the only woman I’ve been with—sexually or romantically,” Teldy admitted. “There were some feelings along the way, but my parents are conservative and religious. They were appalled when I came online and my father told me pointedly that I’d better bring home a male Guide and I’d be better prepared to marry him in the church. He ordered me to leave the Marines, as well. I thought I’d joined up for the educational opportunities, but I realized after coming online that it was more to it. I didn’t even know I was latent. My parents and basically my whole family on both sides have used religious exemptions to avoid being tested for Sentinel/Guide traits for generations.”

“So you didn’t bring home a male Guide,” Miko murmured. “It must have been difficult.”

“I didn’t bring home a Guide at all,” Anne said. “I wasn’t going to give anyone in my family a chance to berate or mistreat Alison. I called them and told them I bonded with a woman and that the only way I’d leave the Corps was in a box. My father disowned me and my mother followed his lead. My brother came online five years ago—they tried to send him to one of those underground suppression camps. He told me that our father said that the leader of the camp would—beat the Sentinel and the gay out of him so that his soul would be safe.”

“Son of a bitch,” Meredith muttered. “Is he okay?”

“Fine,” Teldy said. “He and his female Guide are working with the DOJ as part of a task force dedicated to finding and legally eradicating suppression and conversion camps. He figures once he finishes in the US, he’ll join the UN’s version of the committee and take his efforts worldwide. They have a daughter—my parents have never met their only grandchild because of their ridiculous bigotry.”

“That seems so contrary to the acceptance and forward thinking I’ve experienced with the expedition,” Teyla said pensively and her hand dropped to her stomach which demonstrated no evidence of pregnancy.

“There are elements in every culture—existing on the fringes that use fear and, sometimes, religion, to control others and that’s what it boils down to,” Meredith said. “We’d have to bring in an anthropologist to really dig deep into the topic.” She focused on the stargate and frowned at it. “Which I’m deeply opposed to, on principal. Needless to say, no matter how valuable Sentinels and Guides have proven to be in the 300 years since our kind started to emerge en masse on Earth, some cling to outdated belief systems and terrible interpretations of their own religious texts to validate themselves. Most everyone would like to think we’re better than that, but humans are fucked up on a deeply fundamental level.”

“Do you have a religion?” Teyla asked curiously. “John told me, once, that he did not believe in any god and that the stargate program had removed every single bit of doubt he’d had on the subject.”

“I believe in an intelligent, higher power,” Meredith said. “Not a god, per se, but there is an influence on the psionic plane that I cannot…fully explain. I’ve never felt as if it were an entity of some sort or a presence that could offer any sort of traditional communication, but there is a guidance for a lack of a better word on the psionic plane. I’ve never felt inclined to define it further as I get exactly what I need from it without giving it a name or shape.”

Zillah appeared and started to pace around in front of the gate much to the alarm of a good portion of the gate room. Meredith left the railing and immediately trotted down the stairs as people started to scramble away.

“Relax!” Everyone stopped moving as she came to stand in front of the jaguar. “And get used to the sight of her immediately—this is Colonel Sheppard’s spirit animal. Her name is Zillah.”

“How could you possibly know…”

Meredith turned to stare at the young woman and she trailed off mid-sentence. Kepler shimmered into place between her and the stranger. “Who are you?”

The younger woman tucked a strand of blonde hair behind her ear as she gaze flicked from one spirit animal to another. “Dr. Jennifer Keller.”

“How I know is none of your business,” Meredith said and watched the woman’s cheeks flush. “It is enough, Dr. Keller, for you to know that Zillah is protected by a host of international laws that apply to our current circumstances due to the expedition charter. In fact, she has more rights than you do in that document due to her protected status. Spirit animals answer to a higher authority than any that exist or could be created on Earth. She will come and go as she wishes so everyone needs to get comfortable now to avoid stressing Colonel Sheppard out when he returns to the city.”

“As Colonel Sheppard’s doctor…”

“No.” Meredith inclined her head. “You are not Colonel Sheppard’s doctor of record. He has been transferred to the care of Dr. Alyssa Biro.”

“With Dr. Beckett in custody, for whatever made up reason, I’m the temporary CMO,” Keller said. “I’m his second, Dr. McKay, and all senior staff fall under my purview.”

Woolsey cleared his throat. “Dr. Beckett has been arrested for several serious crimes and will be returned to Earth for trial with Dr. Weir. As the new leader of the expedition, decided by the IOA before I left Earth, I’ve made Alyssa Biro the Chief Medical Officer. If you have questions regarding your patient load or your position going forward, Dr. Keller, you can make an appointment.” He paused. “Provided you still have a job on the city after I’ve finished my review of the medical services.”

“Why…I’ve done nothing wrong,” Keller protested.

“We shall see,” Woolsey said stiffly and looked around the room. “I realize everyone is excited regarding the return of Colonel Sheppard to the city—especially after Dr. Weir’s unfortunate and disgusting behavior regarding his disappearance, but I believe it would be best if we all returned to our posts.

“Colonel Sheppard has come online as a Sentinel in a very stressful situation and there is no need for us to add to that by hovering about to watch him come back through the gate.” He paused. “In person, please feel free to tap into security feeds from your stations—I know it must be an intense relief to you all to know that we have not lost a much liked and, frankly, irreplaceable member of the expedition.”

Zillah came to stand next to Woolsey and hissed at several Marines who were hesitating. Meredith barely refrained from laughing as they saluted and trotted off.

Teldy appeared at her side. “Once she’s formally introduced to the company, she’ll enjoy the rank of brigadier general. It is the policy of the Marine Corps to assign spirit animals a level of rank above their Sentinel or Guide as if she were a working dog in the service.”

Meredith nodded. She understood the practice, but had rarely been exposed to it. She’d never seen Jack O’Neill’s wolf—not even after she banged him. She focused on Zillah and found the big cat staring at her. She raised an eyebrow at her and the spirit animal chuffed in irritation.

“I’m not going to let you boss me around either,” she told the cat. “You should go back to him and let him know I don’t need watching over like a child.”

“She appears to be far more solid than other spirit animals I’ve seen in the past,” Keller said and Meredith turned to find that the woman had not left the gate room. “What does it mean?”

“Nothing you should concern yourself with,” Meredith said and glared at her when Keller started to speak again. “This is Sentinel/Guide business, Dr. Keller, and beyond your purview. Mr. Woolsey, since Dr. Keller appears to be off-duty, perhaps we can interview her now while I wait for Colonel Sheppard to finish killing all the Genii he wishes to kill before he returns to the city.”

“I’m happy to answer any questions about my work.”

Meredith was only mildly surprised the doctor didn’t flounce her way up the stairs. Maybe she was being unfair. She turned to Miko and her fellow Guide flicked her hair over her shoulder and rolled her eyes like a teenager so she felt a thousand times better about her own line of thought. She turned her attention back to Zillah and found that the spirit animal had chosen to lounge in the middle of the gate room. Meredith made a face and the big cat yawned then licked her mouth.

“Do not eat any of these people,” Meredith told her sternly and grinned at the squeaks that earned her. “Really, Lt. Campbell, Sergeant Harriman would’ve never fallen for that.”

He huffed. “We’re Canadians, Dr. McKay. We’re the nice ones.”

“My father is from France,” Meredith said cheerfully as she headed up the stairs. “Which means I don’t have to abide by that whole ridiculous and inaccurate stereotype.”

“No, but you apparently dug deep into the other one,” Alison muttered as they entered the conference room.

Meredith dropped down in her chair and focused on Jennifer Keller. “Mr. Woolsey has three questions for you, Dr. Keller.”

Mr. Woolsey uncapped his pen. “Yes, and I caution you against lying to me, Dr. Keller. I’m short on patience.”

“I have nothing to hide,” Keller said and smiled at them. She glanced briefly toward Teldy as the doors flipped shut, but then focused on Woolsey.

Meredith let her shields thin out of curiosity and focused entirely on the doctor. There was nothing overtly hostile about Jennifer Keller, but her cheerful demeanor was a construct. It was an interesting situation.

Woolsey opened up his leather binder. “Were you aware that Dr. Beckett was using Colonel Sheppard to experiment with suppression drugs with the intention of creating a chemical weapon to use on the wraith?”

“What?” Keller paled. “No! Carson would never do that. He’s working on a retrovirus and I know that he has a side project related to refining the Hoffan virus that Dr. Weir was excited about, but he’d never experiment on Colonel Sheppard that would be…” She took a deep breath. “That doesn’t make any sense at all. What purpose would that serve? Colonel Sheppard has a strong ATA gene, but his genome is far too human to be a viable analog for…” She trailed off and clearly drifted into thought.

Woolsey started to speak, but Meredith put her hand on his arm. She shook her head when he looked her way.

Keller inclined her head and started to tap her finger gently on the table. “The ATA gene is artificial. The ancients created it to lock their technology down as a counter measure against the wraith. The wraith were…far more ancient than they were a iratus, at first, so locking down their technology to protect it and themselves made a lot of sense. You can’t fault them for the war counter measure.

“The wraith genome today is roughly 75% iratus due to how they bred in the beginning. There were too few of them so there was a lot of inbreeding and the iratus traits are dominant which was a design feature not a flaw. The ancients wanted to explore the psionic plane and the iratus feed on psionic energy. It was, in their minds, a valid avenue of exploration. But then, as a people, they appeared to have very few ethical boundaries when it came to experimentation.

“The wraith only have one haplogroup because they call descend from the first queen. She was lab created by the ancients in an ascension experiment. I’ve been doing a lot of reading in the database—the historical data and journals have fared the best when it comes to being searchable, but most of the people on the city avoid it. They don’t consider it very valuable. I think that’s based on Dr. Carter’s bias and nothing changed after her death.”

Anne Teldy put a glass of water down in front of the Keller and it was immediately picked up.

Keller drank deeply from the glass. “So, if Dr. Beckett was experimenting on the colonel it was based entirely on the iratus exposure.” She put the glass down. “It must have been exciting for him when the second exposure happened. I was brought to the city to study the wraith and the genetic drift of their species. Dr. Beckett wanted me to isolate the iratus DNA in the wraith so he could figure…he said it was a longevity study, but looking back on it…” She trailed off again and her eyes darkened.

“I couldn’t figure out why I was chosen to come out here for the project. I was originally brought in the SGC as a trauma surgeon, but that left me with some down time so I started working in the genetic lab in the mountain. It’s my second doctorate. I studied it because I couldn’t get anyone to insure me to practice medicine after I graduated medical school. They said I was too young and I have to think gender played a role as well. The only insurance company that agreed to assessment at the time—the man reviewing my application wanted to know why I’d gone to college at 12 when I was such a pretty little girl. He said I wasted my good years studying. And asked me if I missed going to prom.”

“At any rate,” Jennifer said and cleared her throat. “It’s not what I was hired for, but I got bored waiting for someone to get shot. Which is also another thing—I have a terrible bedside manner and say things off the cuff that I shouldn’t and Dr. Frasier said I shouldn’t interact much with the patients as a result.”

“When you came to Atlantis—were you aware that were you being groomed to take Dr. Beckett’s place?” Woolsey questioned.

“I was told that none of the other doctors on staff wanted the responsibility and more than one told me they didn’t want to have to interact with Weir a lot because they don’t like her. I didn’t think I was qualified by Dr. Beckett assured me he would give me all the training I would need before he returned to a research role. Dr. Weir was preparing to give him an entire team to study the wraith and the retrovirus.

“He fully expected to get his hands on several live wraith for experimentation. I questioned the legality of that, but he told me not to worry about it. Of course, then Colonel Sheppard refused to participate in the whole thing and Major Teldy made it clear she’d kill any wraith that managed to put a foot on the city, which I appreciated like mad because I don’t want to ever be near a wraith.”

“Dr. Weir was heavily involved in Dr. Beckett’s research regarding Colonel Sheppard. If I told you that they were both aware that he’d entered a latent Sentinel state after the second iratus incident, what would you say?” Woolsey shifted his pad then made a note.

Keller frowned and focused on the table. Her fingers started to move again. The taps were rapid for a few long moments, but then she was still. “Well, suppressing the iratus DNA left behind…I’ve been given samples of Colonel Sheppard’s blood so I could work that problem. He knew about that—even asked me questions about how the research was going. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to work fast enough and he’d get pushy, but he was just curious about the process and how it worked. In retrospect, I don’t think Dr. Beckett appreciated his interest, but I always answered all of Colonel Sheppard’s questions because the research was about him and he deserved answers.

“I knew Beckett was experimenting with suppression drugs, but I wasn’t aware that Colonel Sheppard was a latent Sentinel. No one ever mentioned it to me and all of the data from Beckett’s experiments looked like tests performed on blood and tissue samples.

“In theory, using a suppression drug would’ve been a good vector for delivering the iratus stem cells Dr. Beckett used to bring Colonel Sheppard back after he turned into a great big bug, but that wouldn’t have been the ethical choice, even in the short term, for a latent Sentinel or Guide. It could’ve created issues…physically and psychologically until it wore off.” Keller started tapping again.

Teldy rubbed her face with both hands and Meredith noted they were trembling. “Colonel Sheppard screamed for hours after he was dosed with that so-called cure. He hallucinated and tried to tear his way out of the wraith cage. I was so fucking relieved when he passed out from exhaustion. When he woke, two days later, he was coherent and starting to shed the blue skin cells. He’d also managed to break his own damn arm. I never questioned it—no one did, as far as I know.”

“He didn’t have a lot of privacy around that event due to the nature of it,” Alison said. “I guess we were just trying to ignore it as much as possible for his own sake.”

“To his detriment,” Keller said. “When I read the reports about that—I was relieved to have not been here which made me feel selfish and immature. I was grateful that I managed to not say that in front of anyone.” She started tapping again. “I have a strong ATA gene—another reason why Weir said I should take Carson’s place as CMO. But once, she made this terribly weird comment that she played off like a joke…about Colonel Sheppard and me making an ancient baby.”

Meredith’s mouth dropped open and she glanced toward Teyla who looked confused. “She encouraged you to pursue Colonel Sheppard romantically?”

“Sexually,” Jennifer clarified. “She laughed it off and said I wouldn’t be expected to put up with his emotional baggage.” Her cheeks flushed. “She said she’d heard he was great in bed so I could at least have some fun out of it as well. The next day, she apologize for her drunk ramblings and hoped I wasn’t offended. Except, she barely took a sip of her wine the whole meal. I guess she figured I wasn’t observant enough to notice—a lot of people think I’m too smart to function. Maybe she thought because of my lack of social…intelligence that she could manipulate me, but my mother taught me how to read people. I never agreed to have dinner with her in private again.”

“Are you on the spectrum?” Meredith questioned.

“My official diagnosis is High-Functioning Asperger’s. I’ve a lot of great coping mechanisms and tools. My mother made sure I could maneuver my way through social stuff with little difficulty. I’ve learned not to say everything I think, and I studied body language extensively as a teenager to help with that. I make mistakes and sometimes I find people deeply frustrating—when they say one thing and clearly mean another. Little white lies, my father called them. He said they were harmless, but I’ve never agreed. I need to be able to trust the things people say.” She frowned and looked away from them. “I’d have never participated in the human experimentation or research regarding chemical warfare.”

“Frankly, they’d have never trusted you with the meat of it,” Meredith said. “You clearly find dishonesty difficult to process and as a result, you’re probably a terrible liar.”

“Yeah, but my daddy told me to never worry about that—he said lying is a waste of time and I’m smart enough to figure out how to make my way in the world without it.” She flushed. “But I don’t make friends easily and maybe I would if I could lie a little.”

“No.” Teyla reached out and took the younger woman’s hand. “You’re fine just the way you are, Jennifer. Do not seek to learn such a thing—it would add no value to your life. Who wants a friend that needs to be lied to?”

“I’d rather be punched in the face than lied to,” Woolsey said.

Meredith leaned forward a bit and stared at the younger woman. “Dr. Keller, will you have any issues working under Dr. Biro?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Jennifer said. “I like her—she can be abrupt at times and maybe she enjoys dissecting wraith a bit too much, but everyone needs a hobby. I didn’t look forward to the job or the administrative duties, but Dr. Weir made it clear I really didn’t have a choice if I wanted to stay on the city and I do want to stay. It’s nice here and no one is intentionally mean to me.”

“Were people intentionally mean to you in Cheyenne Mountain?” Teldy asked with a frown.

“Just…” Jennifer shrugged. “Some people don’t like smart women.”

“Some men don’t like smart women,” Woolsey corrected. “You needn’t attempt to be diplomatic for my sake, Dr. Keller. If you give me a list of male employees in the mountain who need sensitivity training—I will see them all enrolled in a six-month course.”

“Well, it’s true that there are men who have a problem with women who are more intelligent than them…men aren’t always the worst offenders,” Keller said. “There are plenty of women out there, Mr. Woolsey, who see nothing, but competition when they look at other women. Intelligence, looks, education—all of that comes in play. My mother says that’s just mating politics and I shouldn’t pay them any attention, but it’s hard when all you want is respect and all you’re getting are snide comments about your looks or whatever. I stopped wearing make-up in the SGC, despite how much I like it, because of comments.

“I overheard one nurse asking a female Marine if she thought I’d earned my degrees on my back.” Jennifer flushed. “I had to call my mom and ask her what she meant. I didn’t…get it.” She looked down at her hands. “Mom says she sheltered me too much. She went to college with me—attended all of my classes and we had an apartment off campus.”

“My parents hired a nanny for me,” Meredith said. “That nanny ended up getting a doctorate in engineering herself since she was with me for every single class for my first set of degrees—I just suggested she enroll. Eventually, the Canadian government paid her tuition plus a salary to keep me out of trouble.”

“That’s nice,” Jennifer said. “I would’ve liked that better, I think. I love my mom, but having someone to do homework with would’ve been nice. Do you know where she is now?”

“Based on the posted schedule, Dr. Simpson should be in lab six,” Meredith said and just shrugged at the looks that earned her. “She’s only six years older than me, but that was enough as far as my parents were concerned and to be honest, they rarely ever read the status reports they were sent. I found a whole box of them when I packed up their house after their deaths—most of the letters hadn’t been opened. I recruited Helen Simpson to the program when I was at Area 51.”

She shifted in her chair as Kepler appeared near her and nudged her arm with his nose. She turned to him and cupped his face with one hand. “Soon then.”

Kepler purred and rubbed his face against her hand.

Meredith stood. “Major Teldy, we’ll need you to clear the gate room of nonessential personnel. I can’t guarantee how much control he’ll have once he steps through the gate. The fact that the stress of the situation has made his some of his senses numb is a concern in itself.”

“Agreed,” Teldy said and winced. “I’ve only gone numb once—I was shot. Everything shut down eventually which was for the best considering, but still a nightmare to remember.”

“How much time do we have, Dr. McKay?” Woolsey questioned. “Because it crosses my mind that it would be best if both Weir and Beckett were not on the city when he returns.”

“About a half hour, I think,” Meredith said as she stared intently at Kepler’s face. “So hurry. He’s in a combat drive—not feral, but he will be intolerant of obstacles or questions. I’ll go to the isolation room Biro is setting up and wait for him there. He won’t want to go to the infirmary at all so this is the best way to get him into a safe place—sense wise.”

The moment he stepped onto the city, she felt everything around her shift yet again. Meredith wondered if John Sheppard had any idea at all regarding the city’s overt attachment to him. Zillah trotted into the isolation room through a wall and stalked across the room to where Meredith sat, pressed against the wall. The jaguar stared intently at her face with jade green eyes then chuffed gently before walking away.

The door opened with the swish that ancient tech was known for and he appeared. No weapons, she thought, and wondered who’d taken them from him.

He focused on her. “That asshole you brought with you wouldn’t let me step through the gate with my gun.”

“William’s got this whole reasonable and rational thing going on that is genuinely appalling on a daily basis,” Meredith said and Sheppard huffed little under his breath as the door shut then locked behind him. “You’ll get used to him.”

“I’m not sharing,” John said shortly.

She lifted one eyebrow. “What if I said you had no choice?”

“I’d make him as miserable as I possibly could until he ran away from us both in horror.”

She laughed. “Fortunately, for William, he’s found himself a match in Miko Kusanagi. So, while he’s not going to go away—he’s not going to be in your face all the time either.”

John walked across the room and sank to his knees in front of her. “You’re…the SGC sent us video of you accepting the Nobel Prize. I don’t know why I didn’t recognize you. I’d been hearing about you since I started with the program, but it wasn’t until I saw that footage of you speaking that I actually started to resent Carter as much as most of the expedition did. Radek said you probably won it because you were bored, but Miko said you put your back into to get one over on Carter.”

“I won’t deny either accusation,” Meredith admitted and wet her lips. “Still numb?”

“All I have left is sight and hearing. I lost taste sometime the last ten minutes, but I don’t know when—once smell was gone I could barely taste anything anyway.” He ran one hand through his hair. “Touch is…bizarre. I can feel my body well enough to move and walk, but it feels distant and weird—like I’m not really in my body. I thought, at first, I was going into sensory prolapse.”

“If you were in prolapse, you’d be emotionally numb as well,” Meredith said. She shifted to her knees and carefully cupped his face. His eyes fluttered shut and he shuddered. “The first thing we should do is get you in the shower.”

“And after we get you evened out, I’d like to take you back to Earth.”

“What? No.” He jerked free of her hands. “I can’t leave Atlantis.”

“John.” She caught both of his arms. “It’s not permanent, I promise. But you need my undivided attention, which honestly you’re not going to get on the city of the ancients. It’s taken a lot of damn will power on my part not to trot off to a lab every time Woolsey’s back is turned.” She grinned when he frowned at her. “Science has been my best friend since I was eight-years-old. Regardless, I also promised your father that I would bring you home—he’s worried sick.”

“They told my dad?” John questioned.

“They told your father that Weir had declared you KIA,” Meredith said flatly. “But he already knew that wasn’t true because he was also briefed about me and my visions of you. He can’t come here, to you, as it would endanger his own imperative. No Alpha Sentinel is going to set foot on this city until you’ve established yourself and you can’t do that until you’ve been trained.”

“Training that can’t happen here,” John said dully and relaxed in her hold. “I…it feels wrong to leave.”

“You won’t be gone long—if you work hard I can probably have you field read in four weeks. No one will like it, of course, but what you want is more important than what the Burton Foundation wants. Blair Sandburg is in Colorado waiting for us to return so he’ll be on hand to help as well and he’ll keep the politics to a minimum since I have a history of being overtly hostile when I don’t get my way.” She stood and pulled him with her. “I retrieved some clothes for you—let’s get you cleaned up and I’ll help you work your senses back into a normal range.”

“You’re going to shower with me?” John questioned and glanced her over.

“Is that a problem?” Meredith questioned.

“I wouldn’t want to hurt you,” he said roughly. “I don’t feel safe…”

She patted his chest. “Relax, John, if you get out of hand—I’ll put you out like a light.”

Kepler appeared then and shouldered between them with a growl.

Gandhara Lions & Genii Relief - History

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The earliest historical sculpture in India is of the Mauryan age in the 4th-3rd centuries B.C. It is a bold and massive style marked by a certain realism freely employing foreign elements from Achaemenid Persia. The great Buddhist Emperor Ashoka caused the erection of monolithic pillars of sandstone, 30 to 40 feet high, crowned by animal figures like the bull, lion and elephant, and had them inscribed with the Buddhist concepts of morality, humanity and piety, which he wished his people to follow. Famous Ashokan pillars are from Lauriya Nandangarh in Bihar, Sanchi and Sarnath.

The most remarkable of them all is the highly polished monolithic lion-capital found at Sarnath, which is now the Emblem of the Government of India. It represents four roaring lions back to back facing the four cardinal directions. The round abacus is decorated with four dharmachakras or wheels of law, alternating with an elephant, a bull, a horse and a lion, all carved with masterly skill. The abacus is supported by a bell-shaped base consisting of a lotus with dharmachakra, which perhaps symbolized the victory of righteousness over physical force. The superb modelling of the figures executed in a realistic manner with a certain stylization, is invested with a great power and dignity, and reveals the aristocratic and international nature of Mauryan art.

Lion capital from Ashoka Stambha, Stone, Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh

Bull Capital,
from Rampurva, Bihar

To a distinguished student of art, a close look at the capital will be highly rewarding. The four lions on top are highly formalistic and stylised. This will be evident from looking at the mane of the lions which is represented as little flame shaped bunches of hair, not at all naturally done, but in a stylised manner. Again, the upper lip of the lions has been shown by three incised lines which is formalised and stylized. We must remember that it was only Ashoka who started making extensive use of stone for sculptures and great monuments whereas the previous tradition consisted of working in wood and clay .

A close look at the animals on the abacus will reveal that these animals are not static or rigid. They have been very keenly and lovingly observed in nature and are very naturalistically represented, full of life.

The bull capital of Ashoka from Rampurva, Bihar, also belonging to the third century B.C. is an interesting study as it is a mixture of Persian and Indian elements. The lotus capital is entirely formalistic. The motifs on the abacus are beautiful decorative elements like the rosette, palmette and the acanthus ornaments, none of them Indian.

However, the crowning element of the bull capital, that is the bull proper, is a master-piece of Indian craftsmanship, showing a humped bull, well modelled, with its soft flesh beautifully represented, with its strong legs, sensitive nostrils and the ears cocked as if it were listening.

At Dhauli, in Orissa, there is a masterly representation of an elephant depicted as if emerging from a rock which has been so cut that it resembles the front part of an elephant including the head and trunk etc. Unfortunately, it is in a sad state of preservation, nevertheless, it is interesting as almost the first attempt at carving a colossal animal figure out of a rock or a boulder. This representation of an animal is in the indigenous tradition of the country.

Excellent specimens of the Mauryan craftsmanship in fashioning the human figure are provided by the colossal statues of Yakshas and Yakshis, the deities of fertility and abundance. The Yakshi.

from Patna Museum is a striking example of 3rd-2nd century B.C., fashioned by a gifted sculptor. The figure wearing elaborate jewellery and a heavy undergarment, though massive and bold in its execution, portrays in a grand manner, the Indian ideal of feminine beauty in her full breasts, slender waist and broad hips. The sculptor in India took delight in fashioning his beautiful creations in poetic or visual metaphors in preference to direct observation. The surface of this lovely figure bears the typical lustrous polish of the period.

Another striking example of Mauryan art in the 3rd century B.C. is the handsome torso of a male figure from Lohanipur. The modelling of the figure executed in a realistic manner, is invested with a wonderful vitality. It probably represents a Jain Tirthankara or a Saviour of the Digambara sect.

Chauri-bearer (Yakshi), Lime Stone, Didarganj, Bihar

Worship of the Bodhi Tree, Bharhut, Madhya Pradesh

After the decline of the Mauryan empire, the Sungas succeeded to power in circa 185 B.C. They ruled the central and eastern parts of Northern India. Their native style, distinguished by its simplicity and folk appeal is best represented in monolithic free standing sculptures of Yakshas and Yakshis, discovered from Gwalior and Mathura and the fragments of the beautifully carved gate and railings of the Buddhist stupa at Bharhut, now preserved in the Indian Museum, Calcutta. The narrative art of Bharhut, depicting Jatakas of Buddha's previous birth in sculptures, the decorative art of Sanchi and the Jain Stupa of Mathura belong to the same tradition. They all have an echo of wood construction and the style of the sculptures seems related to carving in wood or ivory, basically the exploitation and elaboration of a flat surface, governed by the law of frontality as distinct from 'perspective' presentation. Whether it is the representation of Buddha by his lotus feet, an empty throne, a pair of fly whisks or the triratna symbol, or the nativity of Maya Devi by the two elephants elegantly giving an Abhisheka or bath to the new born, pouring water from thekalasha or jars, the language employed by the artist is that of symbols.

When the artist visualises a Yakshi, the nature spirit, or the fertility symbol Sura-Sundari, the Celestial beauty, her eye-brows are like the arch of the bow, her eyes a curved fish, her lips a lotus petal, her arms an elegant creeper, her legs tapering like the trunk of an elephant or a plantain tree. The allegiance of the artists is to what he considers reality in a dream or a poetic metaphor. And it is this visualised, idealised image that he hopes and strives to present most faithfully, among the several deities of fertility and other scenes sculptured on the railing pillars of Bharhut. The figure of Chulakoka Devta is a notable specimen of Sunga art representing its indigenous character and folk quality. She stands gracefully on an elephant with her arms and one leg entwined around a flowering tree, as she is a tree goddess. The profuse jewellery and the mode of wearing the under garment and the head-dress demonstrate the feminine fashion of the period. The figure suggests a certain elegance which we find with greater exuberance in the later Kushan sculpture. The inscribed label at her right side, gives us the names of theYakshi and also states that this pillar was the gift of Arya Panthka.

There are several interesting Jataka stories, and Bharhut forms a treasure house of fables, visually represented. In this medallion the gift of the Jetavana park by Anantha Pindika, by covering the ground with golden coins before it was presented by the merchant prince, is most graphically represented.

Another good example of Sunga art of the second century B.C. is the jovial figures, the dwarfish Yaksha from the Pithalkhora caves in Central India, carrying a bowl of abundance on his head. The care-free broad smile on his face and his rotund belly indicate that he is fully satisfied in all respects. The two amulets strung on his necklace ward off evil spirits from his devotees. The back of his right hand bears an inscription giving the name of the sculptor as Krishnadasa who was a goldsmith by profession. Generally speaking Indian art is an anonymous art, as the sculptor or the artist never sought to glorify himself. He always gave of his best as a humble offering to God or to his patron, the king, who was an image of God.

Though it may seem strange, Buddha is never represented in human form in Buddhist art before the Christian era, as his spirituality was considered too abstract for the purpose. The adherents of the Buddhist faith followed the Hinayana path as a means of attaining salvation. Buddha's presence in early Indian art is, therefore, suggested by symbols like the Bodhi tree under which he attained enlightenment, the wheel of law, his foot prints, the royal umbrella, the stupa and an empty throne, etc.

The relief-medallion from the fragment of a railing pillar of the stupa at Bharhut datable to the 2nd Century B.C., shows the worship of the Bodhi tree by four figures. Buddha had attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya. Here the tree symbolizes the presence of Buddha.

In the fragment of an architrave from the gateway of the stupa at Bharhut we can observe the great love, understanding and affection that the early Indian artist had for animals and plants which he took pains to study in great detail. On either side of this architrave, are men and elephants in action, skillfully shown, paying homage to the Buddha, represented by the Bodhi tree shown in the centre.

The Kishvakus continued the great art traditions of the Satavahanas. They were responsible for building the stupas at Nagarjunikonda and their equally beautiful carvings.

The powerful Satavahana Kings of South India were great builders and from the 2nd century B.C. to 2nd century A.D. they studded their empire with several splendid monuments which were richly embellished. They excavated cave temples and monasteries along the Western Coast of India and erected several Buddhist stupas. The lavish carvings on the Sanchi stupa gateway which were also executed during their reign, proclaim the high skill and technical proficiency of the Satavahana sculptors. Stupa worship was an ancient form of honouring the great dead. Stupas were built not only to enshrine relics of Buddha and Buddhist saints, but also to commemorate events of religious significance. The outstanding example of an early Buddhist stupa built during the 3rd and 1st century B.C. is preserved at Sanchi in Central India. It is a solid structural dome raised on a terrace and surmounted by a railed pavilion from which rises the shaft of the crowning umbrella. The stupa was originally a mud funerary mound enshrining in its core the sacred relics of the Buddha or his disciples, such as hair, bits of bones, etc. The present stupa at Sanchi was originally constructed during Ashoka's reign but was considerably enlarged and the circum- ambulatory enclosure as well as the outer enclosures was added in the 1st century B.C. The passage is enclosed by a railing having four gateways facing the four directions. The Buddhist carvings on both faces of the architraves and on all sides of the uprights of these gateways are remarkable for their crowded scenes, perspective and pictorial effect in stone.

Sanchi Stupa No.1, detail of Torana, Animals Worshipping Bodhi Tree, Madhya Pradesh

Sanchi Stupa No.1, Yakshi,
Madhya Pradesh

In a part of the Eastern Gate of the Sanchi stupa there is a scene depicting a bracket figure of a Vrikshika or wood nymph. In this we can see that the sculptor has advanced a great deal since he had carved the frontal, though to a certain extent rigid, human figures, in the 3rd-2nd century B.C. The sculptor has succeeded in truly portraying her as a tree goddess hanging as it were from the branches of her tree, with nudity clearly shown suggesting that she is a fertility goddess. He has also succeeded in giving it a three dimensional effect, i.e. length, breadth, and depth by ridding himself of the back-slab and by evolving a tribhanga posture (thrice-flexed) to bring out the contours and the beauty of the female figure.

The Vessantara Jataka from Goli, belongs to the 1st century A.D., in his previous birth Buddha was Prince Vessantara, who was never tired of giving away everything he had in charity. An elephant that assured prosperity to his realm, and was considered its most precious object, was presented by the Prince to the people of Kalinga who sought to make prosperous their land which had suffered from a drought. The infuriated people of his own kingdom insisted on the King, his father, banishing Vessantara to the forest with his wife and children. The story is a touching one recounting the Prince being put to severe tests but has a happy ending.

Of a later date, circa first century A.D. and more mature in skill, are the carvings from Karle. Noteworthy are the Dampati and the Mithuna figures as also the pairs riding the magnificent elephant crowning the pillars forming imposing colonnades. The figures are more than life size and are represented with powerful and muscular physique.

A famous carving depicts the adoration of the feet of the Buddha by four women and belongs to the second century A.D. from Amravati. Here the composition and the disposition of the limbs delineating the beauty of the curvatures in form, the mood of intense devotion combined with bashfulness and humility so natural in women, mark it out as a great master-piece.

A relief medallion from Amravati belonging to the second century A.D. is a masterly representation of a scene showing the subjugation or taming of Nalagiri, a mad elephant let loose on the Buddha in the streets of Rajagriha by his wicked cousin, Devadatta. The great commotion and anxiety caused by the rush of the mad elephant at the Buddha is forcefully brought out and thereafter the furious animal is shown calm and kneeling at the feet of the Master.

Taming of Nalagiri Elephant, Amaravati, State Museum, Chennai, Tamil Nadu

There is a richly sculptured slab from the Buddhist stupa which once existed at Amravati. Another remarkable example of the elegant style of Amravati in the 2nd century A.D. is seen in the beautiful railing cross-bar. The subject, treated here is the presentation of Prince Rahul to his father, the Buddha, when the latter paid a visit to his family in his former palace. The presence of Buddha is here symbolised by the empty throne, his footprints, the wheel of the law and the triratna symbol. On the right are his followers clad in robes and on the left, the inmates of the palace. In the distance, behind the curtain, are seen an elephant, a horse, and attendants. The coyness of the young Prince trying to hide his face behind the side of the throne and extending his folded hands in salutation, the delicate delineation of the difficult poses of the kneeling figures worshipping the Buddha, the magnificent execution of the crowded composition in three-dimension, all speak volumes for the sculptor who fashioned this masterpiece with a wonderful pictorial effect.

he Ayaka or cornice beam with a sequence of subjects is a typical example of the art from Nagarjunikonda. The qualities already seen at Amravati, as for example mentioned in the previous para, are to be found in abundance in this. The beam has been divided into rectangles displaying scenes from the Jataka tales interspersed with loving couples within small compartments made by the spacing pillars. There is a multitude of humanity represented, palace war and loving scenes representing both male and female figures in a variety of animated postures. The artist now displays complete mastery over the human form that he has achieved gradually over the centuries. The figures are full of life and movement executed with consummate skill based on observing life in reality.

After Alexander's invasion of India in 326 B.C., the Indo-Greek, Indo Scythian and Kushan kings ruled over its north-western territories and under their patronage emerged a distinct style of sculpture, popularly known as the Greco-Roman, Buddhist or Gandhara art. It was a product of the combination of Hellenistic, West Asiatic and native elements. Greek and Roman techniques, modified according to Indian requirements, were employed in fashioning the Gandhara sculpture which truly represents Indian culture in a Western garb. The subject-matter treated is predominantly Buddhist. Its area extended from Takshila in India to the Swat Valley in Pakistan and north­wards to areas in Afghanistan.

The first century of the Christian era's revolutionary change, had far-reaching effects, not only on the art of India, but also on the artistic development of Buddhist countries of Asia. Buddha who was hitherto designated only by a symbol, was conceived in human form. His person was given some of the 32 suspicious bodily signs associated with the Mahapurushalakshana, such as the protuberance of the skull, the hair-knot, bindi between the eyebrows and elongated ears. This change came about as a result of the new changes that had crept into the religious outlook of Buddhism due to the influence of the Devotional School of Hindu Philosophy, requiring the worship of personal gods. It must have exercised profound influence on the religious approach of the masses towards Buddhism. The image becomes henceforth the main element of sculpture and worship. Possibly, the emergence of the image of Buddha in Gandhara and in Mathura was a parallel development. In each case, it was produced by the local artist craftsmen working in the local tradition. At Mathura it clearly emerges from the Yaksha tradition. The Gandhara image might seem to resemble Apollo in some extraneous forms and does look characteristically Greco-Roman in drapery, but even there most of the images represent Buddha as seated in the typically Indian Yogic posture, a feature completely unknown to the Hellenistic tradition of art.

Head of Buddha, Gandhara period, 2nd century A.D., Uttar Pradesh

The relief panel showing Buddha's Great Departure is a fine example of Gandhara art of the 2nd century A.D. Forsaking his wife, child and future kingdom in the quest of eternal bliss, prince Siddhartha is shown riding away on high favourite horse, Kanthaka, whose hoofs are lifted by two Yakshas to prevent the sound being heard by his family. His groom Chhandala, holds the royal umbrella over his head. Mara, the Evil one, along with a couple of his soldiers and the city­goddess are urging the Prince to abandon his pious intention. This incident, which was a turning point in the life of Gautama, is effectively portrayed.

Another typical example of Gandhara art of 3rd century A.D. is the figure of a standing Bodhisattava. His right hand is shown in the gesture of protection. He is wearing a rich turban, a string of amulets across his body, and strapped sandals on his feet. The pedestal contains a pair of Corinthian pillars. The athletic figure wearing a moustache, the heavy drapery folds of the garments and the strapped sandal all reveal the Greco-Roman influence.

The Kushans, who came from Central Asia, ruled over vast territories of the north from the 1st to the 3rd century A.D. During their regime, Mathura, just 80 miles away from Delhi, was throbbing with great artistic activity, and its workshops even catered to the outside demands for sculpture. Now icons of Brahmanical gods and goddesses and Buddhist and Jain divinities, which characterized the subsequent evolution of Indian art were produced experimentally. Some magnificent portrait studies of the Kushan emperors, together with several noblemen and women were executed during the period in the characteristic red and red-speckled sandstone of Mathura.

The Buddhist religion greatly flourished under the patronage of Kushan emperors, and several images of the Buddha and Bodhisattavas were produced after the earlier Yaksha types. Here, we may point out the difference between a Buddha and Bodhisattava. Buddha is one who has attained the enlightenment of supreme knowledge, while the Bodhisattava is still a candidate for it. A typical example of the image of Buddha, as it was evolved by the Kushan sculptor in the 2nd century A.D. shows him seated cross-legged on a lion-throne, under the Bodhi tree, with his right hand in the gesture of assuring protection, while the left is placed on the thigh. The eyes are wide open and the protuberance on the skull is indicated by a single curl coiled to the left. The hands and feet are marked with auspicious symbols. Two fly-whisk bearing celestials, standing on either side, are shown above. This type of image of the Buddha reached perfection in the Gupta age, three centuries later.

Seated Buddha, Stone, Mathura, Uttar Pradesh

Fair maidens, in gracefully flexed postures engaged in making their toilet or in dance and music, or in garden sports and other pastimes, created by the master craftsmen of Mathura, are a glowing tribute to their high artistic skill and ingenuity in the portrayal of feminine beauty in all its sensuous charm. Among the several beautifully carved railing pillars, which once adorned a stupa at Mathura, these three are the most famous ones. The one on the right shows a lovely damsel holding a bird cage in her right hand, from which she has let loose a parrot who has perched on her shoulder. The parrot is narrating to her the sweet and loving words, which her lover spoke the night before, and listening to them, she is feeling amused. In the center is a charming lady, standing gracefully with her left leg crossed infront, settling her heavy necklace with her right hand. The lady on the left holds a bunch of grapes in her left hand. She has plucked a grape and is holding it in her right hand, luring the parrot, perches on her right shoulder to repeat to her the words of her lover. In the balconies above, from the left it can be seen, a lover offering a cup of wine to his lady love, the second is offering a flower and the one on the right holding the toilet tray is assisting his beloved in her make-up. These figures, though appearing nude, are draped in diaphanous lower garments. They stand on crouching dwarfs, probably symbolising the miseries of the world, which are stamped out by the charm of a fair maiden.

This genius is a good example of the Assyrian decorative style. He is elaborately dressed in a long, short-sleeved fringed cape over a shorter braided tunic, revealing a calf with a stylised and carefully modelled musculature. The figure is adorned with earrings and two pairs of bracelets and has a beard with painstakingly sculpted curls. His large egg-shaped headdress with three pairs of horns asserts his divinity.

Several reliefs at Khorsabad depict protective genii, of which there were many variants. Some are over four meters tall and have different levels of relief. A number of genii are raptor-headed hybrids. A stylised or "sacred” tree with a complex symbolic value is sometimes depicted. Another protective figure is the hero overpowering a lion, which may refer to the legendary king Gilgamesh. Some heroes probably depict Lahmu, a protective genius recognisable by his long curly hair.

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Watch the video: Ashurbanipal hunting lions (January 2022).