Post-Mauryan Culture and Art: Ancient History


Contribution of Sungas

• The period saw a flowering of the visual arts, including small terracotta images, larger stone sculptures, and architectural monuments such as the chaitya hall at Bhaja, the stupa at Bharhut, and the renowned Great Stupa at Sanchi.
• Under Shunga patronage, the core of the Great Stupa, thought to date from the era of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka (273-232 B.C.), was enlarged to its present diameter of 120 feet, covered with a stone casing, topped with a balcony and umbrella, and encircled with a stone railing.
• Four famous gateways, each about thirty-five feet high, were carved during the first half of the first century A.D. Decorated with images of auspicious fertility spirits, known as yakshas and yakshis, the gateways also feature narratives depicting moments from the past lives and final existence of Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism.
• Motifs such as wheels, thrones, and footprints are used to symbolize the Buddha, who is not represented in human form until later.

Contribution of Satvahanas

• The Satavahanas patronized Buddhism and Brahmanism and built chaityas and viharas. They also made grants of villages and lands to Buddhist monks.
• Vashishtaputra Pulamayi repaired the old Amaravathi stupa.
• Their architecture in Nagarjunakonda was also notable.
• Brahmanism was revived by the Satavahanas along with the performance of asvamedha and rajasuya sacrifices.

Sculptural Art during Kushan Kings

Under the patronage of the Indo-Greek, Indo Scythian and Kushan kings emerged a distinct style of sculpture, popularly known as the Greco-Roman, Buddhist or Gandhara art and Mathura Art.

Gandhara Art

• It was a 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.
• Its area extended from Takshila in India to the Swat Valley in Pakistan and northwards to areas in Afghanistan.
• The Gandhara sculptors made images of Lord Buddha in the Greco-Roman style. The images of Buddha resembled Greek God Apollo. It gave more stress to the bodily features and external beauty.
• In all the Buddha depicted in the Gandhara Art is shown making four types of hand gestures and this is a remarkable feature in this art. The gestures are as follows:

a) Abahayamudra : Don’t fear
b) Dhyanamudra : meditation
c) Dharmachakramudra: a preaching mudra
d) Bhumisparshamudra: Touching the earth.

Mathura Art

• Mathura School of art is purely indigenous style. Mathura art developed during post Maurya peiod (mainly during Shunga period) and reached its peak during the Gupta period (AD 325 to 600).
• The traditional centre, Mathura, remained the main art production site whereas Sarnathand Kosambi also emerged as important centres of art production. Spotted red sandstonehas been used in this school.
• Themes in the Mathura Art vary from Buddhist to Brahmanical to sometimes secular. More stress was given to the inner beauty and facial emotions rather than bodily gesture.
• Under the Mathura Art images of Vishnu and Shiva, Buddha, Yakshas, Yakshinis, Shaivite and Vaishnavite deities were found.
• In these sculptures, Buddha was depicted as Human and the main theme was Buddha and Bodhisattavas. Both sitting and standing posture of Buddha’s statues were carved out in the Mathura school.
• The art of Mathura also featured sexual imagery.
• The characteristics of the idol of the Buddha are:

(a) Buddha sitting under a Bodhi tree with right hand in Abhaya posture,
(b) Dharma Chakra and Triratna chiselled in palms and at the bottom of the feet, and
(c) Except for one lock, the entire head is shaven.

The Amravati School of Art

• The Amravati school of Art evolved during Satavahna period.
• This school of art developed at Amravati, on the banks of the Krishna River in modern Andhra Pradesh.
• This school of art had great influence on art in Sri Lanka and South-East Asia as products from here were carried to those countries.
• It is Completely indigenous in nature
• Lord Buddha is depicted in the form of `Swastika` mark. This has been carved out onthe cushioned seat over a throne that is situated under the Bodhi tree.
• They used white sandstone to construct the images.
• At a later stage the Amaravati School depicted Buddha in the human form.
• The figures of Amaravati have slim blithe features and are represented in difficult poses and curves.


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