UNIT 26 ART AND ARCHITECTURE Structure
Objectives Introduction Background Architecnrre 26.3.1 Residential Architecture 26.3.2 Temples and Towers 26.3.3 Stupas 26.3.4 Rock-cut Architecture Sculptural Art 26.4.1 Gandhara School 26.4.2 Mathura Art 26.4.3 Amaravati Art Let Us Sum Up Key Words Answers to Check Your Progress Exercises
After reading this unit you will be able to :
familiarise yourself with important trends of art and architectural activities between 200 B.C. to 300 A.D. learn about the techniques and styles adopted in the fields of architecture and sculpture,
distinguish between the major characteristics and forms of the Gandhara, Mathura and Amravati schools of art, and
learn about the impact of religious and social conditions on art and architecture of the period.
In some of the earlier Units (Nos. 3, 10, 11) we have seen how artistic forms had started emerging and to what extent they reflected the culture of a period. Works of art which were related to work processes of daily life and were not exclusively produced for a previleged group of society were many. They are found in the forms of rock paintings, terracotta figurines, toys, etc. Gradually works of art, manufactured by specialist craftsmen, came to be produced for exclusive purposes. The Mauryan period witnessed production of splendid specimens of art by the state. With the emergence of social groups who could extend substal patronage for production of specimens of art, new trends in art activities came about. In the post-Mauryan period, patronage by different social groups was the main reason behind the phenomenon that art activities became so widespread all over India and beyond; it was no longer high art exclusively patronized by the state. There was also, from the Mauryan period onward, a shift toward using non-perishable material i.e. stone as a medium of creative expression. There was also constant interaction in this period with those art forms that flourished beyond the frontiers of the Indian sub-continent. There emerged various schools of art. In this unit we shall discuss the main characteristics of Gandhara and Mathura art forms along with those of Sarnath and Amaravati. Most of the art forms were inspired by Buddhism and ~ainism and very few Brahmanical monuments are to be found. This unit also takes into account the architectural and sculptural aspects of various Stupas, viharas and caves etc.
India : Century 200 B.C. To 300 A.D. 26.2 BACKGROUND
During the Mauryan period sculpture and architecture had reached a developed stage. The Asokan pillars; the animals and carvings on the pillars - all represent mature art forms. A unique feature of the specimens of Mauryan art fashioned in stone is the polish and the smooth, glassy surface not to be found during any other period. In addition to the animal figures, the most famous piece of art is the figure of Yakshini from Didarganj, Patna. This superb art piece tells us about the hairstyle, ornaments and dress of women during that period. The Mauryan levels at sites which have been excavated have yielded a large number of terracotta figurines. They indicate that artistic creations were not confined to the Imperial level alone, and even when Mauryan Imperial art declined and new forms of art emerged, the practice of producing terracotta figurines on a substantial scale continued.
In the field of architecture we get information about Chandragupta's wooden palace from Megasthenes. Excavations at Pataliputra have revealed wooden walls and columns. We also have references about the construction of Stupas during the Mauryan period from the accounts of Fa-heing, Hiuen-Tsang and in Buddhist literature. Sanchi, Sarnath, Taxila and Bharhut were some of the religious centres in which Stupas may have been originally built in the Mauryan period, and additions were made to them in the later period.
In the period between 200 B.C.- 300 A.D. certain general characteristics of art may be highlighted :
1) Art activities in this period were mostly related to religions practised in this period and symbols and units associated with them.
2) The Buddha image which began to be sculpted in this period was-a departure from earlier representations of him in the form of Bodhi tree, Stupa, foot prints,,etc. Making of images for worship became common among other religions as well.
3) The construction of Stupas, Chaityas and Viharas became popular. 4) The art forms and all of their symbolic representations were not exclusive toany
particular religion. For example, the Bharhut and Sanchi Stupas not only depict scenes from the life of the Buddha but also the reliefs of Yakshas, Yakshinis, Nagas and other popular deities.
5) Similarly, we find that the artists, in order to decorate the Stupas, carved many scenes which they observed in nature along with religious ideas. In fact, these are examples of secular art forms.
6) Because of regular interactions with other cultures in this period we also find elements of non-Indian art in the artistic creations of this period. This is particularly true of the Gandhara region which produced art typical to the region, in which many different elements came to be assimilated.
If Let us now examine in some detail the various aspects of art and architecture of this period. 26.3 ARCHITECTURE
The architecture of this period can be broadly divided in two categories :
i) Residential structures ii) Religious monuments Under the first category we havetvery few surviving monuments since in the initial phase they were built of perishable materials like wood. However, a number of monuments have survived on unearthed through excavations which come under the second category.
26.3.1 Residential ~rchitecture In Block 4 (Unit 15) we have already discussed the pattern of city life on the basis of both literary and archaeological sources. We get similar kind of information for this period also. For example, the Milinda Panha describes a city with moats, ramparts, gate houses,
towers, well.laidout streets, markets, parks, lakes and temples. There are references to Art and Architecture buildings of several storeys with wagon-vaulted roofs and verandas - mostly constructed of wood. This description to an extent is corroborated by archaeological sources. However, in the countryside not much change is noticed in architectural style or types of hutrnents.
26.3.2 Temples and Towers For this period, we have very insufficient data on temple structures from excavations. The earliest known temples for this period are :
The temple at' Jhandial (Taxila) The Sankarshana temple at Nagari (Rajasthan) The temple at Besnagar (Madhya Pradesh) An apsidal temple at Nagarjunakonda (Andhra Pradesh).
We know from Fa-hein's account, written several centuries, later of the existence of a tower at Purushapura (Peshawar). It was a grand structure with 13 storeys surmounted by an iron column with imposing umbrellas. The construction of this tower is attributed to Kanishka-I.
In fact the constmction of temples in which deities were inshrined for worship became common only at a later date and the Buddhist Stupas and other structures were the common forms of religious architecture in this period.
2. Jhandial Temple
26.3.3 Stupas The practice of preserving the remains of an important personality below accumulated earth was long in existence. Buddhist art adopted this practice and the structure built over such a site was known as Stupa. According to Buddhist sources, the remains of the Buddha's body were divided into eight parts and placed under the Stupas. These during the time of Asoka, were dug out and redistributed which led to the construction of other Stupas - the sacred places of Buddhism. The worship of Stupas led to their ornamentation and a specific type of architecture developed for their construction.
The Stupas had the shape of a bowl turned upside down. At the top, which was a bit flat, used to be its harmika, i.e. the abode of the Gods. It was here that the urns containing the remains of the Buddha or a great personality connected with the religion was placed in a gold or silver casket. A wooden rod (Yashti) was placed in its'middle and the bottom of the rod was fixed on the top of the Stupa. On the top of this rod were placed three small umbrella type discs symbolising respect, veneration and magnanimity. Let us briefly discuss some of the prominent Stupas: i) Bodha Gaya (Bihar)
India : Century 290 B.C. Fifteen kilometres from Gaya is the site where Lord Buddha gained 'knowledge' (bodhi) and To 300 A.D. it was here that Asoka got a 'Bodhi-Manda' constructed. No trace of the original
construction has survived. We have only the remains of the stone pillars constructed during the Sunga period like the raiting pillars found around other Stupas and they too have sculpture the panels in relief. They illustrate storks from the Buddhist Jatakas. ii) Sanchi Stupa (Madhya Pradesh) Sanchi is about 14 kilometers from Vidisa (Bhilsa) and is perhaps the most famous Stupa site in India. It has three Stupas all with gateways around them. But the most famous is the Great Stupa which was originally made of brick in Asoka's time (C. 250 B.C.). During the Sunga period this was later on nearly doubled in circumference in 150 B.C. The bricks of Asokan times were replaced by stones, and a 'Vedika' was also constructed around it. Four gates, one in each direction, were added to beautify it. From the Southern gate we get an inscription from its architrave which tell us that it was donated by King Satakarni and the incision work was done by those craftsmen who worked in ivory.
The northern gate and the panels depict stories from the Jatakas. Th