Historical story

Chapter-35 - Indian Sculpture

Last updated:2022-07-25

The best Indian sculptures touch a deeper tone of feeling and sublime emotions than the best Greek sculptures.

- E. B. Havel.


Since the time of Indus civilization, clay idols, bangles, utensils, toys and seals baked in fire are found in large numbers. Seals with markings of lingas, yoni, bulls with big humps and huge horns used in worship, seals containing the markings of Yogi and Yogini have been received from which various arts like hairstyles, postures, weights, toys, dance, music etc. information is available.

These sculptures completely differentiate the Indus culture from other earlier or contemporary civilizations. It is known from these sculptures that the inhabitants of the Indus civilization had developed various arts like writing, sculpture, painting, choreography and music.

The script of the Indus Civilization has not yet been read properly, but the sculptures, postures, lingas, vaginas, ornaments, utensils and building remains of that period shed ample light on the civilization of that period. The figures of Param Purush, Paramanari and the goddess of fertility are inscribed on these mudras. Two cups or lamps are displayed on both sides of many idols and smoke marks have also been found on the front of these idols.

Mauryan Sculpture

Mauryan stone sculptures have been found from Pataliputra, Mathura, Vidisha and many other areas. It has a shiny polish typical of the Maurya period. Among these idols, the idols of Yaksha-Yakshinis are the most alive and beautiful. They are considered a symbol of Mauryan folk art. The most famous of these is the idol of Chamargrahini Yakshi found from Didarganj (Patna) which is seven and a half feet high.

The face of the Yakshi is very beautiful. Proper filling in the limbs is a subtle shade of art. The Yaksha-Idol obtained from Parakham village of Mathura is also 8 feet 8 inches. There is simplicity in its cutting and the ornamentation is less. The female idol of Besnagar also occupies a special place among the idols of this period. The sculptures of various animals on the pillar heads of Ashoka are the best sculptures of that period.

A large number of Mauryan statues have been obtained from the ruins found at Patna, Ahichatra, Mathura, Kaushambi etc. These are beautiful from the point of view of art and give information about the costumes, costumes and ornaments of the Mauryan period. Particularly noteworthy is the sculpture of a Mauryan dancer obtained from Bulandibagh (Patna).

Foreign influence on sculpture

After the disintegration of the Maurya Empire, the Greeks, Sakas, Kushans, Huns, Pahlavas and Scythians entered India. They had established small states in different parts of India. Due to this, Indian art was greatly influenced by foreign art, especially the Gandhara style.

Kanishka Carpet Sculpture

Rawison has written- 'Kushan period is a very important era in the history of Indian culture. Sculpture flourished a lot during the period of Kanishka. Many idols of this period have been found in Mathura. The idols of Mathura style of Kanishka period are easily recognized because red stone has been used in their construction which is near Mathura 'Sikri' Received from.

The idols of Mathura style are gigantic in size. These idols do not have mustaches. The tradition of making idols without hair and mustache is purely Indian. There is no cloth on the right shoulder of Kushan idols of Mathura. The right hand is raised in the posture of abhaya. The Buddha is shown seated on a throne in the Kushan period sculptures of Mathura style.

The Gandhara-style of sculpture also made great progress during the Kanishka period. Most of the Buddhist sculptures built by Kanishka and his successors have been found in the Gandhara district of Pakistan. For this reason this art has been named Gandhara-Kala. Many statues of Gandhara art are also found engraved on the coins.

Gandhara art is also called Indo-Hellenic art or Indo-Greek art, because it has the influence of Greek art. The figures of the Yavana deities are followed in the Buddha sculptures. This art is also called Greek Buddhist style. In the sculptures of this style, Buddha is found in Kamalasana posture, but with the face and clothes, Buddha looks like Greek kings. These statues of Buddha bear a lot of resemblance to the statues of the Greek-god Apollo. In these, Buddha is shown with European garb and jewels.

Gupta Sculpture

There was great progress in the art of crafts during the Gupta period. The sculpture style of the Gupta period is considered to be a developed form of the Mathura style of Kanishka. Dr. Ramashankar Tripathi has written in relation to the art of the Gupta period- 'The specialty of the works of the craftsmen of the Gupta period is that they are found to be lacking in energy, incontinence and fineness of style.'

In relation to the art and painting of the Gupta period, Dr. Neelkant Shastri has written - 'Gupta art is a symbol of the development of Indian talent in the field of art and painting and its influence is radiant on the whole of Asia. .'

Dr. Rameshchandra Majumdar has written while highlighting the specialty of the Gupta period crafts- 'Generally, the ideal of high order and the developed sense of melody and beauty are the characteristics of the art of the Gupta period.'

The practice of idol-worship had increased a lot during the Gupta period as compared to its earlier eras. Therefore, idols of gods and goddesses were made in large numbers during this period. There are many features of sculpture of this period-

(1.) The idols of this period are very beautiful.

(2.) They are free from foreign influence and are pure Indians.

(3.) There is a special focus on ethics.

(4.) During this period the production of naked idols stopped and they were dressed in thin clothes.

(5.) They are very simple. No attempt was made to embellish them excessively.

(6.) Female idols of Gupta period are more muscular and the marking of gross breasts has been done prominently in them.

The Buddhist statue of Sarnath of this period is very beautiful and alive. The idol of Lord Vishnu found from Mathura is the best example of the art of the Gupta period. Banaras, Pataliputra and Mathura were famous centers of sculpture during the Gupta period.

Harsh Age Sculpture

In the reign of Harsha, along with administrative skills, there was great progress in art and literature. Harsha himself was a lover of art and literature. A large number of temples, Chaityas and Sangharamas of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religions were built in India during this period. Sculpture also developed substantially due to the construction of temples. Buddhists made beautiful statues of Buddha and Hindus made beautiful idols of deities like Shiva and Vishnu. Bharshiva style and Mathura style merged in the sculpture of this period and long faces were made in place of round faces. The idols of Ajanta Cave No. 1 and 2 belong to this period.

Sultanate Carpet Sculpture

Sculpture in India was in a very advanced stage before the Muslims came to India, but the Muslim invaders considered breaking the idols as a service to Islam and a religious duty. So he made a fatal attack on Indian sculpture. In the invasion of Muhammad Ghori and Qutubuddin Aibak, the idols of almost all the ancient religious places located in Delhi, Agra, Ajmer etc. were destroyed.

Many temples put Islamic symbols on the outside of their temples so that Muslim invaders could not destroy them completely. Nevertheless, the idols of these temples were mutilated wholly or partly. During the Sultanate period, the construction of temples and idols was completely banned, so the development of sculpture in North India came to a standstill. Temples and statues continued to be built in other states, including the Vijayanagara Empire of South India, where Hindu rulers were ruling.

Mughal Carpet Sculpture

Even during the period of the Mughals, the sculpture of India continued to decline. Babur and Humayun were also staunch Muslim rulers and considered making idols a sin. He destroyed many temples and their idols. Akbar encouraged sculpture because of his liberal outlook. Jahangir also made some idols but Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb did not give any encouragement to it, due to which the sculpture became degraded. During the reign of Aurangzeb, the sculpture suffered the most.