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Gandhara – Mathura And Amravati School of Art

Gandhara – Mathura And Amravati School of Art

Schools of Art in Ancient India

  • During the start of Christian era (1st and 2nd centuries), the Buddhism expanded substantially and had stimulated a renewed artistic passion to illustrate the message of Buddha and this lead to the development of three main schools of sculpture in India which had evolved their own styles and distinctions.
  • These were named as the Gandhara, Mathura, and Amaravati school of art, after the places of their prominence.

Gandhara School

  • The Gandhara School of Art developed in the western frontiers of Punjab, near modern-day Peshawar and Afghanistan.
  • The Gandhara School flourished in two stages in the period from 50 B.C. to 500 A.D.
  • Many artists from West Asia had settled down in the north-west of India after the Greek invasions and during the period of the Kushanas further, they were deeply influenced by the Graeco-Roman art.
  • The Kushana kings, especially Kanishka, motivated the Gandhara artists to carve the themes from Buddha’s life and the jatakas thus a large number of the images of the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas were produced.
  • Due to the application of Greek Techniques of art to the Buddhist subjects (beautiful images of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas) the Gandhara School of Art is also known as the Graeco-Buddhist School of Art.
  • Almost all kinds of foreign influences like Greek, Roman, Persian, Saka and Kushan were assimilated in Gandhara style.
  • Gandhara School came to be known as Greco-Indian School of Art.
  • Jalalabad, Begram, Hadda, Bamaran & Taxila were the main centres where art pieces of Gandhara School have been found and the Bamyan Buddha of Afghanistan considered as an example of the Gandhara School.

Characteristics Of Gandhara School Of Art

  • The reliefs of the Gandhara Sculpture depict Buddha s birth, his renunciation and his preaching and the best of the sculptures were produced during the first and second centuries A.D.
  • The drapery was thick with large and bold fold lines also the human body was cast in a realistic manner with minute attention being given to physical features like a moustache, muscles, and curly hair.
  • Gandhara School images were carved with finer details (Curly hair, anatomical accuracy, spatial depth, and foreshortening) etc.
  • Various Mudras of Buddha in Gandhara School of art are:
    • Abhaya Mudra – Don’t fear
    • Bhumisparsha Mudra -Touching the earth
    • Dhyana mudra – Meditation
    • Dharmachakra Mudra – A preaching mudra

Mathura School

  • Initially, in Gandhara style, a complex form of symbolism was present and Mathura style deviated from it by establishing the tradition of transforming Buddhist symbols into human form accordingly Buddha’s first image can be traced to Kanishka s reign.
  • The Mathura School flourished on the banks of the river Yamuna in the period between 1st and 3rd centuries B.C.
  • In Mathura, an indigenous style of sculpture developed, and it mostly used red sandstone.
  • Mathura School of art is famous for its assimilative character since the images of Vaishnava and Shaiva faiths along with Buddhist images are in prevalence in Mathura style.
  • The sculptures of the Mathura School were influenced by the stories and imageries of all three religions of the time – Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.
  • The images of Siva and Vishnu along with their consorts Parvathi and Lakshmi were also carved out in the Mathura school moreover the female figures of yakshinis and apsaras of the Mathura school were beautifully carved too. One thing to note that the images of Shiva and Vishnu were depicted by their ayudhas (weapons).
  • The records of Jain Tirthankars are also found in Mathura Style.
  • The Hindu Gods were represented using their avayudhas.          Gandhara – Mathura And Amravati School of Art
  • The Mathura style focuses on the internal beauty and facial sentiments rather than bodily gesture.
  • Yaksha images found during the Mauryan period.

Characteristics of Mathura School of Art

  • In Mathura style more, the focus was laid on the internal beauty and facial sentiments rather than bodily gesture.
  • There is boldness in carving the large images as the first Mathura image creators never aimed to sculpt an anatomically correct human Buddha.
  • Progression in Mathura School of Art
  • Initially, in early stages the images of Buddha and Bodhisattva are fleshy, with little spirituality and more happiness (faces are round and smiling), garments clearly visible, close-fitting robes almost entirely devoid of folds.
  • Later in 2nd, 3rd and 4th Century AD the extreme fleshiness kept on reducing progressively and images got sensual. Additionally, the halo around the head of Buddha was excessively decorated.

Amravati School

  • In the southern parts of India, the Amravati School developed on the banks of Krishna River, under the patronage of the Satavahana rulers.                        Gandhara – Mathura And Amravati School of Art
  • Amravati sculptures have a sense of movement and energy with profound and quiet naturalism in human, animal and floral forms.
  • Later, this style got transformed into Pallava and Chola architecture.
  • The sculptures of this school made excessive use of the Tribhanga posture.

Characteristics of Amravati School of Art

  • The material used in Amravati stupas is a distinctive white marble and Amaravati sculptures have a sense of movement and energy with profound and quiet naturalism in human, animal and floral forms.
  • Prominent places where this style developed are Amravati, Nagarjunikonda, Goli, Ghantasala and Vengi.
  • Symbolic representation of Buddha’s life, the Buddha almost always being represented by a symbol, though in two or three places he is personified.
  • Like the Sanchi Stupa, the Amaravati Stupa also has pradakshina patha enclosed within a vedika on which many narrative stories from the life of Buddha and bodhisattva dominating such episodes relating to the Birth, the miracles, Enlightenment and the victory over Mara, Sundari, Nanda, Tushita heaven and Angulimala are depicted.
  • Sculptural form in Amravati Art is characterised by intense emotions as the figures are slim, have a lot of movement, bodies are shown with three bents (i.e. tribhanga), and the sculptural anatomy is more complex than at Stupa of Sanchi.                                  Gandhara – Mathura And Amravati School of Art
  • Both religious and secular images were present in this style.
  • Later, this style got transformed into Pallava and Chola architecture.


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