(Last Updated on : 02/06/2010)
Gupta sculptures mirrors the artistic talent that was predominant in the Gupta dynasty. India witnessed the beginning of another era in the form of the Gupta Empire in the 4th century A.D. With the beginning of the Gupta period, the country entered into the classical form of sculpture. The art technique was perfected, definite types came into existence, and standards of beauty were developed with precision. There evolved no groping in the dark and no experimentation. An exhaustive and intelligent grasp of the perfect aims and vital principles of art, a well-developed sense of aestheticism and very good execution by skilled persons formed those noteworthy images which became the despair and ideal of the artists of India of the following ages.
The colossal buildings of India and their opulent architectures and paintings possess the power of making the beholder speechless. The Gupta Empire in India
developed its own idiom for constructing sculptures and monuments. These features of Gupta sculptures were followed religiously by the then contemporary artisans. The Elephanta cave temples and the structural temples at Kanchipuram
in the state of Tamil Nadu
are the enduring legacy of Gupta rulers. The first dated sculptures in a full-fledged early Gupta style are from Vidisa and the close by Udayagiri Caves in the state of Madhya Pradesh
. It was constructed in the later half of the 4th century in the Mathura tradition.
The period of the Gupta rulers was an age of universal accomplishment, a classical age, as described in Goetz`s words as `a perfect, unsurpassable style of life`. The measures of taste and form determined the course of their art. Religious architecture during the period of the Gupta rule was quite popular. Hence Buddhist and Jain temples in India
were erected throughout the empire and the more intricate images of the Mahayana pantheon came into being. Other than these, there were the Ajanta cave frescoes. Sculpture and temples of Gupta period mirror their fine craftsmanship. The temples had sculptural elements like the Nagas and the Yakshas were substituted as independent cult images (leaving rare cases) by the Gods and Goddesses of the two great theistic cults.
All the sculptures produced throughout the Gupta Empire can be marked for having the appearance of relatively uniform `classic` style. The style was spread in other parts of India and in the countries of South and Southeast Asia. The Gupta style of sculpture has greatly influenced the art of north Indian kingdoms in later period as well. Other than these the sculpture of Dasavatara Temple (Deogarh), sculpture of Bhitaragaon Temple
, Vaishnavite Tigawa temple at Jabalpur
in Madhya Pradesh state and others are also some of the examples of Gupta sculptures. Gupta period was also known for its rock cut caves. The sculpture at Ellora Caves
, sculpture at Elephanta Caves
and that of the Ajanta Caves
are worth checking out.
A great deal of the sculpture is outside, on prepared surfaces of rock. The most distinguishing images are the four-armed Lord Vishnu
standing with unembellished cylindrical crowns, standing stiff-legged in samapada, one of them flanked by ayudhapurusas, personified symbols or weapons, which are among the bewitching inventions of the Gupta period. The most commanding of these images, with barrel chest, gigantic rounded shoulders and rather firmly handled legs, is the Kumara Cave, the earliest of all the immeasurable defenders of Hindu shrines, termed pratlharas in north, especially in south, that they are the biggest and most extraordinary. Characteristically, for the early Gupta style, their muscular thighs contrasted, almost preposterously with the dainty pleats of the tab-ends of their sashes and belts. The post-Gupta period-later rock-cut temples are of equal importance. The art and architecture of the Gupta Empire also included the Secular Architecture during Gupta Period
, Buddhist Structural buildings
of Gupta Era and also the Brahmanical Architecture of Gupta Era
Snakes form an essential genre of sculpture during the 5th century. Some nagarajas and naginis from the apex of a disappeared pillar in Firozpur
, a few miles away, have visibly extended serpent hoods; they and another pair in the Sand Museum are very much built in the Udayagiri style. Other than these, the terracotta in Gupta Era occupied a special place too. The other architectural marvels during the Gupta period comprise the sculpture of Parvati Temple (Nachana), sculpture of Shiva Temple (Bhumara) and sculpture of Vishnu Temple (Tigawa). The sculptures of the Gupta period not only formed as models of Indian art for all time to come but they also acted as the ideals for the Indian colonies located in the Far East.