(Last Updated on : 06/02/2013)
Buddhist Indian sculpture is a type of sculpture that was developed in India around 255 BC, especially, due to the efforts of Mauryan emperor, Ashoka
. He was impressed by the ideologies of Buddhism
and adopted it as the state religion. It was on his initiative that some remarkable Buddhist Indian sculptures were carved out. These sculptures were used for popularising this new religion.
Buddhist Indian sculpture was simpler compared to the later sculptures that evolved in India. The features of Buddhist Indian sculpture included an iconic representation of Lord Buddha
. The style evolved by Ashoka can also be seen in buildings that sprang up in the Buddhist pilgrimage centres. The sculpture of Sanchi Stupa is a fine specimen of the Buddhist art.
Another important construction that emerged with the Buddhist religious principles are the Buddhist caves. Apart from this the sculpture of chaityas, sculpture of Vihara and sculpture of Ashokan Pillars are quite significant too.
Famous Buddhist sculptures in India
Buddhist sculpture in India is a massive style marked by some realism employing foreign elements from Achaemenid Persia. Great Pillar of Ashoka
has animal figures like the bull, lion and elephant. The most remarkable of all the Pillars built during Ashoka's reign is the highly polished monolithic lion-capital found at Sarnath, which is now the Emblem of the Government of India. This sculpture reveals the aristocratic and international nature of Mauryan art.
The bull capital of Ashoka from Rampurva, Bihar
belongs to the third century B.C. is a mixture of Persian and Indian elements. The lotus capital is formal. The motifs on the abacus are decorative elements like the rosette, palmette and the acanthus ornaments which have no Indian element at all. The crowning element of the bull capital is a master-piece of Indian craftsmanship, showing a humped bull, well modelled, with its soft flesh beautifully represented, with its strong legs, sensitive nostrils and the ears cocked as if it were listening.
At Dhauli in Orissa
, there is a representation of an elephant depicted as if emerging from a rock which has been so cut that it resembles the front part of an elephant including the head and trunk. This representation is in the native tradition of the country.
Excellent specimens of the Buddhist sculptures are revealed in the colossal statues of Yakshas and Yakshis, the deities of fertility and abundance. The Yakshi is a striking example of sculpture dated between 3rd-2nd century B.C. The figure possesses elaborate jewellery and a heavy undergarment portrays the Indian ideal of feminine beauty in her full breasts, slender waist and broad hips.
After the Mauryan Empire
declined the Sungas succeeded to power 185 B.C. Their sculptures had its simplicity and folk appeal. It is best represented in monolithic free standing sculptures of Yakshas and Yakshis and the fragments of the carved gate and railings of the Buddhist stupa at Bharhut. The narrative art of Bharhut, depict Jatakas of Buddha's previous birth in sculptures, the decorative art of Sanchi Stupa
and the Jain Stupa of Mathura also belong to the same tradition. The style of sculptures seems related to carving in wood or ivory. Lord Buddha is represented by his lotus feet, an empty throne, the triratna symbol, the nativity of Maya Devi by the two elephants giving an Abhisheka to the new born, pouring water from the kalasha reveal that symbols were used abundantly.
Bharhut forms a treasure house of fables that have been represented beautifully. Another good example of Buddhist sculpture during the rule of Sungas is the jovial figures, the dwarfish Yaksha from the Pithalkhora caves in Central India.
Kishvakus continued the great art traditions by building the stupas at Nagarjunakonda
that has equally beautiful carvings. The powerful Satavahana Kings
studded their empire with several splendid monuments which were richly decorated. The carvings on the Sanchi stupa gateway proclaim the high skill and technical proficiency of the Satavahana sculptors. An example of an early Buddhist stupa built during the 3rd and 1st century B.C. is preserved at Sanchi in Central India. The present stupa at Sanchi was constructed during Ashoka's reign but was enlarged and the circum- ambulatory enclosure as well as the outer enclosures was added in the 1st century B.C. The Buddhist carvings on both faces of the architraves and on all sides of the uprights of these gateways are remarkable for their crowded scenes, perspective and pictorial effect in stone.
Lord Buddha is never represented in human form in Buddhist art before the Christian era. This was because his spirituality was considered too abstract for the purpose. Buddha's presence in early art is suggested by symbols like the Bodhi tree under which he attained enlightenment, the wheel of law, his foot prints, the royal umbrella, the stupa and an empty throne, etc.
One of the most important periods in Buddhist Art and Sculpture was at the time when The Gandhara School of Art and Sculpture
flourished in India. This was the first art school when the artists begun imparting symbolic form of Buddha's life into Human form. The art became popular as it the amalgamation of both Indian and Greek art. The images at Mathura
and Sarnath are the two such Holy places where we have accumulation of Deities like Maitreya or the Future Buddha. After achieved the political goal in Northern India, he brought about a revolutionary change in Buddhism