Buddhist sculpture in the medieval period flourished under the patronage of the Pala and the Sena empires in the regions of Bengal and Bihar. The University of Nalanda is surrounded by a brick wall, which encloses the entire convent from without. The towers are richly decorated and the stages have dragon-projections and coloured eaves. The roofs covered with tiles that reflect the light in a thousand shades. The style of the figure sculpture in stucco at Nalanda is a dry repetition of the Gupta statuary of Sarnath, as may be seen by comparing the statue in the topmost niche with the famous preaching Lord Buddha. The ruins at Paharpur in Bengal also exhibit Buddhist sculpture of the medieval period. The decoration of the shrine consists of multiple terra-cotta relief plaques attached to the brick facades. Characteristic of the sculpture of the Pala and Sena Periods are the numerous examples of images carved in hard, black stone found at Nalanda and many other sites in Bengal. All of them are characterised by a great finesse and precision of execution. Many of these icons give the impression of being stone imitations of metal-work, and in almost every case the sense of plastic conception is lost under the intricacy of surface detail.
Medieval Indian sculpture of North India
The history of North Indian sculpture from the 7th to the 9th centuries is obscure. There are two trends: one shows the decline and collapse of classical forms and the other depicts the evolution of new styles.
A breakdown of the Gupta type of sculpture is indicated from at the 7th century onwards. It changed from harmonious proportion, graceful movement and supple modelling to squat proportions, a halting movement and a hard form. Toward the 8th century a new movement was evident in a group of sculptures. It emphasizes breadth but with a feeling for rhythm and the delineation of decorative detail is restricted. In the 9th century, there was a distinct change that came over the styles of all of northern India. A novel elegance, richer decorativeness and a disconnected rhythm characterised the medieval styles of the 10th and 11th centuries.
Sculpture reaches a standard of elegance that never surpassed in the medieval period. The grace of earlier work was modified but not lost. The sculptures at Abaneri, the Shiva temple at Indore, and the Teli-ka-Mandir temple at Gwalior are good instances. In the 10th century, the conventions of North Indian sculpture were established. The Laksmana temples at Khajuraho, the Parasnath temple in Rajasthan are examples. The style has become harder and angular; the figures decorated with lot of jewellery. These are accentuated in the 11th century when many huge temples that were adorned with exceptional sculpture, were erected all over north India. However there is a decline in workmanship. The carving is conventional and lifeless, the features are rigid and and the contours are stiff. The ornamentation is dull, repetitive, and lifeless. This phase is represented at centres from Gujarat. Nevertheless not all sculptures are of inferior quality.
The 12th century ends traditional sculpture all over northern India, except for a few places. Kashmir sculpture was weightier and more massive than works in other parts of India. It had some Gandhara influence as far as rendering of the body and the drapery are concerned. This type can be seen in sculptures from Avantipura
Medieval Indian sculpture of East India
Sculpture in eastern India represents a distinct idiom. The flatness of planes and angularity of contours are less prominent, the figures have a sense of mass and weight. This is clearly seen in sculpture from Konark in Orissa. Ninth century was the most flourishing period when a series of images representing the gods and goddesses of the Buddhist pantheon were made at Kurkihar and Nalanda. Tenth and eleventh centuries were more decorative. In the 13th century, the style becomes more graceful at a time when sculpture in northern India had assumed a wooden appearance. In Bihar and Bengal bronze sculpture developed which are evident in sculptures discovered from the sites of Nalanda and Kurkihar.
Medieval Indian sculpture of South India
The 7th-century sculptures at Mahabalipuram are a great example of medieval sculpture. It is a large relief depicting the penance of Arjuna. The tall, slender figures, with supple tubular limbs recall the proportions of Amaravati. The light, aerial forms gained stability. The temples at Tiruvalishvaram, Kodumbalur, Kilaiyur, Shrinivasanalur, Kumbakonam, are examples of this types of sculpture. In the 10th and 11th centuries was carved in flatter planes and more angular forms. This can be seen in the numerous temples of Thanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram. 13th century sculpture is represented by work at Darasuram and Tribhuvanam. The elaborately sculptured halls at Madura and the gopuras indicated seventeenth century sculpture.
South Indian bronze sculpture occupied a special place has a special place in the history of Indian art. Ninth and tenth centuries witnessed lot of bronze sculptures. Most South Indian bronze images represent Hindu Gods. The great image still worshipped in the Brihadishvara temple at Thanjavur is a good example.
Karnataka possessed a flourishing school of sculpture in the 7th and 8th centuries which can be seen in Aihole, Pattadakal, and Alampur. In Maharashtra, cave temples at Ellora are examples of this phase of sculpture. A series of panels depicting incidents from Hindu mythology in high relief are found in the Rameshvara cave. The Kailasa temple also has a remarkable group of elephants struggling with lions all around the plinth. Toward the 13th and 14th centuries, a very distinctive style was developed by the Hoysala dynasty.