Even today, tilas (the local name for large mounds) rise up within the city, probably the remains of stupas unexplored because of the buildings on and around them. As a result, unlike other important sites, not a single early building or monument has sur-vived, even in excavated form. Yet few cities in India can boast of greater antiquity. Through major excavations at Sonkh, a considerable light has been shed on its early cultural and political history of the region.
Many of the stambhas bear the voluptuous pillar figures of women that represent the denizens of the heaven; they are too stereotypical. However, the Nagaraja's from Mathura have a rich touch to it. It is observed that the Jains produced distinctive cult objects in the form of the sarvatobhadrika images. Some also show figures or scenes or stupas, others are carved with decorative patterns and such ancient Indian symbols as the svastika and the twin fish, adopted by the Jains as well as the Buddhists. But it is the Jain inscriptions that are found more than the Buddhist ones.
The life-size Buddhas especially the largest, installed at srasvati by Bhiksu Bala that is 8 feet 3inches high has a distinctive Mathura features.
Description of the Buddha statues: The Buddha statues have very little depth for their great size and the backs are flat. They exude a sense of power, with their excessively wide shoulders, their deep navels. They invariably stand with their feet well apart in samapada. The legs so stiff that they appear almost to bend backwards at the knees and usually with a lion or a sheaf of lotuses between the feet. The forehead would bear a mole that was a characteristic trait of Buddha. The right hand usually missing was raised in the same characteristic gesture as that of the seated Buddhas. Small seated Buddhas have been found from Mathura have been found at Ahichchhatra, at sanchi, and as far as Bengal and northwest. It is worth noting that though Gandhara produced Buddha sculptures and images at the same time, it was not as widely spread as the one's exported from Mathura. Infact, the Gandhara sculptures are found only at Mathura. The stylistic evolution of Mathura sculpture during the first centuries of our era takes place within a much more delimitable period than that of Gandhara.
The seated Mathura Buddhas of the Kusana period are deemed to be more important than the standing ones. This is because, firstly they had a richer iconography than the standing Buddhas, and also they are the finest and the best-preserved forms of Buddha. It is a form, which the great majority of Indian images have continued to make until the present day.
The most famous Buddha idols are shown sitting in a yogic position called Padmasana, with legs tightly folded so that the soles of both feet, decorated with the Buddhist triratna and dharmachakra signs, faced upwards.
Hindu idols at Mathura: While the Buddha idols of Mathura are distinctive and famous; the Hindu idols too were not far behind. Infact it was at Mathura during the Kusana period that the first Hindu icons were made. Their appearances coincide with the emergence of the two great Hindu theistic systems, the Saiva and the Vaisnava. Usually small in size, fairly insignificant numbers have survived compared to those of Buddhist and Jain images, but among them two exist in sufficient numbers to be able to speak of anestablished iconography: lingas with one face or four faces of Siva projecting from them, and the goddess Durga slaying the demon buffalo. Small icons of Varaha Visnu recognizable by his characteristic crown, Siva as Ardhanari (half man and half woman), Sasthi and Kartikeya has been found.
The stylistic evolution of Mathura sculpture during the first centuries of our era took place within a much more easily delimitable period than that of Gandhara. Signs of direct contact with the west are not lacking at Mathura. A modified acanthus motif and the olive-leaf band occur widely on door surrounds and lintels. One famous statue, the Hercules and the Nemean lion are indisputably based on a famous Greek or Hellenistic statue extent in dozens of Roman copies. There is no Gandhara sculpture whose source can be so directly traced.
(Last Updated on : 06-02-2013)
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