SCHOOLS OF SCULPTURE
excavated cave about a hundred years later is the magnificent prayer
hall or Chaitya, at Karle in the Poona district. This too has been
excavated from the living rock and is unparalleled for its lofty
and elevated impression. The size is truly stupendous, 124'x46-1/2'x45'.
With well proportioned great and bulky pillars, carrying capitals
of great originality holding up a vaulted roof that has real rafters
of timber inserted into it, a ribbing inherited and copied from
wooden structure. The columns are strong and bulky, surmounted
by sculptured capitals. In the far distance there is a stupa with
a wooden umbrella on top and astonishingly the original wood has
survived unharmed to this date.
of the classical dignity, sobriety and simplicity, the sculpture is
now more and more tending towards ornamentation, creating highly ornate
art objects, with strange and unusual imaginary creatures, such as
half human, half monsters, etc.
characteristic of this new form of style of art is the difference with
classical art in attitude, if not in skill and aptitude. Loveliness
and idealisation are still the artist's passion as they were for artists
in the early classical period, but love of the ornate, decorative details
is now dominant over classic simplicity. There is more complication,
ornamentation and enrichment. There is an erroneous view that the Indian
artist was a strict conformist with the rules laid down in the shilpasastras specifying
how the gods of the Indian pantheon are to be shown in images. One
look at the variety and individuality of Indian sculpture will clearly
demonstrate that as styles went on developing the sculptors frequently
departed from the texts and rules laid down, and delighted in those
departures and the liberties they took with the bodies of humans and
even of gods and goddesses. This will be abundantly clear if we compare
any two images of a given deity, such as the Buddha image. The sculptor
had attained sufficient dexterity, maturity and skill to be able to
infuse a certain individuality in his work of art, a stamp of his own
likes and dislikes tastes of the period, his own predilections. This
is a sign of maturity, of life, of dynamism. Strict uniformity, ingenuity
and conformity with the rules laid down in the shilpasastra texts
during the ages would be a sure sign of the decadence of this great
art in the country. If art has to grow, it has to react to the changing
circumstances of different times, inclinations, tastes and as it is
the business of art, good art; to reflect contemporary society with
its different taste, style also has to change. One look at the magnificent
art of Indian sculpture, and sculpture through the ages in any Museum
would satisfy the inquisitive mind of this attitude from age to age.
The most remarkable achievement of the new artist of this age was to
contribute a dreamy, floating quality to the figures of the flying
gods and freer movement than in the classical period; on the other
hand there is a tendency towards increasing elegance and slenderness
of form. There is a new beauty in women. The hips are more slender,
the waist more supple, the legs longer. The face still continued to
be stylized and the breasts full and firm. The woman is no longer the
mother goddess but a divine charmer.
such superb example of the sculptor's art is a lovely figure of Vrikshika,
or a celestial damsel, from Gyraspur, in Gwalior, standing in a gracefully
flexed pose, against a tree. She is decked in ornaments and attired
in a finely patterned drapery which produces an effect of rightly decorated
silk. Her coiffure is artistically arranged. The ringletes on her fore-head
and the gentle smile playing on her lips add to the charm of the lovely
lady. The delicate delineation of the graceful contours have been chiselled
with such masterly skill by the gifted sculptor that what we are looking
at is not rough, hard and cold stone, but soft, living, pulsating form.
Gurjara Pratiharas had a vast kingdom that embraced the territory
of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh. Their rule in the 8th, 9th
and 10th centuries saw a great cultural renaissance. An artistic
movement of great importance flourished under the aegis of the Pallava
rulers of Kanchi and they are credited with having built the seven
monolithic pagodas, the rathas, in Mahabalipuram. Some of
the outstanding sculptures that are credited to their patronage are
the Mahishasuramardini in relief, Girigovardhana panel, Arjuna's
penance or the Descent of the Ganga, Trivikrama Vishnu, Gajalakshmi
and Anatasayanam. In the annals of Indian art there is perhaps no
better example of the representation of the Elephant than that in
the Arjuna's penance scene. The celestial world, the temporal world
as well as the animal world has been shown with masterly skill.
Descent of Ganga, Detail, Mahabalipuram,
from the celestials there are hunters, sages, disciples, wild animals
like the lion, tiger, elephant and bear. The representation of these
animals is very naturalistic and shows delightful delineation of line.
The radiation of peace and calm by the sages is reflected in a meditating
cat around which a number of rats are frolicking.
by to the South-West of the Ganesha Ratha and behind Arjuna's penance
is the cave known as Varahamandapa, a fine specimen of its type. The
hall at the front has two-lion pillars and two pilasters and beyond
this, in the center, is the cell guarded by two Dwarpalas. One
of the panels represents Varaha raising the Earth from the ocean, wherein
she was submerged. A remarkable feature is that the snout of the boar
has been modelled with great care and the head of the animal has been
handled with such dexterity that it blends in a natural way with the
human contour of the rest of the figure in the panel. Surya, Brahma,
Rishis and the goddess Prithvi are shown surrounding and adoring Varaha.
The right foot of Varaha rests on the hoods of the Naga king Sesha.
The delineation of lotus leaves and flowers and ripples suggests water.
all these examples the vigour of the composition is unique. The Pallava
style concerns itself with a tall and slender physiognomical form.
The thin and elongated limbs emphasise the tallness of the figure.
The female figures are much lighter in appearance, with their slender
waists, narrow chests and shoulders, smaller breasts, sparse ornaments
and garments and generally submissive attitude. The figure sculpture
of the Pallavas is natural in pose and modelling. The front of the
torso is almost flat, and the ornamentations simple in high relief.
Yet it is infused with a certain amount of vigour and fluid grace.
great masterpiece is the carving from Mahabalipuram showing the great
goddess Durga engaged in a fierce battle with the buffalo headed demon
aided by their respective armies. Riding on her lion she is rushing
at the powerful demon with great courage. He is moving away, yet watching
for a moment to attack.
represents the eternal struggle between the forces of good and evil,
in which the good ultimately triumphs. The dramatic movement, emotional
intensity and visual realism noticed in this sculpture are worthy
of a master craftsman. Later Pallava sculpture shows greater details
of workmanship, lighter anatomy and more developed artistic finishing.
The high and cylindrical crown of Vishnu, heavy drapery, thick cord
at the waist with prominent loops and tassels, and the mode of wearing
the under-garment are all Pallava characteristics worthy of note.
the middle of the 8th century the Rashtrakutas wrested power from
the Chalukyas. They created the greatest wonder of medieval Indian
art in their Kailasa temple at Ellora. Quarried out of a hill and
solid rocks, it is sculptured on a grand scale. The bold and magnificent
carving in this temple shows the Rashtrakuta style of tall and powerfully
built figures, reflecting with spiritual and physical poise. The
beautiful architectural rock sculpture from Cave No.29 at Ellora
shows the marriage of Siva and Parvati. Siva holding the hand of
the bashful Parvati occupies the centre of the composition. To the
right Brahma, the creator, is actively engaged in stirring up the
flames of the sacred fire. The parents of Parvati stand behind her
to offer their daughter to the great god. A number of gods assembled
to witness the function are shown hovering above the principal figures.
The dignified grace of the divine couple and the gentle solemnity
of the occasion have been portrayed by the sculptor with a masterly
Sculpture, Ravana shaking Mount Kailash, Kailash Temple, Ellora,
magnificent sculpture at Ellora is a panel depicting Ravana shaking
mount Kailasa. In this remarkable scene the quivering of the mountain
can be felt, and Parvati is shown greatly agitated, turning to Siva,
grasping his hand in fear while her maid takes to flight but the Great
God is unmoved and holds on fast, pressing down the mountain with his
foot. The lower half of the composition exhibits Ravana exerting all
the force of his twenty arms against the mountain.
classic panel showing the king of the Naga and his queen, belonging
to Ajanta, 5th century A.D. shows them seated on a throne attended
by a hand maiden. The sculptural work at Ajanta merits as great attention
as the world famous wall paintings.
Vakataka traditions are derived from the earlier Satavahana which
can be clearly seen in the many carvings of Ajanta and in the painted
and carved figures at Ajanta. It is only the decorative elements,
chiefly composed of pearls and ribbons, so characteristic of the
Gupta-Vakataka age, that distinguishes them from the simpler, but
notable sculpture of Amravati.
cave-shrine at Elephanta is another great monument of the Rashtrakutas,
which contains the famous Mahishamurti. The three heads emanating
from one and the same body represent three different aspects of
Lord Shiva. The central face with a calm and dignified appearance
shows him as the creator, the one on the left, with a severe look,
portrays him as the destroyer and the third, to the right, with
a calm and pacific expression.
Mighty Cholas who succeeded the Pallavas and ruled over South India
from the 9th to 13th centuries A.D. created the great temples at
Tanjavur, Gangai Kondo Cholapuram, Darasurama, which are a veritable
treasure house of their art.
the Brihadesvara temple at Tanjavur which is the most mature and
majestic of the Chola temples, sculpture there has attained a new
maturity which is evident in the gracefully modelled contours of
the figures, their flexed poses, delicate ornamentation, pleasing
faces and a certain freshness, all of which add charm to the work.
Chola art not only influenced the art of Ceylon, but it travelled
as far away as Java and Sumatra.
Trimurti, Elephanta Caves, Maharashtra
Nataraja, Brihadeshvara Temple, Thanjavur,
good example of Chola craftsmanship in the 11th century is the relief
carving of Siva as Gajsurasamaharamurti. The irate god is engaged in
a vigorous dance of fierce ecstasy after having killed the elephant-demon,
who has given so much trouble to the rishis and his devotees.
The hide of the demon is spread aloft by the god, using it as a sort
of cover. Devi stands at the lower right corner as the only awe-struck
spectator of the divine act of retribution.
later phase of Chola art, in the 13th century, is illustrated by
the sculpture showing Bhudevi or the earth goddess as the younger
consort of Vishnu. She stands in a gracefully flexed attitude on
a lotus base holding a lily in her right hand, while the left arm
hangs along her side in lolahasta.
Chandellas, who ruled from 950 to 1100 A.D. constructed towering
temples in central India, like the Kandariya Mahadev temple at Khajuraho.
These were sculpted with human representations of endless variety.
The sculptor here preferred the slender taller figures with a considerable
accentuation of linear details.
charming specimen of the Chandella art of the 11th century is this
figure of a woman writing a love letter. Behind her right shoulder
are the fingernails marks inflicted by her lover, while embracing
her. Recalling the pleasures of which she had experienced in union
with her lover and longing for another meeting with him she is prompted
to write a love letter. On either side of her stands an attendant.
fascinating is the graceful celestial beauty shown standing under
a stylised mango tree. Holding a mirror in her hand, she is applying
her make-up and getting ready to meet herlover. Two diminutive
figures stand in attendance, carrying the toilet requisites in
a bag and a satchel. This sculpture is datable to the 11th century
A.D. The magnificence, perfection of design and sculptural profusion
at Khajuraho is outstanding in Indian Art. Gods, goddesses, apsaras, men
and women standing or seeming to be in action, with their well
developed and voluptuous bodies, stand liberated from their frames,
to emerge in a living world of their own. The art of Khajuraho
is a world of beauty. The lovers locked in an embrace which is
approximately carved, display a throbbing passion. Varying moods
are brought into relief by a slight change in the smile, a little
difference in expression and in the pose. The sculptures of Khajuraho
are such great master-pieces of Indian sculptural art that they
can be admired both individually as well as cumulatively.
impetus was given to art under the reign of Pala rulers in Bihar
and Bengal during the period 730 to 1110 A.D. They were Buddhist
by faith. They greatly encouraged centres of learning like Nalanda
and Vikramasila, where the stupas and monasteries gave ample
scope for the sculptor's expression of an art which found stimulus
in religion. During this period art reached technical perfection.
The Pala Style is marked by slim and graceful figures, elaborate
jewellery and conventional decoration. Their sculptures from
Bihar are somewhat thick set and heavier in their general proportions
of limbs than those from Bengal. The Pala rulers had intimate
relations with Java which are evident in Hindu-Javanese sculpture,
and painting of Nepal, Kashmir, Burma and Thailand.
Nayika, Lingaraja Temple, Bhubaneswar, Orissa
amount of stylisation is noticed in the later phase of Pala art, but
the tradition is continued under the Sena rulers in the 12th century
until the Islamic rulers overran the country. An excellent specimen
from Mahanad in West Bengal is this lovely figure of the personified
river goddess Ganga. She stands gracefully under a tree, Kalpataru,
on a lotus, holding a water-vessel in her hand, symbolising prosperity
and plenty. The ends of her scarf draped around the arms, trail on
either side. She is adorned with profuse jewellery and wears a lower
garment reaching to the ankles. The figure is expressive and the workmanship
is of a high order.
kings of the Eastern Ganga dynasty who held sway in Orissa from the
7th to the 13th centuries have left monumental temples at Bhubaneswar,
Puri, and Konarak which are richly embellished with wealth of sculptures.
the middle of the 9th century A.D. especially in Orissa, there developed
a school of sculpture which, among other things, took sensuous delight
in the lovely forms of women. There are numerous sculptures of beautiful
female figures on the face of walls.
Orissan temple has many such representations of young and charming
creatures with a seductive smile, luxurious hair full of jewellery,
they are, called Nayikas. There are others equally beautiful,
lightly clad but having a multitude of belts, bracelets, armlets,
necklaces, ear-rings and hair ornaments. Similar lovely women are
seen to appear everywhere as if growing out of trees and creepers,
themselves like beautiful flowers and vines, often holding on to
branches of trees and standing on floral ornaments. They are nymphs,
and spirits that live in trees and shrubs and animate them. What
distinguishes them from earlier specimens is that in this period
they have become exquisitely beautiful girls, mostly underdressed
and sometimes absolutely nude. They are shown decorating the walls
and temples in Orissa, which become vast forests of ornamentation,
crowded with flowers, scrolls and elegant geometric design. Most
of these lovely ladies stand in various dance poses.
famous temple at Konarak, was built by Narasimhavarman in the middle
of the 18th century and dedicated to Surya or the sun-god. It has
been conceived as a huge stone chariot on immense wheels, dragged
by seven rearing horses. The temple is now partly preserved. Its
presiding deity, the sun-god as seen here, is depicted in the typical
north Indian manner, wearing boots, chain-mail armour, holding
a lotus in each hand. He is riding a chariot driven by seven horses.
On each side are his two wives, Chhaya and Suvarchasa, and the
attendants Danda and Pingla. The figures above are shooting arrows
to dispel darkness.
the plinth of the Jagmohana of the temple, at a height of about
50 feet from the ground, are installed colossal celestial musicians
facing in all directions, playing on different musical instruments.
These celestial maidens are shown playing the Veena. The massive
proportions and powerful modelling of the figure, and a gentle
smile on her face, express a sense of harmonious delight.
celestial maiden, similar to the Veena player, is this drummer.
They are all in pink coloured sandstone of a rough texture. These
figures are of colossal proportions yet very elegantly and beautifully
Surya riding chariot, Surya Mandir, Konarak, Orissa
Manjira Player, Surya Mandir, Konarak, Orissa
are, besides, serious scenes where a teacher is shown surrounded by
his students, in animated postures, full of life.
the great builder of the Konarak temple is shown here on a swing
in his harem, surrounded by beautiful women and listening to music.
scene shows him appreciating literature in an assembly of poets patronised
by him. Yet another shows his tolerance for faiths by presenting
him before Siva, Jagannath and Durga. There are several other similar
representations of his life, and Konarak, with its rich sculpture,
may be considered a storehouse of 13th century culture in Orissa.
image of Surya from the Sun Temple at Konarak drawn by seven rearing
horses, one of which fully caparisoned, is of monumental proportions.
Orissan artist without giving up the conventional lines of grace
and vigour, produced images which were faultless in the perfection
of their form and vitality. The examples of this school have sensuous
charm and beauty of form. The Mithuna, or a pair of amorous lovers,
glows with the exuberance characteristic of Orissan art. They have
the eternal smile of lovers who are absorbed in each other. In point
of time as well as technique, Orissan art culminates in the famous
Sun-temple at Konarak.
traditions of the marble sculpture of Gujarat in Western India
are seen in the profusion of intricately carved sculptures which
decorate the Jain temples at Mount Abu, Girnar and Palitana.
The beautiful image of the four-armed Vishnu, the Hindu god of
preservation, was fashioned in the 13th century A.D. under the
characteristic attributes, that is the mace, the discus and conchshell.
The hand which hold the lotus is now lost. The weapons are again
shown as personified attendant figures on the base. On either
side are seen the conventional decorative motifs, and the miniature
image of Brahma and Siva, within rectangular niches. The Dilwara
temples at Mount Abu are the outstanding productions of the western
school in the Jain tradition. They are not monuments of architecture,
but are sculptural master-pieces, placed one upon the other to
fashion one of the sculptural wonders of the world. The ceiling
of the Dilwara temple, especially, is one of the world's master-pieces
of intricate sculptural carvings.
Hoysalas were another South Indian dynasty who asserted themselves
in the Mysore region about the beginning of the 12th century.
The temples they built at Halebid and Belur look like lace work
in stone. The decoration is elaborate, the emphasis being more
on ornamentation than movement or the grace of the human body.
Hoysala sculptures are somewhat squat and short, highly embellished,
or almost over-loaded with ornamentation, but yet are pleasing
Mohini, Chennakeshava Temple, Belur, Karnataka
splendid example of the Hoysala sculptural art is portrayed in the
carving showing Lord Krishna holding aloft the mountain Goverdhana
to save the inhabitants of Gokul from the wrath of Indra, who let loose
torrential rains to teach them a lesson for their insolence, in paying
homage to Mount Goverdhana instead of worshipping him. The Mountain
with its forest and animal kingdom is held aloft by the youthful Krishna
on his left hand, sheltering the entire population of Gokul, including
this time we have come very near to the end of our journey and we
find that in the 13th century A.D. love for the beauty of the human
figure has been completely smothered. The artist takes delight no
more in the depiction of the beauty of the handsome male or the loveliness
of the female body. On the contrary the human body almost completely
disappears under a fantastic mass of decoration and ornamentation
which become more important than the human figure.
the sculpture of the period showing a woman holding a fly-whisk and
other figures, we come to the almost total disappearance of the body.
A few centuries earlier, her lovely figure in sinuous curves, would
have been glorified. Now nothing is left of that beauty. Ornamentation
has truly run riot. The belt, the necklaces, the crown, the armlets
and bracelets even the tree behind and above her is changed into
a fancy scroll work of drapery.
last great Hindu Kingdom in South India was of Vijayanagara. During
this regime, from circa 1336 to 1565 A.D. several beautiful temples
were erected at places like Tadpatri, Hampi, Kanchipuram, etc.
Carving in these temples show the Chola and Chalukyan art traditions.
During this period representations in narrative forms of the Ramayana
and Krishna Bal Lila became favourite themes. The Vijayanagara
emperors caused excellent portraits to be carved by the sculptors
to immortalise them in the vicinity of their favourite deities.
such fine example is of Krishnadevaraya at one of the Gopuras at
Chidambaram. The final flicker of this however, is seen in the
amazingly virile sculpture in titanic proportions carved by the
sculptors of Tirumylnayak, and the Gopura and the courts of Meenakshi
temple at Madurai.
17th century was a great period of titanic work under the Nayaka
of Madurai and Tanjavur. During this period the animal motif with
fantastic detail as seen in the outstanding sculpture at Srirangam
temple in Trichinapally, may be seen. Though, stylised, this art
is full of vitality. A pair of rampant, furious horses whose heads
support the pillars, are carved with great skill and vigour. The
riders are shown in realistic poses trying to control them. Each
sculpture is realistic though the conception is fantastic.
traditions of stone sculptures continued, no major sculpture movement
survived under the Mughal and the other Muhammadan rulers Under
the Muhammadan rulers great impetus was given to architecture,
but sculptures are rarely found and even those available are products
of local chieftains. During the British regime no proper patronage
was provided to sculptors and the whole tradition of Indian art
almost came to a standstill.
Pillars with Horse rider, Meenakshi Sundareshvara Temple, Madurai,
the aegis of Ministry
Government of India
15-A, Sector - 7, Pappankalan, Dwarka,
New Delhi - 110075
Centre for Cultural Resources and Training