The Art of India from early Indian Sculptures – A historical perspective

The Art of India from early Indian Sculptures – A historical perspective

Much has been said and discussed about India being a super power in the field of classical arts. India is the home to some of the oldest and finest sculptures in the world that date right back to the Indus Valley Civilization during the 2 nd and 3 rd century BC. Numerous stone, bronze sculptures and terra cotta pottery from the Indus Valley Civilization are coup de maître. The Mauryan Empire Ashoka built some 85,000 stupas (hemispherical structure with Buddhist relics, teachings engraved and place of meditation used by Buddhists monks). The great Sanchi Stupa at Sanchi, Bihar, that is 44ft high with delicately carved gateways and the Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath, Madhya Pradesh, are towering examples of Indian Buddhist architecture.

The fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries AD saw Hindu deities such as Lord Krishna, Shiva, Vishnu, Goddess Durga and other mythological characters from the two great Indian epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana, become mainstream in Indian art. Hinduism and its philosophy attracted Indian artworks in large numbers. In the Udaigiri Caves in Madya Pradesh there is a carving of a giant sculpture of Lord Shiva who incarnates as a wild boar saving the mother Earth. Another good example is the Elephanta Caves in Maharashtra, where you will find a 24-ft high sculpture of Lord Shiva comprising three heads that personifies his meditative, feminine and fierce facets.

Sculptures at Khajuraho Temples in Madya Pradesh, created between 10 th and 11 th century AD, were rediscovered by archaeologists; all in all, there were 85 temples, of which only 22 stand today. These sculptures mostly contain gods, goddesses, and animals as primary theme and are mainly made of sandstone. The Khajuraho sculptures are among the most erotic, sensuous and aesthetic, depicting the eternal bond and myriad hues of relationship between a man and woman.

The Ajanta & Ellora temples are sculpted out of live rocks and cliffs, and usually contain relics and paintings of the life, times and teachings of Buddha and Buddhist fables. One of the most astounding works at the Ellora is the Kailasa Temple with the splendid display of Lord Shiva's abode with elephants flanking him on either sides, elaborately carved out of huge rocks. The Sun Temple of Konark, temples of Madurai, Kanchipuram, Kumbakonam, Rameshwaram, Nagarjunakonda, Amravati and Varanasi, and the Arjuna's Penance at Mahabalipuram are unique in their own way with several exquisite and imposing sculptures.