Gupta Empire Art and Architecture
This article contains details of the Architecture of Gupta Empire, the Gupta Sculpture and the Art of Painting.
Architecture of Gupta Empire
The Gupta Age, being an age of intense religion interests, saw the construction of many temples and religious architectures.
The excellence of Gupta architecture can be seen in the temples of various Hindu Gods such as Shiva, Vishnu, Surya, Kartikeya, etc.
Unfortunately, most examples of the Gupta architecture have been lost to posterity. The Huna invaders destroyed most of those works. Many disappeared under the ravages of time.
Among the few surviving examples of the Gupta architecture, the famous Dashavatara Temple at Deogarh in Jhansi district of Uttar Pradesh is considered the best. The body of the temple is covered with beautiful sculpture with many figures. The other structures of the period include the Vishnu Temple of Tigawa in Jabalpur district, the Siva Temple of Bhumra in Madhya Pradesh, the Temple of Parvati in the former Ajaigarh state, and the Buddhist shrines of Bodh Gaya and Sanchi.
Besides the structures in stones, the Gupta temple-architecture was also erected in brick. Among the brick temples, the most famous one is the temple at Bhitargaon in Kanpur district of Uttar Pradesh. The beautiful designs on the body of the temple show the artistic talent of the builders who could mould the bricks in various forms.
The Gupta monuments were built under the Puranic religious concepts. They represented both balance and beauty. Built both in stone and brick, they maintained external decorations of a higher order. They were built in great many numbers, but have been swept away by the tides of time.
The Gupta period saw the classic phase of Indian sculpture. Through centuries of evolution, this art of sculpture-making reached a stage of perfection. The sculptors were matured enough to transform stone into images of superb beauty. They were under no external influence. Their technique of art was at its best. In perfect precision and masterly skill, they could shape the stone into any object of attraction. They also set pattern to their art which became an ideal model for the future. Their works became the model for the coming ages.
Gandhara was an important center of the excelled the art of sculpture.
The Gupta sculpture was at its best in giving shape to the images of the deities and divinities. These religious sculptures belonged to all major faith including, Brahminical, Buddhist and Jaina faiths. Countless numbers of images were cut into shape at several centers for their installation in numberless temples and shrines. On the bodies of the temples also such figures were plentifully displayed. Sculpture making became a major occupation, and the sculptors with their skill played a prominent role in the religious revolution of that period.
Among the finest examples of the Gupta sculpture, the images of Buddha in large numbers stand out the foremost. The seated image of Buddha belonging to Sarnath has been rightly regarded as the finest of all Buddha images in India. It seems to convey the true messages of Buddhism.
Mathura was not behind at producing great pieces of religious sculptures. The standing Buddha of Mathura, and the colossal copper statue of Buddha which is now in a British museum are some other excellent examples of the Gupta sculpture.
The Hindu images, too, went by the physical beauty of their figures, dignity of their divinity, and grace of their spiritual being. Among the best examples of Hindu images, the Vishnu Image of Mathura and the Varaha Image of Udaigiri are considered wonderful. On the body of the Deogarh Temple, the sculptures represent the episodes on Rama and Krishna. They are of attractive style. The images of Shiva and of other Hindu gods and goddesses were made in large numbers at various places. All of them possessed dignity. Their faces revealed spiritual expression and moods of divinity according to the puranic descriptions of their individuality. It seems, as if, the sculptors were translating the themes from Sanskrit texts into religious versions on stones.
The Gupta sculpture thus enhanced the value of the Indian culture greatly. They remained as models for the posterity. They also served as models for the Indian sculptural art in several countries of South-East Asia.
Art of Painting
The excellence of the art of painting was yet another glory of the Gupta Age. The fresco-paintings on the walls and ceilings of the world-famous Ajanta caves are the brightest examples of that refined art. For millions of art-lovers from all parts of the world, Ajanta is like a place of pilgrimage.
Much of the Ajanta paintings did not survive the centuries of time. Of the 29 Caves, the paintings of 16 Caves continued to exist till last century. But most of those precious arts also got damaged or destroyed. Yet, whatever of that artistic wealth could survive till now, is considered as wonders of world art heritage.
The painters of Ajanta were at work from earlier times, perhaps from 1st century A.D. or even earlier. But it was during the Gupta period that most of the paintings were worked out. More than that, the art came to its perfection during that time. The artists were inspired by great ideals to draw their pictures in a superb way. They used bright colors. They adopted spiritual themes as well as secular as the subject matter of drawing. The scenes of their painting looked most natural, and the figures most life-like.
They painted the figures of Buddha, depicted his previous births, and showed the various incidents of his life as taken from the Jataka stories. They also worked out other themes to represent the realities of life and existence.
Every piece of painting in Ajanta Caves is like a masterpiece of art. There are interesting palace scenes, scenes of gandarvas and apsaras, and scenes of social life.
The paintings in Ellora and Bagh Caves were also of high standard. Good portions of those works have not survived. Painting being a very delicate thing, it fails to resist the havoc of Nature. At many more places, as in Ajanta and Ellora, the art of painting of the past have succumbed to the ravages of time.
The Ajanta style of art covered most subjects of religious, spiritual and social values. The art carried a deep appeal to the human mind to create a permanent impression. The gods and sages, kings and queens, men, women and children, birds and beasts, trees and flowers, palaces and houses, and the scenes of varying subjects, all painted in appropriate colour, carried their deeper meaning for men’s thought and imagination.
The Indian art influenced the art outside. The Indian fresco-paintings were imitated in Central Asia and its influence entered deep into Buddhist China.
For all these above mentioned reasons, the culture of the Gupta Age went by its unique value and excellence. Many features of that culture left there legacies for the future. The greatest works of such immortal sons of India as Kalidasa and Aryabhatta, and the great objects of timeless appeal as Sarnath Buddha and the Ajanta fresco will continue to represent the glories of the Gupta Age. They too, are like the priceless cultural heritage of India’s rich past.