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History of Indian Art and Architecture

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History of Indian Art and Architecture

This articles gives discusses the Mauryan Art, Sunga and Kanva Art, Satavahana Art, Kushana Art, Gupta Art, Pala-Sena Art, Rajput Art, Pallava Art, Rashtrakuta Art, Chola Art, The Chalukya and Hoyasala Art, etc.

Mauryan Art and Architecture

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No specimen of Indian art could be traced since the decline of the Indus Valley Civilisation and right up to the beginning of the Maurya era. Since the Maurya period specimens of art are aplenty and evident of the immense progress made in art, architecture and sculpture. Megasthenes in his account describes the huge wooden palace of Chandragupta Maurya at Pataliputra. It rested on a hundred pillars and was intricately and beautifully designed. Since the times of Asoka houses were being widely built with bricks and rocks. His palace was larger than Chandragupta’s and made of huge rock chunks. It greatly impressed the Chinese traveler Fa Hien.

The innumerable stupas, caves and pillars built during Ahsoka’s reign are samples of Maurya architecture and sculpture. Stupas were erected on the remains of Buddha and Buddhist monks. Apparently Samrat Ashoka had built 84,000 stupas which still stand today as beautiful as ever. Many caves were built by him for the Buddhist and Ajivaka monks whose walls were smooth and shining like glass. Rock pillars built during Asoka’s reign have been found in Delhi, Sarnath, Lumbini, Nandangarh and Allahabad with Buddha’s preaching inscribed on them. The lion pillar of Sarnath is famous.

Sunga and Kanva Art and Architecture:

During this rule of Kanva and Sunga dyansty, a plenty of cave-temples, chaityas and stupas were built. The stupas of Bharhut, Bodhgaya and Sanchi and the amazing cave art of Udaygiri and Khandagiri remind us of the heights reached in sculpture. Human figures, dakshas-yakshas, figures of birds and beasts, plants and creepers were done in wonderfully intricate patterns; the walls of Ajanta and Udaygiri are very smooth.

Satavahana Architecture:

Fine examples of architecture-sculpture of this period are the Karle cave-chaitya, Buddhist caves in Nasik, Kalyan and elsewhere and the stupas of Amaravati.

Kushan Art and Architecture:

The period Kushan Empire marked progress in architecture, sculpture and painting. Kanishka was a patron of art, as is evident by the cities of Mathura, Taxila and Peshawar and the innumerable stupas, chaityas and viharas built during his reign. Kanishka erected a multi-storied chaitya and monastery on the mortal remains of Buddha at his capital, Purushpur or Peshwar. Four specific schools of art flourished in Mathura, Sarnath, Amaravati and Gandhar during his rule. The Gandhara art, a blend of Greek, Roman and Indian art forms, reached its pinnacle of success now. The renaissance that took off with Kanishka flowered in the Gupta period.

Gupta Art and Architecture:

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The Gupta Period was a most creative phase so far as art was concerned. Old art forms improved and new ones evolved. Buddhist, Jain and Hindu cave-temples were curved out of rocks, the best examples being the ones at Ajanta, Ellora and Udaygiri. Temple sculpture too attained new heights in the Gupta period. For the first time bricks and rocks were used in building temples, and books were being written on this craft. Notable examples of such temples are Koteshwar, Maninag, Sanchi, and the Vishnu temple at Tigora, the Siva temple at Bhumar, the Parvati temple at Kubir and the Dashavatara temple at Deogarh. Gandhara art lost its pre-eminence and newer schools of sculpture evolved, the finest example being the beautiful Buddhist statue of Sarnath. A few other such wonderful specimens are the Manjushree Abalokiteshwar statue at Sarnath, the Bodhisatwa at Sanchi and the bronze statue of Buddha found at Mathura.

The Pala-Sena Art and Architecture:

The Buddhist viharas and temples at Sompura, Paharpura and Odantapuri of Bengal, with mural paintings, are excellent examples of Bengal architecture. The Pala sculpture is unique in various ways; Vitapala and Dhimana were the two principal sculptors of the Pala age. Along with their associates they pioneered schools of clay pottery, metal craft and painting. They were experts in intricate work on stone, rock and terracotta. Creating human statues, rich in an unprecedented blend of spirituality and humanism, was the unique feature of this age.

The Rajput Art and Architecture:

The Rajputs built forts, palaces, baths and temples which were of most superior quality. In this regard we must mention the forts of Chittor, Ranthambhor and Asirgarh, the temples of Kalikamata at Chittor, Ekalinga at Udaipur, Nilkantha at Shunak and the Jain shrines at Mount Abu. The temples and the specimens of sculpture at Khajuraho are immortal creations of the Chandellas.

The Pallava Art art and Architecture:

Pallava kings of the south built many a rock temple with intricate decorative work. They pioneered the art of curving shrines out of rock faces. Significant examples of these architectures are the Mukteshwar and Kailasnath temples of Mahabalipuram, built during the reign of Pallava king Narasimhagupta, the Tripurantakeshwar and Airavatesvara temples at Kanchi. We still admire their architectural splendor and the figures curved on the temple walls. The Pallava ruler Mahendravarman pioneered the art of rock-curved temples. King Narasimhavarman introduced the art of making temples in the shape of chariots.

The Rashtrakuta Art:

The Rashtrakuta kings followed the Pallava tradition of architecture and the best examples of art in this age are the rock-cut Kailashnath temples and cave-shrines at Ellora. During this time many temples, monasteries and cave-temples were built.

The Chola Art and Architecture:

Cholas introduced a novel architectural genre in south India. Instead of curving temples out of rocks and hills, temples were now built as individual structures. The finest example of Chola art is the Rajrajeshwar temple built by Chola king Rajaraj. Towards the end of the Chola rule, huge and intricately designed Gopurams or gates were built which often more were fascinating than the main shrines. The Kumbhakonam gopuram is the best sample of Chola architecture. Metal craft flourished too and the figures of deities inside the temples were made with metals. The famous bronze Nataraja figure is evident of the excellent Chola craftsmanship. Cave-temples were built in large numbers during this period and we are all aware of the fascinating Ajanta and Elephanta cave structures.

The Chalukya and Hoyasala Art and Architecture:

Art thrived during the Chalukya and the Hoyasala period. The Chalukyas patronized the tradition of cave-temples. Mangalesh, the Chalukya king built the famous Vishnu temple of Vatapi. Other examples of rich Chalukya art are the Sangameswara temple built by Vijayaditya and the Virupaksha temple built by Vikramaditya II.

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