Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Describe the chief Schools of art developed in the post-Mauryan period. How are they influenced by the contemporary economic and religious developments?

The post Mauryan period witnessed the emergence of varied and rich schools or art in the Indian sub-continent. The Bharut - Sanchi, Gandhara, Mathura and Amravati schools of art reached their zenith due to the support and patronage provided by the religious and economic developments of that era.

The Bharut – Sanchi School of art, largely found in Central India, patronized by Shungas is largely characterized by the grand stupas, splendid Toramanas and magnificent Salabanjikas, Yakshis and Yakshas. In Bharut – Sanchi School, many reliefs about life of Buddha were depicted on stupas with Buddha in symbolic forms. The Gandhara School of art, concentrated in North West India was initially promoted by the Indo-Greek rulers and later by Kushans. Gandhara art being basically influenced by Mahayana Buddhism depicts Buddha images with great anatomical accuracy. The rock – cut standing Buddha at Bamiyan valley are the best expressions of Buddha art.

Mathura School of art, being totally indigenous and having a wider religious base was earlier patronized by Sakas and later by Kushans. Earliest idols of Mathura school are of naked Jain Tirthankaras subsequently followed by images of Brahmanical gods and demi-gods. The beheaded statue of King Kanishka is the finest sample of Mathura art. Amravati school of art, patronized in the Deccan by Sathavahanas is hallmarked by rich toranas, ayaka pillars and ayakapatas. The images of Amravati school are depicted with excellent emotions and expressions while Budhha is sculpted in human form in various positions.

The post-Mauryan period was characterized as the ‘Age of Mercantilism’ with extensive foreign trade and wide spread distribution of wealth. SO, the various schools of art were promoted by wider social base (traders, aristocrats) along with the royal patronage. The liberal financial support through donations facilitated the growth of art and architecture, and it reached its celestial heights.

The birth of Mahayanism paved way to the beginning of image worship by 1st century BC. Subsequently, various sects and religions adopted image worship to attract the masses. Thus, the religion provided an impetus to the growth of art and architecture during the five centuries of post Mauryan age.

In conclusion, the post-Mauryan era can be rightly termed as the ‘Golden Age’ in all fields barring the political turmoil present during 200 BC - 300 AD. The prevailing religious and economic conditions during this period acted as catalyst for various schools of art to reach their glory.

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