The Buddhist Sculptures - Part II
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Buddha Gandharan Buddhist images show influences from Greece and Rome brought by conquest and trade. The Buddha's hair is wavy and his toga-like robes hang in deep, graceful folds. However, the spiritual, introspective power of Gandhara Buddha is very Indian. The Buddha's half-closed eyes and slightly smiling lips suggest inward harmony and transcendence.

In contrast, Mathura figures are much more energetic. The eyes are wide open and the mouth softly smiling. The lines of the body, broad shoulders tapering to a narrow waist, are emphasized rather than the robe. The Buddha's power is symbolized by his physique and by the lions that support his throne. In the Mathura Buddha, the broad chest and swelling stomach (bulging around a deeply sunk navel) are a way of showing the breath, or life force, within.

In the Western tradition, sculptors tried to make stone true to life by carving a hand, for example, to show the bones and veins through the skin. In India, a beautiful body was considered to be perfectly smooth. Bones and veins were only shown in images representing starvation, torture, or death. This wholly Indian ideal of beauty, statuesque and sensuous, underwent only slight modifications during subsequent periods of Indian art.

A sculptural style emerged in India that spread across Asia with Buddhism and through Hindu traders and merchants. This style was stimulated by religious doctrine, particularly the bhakti (worship) cults. These cults required narrative reliefs of Buddhist legends as well as ornamental imagery to decorate both nonreligious and monastic religious sites. Icons of Buddha or the Hindu gods was made according to strict laws of proportion and form. The first stone images of the gods and goddesses of Hinduism and Jainism appear at about the same time as the Buddha images. The same workshop probably made images for all three religions.

Buddhist art dominated the period from about the 100's B.C. to about the A.D. 500's. The Gupta dynasty lasted from about A.D. 320 to 500. The 400's and 500's marked a classical phase in Indian sculpture. Figures became more pliant and followed a purely mathematical system of proportions. The detailed, yet restrained Hindu and Buddhist sculpture of the Gupta period became the model for later Indian art. The Buddhist stupa at Sarnath dates from this period. Gupta sculptors made images of extreme sensual beauty and hair-raising horror. They could also suggest contradictory qualities in their work. For example, the sensuous Gupta Buddhas with their full lips and eyes like lotus buds are, at the same time, profoundly spiritual.

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