The Art Of Sculpture - Part I
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The story of Indian Sculpture begins with the epoch of the Indus Valley Civilization and it is already a startlingly mature achievement. The figurine of the dancing girl testifies a good knowledge of bronze casting, indicates the fascination of the feminine figure that will endure throughout, points to the close relation between sculpture and dance in the Indian tradition. Terracotta is the medium for objects used in rituals like Mother Goddesses figurines as well as for recreation like toys of a great variety. Small size stone sculpture achieves monumentalism and animals like bulls represented in small steatite seals have a vibrant realism.

The dispersal of Persian craftsmen when the Achaemenid empire was overrun by the Greeks in the 4th century B.C. may have contributed to the monumental stylization of the figures of lions in the Ashokan pillar, that has been adopted as India's national emblem. But the Mauryan age also evolved a gentler style and the sympathetic treatment of animals continues throughout in Indian sculpture. The Yakshas and Yakshis(spirits of hills and trees) are at first rather rigid figures but the feminine figure soon becomes sensuously refined, even though remaining ample in the Didarganj Yakshi.

The Sunghas who replaced the Mauryas in the 2nd century B.C. further refined the Yakshi figure with elaborate carved costume and jewellery, linked tree and women with the nexus of fertility. The Satvahanas (2nd century B.C. to 2nd century A.D.) further developed these traditions. The dyrads of Sanchi are the most lissome representations of the type. In the north-west regions, in the Indo-Greek kingdoms that emerged in the wake of the invasion of Alexander, the plastic vision of ancient Europe merged with Buddhist spirituality to create the art of Gandhara. The Mathura scholl of art was in the main a prolongation of the earlier traditions. The feminine Yakshi figure, however, lost its links with the woods and became a self-consciously seductive damsel of the city.

The age of the imperial Gupta achieved the basic stabilization of the icon of the Buddha, represented as seating or standing, and with various symbolic gestures of the hands. The visage with its delicacy of moulding achieves a rapt serenity of expression, a quality of inward musing, realized never before. This age also created magnificent sculpture on Hindu themes like the incarnations of Vishnu in the late 5th century temple of Deogarh and the powerful representation of the boar (Varsha) incarnation salvaging the earth, hewn from the rock at Udaigiri.


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