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Q 21- Discuss the advances in the field of art and architecture made during the Gupta period. (250 words)

  • Paper & Topic: GS I à Indian Culture - Salient aspects of Art Forms,

Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

 

  • Model Answer:

 

  • Introduction:

 

  • The Gupta dynasty is an important dynasty which ruled ancient India between 4th century to 6th century.
  • They have left amazing examples of their glorious reign which has been called the ‘Golden era’ of India’s history.
  • During their rule art, sculpture, inventions, philosophy, mathematics and literature has flourished.
  • The Kingdom was founded by Sri Gupta.
  • Chandragupta I, Samudragupta and Chandragupta II were famous kings.

 

  • Body:

 

  • Gupta Cave Shrines:

 

  • The earliest examples of religious architecture were cave-temples which typically had exteriors decorated with relief sculpture and a single carved doorway.
  • Inside the shrine, ritual sculptures were placed such as a Shiva linga (phallus) and the walls were richly decorated with more carvings showing scenes from mythology.
  • Notable examples are found at Udayagiri in Madhya Pradesh where one cave bears a date mark of 401 CE.
  • Here in one shrine is one of the finest examples of Gupta art, the celebrated relief showing Vishnu in his incarnation as the boar-headed Varaha.
  • Finally, mention should be made of the Ajanta caves, a row of 29 rock-cut caves following the Waghora river bed ravine in north-west Deccan.
  • Dating from the 2nd century BCE to 7th century CE, they contain some of the earliest and finest examples of Indian wall-painting.
  • The subject matter is largely scenes from the life of Buddha.

 

  • Gupta Temple Architecture:

 

  • It was in the Gupta period that building with lasting materials began, such as dressed stone and brick.
  • The Gupta period marks the beginning of Indian temple architecture.
  • Out of the initial experimentation two major styles evolved.
  • The Gupta style was influenced by Kusana, Mathura, and Gandhara and borrowed the common features of T-shaped doorways, decorated door jambs, sculpted panels with high-relief figures, and laurel-wreath and acanthus motifs.
  • Constructed using sandstone, granite, and brick, Gupta-era temples added to this architectural heritage with horseshoe gavakshas arches and distinctive curved shikhara towers which are frequently topped with a ribbed disk ornamentation known as an amalaka.
  • These elaborate buildings are further decorated with a mass of ornate mouldings and sculptures set in niches.

 

  • The Gupta temples were of five main types:

 

  • Square building with flat roof and shallow pillared porch; as the Kankali Devi temple at Tigawa and the Vishnu and Varaha temples at Eran.
  • The nucleus of a temple—the sanctum or cella (garbagriha)—with a single entrance and a porch (mandapa) appears for the first time here.
  • An elaboration of the first type with the addition of an ambulatory (pradakshina) around the sanctum and sometimes a second storey; examples being the Shiva temple at Bhumara (Madhya Pradesh) and the Ladh-Khan at Aihole.
  • Square temple with a low and squat tower (shikhara) above; notable examples are the Dasavatara temple (built in stone at Deogarh, Jhansi district, UP) and the brick temple at Bhitargaon (Kanpur district).
  • A high platform at the base and the tower add to the elevation of the composition.
  • Rectangular temple with an apsidal back and barrel- vaulted roof above, such as the Kapoteswara temple at Cezarla (Krishna district).
  • Circular temple with shallow rectangular projections at the four cardinal faces; the only monument exemplifying the style is the Maniyar Matha shrine at Rajgir, Bihar. 
  • Dhamekha Stupa is one of the stupas (Buddhist temple) in Sarnath which marks the Rishipattana or deer park, the place where Gautam Buddha presented his first sermon.

 

  • Sculpture:

 

  • The Gupta sculptural style probably grew out of the Kushan style that survived at Mathura.
  • The Buddha images at Sarnath reflect serenity and contentment mirroring the religious atmosphere of the age.
  • This practice of carving images was picked up by Hinduism also.
  • A great example of Gupta sculpture created at Sarnath is that of the seated Buddha preaching the Law, carved of Chunar sandstone.
  • The Gupta craftsmen distinguished themselves by their work in iron and bronze.
  • Bronze images of the Buddha began to be produced on a considerable scale because of the knowledge the smiths had of advanced metal technology.
  • With regard to iron objects, the best example is the iron pillar found at Mehrauli in Delhi.
  • A remarkable piece of Gupta metal-casting found at Sultanganj in Bihar is nearly feet high.
  • Another metal figure but of a smaller size in bronze was found in U.P.
  • A group of small ivory images of Buddhas and Bodhisattavas founding the Kashmri area are prime examples of late Gupta art from about the eighth century.

 

  • Literature:

 

  • The Gupta period is remarkable for the production of secular literature, which consisted of

a fair degree of ornate court poetry.

  • Bhasa was an important poet in the early phase of the Gupta period and wrote thirteen plays.
  • He wrote in Sanskrit, but his dramas also contain a substantial amount of Prakrit.
  • He was the author of a drama called Dradiracharudatta, which was later refashioned as Mrichchhakatika or the Little Clay Cart by Shudraka.
  • Kalidasa who lived in the second half of the fourth and the first half of the fifth century.
  • He was the greatest poet of classical Sanskrit literature and wrote Abhijnanashakuntalam which is very highly regarded in world literature.
  • This period also shows an increase in the production of religious literature.
  • Most works of the period had a strong religious bias.
  • The two great epics, namely the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, were almost completed by the fourth century AD.
  • The Puranas follow the lines of the epics, and the earlier ones were finally compiled in Gupta times.
  • They are full of myths, legends, sermons, etc., which were meant for the education and edification of the common people.
  • The period also saw the compilation of various Smritis or the law­books in which social and religious norms were written in verse.
  • The Gupta period also saw the development of Sanskrit grammar based on the work of Panini and Patanjali.
  • This period is particularly memorable for the compilation of Amarakosha by Amarasimha, who was a luminary in the court of Chandragupta II.
  • Vishakhadatta had written two plays, namely Mudrarakshasa and Devichandraguptam.
  • Panchatantra, written by Vishnu Sharma, is one of the most famous works of this period.

 

  • Science and Technology:

 

  • In mathematics, the period saw, in the fifth century, a work called Aryabhatiya written by Aryabhata who belonged to Pataliputra.
  • Aryabhata displays an awareness of both the zero system and the decimal system.
  • Astronomy made great progress during the age. Varahamihira and Aryabhatta were the major astronomers.
  • The Surya Siddhanta is the most important and complete astronomical work of the period.
  • The Charaka samhita and the Sushruta samhita by Charaka and Susruta were the most important works of medicine. Their conclusions are presented in the Ashtanga Sangraha by Vagbhatta I.

 

  • Numismatics:

 

  • The Gupta gold coins are known as Dinars and they are the most extraordinary examples of numismatic and artistic excellence.
  • The coins, in general, depicted the ruling monarch on the obverse and carried legends while the reverse depicted the figure of a goddess.
  • Samudragupta is credited to have issued only gold coins (Dinar) during his reign in seven different types (‘Lichhaviya’ type included).
  • The coins of Samudragupta give us a lot of information on the start of the mighty empire of Gupta, and its economy.
  • Known through his coins as “Vikramaditya”, Chandragupta II also issued silver (Denaree) and copper (Daler) coins, probably to be circulated in the region that was conquered from the Western Kshatrapas.

 

  • Conclusion:

 

  • The cultural creativity of the Golden Age of India produced magnificent architecture, including palaces and temples, as well as sculptures and paintings of the highest quality.
  • The Gupta Dynasty promoted Hinduism, but supported Buddhist and Jain cultures as well.
  • Gupta Buddhist art influenced East and Southeast Asia as trade between regions increased.
  • The Gupta Empire became an important cultural center and influenced nearby kingdoms and regions in Burma, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia.
  • Classical forms of Indian music and dance, created under the Guptas, are still practiced all over Asia today.
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