1.2.8.2 India Classical Period (320-1150)

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QUICK LINKS:
Ajanta Caves – panorama
Ajanta Caves – art
Ajanta Caves – rock carving /murals
Yakshi Bracket figure, Sanchi Great Stupa
Trimurti sculpture, Elephanta caves
Seated Buddha
Krishna killing Keshi

Ellora caves
Shore Temple, Mamallapuram
Descent of the Ganges, Mamallapuram
Virupaksha Temple
Shiva as Lord of the Dance
Siva and Parvathi relief, Halebidu Temple

The Gupta dynasty was founded by Sri Gupta in the north of India around the year 320 when he seized the former imperial capital of the Kushan. This period is commonly identified with the classical period of Indian art.

The Gupta dynasty ruled ancient India from 320-543 CE. various artefacts afford Sri Gupta the title either of King or Maharaja (meaning great king). At its peak the dynasty controlled much of the subcontinent.

The period under the Guptas is considered to have been a golden age. The Gupta court patronised art, sculpture, literature, mathematics and philosophy. Chandragupta I, Samudragupta and Chandragupta II were their most famous kings.

There are forty-eight caves making up Ajanta, most of which were carved out of the rock between 460 and 480, and they are filled with Buddhist sculptures. The wall-paintings of Ajanta Cave in the central Deccan are considered among the greatest and most powerful works of Indian art. The paintings in the cave represent the various lives of the Buddha, but also are the best source we have of the daily life in India at the time. The rock temple at Elephanta (near Bombay) contains a powerful, eighteen foot statue of the three-headed Shiva, one of the principle Hindu gods.

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Image source: factsanddetails.com
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Designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the Ajanta caves
(62 miles from Aurangabad) is a set of thirty man-made caves overlooking a wide horseshoe-shaped gorge on the Waghora river. They date from 200 BCE and 650 CE.
This panoramic view shows the cave numbering from right to left, except 29 and 30 which were late finds between 20 and 21, and 15 and 16 respectively.
The Ajanta caves feature hundred of paintings and murals which are considered to be among the finest Indian painting and the most important Buddhist art in the world.

The top image is a painting from cave 1. It is of the Bodhisattva Padmapani. who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas.

The next image is also from cave 1, a mural showing the conversion to Buddhism of an initially reluctant Nanda. Though this is from a copy of it on show at the Musée Guimet, Paris.

The next image is from cave 2 depicting a host of buddhas.

The bottom image is Buddha on a pillar in cave 10.







Image source: factsanddetails.com
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Image source: Wikimedia commons
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More from the Ajanta caves:

The upper image shows Cave 19’s rock-cut Chaitya hall, or prayer hall (5th c). The columns are elaborately decorated at their capitals with Buddhas, flying couples, hermits and musicians. Panels above depict Buddhas surrounded by scrollwork. At the end of the apse there is a Buddha in a niche on the front of the votive stupa.

The upper middle image is the decoration above a door lintel.

The lower middle images is a Cave 1 mural, depicting the Jataka tales, detailing the previous lives of Buddha.

The bottom image is ‘the coming of Sinhala’ from cave 17. The Singhalese are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group of the island of Sri Lanka. Their legends say they are descended from the exiled Prince Vijaya and his seven hundred followers who arrived on the island in 543 BCE. Vijaya is said to have been exiled from the city of Sinhapura in Bengal.
The Sanchi Yakshi Figure is one of the earliest Buddhist sculptures from the Indian subcontinent. Sanchi is a Buddhist site in Madyah Pradesh. The figure is a Shalabhanjika Yakshi, a woman, usually by a tree, referencing Queen Māyā of Sakya near the sala tree, where she gave birth to Gautama Buddha.
Image source: Wikimedia commons
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Image source: Wikimedia commons
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The rock temple at Elephanta (in Mumbai Harbour) contains an 549 cm statue of the Trimūrti, three-headed Shiva, one of the principal Hindu gods.

The Trimūrti rock-cut statue is the supreme divinity in Hinduism, a triple deity, usually the creator Brahma, the preserver Vishnu, and the destroyer Shiva.

The caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its artwork was inspired by the mythology, concepts and spiritual ideas found in the Vedic epic texts.

The middle image shows Siva bringing the Gamges river to the Earth.

The lower image shows the elephnat staue that gave the cave its name. The British planned to move it to London but broke it. Reassembled it is sited today at a central Mumbai zoo.
A 5th c statue of the Buddha from Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh c475 CE. The Buddha is seated in the lotus position, he is teaching while making the Dharmacakra mudrā.
Image source: Wikimedia commons
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Image source: Wikimedia commons
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Krishna killing the horse-demon Keshi, c. 5th century CE. Metropolitan Museum of Art

The god Vishnu has many avatars on earth, one of these is Krishna, the warrior-king who dealy with demonic threats. This 5th c terracotta relief depicts a youthful Krishna killing the demon Keshi, in the guise of a horse. Sources make the connection of this tale to the Greek legends of Hercules.

It is on show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY USA
The Ellora caves in central India has one of the largest rock-cut monastery-temple cave complexes in the world. These feature Hindu, Buddhist and Jain monuments and artwork, dating from 600–1000 CE. Cave 16 features the largest single monolithic rock excavation in the world, the Kailash temple, a chariot shaped monument dedicated to Lord Shiva.

The image here is from Cave 21, Rameshwar Lena , which has, either side of its entrance, large statues of the goddesses Ganga and Yamuna representing the major Himalayan rivers in recognition of their importance to the Indian culture This is the goddess Ganga, worshiped by Hindus as the goddess of purification and forgiveness.

Image source: Wikimedia commons
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Image source: Wikimedia commons
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Mahabalipuram, on the Bay of Bengal, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its Hindu Group of Monuments are (7th-8th c) one of the most famous tourist sites in India
The image is of the Shore Temple (shore of the Bay of Bengal, near Chennai), dedicated to Shiva. It is one of the oldest structural (as opposed to rock-cut) stone temples of South India.
Also at Mahabalipuram is this giant (29m x 13m) open-air rock relief the Descent of the Ganges, The relif depicts the legend of the descent of the sacred river Ganges to earth, led by Bhagiratha down from the heavens . The waters of the Ganges are believed to possess supernatural powers.
Image source: Wikimedia commons
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Image source: mysteryofindia.com

Image source: thrillingtravel.in
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The Virupaksha Temple (top image) is a pilgrimage centre in Hampi, the site of the ancient city of Vijyanagar. Started in the 7th c applying a Dravidian style, it has a layered structure with friezes of Hindu deities and symbols. It is dedicated to Shiva in his avatar as consort to Pampa, who represented the Tungabadra river.

Its central pillared hall, the Ranga Mandapa, was added in 1510 by Krishadeva Raya.
This is a Chola, Tamil thalassocratic empire of southern India, bronze sculpture of Shiva as Nataraja, the Lord of Dance.

It is 76x 57 x 18 cms, fabricated 950-1000CE, and is from Tamil Nadu, India. It is on show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA USA.

Image source: Wikimedia commons
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Image source: Wikimedia commons
The 12th c (1121-1160) Hoysaleswara Hindu Temple is in Halebidu, about 30 kms northwest of Hassan. It is dedicated to Shiva and built on the banks of a man-made lake. It also ccontains images from Jainism, Shaktism and Vaishnavism.

The top image is a relief of Siva and Parvathi at the temple.

The bottom inage is a relief of a dancing Ganesh at the temple

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