Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Everything about Indian Art (From Start to End) - Indian Art and Culture

Indian Art - Process of Deciphering Unity 

Ever since man struck fire from the flints and his patient fingers coined lettered sound, he has been living with an urge to push on to light from darkness. His yearning for love created art, his quest for knowledge bestowed an awareness of his universe. His sympathy for living beings afforded him the joy of life laughing, rolling, rocking and making for all the sunshine. Life is total, or at least its promise is total. Culture is total, continuous and universal, vertical and horizontal. Parts join to form a whole, the whole forms a unit to an integrated continuum of parts. Art is a contribution of all to all. It is composite, like particles of water the units adhere to one another and shape the fluid mass. Currents, considered alien hitherto, flow into and are lost in its waters beyond recognition. In the interlude, a reaction sharpens the impact inviting state of fusion and then shapes are formed after the genius of the currents.

The process goes on from unit to unit, one succeeding ever richer than one preceding. Art movements are global. Motifs and ideas travel across climes and seas as waves. The distant little world of pre-history Egypt bought her copper in the market of Sumeria and the Mohenjo-daro sold unique scals at Urand Kish. Caravans from Ararat and Tarsus journeyed across Sumeria to Jerusalem and Thebes, and those that set out from Antioch and Damuscus, wending their way through Susa and Ekbatana down the dales and along the spurs and up the summits of Hindukush, detoured to Patliputra and unbuckled at Ujjain.

The maderia of Spain was stored in the vaults of Shanghai and the black pepper of Kerala ransomed the eternal city of Rome from Alaric the Visigoth. The humped bull of Indus valley created the Apis bull of the Egyptians. It went round through Babylonia and developed wings as the sentinels of the Assyrian palaces at Nineveh and grew a beard on its human headed chin on the columns of Apadan and ended by toppin pillars of Ashoka, thus completing the circle. The pyramids with their hollowed vaults and the ziggurats with their solid structure provided the stupas with their chambered sanctum and commemorative pattern. The panegyrical epigraphs on the basilicas and column of Egypt passed on to the Babylonians and Assyrians and crossing through the Persepolitan pillars and the Behistum monuments they created the Ashokan mircles.

The ceaseless journey to light from darkness has been, more often than not, leaps in future. Among several invaluable antiquities found in the Indus Valley – one of the first and foremost cradles of ancient cultures – are brick buildings, limestone figures of bearded men, female figure and animals in terracotta, the representation of a cross-legged figure with kneeling worshippers right and left and a Naga behind, speaks volumes as a futuristic anticipation of Buddhist art of the historical period. The remains alluded to above, as found in the Indus valley, certainly go back to the third or fourth millennium B.C., and they make it clear that no complete hiatus divides this early period from later times. A part of remains at Mohanjo-daro probably dates between 1000 and 400 B. C., and on the other hand the minor antiquities from various Indian sites,l as at Basarh, Taxila, Pataliputra and south Indian prehistoric sites go back at least to the fifth century B.C.

The study of Indo-Sumerian antiquities is still in its infancy. But it is probable that the civilization of which we have now obtained this first glimpse was developed in the Indus valley itself and was as distinctive of that region, as the civilization of the Pharoahs was dintinctive of Nile. And if the Sumerians, as is generally supposed, represent an intrusive element in Mesopotamia, then the possibility is clearly suggested of India proving ultimately to be the cradle of their civilization, which in turn lay at the root of Babylonian, Assyrian and Western Asiatic cultures in general.

A Maiden Integration

Irrespective of the controversy on the origin of the Dravidians (whether of Western origin or of direct Neolithic descent on Indian soil), it is almost certain that they came to form the bulk of a population thinly scattered throughout India well before the second millennium B.C. Their purs or towns are mentioned in the Vedas. Amongst the elements of their origin are probably the cults of the Phallus and of mother goddess, Naga, Yakshas and other nature spirits; and many of the arts. Indeed if we stamp the Dravidians as a southern race and the Aryans a northern, it may well be argued that the gradual reception into orthodox religion of the Phallus cult and mother goddesses, and the shift from abstract symbolism to anthro-pomorphic iconography in the period of theistic and bhakti development, mark a final victory of the conquered over the conquerors. In particular, the popular Dvavidian element must have played the major part in all that concerns the growth and office of image worship, that is, of puja as distinct from Yajna. (Pu in Tamil means flower whose offering gave birth to the word Puja).  The forms of architecture based on bamboo construction is gift from the Dravidian. The Toda huts are a near analogue of the early barrel-voulted chaitya hall and the horse-shoe arch. Curved roofs, common in India and rare in the rest of the world, the stones slab construction of early temples, the crafts concerning the art of fishing, use of chank bangles and of the conch as a trumpet is ritual and it must have been borrowed from Dravidian sources before the epic period.

However obscure the early history of the Dravidian, described in Vedas as dasas or dasyus, it is fairly evident that their culture had already attained a high level, economic, martial and literary, in centuries preceding the Christian era. Already in the third century B.C. the great Andhra Empire stretched across the Dekkan from East to West. In the far south a powerful and prosperous Pandyan kingdom flourished before the beginning of the Christian era with a capital at Korkai. The first three centuries of the Christian represent an Augustan period in the history of Tamil culture, and there is sufficient literary evidence for a high state of development of poetry, music, drama, sculpture and painting. At the same time there had grown up a flourishing trade with Rome on the one hand, with Farther or Greater India and Indonesia on the other, the principal articles of export being pepper, cinnamom, pearls and beryl.

The pre-historic antiquities also include remains of the Neolithic cultures such as stone weapons, pottery, dolmens, copper weapons, and most important silver ornaments. There is no bronze age, neither iron is mentioned in early Vedic literature. The existence of Munda languages, of Mon-Khmer affinity, seems to show that the southward migration of Sino-Tibetan races which peopled the Irawadi, Menam and Mekong valleys and the Indonesian islands, had also entered India at some very early period. A pr-Dravidian element in Southern India is probably Negrito or proto-Malay. The Aryans appear in India about the same time. The Indo-Iranian separation dates back about 2500 B.C. Aryans names are recognizable in the case of the Kassites, who ruled in Babylonia about 1746-1180 B.C. and those of Aryan deities were in use amongst the Mitani people at Boghaz-Koi in Cappadocia about 1400 B.C.

The Aryans appear to have entered India between 200- and 1500 B.C. through Afghanistan and the Hindukush, settling at first in the upper Indus valley, later in the upper Ganga valley, later still reaching the sea, the Vindhyas and the Narbada, and still later penetrating to the Dekkan and the far south. The Vedic Aryans were proficient in carpentry, constructing houses and racing chariots of wood, and in metal work, making vessels of ayas, presumably copper for domestic and ritual use, and gold jewellery. They wove, knew sewing and tanning, and made pottery. In all probability, the early Aryan art was abstract and symbolic. They chose symbols that made the running waters gush from springs, plants sprout from the soil, winds blow the clouds, men come to birth; symbols that govern courses of the sun, moon and stars. These symbols emanate from Varuna which is a characteristic expression of ideas to be sought in a kind of landscape originating in philosophy of the universe based upon significance and form, not upon natural objects exactly reproduced.

Thus the Aryan art should include landscape with the sun and clouds, the earth with its plants and herbs and the waters; river landscapes with formal trees; hunting scenes and symbolic geometrical arrangement of birds, animals and plants. The use of ornament, textile and decorative hangings, characteristic of nomad races, is also indicated. Needless to underline, these are the forerunners of mural decoration consisting of formal floral ornament encased in framed spaces, where the essential element is pattern rather than representation. Landscape of this type can be recognized punch-marked coins in early Buddhist reliefs, Ajanta and Rajput paintings, and in types of folk art used in ritual decoration and in many textiles.

Indian art and culture are a joint creation of the Dravidian and Aryan genius, a welding together of symbolic and representative, abstract and explicit, language and thought. Already, at Bharhut and Sanchi the Aryan symbol is giving way to environment and passing into decoration; Kushan art, with the fact of imagery and its roots in bhakti, is essentially Dravidian. But it should not lead to the conclustion that it is a one-way-traffic. Already in the Indra-Shanti figure at Bodhgaya it is evident that the Aryan is affecting Dravidian modes of expression anticipating qualities of all later satvik images. The Gupta Buddha, Elephant Maheshwara, Pallava Lingams, and later Natarajs, are all products of the crossing of two spiritual natures. There is an originally realistic intention, but is accommodates to the terms of pure design. Every econ is thus at once a symbol and a representation. The worshipper, knowing that the deity takes the forms that are imagined by his devotees, is nevertheless persuaded that the form is like the deity. Just in the same way the ascetic and sensual, opposed in primitive thought, and all other pairs of opposites, are theortically reconciled in the post-Vedic art. This racial samskar may well have been determined before the use of metals was known.

The later Vedic literature shows that a knowledge of the metals has advanced. Tin, lead and silver are mentioned as well as two varieties of ayas, usually regarded as copper and iron. Cotton, linen, silk and wooden garments were worn; a linen robe used in rajasuya ceremony was embroidered with representation of ritual vessels. Storeyed buildings (Rig Veda Samhita, 6,46,9), round and square huts, bricks, plates, cups and spoons of gold and silver; iron knives, needles, mirrors, elevated bedsteads, thrones and seats; musical instruments, millstones, cushions, turbans (used by the king in the rajasuya ceremony and by students after graduation); crowns, jewellery, earthen-ware and a ship are mentioned in connection with the rituals. Writing, in an early form of the Brahmi character, was known in the eighth century B.C. or even earlier. But mnemonic methods were preferred for handing down the sacred texts. The Jatakas describe the existence of guilds, eighteen in number, which include woodworkers, smiths, leather-dressers, painters and the rest expert in various crafts. The smiths or workers in any metal were already called kammara, a name by which the higher craftsmen are still known in the South and in Sri Lanka.

Further, cyclopean walls of old Rajagraha are undoubtedly very ancient. A Vedic burial mound of the 7th or 8th century B.C. at Lauriya Nandangarh has, on excavation, revealed, amongst other objects, a small repousse gold plaque bearing the figure of a nude female, probably the earth goddess of the burial hymn. Minor antiquities of undoubted pre-Mauryan date have been found at various sites of which the Bhir mound at Taxila is significant. The finds here include beads and lathe-turned polished hard stones, terracotta reliefs and polished sandstone discs. The antiquities found here and elsewhere prove that glass making had attained a high level in pre-Mauryan culture and that the cutting and polishing of hard stones in the fourth and fifth centuries B.C. had reached a level of technical accomplishment which was sustained in the Mauryan period, but never afterwards surpassed. Other terracotta of pre-Mauryan date have been found at Nagari, Bhita, Basarah and Pataliputra.
A motif is not necessarily invented or borrowed at the date of its first appearance in permanent material. Rather it signifies an earlier currency in some other material. No one should doubt the existence of a pre-Mauryan Indian art of sculpture and architecture in wood, in clay modeling, ivory carving, cutting of hard stone, glass, textile and metal work. And this must have embraced an expansive ensemble of motifs ranging from lines and dots incised or painted on earthen pots and chank bangles to representation of the human figure. The themes and motifs of per-Mauryan art is not dissimilar to that of Maurya and Shungs. Fantastic animals, palmettes, rosettes, and bulls are common elements of craftsman’s repertory under the Nandas as in the time of Ashoka.
India in the millennium B.C. was an integral part of an Ancient East that extended from the Mediterranean to the Ganga Valley. In this ancient world there prevailed a common type of culture having a continuous history extending upwards from the stone age. Some of its most widely distributed decorative or symbolic motifs, such as the spiril and svastika with certain phases of its mythology connected with Sun and Fire reaches the remote past. In sum, while journeying to light from darkness, India earns a heritage of a common Asiatic art leaving its uttermost ripples on the shores of Hellas, the extreme West of Ireland, Phoenicia, Egypt and China. All that belongs to this phase of art and its various farms occurring in India or elsewhere at various periods up to the present day should be regarded as cognates rather than as borrowings.
The Great Modification
The maiden integration makes room for the great modification during the reign of Ashoka, the Grandson of Chandragupta Maurya, the passionate covert to Buddhism and the ruler of the whole northern India from east to west, from Afganistan to Kashmir and the Dekkan. Ashoka, the king of kings, is credited with the erection of 8000 stupas and count less monasteries. His palace at Pataliputra formed a large and magnificent group of buildings. For this age abundant sources of all kinds and available. Specially the Jatakas and Sutras, the Arthashastra of Kautilya, some reserve from the Epics and western sources, particularly Megasthenes throw ample light on the general picture of Indian civilization and culture of the age. A few capital cities were now acquiring increasing importance, amongst which Taxila, Ayodhya, Ujjain, Vidisha and Pataliputr are most prominent. But village is still the typical centre of Aryan life. All the crafts were practiced. Guilds (Seni) were thriving. Villages formed communities of a particular craft. Pretentious houses were built of wood with squared beams, sometimes of several storeys, supported by pillars and well provided with balconies. Stone begins to come into use both in architecture and for sculpture in relief and in round; the special characteristic of the Ashokan work being the fine finish and polish of the surface conspicuous even in the case of the excavated monastic halls. Now deities begin to be conceived as worshipful persons, rather than as element powers. Vedic, Upanishadic and Buddhist philosophies undergo great modifications in the process of adjustment to popular necessity resulting in a development of devotional theism and the fusion of Dravidian with Aryan conceptions.
The distinction between the court and indigenous art of this period lies in the latter being free-standing stone figures. Also in wood the indigenous art is conceived in a magnificent manner expressing an immence material force in terms of sheer volume and astounding physical energy. There is no suggestion here of introspection or devotion. An art of mortal essence. Almost, brutal in its affirmation, not yet spiritualised. But this is the material that must later on be used to serve the ends of passionate devotion (bhakti) to spiritual and unseen powers and for the exposition of cosmic theory in terms of an elaborate theology; this same energy finds expression in the early Kushan Buddhas and survives even in the more refined creations of the Gupta age. The official art of Ashoka’s reign is mainly represented by the monolithic pillars (Stambha, lat) on which the edicts are engraved. Of the numerous extant examples, the finest is that of Sarnath erected on the traditional site of Dhamma-Chakka, the first turning of the Wheel of the Law; the shaft is of the plain polished sandstone, circular in section and slightly tapering; the capital consists of four lions, which originally supported the Wheel of the Law resting on an abacus bearing in relief an elephant, horse, bull and lion separated by four small dhamma-chakkas below which is the inverted lotus forming the bell. The typical of this art has been the extraordinary precision and accuracy in cutting and polishing of the surface with realistic modeling and movement. The abacus variously ornamented, in one case swans fly in low reliefs, in another with blossomed lotus and palmette motifs, all the inscriptions finely cut. This fact indicates that writing and reading had by this time become a fairly general accomplishment.
Ashoka’s palace at Pataliputra was described by Megasthenes as no less magnificent than the palaces of Susa and Ecbatana. It was still standing at the beginning of the fifth century A.D., when Fa Hsien tells us that it was attributed to the work of genii. But when Husan Tsang visited the oity in the seventh century the palace had been burnt to the ground and the place was almost deserted. Recent excavations have revealed the remains of a great hall with stone pillars, which seems to have been planned on the model related to that of the pillared halls of the Achaemenid kings of Persepotis. A number of interesting sculptures of late Mauryan or early Shunga date are characterized not only by their market individuality, but by the type of headdress, consisting in most cases of a fillet, with a bay wreath or mural crown. The material is polished buff sandstone. No less important is a considerable group of Maurya and Shunga terracottas in the form of moulded plaques and modeled heads and busts representing in most cases standings female divinity with luxurious coiffure, dressed in tunic or nude to the waist, and with a dhoti or skirt of diaphanous muslin. Despite the garment, particular care is taken to reveal the mount of Venus in apparent nudity, a tendency almost equally characteristic of stone sculpture in the Shunga, Andhra and Kushan periods. In some cases, the figure stands on a lotus pedestal with shoulder wings, the arms are generally akimbo and there is often a symbol represented in the space at the sides of the plaque.
These types have a long history behind them. They may have been votive tablets or auspicious representations of mother-goddesses and bestowers of fertility and prototypes of Maya-Devi and Lakshmi. Other plaque, often in high relief, represent male and female couples like the Mithuna and Uma-Maheshwar groups of later arts. The uniquences of these terracottas lies in their being made from moulds yet no duplicates are met with and there is a great variety of detail. In some cases the figure is endowed with real grace, anticipating the free and naturalistic development of the succeeding century. A much more refind type of terracotta found at Pataliputra, and in particular the smilling child from that site, on a careful comparison with the less individualized types, reveals an ethnic relation. The refinement and sensitiveness there in may be only the result of local conditions.

Man and Nature – An Edifying Relationship
The past-Maurya period is a complicated event with a series of kingdom and dynasties, jutting along each other; the important among them being the Shungas, the Andhras, the Kanvas; the satraps of the Western Ghats, Mathura and Ujjain, the Indo-Greek and Indo-Parthian rulers in the Punjab, Afganistan, and Bacteria.
The immediate successor of the Maurya glory was Pushyamitra Shunga, a zealous Hindu with Magian tendencies. His dominious included Magadha and extended southwards to the Narmada and northwards to Jalundhar in Punjab. Pushyamitra repelled the Greek invader Menander (Milinda), but was defeated by Kharvela about 161 B.C. The Kanvas succeeded the Shungas. The dominant power in the Punjab and Mathura was Seythian. Meanwhile the Andhras, already a Dravidian power in Mauryan times, ruled the Deccan possessing thirty walled towns in the Krishna Godawari delta.
They had extended their domains across the north as far as Nasik and Ujjain. Lasting for four and a half centuries, the Andhras were succeeded by the Pallavas in the East in the third century A.D. Most of the Andhra Kings seem to have been Brahminical Hindus, but they are best known by their benefactions to Buddhist communities. To them are due most of the cave temples and monasteries of the Western Ghats, the Ghantshala, Bhalliprolu, Guntupallea and Amarvati stupas and other structures in the east, and probably the Sanchi gateways.
In eastern India the Kalingas recovered the independence they had lost under Ashoka. Other events were taking place in the North-West. About 250 B.C. Partha and Bactria broke away from the Seleukid Empire and set up as independent Greek principlities: Yavana (Greek0 princes of the two houses of Euthydemus and Eucratides reigned in Bactria, Kabul and the Punjab. West of the Indus one the leading names being that of Menander (Milinda) of Kabul (160-140 B.C.) who invaded India reaching Mathura, Saket, Madhyamika (Nagari, Chitor) and perhaps Pataliputra, then the Shunga capital, and is claimed as a covert by Buddhist tradition. These Indo-Greek kings are known almost exclusively by their coins, which are at first in a purely classical style, and subsequently Indianised.
The whole approach of the jumbled period, like that of early Indian art, is realistic,i.e. without arriers pense. The main interest is neither spiritual nor ethical, but altogether directed to human life; luxury and pleasure are represented to be interrupted only by death; and these are nothing but practical facts endorsed by the inherently sensual quality of the plastic language. The art of these reliefs expresses a philosophy older than the great Enlightenment. These are not personal deities conceived in the manner of Hindu theism but powers personified only in the way that they are personified as various elements are successively presented in a half birds-eye-view, with the horizon practically out of the picture. The ‘atmosphere’ is not supposed to be seen in lateral section, but forms an ambient, including the spectator and the whole picture. To one accustomed to the convention, a three dimensional effect is more obvious: there is no crowding, no overlapping of planes, and the mutual relations of the parts are unmistakable. The forces of nature are regarded only in the light of their relation to human welfare, and over all, there hangs the dread of the tiger-haunted forest, the power of the storm, and the marvel of the sun that journeys through the air. None of this mystery appears in the orderly reliefs of Bharhut and Sanchi. This is a sample of the kind of non-Buddhist are which the Buddhists had to adapt to their own edifying ends. It reminds us that much must have been going on outside the limited range of Buddhist art property so called.
The art of Sanchi as a whole is of course Buddhist in theme, the story telling reliefs successfully  fulfil an edifying purpose. It is equally clear that their content is not religious, in the sense that Indian art, at a later period, becomes religious; the intrinsic quality of the early art is realistic and sensuous, and this is only more evident in the case of the dryads, as the theme therein is anything but Buddhist. Or, if we recognize in this very sensuousness, with which the art is saturated, a true religious feeling, then it is religious on a plane very far removed from that of the aristocratic philosophy of the Upanishads and Buddhism. It is religious in the very real sense of the ancient cults of mother-goddesses and fertility spirits, not in the sense of the great Enlightenment. We cannot, therefore, be surprised at the ‘puritanical’ objections to art which are which were voiced at this time or a little earlier by Brahminical and Buddhist philosophers. Art has not yet been conceived as an embodiment of spiritual ideas in terms of form, a theory of beauty as perfect experience (rasaswadan Brahmaswadan) had not yet been imagined. When the Church began to make use of art, it was only as a valuable medium in which to narrate the legends and history of its faith. The art of Sanchi is not, as art, created of inspired by Buddhism, but is early Indian art adapted to edifying ends, and retaining its own intrinsic qualities. A pure Buddhist content is far more apparent in the early architecture, and especially in the undecorated hemispherical stupa. The school of Mathura is more nearly related to Bharhut than to Sanchi, and is represented by some fragmentary sculptures which must go back to the middle of the second century B.C.
The main Jain establishment represented by the Kankali Tila site already existed in the second century B.C. Amongst the most interesting sculptures are the ayagapatas or votive tablets. They bear inscriptions in Brahmi which can scarcely be later than the beginning of the Kushan period. The caves in Orissa are mostly Jain monasteries (viharas). The pediment sculptures of the Ajanta include a standing Maya Devi with elephants. In the Buddhist art this would represent the nativity of Buddha, in Hindu art Gaja-Lakshmi, and in the Jain art it may be the nativity of Mahavira. Further south, in the Andhra, what appears to have been a more important early stupa existed at Jaggayapeta, some thirty miles from Amaravati. From this site a number of early reliefs of high interest have been recovered, amongst these may be especially mentioned a number of pilasters with bell capitals and winged animals in Bharhut style, one representing an elegant punya shala with worshippers and another representing a king surrounded by emblems of royalty.
In the same area, at Gudimallam, near Renigunta, North Arcot, exists one of the most interesting and important monuments of pre-Kushan Brahminical art extant, the Shiya-Lingam Known as Parashurameshwaram in Puja. This is realistic phallic emblem, five feet in height, with a figure of Shiva carved on its lower side. The deity it two armed, holds as attributes a ram, battle-axe (parasu), and water vessel, and stands firmly on a cronching Yaksa of Bharhut pedestal type. This Yaksa is evidently the apasmara-purusha, which supports the figure of Nataraja in the later iconography. Perhaps this formula too reached Japan by sea. This sculpture is a document of great significance in the history of Indian art and reminds us that innumerable works and types of works must have existed, that are now lost.


From modification breathed in by Ashokan period, the Indian art reaches a stage where a modicum of nimbus assumes common sense in measured visual steps. This modulus proved co-efficient in all branches of intellectual proposition including philosophy, theology, literature and art. The impact of earlier modifying forces (Ashoka discouraged samaj entertainments in sex) in fields of religion and society continued echoing in the co-journeys along all changes in the living organisms of Indian identity. This continuum transmitted the song of modification to the souls of succeeding eras in visual language that said that individual interests, may they belong to religions, theologies, societies or to empires, do not necessarily clash. Rather, they launch on co-pilgrimages, like tiny atoms, to build and propel new universes. In the present focus on the modicum of the nimbus we shall examine how far the promise is redeemed. But before acknowledging the viability of the picture of the nimbus we should realize a rather gruesome fact that the period under discussion has been a witness to a storm of upheavals tending to uproot gigantic structures of several denominations. Nevertheless, the Ashokan breezes of fresh gravitations carrying universal love, peace and non-violence on their transcending wings resurrected rivers of artistic creativity which sprang from high mountains and deep valleys of wars and strifes and fragmentations. The nimbus shapped up a code to bring in a change in the soul of the word. New vowels were coined to introduce new gestures in culture. The great modifying process (in Ashoka period) through man-nature relationships (in Shung-Bactia era) assumes the role of nimbus in this golden era which we call Kushan-Gupta period.
These beginnings (Hindu and Buddhist theistic art) owe their origins to Kushan, later Andhra and Gupta period. The elemental deities, found in the early Vedic texts, reveal a connection with certain animals. The horse was associated with sun and fire, the bull with Indra and Rudra. The animal avatars of Prajapati, later appropriated by Vishnu may also be cited. Material objects such as the mark of Chakravartin changed into the disc of Vishnu and the Buddhist Wheel of Law. This disc of gold placed behind the fire altar to represent the sun may well be the origin of the later prabha-mandala. Radiance predicated of almost all the Devas, is indeed one of the root meanings of the work and most of them are connected in their origins with sun and fire. Just as the tree behind the empty altar or throne, representing Buddha in the early art, remains in the later art when the throne is occupied, so the sun-disc behind the fire-altar may well have remained there when the deity was first made visible.
An elemental conception of the powers of nature does not necessitate an iconography. The most definite suggestion is the of Rv (4.24): “Who will buy my Indra”. But just as the Bodhi tree and paduka at Bharhut are called “Buddha”, so here a symbol may have been referred to as Indra. The ultimate tendency is to conceive the gods in more and more definitely anthropomorphic terms. To a very considerable extent the development of theistic, devotional cults must represent an emergence of popular, non-Aryan tendencies, now recognized, absorbed and systematized in relation to Aryan philosophies. It must never be overlooked that in Vedas, and before the second century B.C., we posses only one-sided view of ‘Indian’ religion and representing, qualitatively at least, the smaller part of it. The mass of the people worshipped not the abstract deities of priestly theology, but local genic (Yakshas and Nagas), and feminine divinities of opulence and mother goddesses.
The transition from elemental to personal conceptions of the deities is completed. Imgaes and temples are referred to fairly frequently and as a matter of course. The words used for image are daivata, pratima. The Harivamsha, somewhat later, refers to stone images, but no image of a Deva is certainly older than the first century B.C., the Maurya of possibly earlier figures representing either human beings or Yakshas. About the same time images are mentioned in several other connections. Patanjali, commenting on Panini, refers to the exhibition and sale of images of Shiva, Skanda, Vishakha, etc. The moving about the images of bucolic deities is referred to in Apastambha, a work perhaps composed in the Andhra country. A Naga-bali, a five headed snake of wood or clay is to be made and worshipped for a year.
The special religious meanings possible for each symbol had their heredity in Vedic and epic reference to avatars and attributes. They were also related to later iconography in the company of the vocabulary which was equally available to all sects, Brahmins, Buddhists and Jains each employing them according to their own light of sense. Finally a heraldic significance, the secular usage by a city, a community, or a king, comes into being. In this unifying event in diversities, the bull of the Brihadrath dynasty of Magadha (Mahabharat), acquaints itself with the tiger of a Kaveri-based kingdom mentioned in the Pattinappalai, and thus a step is taken towards uprooting violence between living beings. The commonest coin symbols in general use include human figures-singly or in threes, elephant, horse, bull, bull’s, head, dog, cobra, fish, peacock, Chaitya Vriksha (Railed Tree) branch, flower, lotus; sun in circle rays, moon-cresent; mountain with flora, fauna and sun-moon, river (often with fish), tank; namdipada, triratana, svastika, double triangle, steel-yard and “Taxila” mark. It reminds us that Taxila symbolized suzerainty equivalent to the royalties.
In this devamala the man amuses himself to recognize his existence to be the commonest essential in all living beings, presided over by the great and real environment. The art in this varied period constructs permutations sanctifying freedoms of individualities in all forms and hues. Nothing done in art warrants mammonism. The master is represented only by symbols like the tree, wheel and paduka implying a continuity on throne and in wood alike. The retention of old symbols as specific designations becomes a tradition. And, finally, the forms all such images are codified in descriptive mnemonic texts (dhyan, mantra, sadhana included in Shilpashastra). These texts are a development and definition of the older Vedic and epic lauds, which should have been musts for all in the act of visualization before the work of art is really begun.
Temple and shrines in epics are devata-ayatan. In inscriptions they are devakula, arahat-ayatan. The general meaning is sacred objects in honour of teachers or prophets. Tree (Chaitya-Vriksha) are perhaps the most commonly mentioned symbols. “Even a leaf from them is not to be destroyed for they are abodes of Devas, Yakshas, Nagas, Apasaras, Bhutas, etc.” Ramayana described a chaitya as a temple: “The horn of the trident bearer is high as heaven; and is spotless”. On seeing which the mortal knows he has reached the city of Shiva. Theoretically, the Hindu shrine is the imitation of a building existing in another world (generally Indraloka), the form of which has been revealed or otherwise ascertained. The architects used Shilpi-Shastras believing in Shaiva Agamas as their origin which teaches that our temples are abodes in Kailash on the summit of Mahameru far byond the strata of existence known as Bhuvar-loka and Svar-loka. The conception recurs many times in Indian literature, where the architect is inspired by Vishwakarma, or he visits the heaven of Indra to bring back with him the design of some palace or temple existing there. In the same way the other arts, such as dancing, are practiced on earth after a divine model.
The Yue-Chi tribe driven from N.W. China in about 165 B.C. entered the golden casket of India undergoing through transmigrations or resurrections in the form of Bactrian, Kushan, Gandhar yonis. The new composition was Kanishka whose winter capital was at Purushpur (Peshawar), and his summer capital at Kapisa in Afghanistan. The Kushans created ripples in the Indus which reached the Ganga touching the shores at Kashi and Pataliputra. Helidora, the builder of Taxila was a self-acclaimed Vaishnava (Bhagvata) whose efforts are aimed at a resurgence in the realm of multidimensional and multi-dinominational knowledge paving way to go beyond. One of the pleasant outcomes of Taxila endeavour of the Indian mind is Gandhar art which is a step forward at universation. Stylistically Hellenistic, it followed Indian tradition – verbal or plastic – in all essentials of its iconography. The whole conception of the seated Yogi and teacher in Gandhare sculptor did not so much make an Apollo into a Buddha, as a Buddha into an Appolo. He may not have copied any Indian sculpture, but his Buddha type and that of Mathura are equally based on a common literary and oral tradition.
The Indian influence in Gandhar was not exclusively Buddhist. It is illustrated by the occurrence of a Shiva image (Mahesha or a so-called Trimurti). The deity is three-headed, three eyed, and six armed. It stands before the bull nandi, holding the damaru, trishula and kamandalu. The style is that of the Indianised Gandhar art of the third century. Few sites in India are of greater interest than Mathura. The Kushan school in Mathura represents, in the main, a direct development of the older Indian art of Bharhut and still older art of Besnagar. The images carry all the characteristics, including expression of enormous energy in gestures and features, which are products of the Indian School. It is evident from scrutiny that a type of Buddha image had been created at Mathura independently of any Hellenistic prototype; and this Mathura type was transported to many other sacred sites, for, at the very beginning of Kanishka’a reign we find Mathura sending down images to the Gangetic plains, thus setting examples to the sculptors of Kashi and Gaya. These facts taken into consideration with the subsequent continuity of the tradition, and the obvious and natural relationship of Gupta to Kushan types, exclude the possibility of a Greek origin of the Buddha images in India. That in certain directions a Hellenistic element, plastic and iconographic, was absorbed into India art, and the presence of this factor, sometimes unmistakable, is all that can properly be assorted in this connection.

The great majority of figures are female of which the commonest and most characteristic type, indeed, is that of the nude or semi-nude female figure associated with trees, unmistakable descendants of the Yaksis and Vriksakas of Bharhut, Bodhgaya and Sanchi, and ancestors of the Rameshwaram Verandah bracket at Elora, those of the Vaishnara cave at Badaim and many later derivatives. What is the meaning of these sensuous figures, whose connection and implication are anything but Buddhist or Jain? They are certainly not, as they used to be called, dancing girls. They are Yaksis, Devatas or Vrikshas, nymphs and to be regarded as auspicious emblems of vegetative fertility derived from popular belief. Trees are closely connected with fertility, and tree-marriages have survived to be present day, the twinning of the limbs of dryads as in Bodhgaya pillar, deliberately or unconsciously express the same idea. It is to be observed that there is scarcely a single female figure represented in early Indian art without erotic suggestion of some kind, implied, or explicitly expressed and emphasized, no where indeed, has the vegetative sexual motif been presented with greater frankness or transparency, though in certain later phases of Indian art, as at Khajuraho and Konark, more specifically. In the presence of these emblems of abundance we must not be misled by modern ideas; their meaning, if not Buddhist or Jain, is nevertheless religious and revealed an essential purity of spirit that has overtaken the West. The two polar themes of Indian experience are there presented side by side, though not in opposition. In much later medieval Vaishnava art we find them united.

Then descends the Gupta period, the classic casket of the Indian art. It is the highest class and guide. It is a classic method, pertaining to and moulded by the thought of the ancient. It is adhering to a self-established set of artistic and philosophic standards and methods. It is a classic example of a new basic, a fundamental freshly conceived. It is of an enduring interest, quality and style sometime alluding the style as content and design. The classical art lives in a cultured period cheered by literary and astrological and scientific renown. The period is a classic haunt of famous poets, nearly every moment conversing with the art of plasticity. The art in the Gupta period is considered definitive in its field – something noteworthy and worth remembering in the great magical tradition of Vikramaditya, the rider on Simghasan Battise. The classic mind involved in the art of the period is somehow being interpreted as archaic which belonged, or attempted to belong, to the first or highest class in all excellences of human being horizontally as well as vertically.
There period was classic in the sense that the tree-power of creativity was deep rooted resulting in various sprouts welling up joyously. The sophisticated and enduring types of dance and music encouragd art. Both were well-ordered, so far aesthetic entertainment is concerned. The golden casket in the period had its humour enlivened by the pleasant absence of the drab creature of homophonic antiquity. A raja of Pataliputra, named Chandragupta I, founded Gupta era to commemorate his coronation after wining over the land as far as Prayag. It was followed by a succession of sheer brilliance and valour in Samudragupta. The legendry Vikramaditya joined the lost ends of Bharat in four directions with a sacred thread of unity. In the Gupta period the image has taken its place in architecture. This integration acquires delicacy and repose. At the same time technique is perfected and used as a language without conscious effort. It becomes a modicum of conscious and explicit statement of spiritual conceptions. This being equally true of sculpture, painting and the dance. The era establishes a new definition of beauty: kshne kshne yat navatam upaiti (Kalidas in Shakuntalam). It is at once serene and energetic, spiritual and voluptuous. The formulae of Indian taste are now definitely crystallized and universally accepted. Iconographic types and compositions are now standardized in forms whose influence extended far beyond the Ganga Pradesh, and of which the influence was felt, not only through India and Sri Lanka, but far beyond the confines of Aryavart.
The period is often introduced as one of the revival of Brahminism and of Sanskrit learning and literature. But actually there is no evidence of any preceding lack of continuity in the development of Brahminical culture. Certainly there never existed a Buddhist India that was not as much and at the same time and in the same areas a Hindu. In any case, an age of hightened aesthetic consciousness of final reductions of the epics and puranas, and of codification and systematization in the arts must have been preceded by centuries, not of increativity, but of intense and creative dynamism. The period is one of culmination, or floresence, rather than of renaissance. A close parallel exists between the development of art and literature. The same abundance pervades the Sanskrit Kavya literature, the Ajanta paintings and the decoration of the Gupta reliefs.
The rich decorative resources of Gupta art are to be understood in terms of ints inheritance: indigenous, early Asistic, Persian and Hellenistic. The Gupta style in unified, national. Plastically, the style is derived from refinement and definition, tendencies destined, still later, in the natural course of events, to imply attenuation. The Gupta sculpture, less ponderous than the ancient types, is distinguished by its volume, its energy proceeding from within the form, and it static rather than kinetic. The Gupta art marks the zenith in a perfectly normal cycle of artistic evolution. Painting appears in all lists of the sixty-four kalas, the fine arts of accomphlishments. Portrait paintings, usually from merory, and on wooden panels, is a device constantly employed in classical Sanskrit plays. The Kamasutra of Vatsyayana, a work essentially of the Gupta period, mentions the drawing panel, paints and brushes as parts of the ordinary furniture of the gentleman’s (nagar) chamber, and taken in its context, this throws some light on the meaning of the term nagur as used to define a kind of paiting. Quite evidently, painting was, in the Gupta period at least, not exclusively an ecclesiastical, but professional members of guilds. It was a social accomplishment.
In arts of the Gupta period, the specifically religious element is no longer insistent, no longer anti-social. It is manifested in life, and in an art that reveals life not in a mere opposition to spirituality, but as an intricate ritual filled to the consummation of every perfect experience. The sorrow of transience no longer poisons life. Life has become an art in which mortality inheres only as Karuna rasa. The ultimate meaning of life is not forgotten but a culmination and a perfection have been obtained in which the inner and outer life are indivisible. It is the psycho-physical identity that determines the universal quality of Gupta art. The profound manner in which this art was given side recognition lies in its extension in south-eastern Asia and Far East. The stockless Bodhisattva from Funan is fully the equal of any painting at Ajanta. Far-Eastern races have developed independently elements of culture no less important than those of India. But almost all, that belongs to the common spiritual consciousness of Asia, the ambient, in which its diversities are reconcilable, is of Indian origin in the Gupta Period.
But before we enter into eastern and far eastern horizons, we should like to have a glance at early medieval, medieval, Rajput, and later arts. To begin with the first. There is no sharp line of division between late Gupta art and that of the early medieval which mark the beginning of the famous seventh century India carrying two heroes on its north and south shoulders, Harshwardhan and Pulkeshin, the two great contemporaries and enemies. Husan Tsang, through his description of Nalanda portrays India in the seventh century. The Chinese pilgrim and scholar dwells upon the magnificence of famous monasteries and the Buddhist university: 
“The whole establishment is surrounded by a brick wall. One gate opens into the great college, from which are separated eight other halls standing in the middle. The richly adored towers and the angelic turrets which compare themselves with hill-peaks, are congregated together. The observatories seem to be lost in the vapours of the morning and the upper rooms tower above the clouds, as clouds also bowed low to the clime of Nalanda. From the windows new formations of winds and clouds were pleasantly visible, and above the soaring caves the conjunctions of the sun and moon may be observed . . . . Below the deep translucent ponds were another delights with their surface laced with blue lotus intermingling with the Kie-in (Kanaka) flower of deep red colour, and at intervals the mangroves spread over all their shade. . . . All the outside courts with priests’ and teachers’ chambers are of four stages. The stages have dragon (makara) projections and coloured caves, the pearl-red pillars carved and ornamented, the richly adorned baustrades, and the roofs covered with tiles that reflect the light in thousand shades – these things add to the beauty of the scene.”
The glory of Nalanda as described by the Chinese pilgrim must have been due, in the main, to the benefactions of Purnavarman and other local rajas of Magdha and perhaps, in part, to Harsha himself who erected costly temples for the service of his three family deities – Shiva, Sun and Buddha. When Harsha became master of Valabhi in 635, the town was already a great centre, in the west, of Buddhist learning comparable in importance with Nalanda. The city was, later, overthrown by the Arabs (770). Since then Anhilavad-Patan (Gujarat) became the leading city of Western India until in the 15 century, when it was succeeded by Ahemdabad. A rich temple assigned to the reign of Harsha, named after Lakshmana at Sirpur, Raipur district, is one of the most beautiful in all India. It is unsurpassed in the richness and refinement of its ornament. Certainly falling in the reign of Harsha is the octagonal Mundeshavari temple near Bhabua in the Shahabad district. The early Chalukya, Rashtrakut and Pallava fulfill the canvas of the early medieval each with its relatively independent colours mainly of southern traditions.
From the early medieval, the journey is again too complex to be treated in detail here. The outstanding feature, in the north, is the rise of the Rajputs with sprinklings of descents from earlier foreign invaders now completely Hinduised. The main bulk of this racial phenomenon could trace its heredity with plausibility of far earlier times. The most important kingdoms in this period included that of Kanauj of Panchal ruled by the earlier Raja Bhoj (Parihar), extending from Magadha to the Satluj, and including Kathiawad. The later Raja Bhoj (Parmar or Pawar) of Dhara was the legendary liberal patron of literature and art, himself the author of works on architecture. Chandels of Bundelkhand and Palas of the lower Ganga Valley were some of the dynasties which could be described illustrious in their own domains. The great abundance of medieval Nagara shrines in Punjab, Rajputana, Western India, the Valley of Ganga, Central Provinces, and Orissa make a consecutive artistic treatment rather impossible in work of present dimension. Likewise the presence of artistic creations illumine great gopuras at Shrirangam, Chidambaram, Mumbakoram, Vijaynagar and Madurai. Herein, the treatment of the marble surpasses anything seen anywhere. The greatest resultant in a piece of marble has been the Nataraja type which is also the greatest creation of Indian art, a perfect visual image of becoming. It is an adequate complement and contrast to the Buddha type of pure being. The movement in the dancing figure of the Nataraja is so admirably balanced that white it fills all space, it seems nevertheless to be at rest, in the sense that a spinning top or a gyrostat is at rest; thus realizing the unity and simultaneity of the Five Activities (Pancha-Kritya), namely, production, maintenance, destruction, embodiment and release.

From medieval to Rajput it was but one step for the Indian art to plunge into a homophonic state. And, it was beyon its energy to avoid the pit. The Arab contact having gained maturity, introduced use of paper on mass scale. The doddering political morale induced artistic sensibilities as prop to rouse creativity in order to hold the tattering moral structure of the golden casket. The easy availability of the paper media fertilised the production of art, pupularly and deservedly known as Rajput and Mughal painting which, in proportion to the earlier mass creative interests, helped sprout similar homophonic state of creativity throughout north-west India – the battered ground politically and socially. All the Kangara Pahari, Rajasthani and Basauli schools fell a prey to the charming illness. The only man who anticipated the fall was Jahangir. While still a prince be expressed his agonised dismay in the following words, “The old song weary my heart. . . . , the love story of Farhad and Shirin has grown old and lost its savour. . . . . . . , if we read at all, let it be what we have seen and beheld overselves”. . ut he, too, on being enthroned, lost a required energy to avoid the drowning; especially when the tail of paper consumerism began its lashes originating from burning ambitions of the European industrial renaissance. The Indian art was duped by the intruder – the PAPER – and lost sight of that high pedestal where the mountain and the wood were companions in creativity. The Indian art lost its pedestal. It stood in the thin air in an animated suspention. The Indian art forgot to muster the stamina to grapple with the environment like its first love. The width and the depth of renewal in constant active relationship with the earlier stages of affirmations beginning from the Vedic integrative footprints down to the Golden Casket, slipped into miniaturied sentiments – subjective ans sick – on paper which invites only a non-existant antiquity.
Here we should, after revealing a rather neglectd but a very pertinent point in our medieval culture, dwell upon the post-medieval scene of Indian art which is but enchanting in its own right. The discussion under Rajput painting, as is made explicit earlier, leads us to one more column of the mansion i.e. the Mughal painting. They differ in the stylistic and thematic sense that while the latter is academic, dramatic, objective, and eclective, the earlier is essentially an aristocratic folk art, with an appeal to all classes alike; it is static, lyrical, and is an unconceivable part from the life it reflects. The Rajut painting illustrates every phase of medieval Hindu literature including Indian epics, Krishna Lila literature, music and erotics. The Mughal painting reflects an interest that is an exclusive domain of subjectivity both of persons and events. It is essentially an art of portraiture and chronicle. Even the attitude of painters are personal. Technically and stylistically, the differences are clearly discernible. One can say, in spirit, Mughal painting is ‘modern’, Rajput still medieval. These differences become interesting and intriguing specially in view of the fact that a commerce of integration was on a wider social spectrum. Rajput elements were being adopted in true Mughal paintings; Hindu costumes made their presence felt in the courts of Great Mughal like Akbar and Jahangir, Oudh and Hyderabad began further fusion by producing mixed types; and finally, the fact that more than half of the Mughal painters were native Hindus. All these conditions created resemblances between Rajput and Mughal paintings; sometime superficial, and at other fundamental.
The tide and ebb in the growth of Indian painting during this period presented one more well-defined skill executed par excellance. This skill, known as Indian craft, used metal of all type to produce lyrics in devotion. Steel was wrought to produce finest engraving on weapons of Southern India. Brass and copper were turned in al endless variety of elaborately decorated forms to be found in Indian homes and temples. Gold and silver, both in personal and ritual purposes, accompanied the exquisite taste in encrusted caboch on sapphires. Applied decoration of metal as inlay and overlay received applause both from warriors and lovers. The jewellery, made and worn in an unsurpassed quantity and variety, by all classes throughout India, added a special luster to the craft. Ivory, which was in use since the earliest times, received treatment on an enormous range. Textiles, deservedly famous as articles of export since Roman times, or probably earlier, embarked upon the only process in the world by which the design is, so to speak, created before the weaving is begun. Tie-dyeing became a rich source of extensive practice in colour printing. Embroidery offered a vivacious charm to Indian living.


The suburban centres of Indian art include Kashmir, Nepal, Tibet, Chinese Turkistan and the Far East. The splashes of ardent activities by the Indian muse throughout the ages were bound to attract attention of these neighbouring regions at their ecstatic moments. Simultaneously they were also, most likely, to colour these moments adding their own inner-selves. Each of the above mentioned geographical regions big or small – has been a partner in social and political upheavals emanating in or from the sub-continent since the days of Ashoka, if not earlier. In this partnership was engrained a common cultural tendency born out of the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religions in co-existence. A pyramidal basement of five stages (a relationship which controls five sense!) is common to all migratory temple architecture from Nepal to Burma to Combodia, and up to Farther India.

The typical Brahminical temple in Kashmir (1750-1250 A.D.) has a special character of its own, and is, in some cases, a curiously European aspect. The typical Kashmiri roof is found only at Gop in Kathiawad. The isolated and rather inaccessible Himalayan valley of Nepal was occupied in prehistoric times by a people of Tibetan origin. In the 2nd century A.D. the Lichchivis from India founded a dynasty in Nepal taking with them their Vaishali civilization. Then came a time when the first king of Tibet who is supposed to be the maker of the Tibetan nation, married a Nepalese princes in the year 630. The young bride brought with her, her gods and priests. She converted her husband and after her death she was given a place in the Tibetan pantheon as an incarnation of the Goddess Tara. Tibet was from the beginning open to India and Nepal. Pilgrimages from one place to the other by scholars, missionaries, artists and traders were in great vogue. The Chinese Turkistan, according to Hsuan Tsang, was under partial occupation by Indian immigrants from the region of ancient Taxila. A Prakrit language was spoken in the oasis. Kharoshthi and Brahmi scripts were in use. A cult of Kubera was wide-spread. Khotan was the centre, thgough which and also through the routes from the southern sea and Combodia, Indian influence extended of China, Korea and Japan.

In Chin, however, where an ancient civilization had long previously attained to a high stage of consciousness, and had found expression in a solemn and cultivated art dating back to the second millennium B.C., and where, despite the settlement of Indian traders and priests, especially at Loyang, there was never any question of Indian social or political domination, the situation was different than that of Farther India and Indonesia. The Indian element in the Far East is nevertheless a considerable one; for there was not merely the acceptance of an iconography and of formulae, but the assimilation of mode of thought. The effects on both the counts have been a live subject for art histories since long. Japanese Buddhism on the ritualistic side elaborated the cult of Amida and the Western Paradise, and on the mystical side the practice of the Ch’an Buddhist of China, which has been established by the Indian monk Bodhirama, and derived in the last analysis from the India Yoga. The external influence of Indian though created theology and forms of art resembling those of India, the more fundamentally stimulating influence of  a method, acting invariably, enabled the Japanese genius to realize itself in an attitude of aesthetic appreciation of natural beauty and an art which bear no evident resemblance of anything Indian.   


The contact with the Indian art sailing on the many-splendoured wings of Hinduism and Buddhism added a new wave of laughter to the Farther East judded in several seas. It were higher waves of understanding, not tribal, nor survivalist. This part of the earth had good fortune to enthralled by the saga of deciphering truer lights from Being to Becoming. The new awareness flowed through the human contact with Indianness and blossomed into marvelous temples and city architecture. It was an epic journey of Indianesque. Local art continued, to all intents and purposes, a province of Indian art, sometime following patterns of Guptas’, other time Pallavas’. Equally worthwhile aspect of the saga was a simultaneous process of formulation and crystallization of its own national, local phases by the East, but always susceptive to the grand succession of never gestures in Indian art.

In the fifty century A.D. Fa Hsien visited Sri Lanka. He found stupas or dagabas as the earlist samples of surviving structures with inscribed bricks, crystal and amethyst caskets. The frescoes of this century are closely related to Ajanta in style, representing celestial woman, with her attendant maids, casting down a rain of flowers. These paintings combine a great elegance of manner with a penetrating sensuality. The Jetavana monastery named as Laukatilaka is the largest Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka. It contains a gigantic standing Buddha of brick. Buddaghosha is said to have visited Thaton, a southern part of Burma about 450 A.D., bringing along with him the books of the Pali canon, and from this time on-wards Burma has been more exclusively a Buddhist country than was the case in any other part of Farther India. Northern Burmese Buddhist on the other hand acquired a Tantrik character at an early date and had a close connection with Nepal. The architectural forms in this country are varied. They reflect a contact with many countries. The bulbous and cylindrical forms recall Sarnath and the votive stupas of the Pala period. The Pebin Gyaung and Sapada are of the old Simhalese himishperical type. The Mahabodhi with its high straight-edged shikhar is modeled on the older shrines at Bodhgaya.

Siam was by no means a united kingdom before the 14th century. The ancestors of modern Siam belong to Sino-Tibetan Lao-Thais origins. Little is known of the beginnings of Indo-Thai art. Buried in the jungle and yet unstudied, there may well exist some traces of an Indianesque period dependent on Gupta traditions. Later, the classical Siamese (Thai) type emerges and asserts itself. The Buddha heads referable to the classic Thai period are the supreme achievements of the Siamese genius. The groups of Kingdoms including Combodia, Cochin, China and Southern Siam is spoken of as Funan in early Chinese writings. An Indian Brahmin Kaundinya, who landed here in one A.D. from a merchant vessel, married a princess who had, or received, the name of Soma. And so he became master of the country. The story is again referred to in a inscription of 659 A.D. where the princess in called a Nagini. The Kaundinya-Soma story in probably of Indian origin, where the Pallavas are derived from the union of a Chola king with a Nagini. Classic Khmer art is a unified style and fully developed when it appears for the first time in the sandstone buildings of the Parh Khan and Banteai Chhamar. The art rejects the characteristic Pallava motifs. However, mythology and cult remain Indian in all essentials, though not without special local developments. Shaivism at first dominates. Later on an increasing mixture of Tantrik Mahayan Buddhism takes over. But specific dedications are to be found in all reigns, and almost all deities of the Hindu and Mahayan pantheons are represented. Deification of royal ancestors was a practice in vogue. Even ancestors’ images were set up in memorial temples. The same custom existed in Java. The last and the greatest of Khmer temples adheres to the already well known scheme of moat, outer wall, paved causeways, inner connective galleries forming a terraced pyramind, and central shrine surmounted by high tower, with rich decorations of all the wall surfaces. This may have been the Ankor Wat. It is not unlikely that its architect was the powerful jearned Diwakar, king Suryavarman’s guru, and master of the coronation ceremonies for his disciple king and for his own predecessors. With the Ankor Wat the history of Combodian art almost comes to an end.

The ancient art of Campa is closely related to that of Combodia. The sacred city of Mi-son was founded by Bhadravarman I about 400 A.D., when the Bhadreshwara lingam was set up. The pyramidal roof consists of three diminishing stories and the summit crowned by a flame-like or lotus-bud finial. The sculptural style is unequal in quality, the finest pieces are marvels of powerful modeling or grace of conception. Scarcely anything survives of the ancient art of Sumatra, unless we define the art of the middle Java in the Shailendra period as such. Sumatra appears to have received Indian settlers at very early date, probably well before the beginning of the Christian era. The land of gold is referred to already in the Jatakas, and the Ramayana as Surarndvipa and Suvarnbhumi. Fa Hsien visited Sumatra about 414 A.D. and found few or no Buddhists. A few years later Gunavarman of the royal house of Kashmir landed in Yavadvipa. He converted the queen, and she in turn her son, to Mahayana Buddhism which thus became the official cult. The Shailendra dynasty introduced Sanskrit learning and built a high state of culture by the seventh century. The foundations of a great maritime empire was established. Islam was introduced into Sumatra by Indian missionaries and traders.

Early Indian settlements in Western Java date back to the beginning of the Christian era. Extensive evidences of Indian culture are found in Middle Java in this seventh century. The oldest inscription  (732 A.D.) refers to the original home of the Hindu immigrants as Kunjara-Kunjadesha, evidently the Kunjara of Barahmihira’s Brihat Samhita in the far south of India, and probably the source of the cult of the sage Agastya, which is well developed in Java. The inscription further refers to a miraculous radiant lingam brought over Kunjara-Kunja. The Dinaya inscription of 760 A.D. similarly speaks of a fiery Putikeshwara closely connected with the ruling house. From these dates has been inferred a Javanese origin of the Devaraja cult of Combodia and Campa. Indo-Javanese civilization was by this time a harmonized unity. But while the official cults were of Indian origin, the real basis of popular belief remained as it still remains, animistic. The Brahminism of the Javanese courts was throughout predominantly, thougg not exclusively, Shaiva. No traces remain of any early Hinayan Buddhism in Java. The Mahayana survives in its Tantric character. Later on, as in Nepal, in Combodia and in Bali at the present day, Buddhism and Shaiva Hinduism are inseparably combined. In all probability Bali was originally and directly Hinduised, and only came under Javanese influence and rule after the twelfth century. But this influence was never so over-powering as to prevent the growth of a distinctive national civilization. This unique culture, as it survives to the present day, nevertheless presents us with a marvelous miniature picture of ritual offerings, festivals, feudal relations corresponding with the old. It is only in Bali that that there survives a kind of mixture of Hinduism and Buddhism so evident in  classic and post-classic art of this region. In costume, too, the nudity of the upper part of the body survives, which was characteristic both of India and this region until the end of the classic ages.

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