Sunday, 14 October 2018

THE INDIAN SAN MARCO - 1

There is outside Florence a Dominican monastery which is famous for the fact that once upon a time Fra Giovanni of Fiesole-better known as Fra Angelico-lived within its walls and covered them with his saints and angels against the gilded background of heven. Later, it was the one undecorated chamber in this monastery that Savanarola took as his own, when he came as a Dominican to San Marco. The old convent remains to this day for Europe one of the trysting-places of righteousness and beauty. We know not which are more real, the angels that still blaze upon the walls, or the lives that once were lived within them.

Something of the same feeling must have clung to Ajanta in the late fifth to the eighth centuries. A great art-tradition had grown up about its name. It is very likely, of course, that such a tradition was commoner in the India of those days than we can now realise. Perhaps many buildings were covered within with emblazoned literature. Gold and scarlet and blue were often, it may be, united together, to sing the heroic dreams of the time to the eyes of all. But it is difficult to imagine that in any country the splendours of Ajanta could seem ordinary. Those wonderful arches and long colonnades stretching along the face of the hillside, with the blue eaves of slate coloured rock overhanging them, and the knowledge of glowing beauty covering every inch of the walls behind them-no array of colleges or cathedrals in the whole world could make such a thing seem ordinary. For it was doubtless as colleges that the great task was carried out in them, and we can see that it took centuries. That is to say, for some hundreds of years Ajanta was thought of in India as one of the great opportunities of the artist, or maybe as a grad visual exposition of the monkish classics.

We can judge of the length of time over which the work spread, the time eduring which the tradition was growing up, by the fact that the paintings in CAve Sixteen, which is older, are stiffer and more purely decorative, such of them as remain, than those in Seventeen. But even those of Sixteen are not the oldest pictures At Ajanta. When we enter Cave Nine for the first time, we find ourselves in the company of a great host of rapt and adoring worshippers. They stand on every fact of the simple octagonal pillars, with their looks turned always to the solemn looking Stupa or Dagoba. They have each one of them a nimbus behind him. They might Bodhisattvas, but hte feeling of worship so fills the little chapel that instinctively one puts them down as the early saits and companions of Buddha, and turns with a feeling of awe to join their adoration of the domelike altar. They are not arhiaic in the sense of crudity. But they have the feeling of an early world about them. They are like the work of Fra Angelico, but may be anything date from the second century onwards, that is to say a thousand years before his time! In the aisle that runs behind the pillars the walls are covered with simple scenes from the Teaching of Buddha. Here we find the mother bringing her dead son, and the Master seated with his disciples about him. Bu we return to the nave, and, again looking at the forms on the pillar-faces, let ourselves dream for a moment, till we seem to hear the deep Adoramus with which they fill the air around us.


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The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

विवेकानन्द केन्द्र कन्याकुमारी (Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari)
Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra : http://www.vivekanandakendra.org
Read Article, Magazine, Book @ http://eshop.vivekanandakendra.org/e-granthalaya
Cell : +91-941-801-5995, Landline : +91-177-283-5995

. . . Are you Strong? Do you feel Strength? — for I know it is Truth alone that gives Strength. Strength is the medicine for the world's disease . . .
This is the great fact: "Strength is LIFE; Weakness is Death."
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Saturday, 13 October 2018

The Theory Of Greek Influence On Indian Art - 13

Magadha has produced symbols whose dignity Gandhara was never able to approach. But in complex composition, in power of architectural story-telling, in dignity of the decorative synthesis, it is diffult to feel that the ultimate achievements of Gandhara and her posterity had ever before been approached, even at Sanchi.

It must never be supposed, however, that Gandhara was Europe. In spite of the Western elements, whose existence its art demonstrates, Gandhara was pre-eminently Asiatic. And never again perhaps will the actual facts be better or more comprehensively stated than in the memorable words of Havell, in his Indian Sculpture and Painting.

"Indian idealism during the greater part of this time was the dominating note in the art of Asia, which was thus brought into Europe; and when we find a perfectly oriental atmosphere and strange echoes of Eastern symbolism in the mediaeval cathedrals of Europe, and see their structural growth gradually blossoming with all the exuberance of Eastern imagery, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that Gothic architecture and Gothic handicraft owe very much to the absorption by the bauhutten of Germany, and other Western craft guilds, of Asiatic art and science, brought by the thousands of Asiatic craftsmen who entered Europe in the first millennium of the Christian era; a period which in the minds of Europeans is generally a blank, because the 'Great Powers' were then located in Asia instead of in Europe. Byzantine art and Gothic art derived their inspiration from the same source-the impact of Asiatic thought upon the civilisation of the Roman Empire. The first shows its effect upon the art of the Greek and Latin races, the other its influence upon the Romanesque art of Teutonic and Celtic races. The spirit of Indian idealism breathes in the mosaics of St. Mark's at Venice, just as it shines in the mystic splendours of the Gothic cathedrals; through the delicate tracery of their jewelled windows, filled with the stories of saints and martyrs; in all their richly sculptured arches, fairy vaulting and soaring pinnacles and spires. The Italian Renaissance marks the reversion of Christian art to the pagan ideals of Greece, and the capture of art by the bookmen, leading to our present dilettantism and archaeological views of art.


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The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

विवेकानन्द केन्द्र कन्याकुमारी (Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari)
Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra : http://www.vivekanandakendra.org
Read Article, Magazine, Book @ http://eshop.vivekanandakendra.org/e-granthalaya
Cell : +91-941-801-5995, Landline : +91-177-283-5995

. . . Are you Strong? Do you feel Strength? — for I know it is Truth alone that gives Strength. Strength is the medicine for the world's disease . . .
This is the great fact: "Strength is LIFE; Weakness is Death."
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Thursday, 11 October 2018

The Theory Of Greek Influence On Indian Art - 12

Gandhara did really, however, have its period of influence over the sculpture of India. But this period began when its own style had reached its zenith. Comparatively early in the sixth century, incursions of Huns swept over the country, and, in a year to which the date of A.D. 540 has been assigned, we are expressly told of the destruction of monasteries and Stupas in an outburst of vengeful cruelty, by the tyrant Mihirakula. This destruction was not complete, for a hundred years later the pilgrim Hiouen Tsang passed through the country and found many monasteries in full vigour. Still, it cannot have failed to drive large numbers of the Gandharan monks to take refuge in the Viharas and monastic universities of India. This is the event that is marked in the Ajanatan series of caves of Number Nineteen. Here on the outside we have for the first time of the employment of carvings of Buddha as part of the decoration included in the original architectural scheme. It is a secularised Buddha, moreover ; a Buddha who, as already said, has been seen from a new point of view as a great historical character. He receives a banner. He is crowned by flying figures. The chequer-pattern appears here and there, in lieu of the Ashokan rail which is represents. And inside the hall we have that great multitude of Buddhas, in the triforium and on the capitals, in those richly-decorated niches, for which Fergusson's account of the Gandharan monasteries has prepared us. But these represent a more Indianised and religious type than the panels of the outside. The date and source of the new influence is still further fixed by the indubitable fact of the choga, or robe, worn by the Buddha on the Dagoaba.

We have seen that, according to the evidence of the inscription, Cave Seventeen with its shrine, and the cistern under Eighteen, may be taken as completed about the year A.D. 520. It is my personal opinion that the right-hand series of caves from Six to One were undertaken, or at least finished, not long after this date, and distinctly before the arrival of the refugees from Gandhara. Ajanta must have been one of the most notable of Indian universities, and the influence of the north-west upon its art does not cease with Ninteen. The whole interior surface of Twenty-six -probably undertaken by the abbot Buddha Bhadra at some date subsequent to the visit of Hiouen Tsang in the middle of the seventh century- is covered with carvings, culminating in an in an immense treatment of the subject so much beloved by the latest Gandharan sculptors, the Mahanirvana of Buddha. The Buddha in this carving is 23 feet long, and even the curious tripod which seems to support the beggar's bowl and crutch is reproduced. This duplication of a known subject is very eloquent.

We may conclude, then, that a vital artistic intercourse was now maintained between Gandhara and Ajanta, and in this connection the cared ornament of palm-leaves, so reminiscent of the bole of the date-palm, amongst the ornaments of the doorway on Cave Twenty-three, is of the utmost significance.

But a second catastrophe occurred in Gandhara, and the destruction of the monastic foundations in that country was complete. The wars between the Saracenic Mohammedans and the Chinese Empire culminated about the middle of the eighth century in the utter defect and expulsion of the Eastern power(A.D. 751). The Arabs must then have swept Gandhara from end to end, and every monk who had not fled was doubtless put to the sword. India was the obvious refuge of the consequent crowd of emigres, and art and education the only menas open to them of repaying the hospitality of the Indian monasteries and governments. From this period must date the small panelled Buddhas which have been carved all over the older caves,not only at Ajanta, but also at Kanheri, at Karle, and doubtless elsewhere. The great durbar hall at Kanheri (Cave 10) is filled with a splendidly planned and coherent scheme of such decoration. But the artists have not always been so considerate. They have begun their carvings in the midest of older work, and side by side with it-probably wherever they were not stopped by the presence of paintings-without the slightest regard to the appropriateness of the combination, For some become as energetic as the sculptural capacitiees of the artisans of Byzantium had already shown themselves in the Gandharan monasteries.



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The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

विवेकानन्द केन्द्र कन्याकुमारी (Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari)
Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra : http://www.vivekanandakendra.org
Read Article, Magazine, Book @ http://eshop.vivekanandakendra.org/e-granthalaya
Cell : +91-941-801-5995, Landline : +91-177-283-5995

. . . Are you Strong? Do you feel Strength? — for I know it is Truth alone that gives Strength. Strength is the medicine for the world's disease . . .
This is the great fact: "Strength is LIFE; Weakness is Death."
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