Tuesday 25 September 2018

The Theory Of Greek Influence On Indian Art - 1

India is at present the target of a great many very depressing theories, coming from a great many different quarters. We are told by doctors that a belief in Nirvana is a symptom of Dyspepsia, by ethnologists that the possession of the higher faculties is not to be claimed by dwellers in the tropics, by historians that empires were never built by brown races, and so on, and so forth. Amongst these partisan-shafts, aimed in the name of condour and truth, none perhaps has been more profoundly discouraging to the Indian people than the theory that even their ancient national art was chiefly based upon loans from foreign sources,"cleverly disguised in native trappings." India is not at present in a condition to treat such views with the light-hearted amusement which is all that they probably deserve. She has too great need, for the moment, of the vision of herself and her own world, as they really are. She needs to behold the organic processes of her own past hsitory, the constructive forces that have flowed through all her being, and from time to time reached nations outside her own boundaries, with gifts of her giving. When she has once seen herself thus,-not as something small and mean and secondary, but-as a dynamic centre of thought and faith and civilisation, originating within herself fountains of inspiration for all the peoples of the world, it will be impossible for her to fall back again into inerrness and unproductiveness. When she realises, not in bombastic words, but in detail, and shining point to shining point, how great and vital has been her past, there can be but one result. She will turn her about to create a future that shall be worthy of it. These facts must be the excuse for further pursuing what will seem to some a very ignoble argument.

So far from the sculpture of Indian Buddhism having been derived from the West, it is my belief that it was the spontaneous creastion of India and the Indian Buddhist mind, itself; that Magadha, the Modern Bihar, was its source and prime centre; and that from this point it radiated in every direction, along with the ideal which it illustrated, to exercise an influence whose extent as yet is harly guessed. That the order of nature was not reversed, in the particular case of Gandhara and Indian art, that the child did not confer life upon its mother, or the remote province determine the nation that had borne it, it is the special object of this study to show. Prof. Grunwedel is acknowledged amongst scholars as the authoritative exponent of the opposite point of view. His book 'Buddhist Art in India' is a precious mine of material bearing on the subject. It appears to me, however, that it would have been impossible for him to have used his material as he has done, had he ever had the opportunity of travelling in the eastern part of India, and realising the marvellous fertility and energy of the religious squence which crowded itself into the the centuries between the life-time of Buddha, and the building of Boro Budor in Java. Buddhism is only the blossom of the Indian genius organised. At each step of its own road, it forces a new development upon the faith of the laity, and as the Hindu out-branching can often be dated, we have sure means of knowing the preceding character of Buddhism. It is when the Buddism of Bihar is turning to the thought of the Mother of the Universe, when Hinduism in Begal is dwelling on the Many armed, that the Gujarati kings of Java erect monasteries and patronise sculpture in which Prajnaparamita is the consort of the Adi-Buddha. This primity of Magadha is, to may own mind, the only possible explanation of the Indian historical developement as a whole. In that development, Gandhara, and the relations of the art of Gandhara to the art of the mother chutch, is only an incident. The importance of that incident, however, to the subsequent Christain art of Europe, is, I begin to suspect, supreme.


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