Thursday 27 September 2018

The Theory Of Greek Influence On Indian Art - 2

Nothing is clearer at Ajanta, than the existence of two separate and almost divergent ways of treating the Buddha. One of these we see in the Buddha of the Shrines, which represents the moment of the First Sermon at Benares. Buddha is seated on his throne, and Devas are flying into the halo behind his heas. On the predella below his seat are the symbolic animals, and in their midst the Wheel of the Law. The dress of the Master is the Indian Chuddar of fine white muslin. And in some form or other there is always a suggestion of the lotus in the throne, although it may take form of folds of drapery. In all these respects we have a very distinct approach to the type of Buddha which is fixed in our minds as representative of Sarnath and also of Sanchi. The face here is characterised by a much greater masulinity than that of Sarnath-whose ostentatious technical perfection shows it to be a late example of the style -but there are all the same elements in the composition as a whole: the flying Devas, the wheel, the lotus, and the halo; and the dress is of the same fine and barely visible order. In Number Fifteen, especially, a greatly hightened beauty is obtained by the fact that the halo is detached from the head of the figure, thus producing a shadow, which gives an air of life and freedom to the statue. This is only one out of many signs that the type is not rigidly fixed, but is to be seen at Ajanta as at Sanchi or Sarnath itself, playing round a general symbolistic convention. This Buddha is integral to Caves Seven, Eleven, Fifteen, Sixteen, and Seventeen, at any rate, and about the fact that these caves precede Cave Nineteen in date, there can be no doubt. A similar type of Buddha is also integral to the series of CAves numbered Six to One, but since it is probable that these were excavated after Seventeen, we dare not base upon them any argument which might depend upon their being anterior to Nineteen. Therefore, we shall here rely upon the Sarnath Buddha, as found during the evolution of the type, in Caves Eleven to Seventeen only.

With Cave Nineteen we come suddenly upon a new type. Here the Buddha on the great Dagoba is standing in what is now commonly known as the teaching attitude; though in truth the mons and their students who used the Vihara, probably thought of the attitude of the First Sermon as that of the teaching Buddha. Be this as it may, the standing Buddha of the Dagoba is clothed in a choga over and above his muslin underclothing. And this choga is not unlike the garment also to be found on the glod coins of Kanishka. It is in truth a yellow robe, and not merely the yellow cloth, of the Buddhist monk. It is in any case a clear and indubitable sign of the intercourse between Ajanta and the colder regions of the north-western India, and marks the influence of the latter at this particular moment upon the Buddhist symbolism of Central India. This influence is borne out in many ways by subordinate evidence, into which we need not enter at present. The point now is, Had India already owed the idea of the Sarnath Buddha itself to this same stream of north-west influence on her arts?

Ordinarily speaking, we are accustomed to take for granted that an artistic style has arisen more or less in the neighbourhood of the place in which we find it. It requires no argument to convince us that Velasquez was the product of Spain or Titian of Venice. Even if we had not been informed of this we should have assumed it. To this rule, however, India has so far been an exception. The synthetic study of her past suffers from having been largely initiated by foreigners. The modern method has been forced upon the country from outside, and it is diffcult for outsiders to believe that the same thing has not happened before, that it is not indeed somewhat distinctive of Indian development. The German scholar Grunwedel, writing on Buddhist art, reiterates his sincere conviction over and over again that India derives her new impulses from foreign sources. Fergusson, with the prepossessions of his long work for Indian architecture fresh upon him, finds more difficulty in minimising the purely native elements in Buddhist art, and though not untouched, is yet vastly less impressed by the pre-eminence of Gandhara type, when he comes upon them, than are his sucessors. And perhps it is useful to know that neither of these writers is so assured of the negligibility  of the indigenous contributions to Buddhistic symbolism as the lastest of all, Mr.Vincent Smith, in his Early History of India. This is worth mentioning, because it may serve to remind us that even in as matter which has seemed so fixed and determined as this of the Gandharan influence on Buddha types, we really have to deal rather with a strong the cumulative drift of opinion or prejudice or preconception - as we may choose to call it- than with established facts. Vincent Smith is not better able to form an opinion than Fergusson. Indeed he is less fit in many ways; yet his opinion is much more fixed. What the one man threw out as a tentative suggestion ther other uses as if it were an axiom. Evidently even the best of us is apt to believe as he would with, or as he has prepared himself to think, and there is a large fraction of predespositon in every robst conviction. Therefore the formidable concensus of opinion which at present exits on teh origin of Buddhist iconography, does not in the leaset exonerate us from examining carefully the grounds of that opinion. On the contrary, it rather challenges us to do so. Of the three famous names cited, it is precisely that of him who attaches least importance to foreign influences in Buddhist art. And it is the man who knows least of Indian art at first hand, and is presumably most influenced by popular opinion, who delivers it over most cheerfully to a foreign origin and the assumption of native inadequacy and incompetence.


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