Wednesday, 10 October 2018

The Theory Of Greek Influence On Indian Art - 11

For ourselves, however, while we grant the mixture of elements in Gandhara, the question arises whether the latter did not influence Byzantium quite as much as the Western capital influenced it. According to the data thus propounded, we may expect to find amongst these Gandharan sculptures a vast mixture of decorative elements, all subordinated to the main intention of setting forth in forms of eternal beauty and lucidity the personality of Buddha, it being understood that the form of the Buddha himself is taken more or less unchanged from the artistic traditions of Magadha. It may be well to take as our first point for examination the Gandharan use of the Ashokan rail. We are familiar with the sanctity of this rail as a piece of symbolism in the early ages of Buddhism. At Ranchi-undoubtedly a very close spiritual province of Magadha, and intimately knit to Sarnath in particular-we find it used not only pictorially, but also to bound and divide spaces. As we have seen, the gradual forgetting of the meaning of architectural features like the Ashokan rail and the horse-shoe ornament affords a very good scale of chronology by which to date Indian monuments. Nowhere have we a better instance of this than in the Gandharan use of the rail. In the relief from Muhammad Nari we have several stages in its gradual forgetting, ending with its becoming a mere chequer, as at the top of the lower panel. This illustration is extraordinarily valuable for us, moreover, for the way in which the figure of the Buddha is violently inserted amongst strikingly incongruous surroundings. We can almost see the two opposing traditions, by the discord between him with his clothes of the eastern provinces and attitude which forbids activity, and his environment. This Buddha is not,however, a very successful example of the tradition out of which he comes. He was a singularly uneasy and intruded look on the height where he is seen uncomfortably perched.

A second feature that will strike the observant in this picture is the curious use of the lotus-throne. It looks as if the sculptor hand been told to seat his subject on a lotus, but had had a very vague idea of how this should be done. We can almost hear those verbal instructions which he had tried to carry out. In the Buddha from Loriyan Tangai is another instance of a similar difficulty. The sculptor in this second fragment, rightly feeling that the seat, as he understood the order, could not possibly support the hero, had adopted the ingenious device of introducing two worshipping figures to support the knees! Still more noticeable, however, are the two feet, or petals reversed, which he had adopted to make of the lotus-throne from Nepal. At the same time, the early age of the lotus-petal ornament is seen on an Ashokan doorway in the Vihara at Sanchi, the only doorway that has escaped improvement at a later age. Another curious example of the attempt to render symbolistic scenes, according to a verbal or literary description of them, is seen in the picture representing the familiar First Sermon at Benares. There is undoubted power of composition here. To the untrained European eye these beauties may make it more appealing than the old Sarnath images of the shrine type at Ajanta. Still, the fact remains of an obvious effort to render to order an idea and a convention only half understood. And the place occupied by the Dharmachakra is like a signature appended to the confession of this struggle. It will be noted too, that this Charma-chakra is wrong. The Trishula should have pointed away from the Chakra. Other curious and interesting examples of the same kind may be seen in the Museum.

Grunwedel had drawn attention to the question of clothing, but apparently without understanding the full significance of the facts. It will be noticed throughout these illutrations that the artists tend to clothe Buddha in the dress that would be appropriate in a cold climate. Our illustration of the relief found at Muhammad Nari is in this respect specially vauluable It is probably early Gandharan, since the attempt to render the clothes of Buddha and the ornaments of the women correctly is very evident, and, it may be added, extremely unsuccessful. It would appear as if this relief had been commissioned by some monk who was a native of Magadha. But no Magadhan workman would have draped the muslin in such a fashion at the knees or on the arm. Yet the correct intention is manifest from the bare right shoulder. Afterwards Gaharan artists solved this problem by evolving a style of costume of their own for the sacred figures. AS this was their own, they were much happier in rendering it. But another point that jars on the Indian eye is the allusion here made to women's jewellery. The matter has been mentioned as needing particular care-that we can see. But the results are forced and inappropriate, and serve only to emphasise their own failure. Instances of the particular facts abound. It is unnecessary to enter further into detail.

Throughout these illustrations what may be called the architectural ornament is very noticeable. It has no connection whatever with what we are accustomed to think of as characteristically Buddhist. The spacings are constantly made with the stem of the date-palm. and ends and borders are painfully modish and secular. Such a want of ecclesiastical feeling,in sculpture that aims at a devotional use, can probably not be paralleled at any other age or place. The Corinthian finals and floral ornaments, to eyes looking for the gravity and significance of old Asiatic decoration, are very irritating. An excellent example is the Loriyan Tangai Buddha. Here we have a singularly phonetic piece of statuary. The feeling it portrays is exquisite. The pious beasts with their paws crossed are not less beautiful than the peacock which stands with tail spead to proclaim to the world the glories of the dawn of the morning of Nirvana. Yet even here a jarring note is struck in the irrelevancy of the borders, like a piece of school-girl embroidery.


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