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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