Thursday 4 October 2018

The Theory Of Greek Influence On Indian Art - 7

These points established, the course of history is clear enough. He who would understand the development of Buddhist art has only to follow the development of the Stupa. This is as fixed in its succession of forms as a chronological scale. At first it is plain, as at Sanchi. Then it is ornamented with the Ashokan rail itself, which by this time shares the general sanctity of association, as a Karle, Bhaja, Kanheri, and Ajanta Caves Nine and Ten. Then it is elongated, and forms what we regard as a temple. Then the small Stupa takes to itself the four Buddhas. Gradually these undergo changes. The line of development hesitates for awhile, and then branches off in a new direction. The four figures become four heads, but whether of Brahma or the Mother of the Universe is not yet determined. Gradually the name of the Great God is triumphant, the pillar-like top in the middle of the four heads is more and more emphasised, and along this line of development the Stupa is finally converted into the Shiva emblem of Hinduism. One of the worship-Mantras to this day ascribes to Shiva the possession of five faces. That is to say, his emblem is still to the eye of faith a domeshaped projection in the midst of four head.

At that moment when the four seated Buddhas were becoming the four heads, the image of Buddha was being detached from the Stupa altogether, and entering on a new phase of development as an icon or symbol of the highest sanctity. It was because this was happening that the Stupa altogether, and entering on a new phase of development as an icon or symbol of the highest sanctity. It was because this was happening that the Stupa itself had been enabled to undergo the changes necessary to convert it into the Shiva. It is now, then, that we may place the evolution of the image of the First Sermon at Benares. This was to so fixed as is commonly supposed. In the caves of the second period at Ajanta-Seven,Eleven. Fifteen, Sixteen and Seventeen-We may judge for ourselves of the rigour or latitude of the convention. No two of these are exactly alike. Seven is one of the earliest, because the ambulatory which was essential to the Chaitya-Dagoba is here found, at immense cost of labour, to have been provided for the image in the shrine also, showing that the excavators were as yet inexperienced in the different uses of the two. The shrine, or Gandhakuti, was not yet stereotyped into a mere hall of perfumes, or incense, as Hiouen Tsang calls it. This processional use of the shrine explains the elaborate carving of the side-walls here, to be described later. In the image which is still more or less intact at Sarnath itself, we find an effeminacy of treatment which is very startling. The predella too is unexpected, holding worshipping figures turning the wheel of the law, instead of the peaceful animals lying quietly side by side in that wondrous eventide. Grunwedel points out that the use of the halo speaks of the existence of an old school of art in the country. So also do the flying Devas and the wheel and the symbolistic animals. The artist was speaking a language already understood by the people. The first images had arisen out of the desire to express to foreign peoples something of the ideal, in the form of the beloved personality. This particular image now became pre-eminent as a mark of the fact that Viharas were becoming colleges. Buddhism was taking upon itself the task of national education and scholarship.

But the original idea, in its original home had not ceased to develop. There was always the irresistible instinct to express the growing and changing forms of the national faith in plastic concreteness. The evolution of Shiva and Shaivism being first to branch off from the original Hinayana stream, early hardened down, as far as Bihar was concerned, into the use of an emblem as its supreme expression , instead of an image. It gave rise to a certain amount of descriptive sculpture, as in the case of Kartikeya, for instance, but it did not share to the full in the later artistic and sculptural impulse. Still, there remained unregimented the old idea of the Mother or Adi-Shakti, and sculptural allusions to this begin to be frequent in the laster phases of Buddhist art, along with that which supersedes everything under the Gupta emperors as the religion of the state. Here we come upon a wholly new symbolism, that of Naravana or Vishnu, the Great God of those who worship Krishna. Artistically speaking, indeed, on the west side of India, it took centuries to exhaust the sculptural impetus associated with Shiva, and much history is written in the fact. He rose upon the horizon as the third member of a trinity - reflecting the Buddhist trinity, of Buddha, Dharma, Sangha - a conception which is recorded in the large cave at Elephanta. At Ellora and at Elephanta he is almost passionately revered, so absorbing is his hold on the artistic imagination, and such is the wealth of illustration that they lavish on him. In Magadha, however, creative art is playing with two different ideas at this time. They are the Mother- later to become the occasion of an alliance between Brahmanistic and Mongolian ideas - and Vishnu or Narayana. At Ayodhya, indeed, the second member of the Trinity had already given rise to a humanised reflection of Buddha in the notion of a human incarnation, which had been preached as a gospel in the Ramayana. The poet Kalidasa had written the romance of both branches of Hinduism in his kumarasambhava and Raghuvansha. And throughout all the works of this period, the attempt is constantly made to prove the identity of Rama with Shiva. This is satisfactory evidence that the worship of Shiva was elaborated as a system earlier than that of Vishnu or his incarnations. It also shows the intense grasp which the Indian philosophy of unity had gained over the national mind. The Stupa continued even now to reflect the changing phases of thought. Hence it is doubtless to this time that we may ascribe those Shiva-lingas covered with the feet of the Lord that are to be met with occasionally in Rajgir.


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