Saturday 6 October 2018

The Theory Of Greek Influence On Indian Art - 8

After Shiva, however, the attention of sculptors in Magadha was more and more concentrated on the image of Narayana. It is probably an error to think of this as rigidly fixed in form. An unyielding convention is always the end of an evolution, never the beginning. And like Shiva in the west, so also Narayana in Magadha is connected with Buddha by a long series of gradual modification. Sometimes we can detect Chinese influence in a particular statue. With the rise of the Guptas and the necessity of a gold coinage, it would seem as if Chinese ministers had been employed, just as in his time and capital Kanishka had undoubtedly employed Greeks, for the same purpose. There is no difficulty in imagining that such Chinese workmen might somtimes be employed on a statue. The fact that the form itself however was not of their initiating is best proved by the gradual transitions which connect it with the image of Buddha. So much has been said, so lightly, about the impossibility of Indian inventiveness, that it is necessary to guard from time to time against petty misconception. Another point of the same kind arises with regard to Hinduism itself. It may be well to say that Buddhism did not originate the ideas which in their totality make up Hinduism. Indeed Buddhism was itself the result of those ideas. But by its immense force of organisation, it achieved such a unification of the country and the people, that it forced upon the Brahmins the organisation of Hinduism.

The conception of Narayana was taken up by the Guptas to be made into the basis of a national faith. This took shape as Krishna, and its epos was written in the Mahabharata. But the image associated with it was still that of Narayana. This was the form that was carried to the south by the missionary-travellers who were the outcome of the educational and propagandist zeal of the Guptas, and there it is worshipped to this day. It was an image of this type that was placed by Skanda Gupta on the top of the Bhitari-Lat when he erected it in A. D. 455 for the purpose of recording on his father's Shraddha-pillar his own victory over the Huns.

There is thus a continuous history of sculpture in Bihar, beginning with the earliest period of Buddhism, and passing gradually, and by easily distinguished phases, into various forms of modern Hinduism. In this continous development we can distinguish local schools, and this is the best answer to those who would talk of foreign influence.

The comparatively coarse, artisan-like work of Bodh-Gaya can never be mistaken for the soft, exquisitely curved and moulded forms of Baragaon, the ancient Nalanda. The Hindu carvings of Rajgir, again, are distinct from both. It is almost impossible therefore to speak of a single Magadhan school of sculpture. Much of the Rajgir work is Shaivite in subject, being earlier than the Narayana types of Baragaon.


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