Tuesday, 9 October 2018

The Theory Of Greek Influence On Indian Art - 10

Thus a definite theory has been enunciated of the chronological succession of religious ideas in Indian sculpture. According to this theory, Magadha was the source and centre of the Indian unity, both philosophically and artistically. This province was in fact, like the heart of an organism, whose systole and diastole are felt to its remotest bounds with a certain rhythmic regularity of pulsation, as tides of thought and inspiration. All such will not be felt equally in all directions. In this case, the work in Ceylon was the result of an early impulse, Gandhara much later, and possibly we should find, if this were the place to follow up the question, that Tibet was evangelised as the fruit of a still later pulsation of the central energy. This being so, the fact would stand proved that Gandhara was a disciple and not a Guru in the matter of religious symbolism. The question is : Can this relationship be demonstrated and how?

A crucial test would be afforded if we could find anything in the art of Gandhara itself which might show it to be a derived style. Creative works, like myths, almost always include some unconscious sign-manual of their origin and relations. What they deliberately state may be untrue, or, as in the present case perhaps, may be misunderstood. But what they mention is usually eloquent, to patient eyes, of the actual fact. It hs already been pointed out by Mr. E. B. Havell, in his Indian Sculpture and Painting, that even the Buddha-types, the serious affirmations of Gandharatan Art, could not possibly be mistaken for originals. And if anyone will take the trouble to go into the hall of the Calcutta Museum and look for himself, it is difficult to see how this argument can be answered. Who that has steeped himself in the Eastern conception of the Buddha-unbroken calm,, immeasurable detachment, and vastness as of eternity-can take the smart, military-looking young men there displayed, with their moustaches carefully trimmed to the utmost point of nicety, and their perfect actuality and worldiness of expression, as satifsying presentments? In very sooth do these Gandharan Buddhas, as Mr. Havell says, bear their derivative character plainly stamped upon their faces.

But it may be help that this is the end of the argument, not the beginning. There may be many incapable of appraising an expression, who will want more elementary and incontrovertible grounds of judgment, and for these we have plenty of evidence.

The first discovery of the Gandharan monasteries, with their treasures of sculpture, in 1848 and 1852, seemed to the minds of European scholars, naturally enough, an event of the greatest artistic and historic importance; and Fergusson has left on recorded, in his invaluable book, an account of that impression, and also of its grounds, in a form which will never be repeated. Unfortunately the finds were very carelessly and incompetently dealt with, and their mutual relations and story thus rendetered irrecoverable. Out of the eight or ten sites which have been examined, however, it is possible to say that Jamalgarhi and Takh-i-Bahi are probably the most modern, while Shah-Dheri was very likely the most ancient. Judging by the plans and description which Fergusson gives, indeed, of this last-named monastery, it would seem to have belonged to the same age and phase of Buddhism as the old disused Cave Number One at Elephanta-a long verandah-like Chaitya cave which cave evidently held a circular Dagoba on a square altar. The sculptures of the later monasteries, according to Fergusson, as well as the plans of those monasteries appear to be characterised by excessive duplication. The architecture associated with them seems to have been extra-ordinarily mixed and unrestrained in character. Amongest the leafage of pillar-capitals occur hundreds of little Buddhas. But it would have been obvious that these were late examples, even if Fergusson had not already announced that opinion. The main chamber of each monastery seems to have been a hall or court, either square or circular, in the middle of which stood an altar surmounted by a Dagoba. Round this the walls were broken up into quantities of small niches or chapels, teacher one containing into image, and the whole decorated to excess. Regarding this as representing theoretically rated to excess. Regarading this as representing theoretially the Vehara surrounding a Dagoba of searlier days, Fergusson is very properly struck with astonishment by the phenomenon. In no Buddist monument in India of which he menon. In no Buddhist monument in India of whih he knows, he says, have the monks ever been thrust out of the ceels to make way for images. IF he had not been told what the plans were and where they came from, he would unhesitating ly have pronounced them to be from Jain monasteried of the ninth and tenth centuries. From architectural considerations he thinks that the classical influences seen here must have culminated at and after the time of Constantine, that is from A.D. 306 onwards, and that they speak even more loudly of Byzantium than of Rome. He has difficulty in understanding how Byzantium should make itself so tryingly felt in a remote province, without leaving any trace on the arts of intermediate kingdoms, such as the Sassanian empire. But we have already seen that this is no real difficulty, since it is precisely at their terminal points that those influences act, which pour along the world's great trade-route. The Indian man of genius in modern times makes his personality felt in London, and not in France, though he landed at Marsilles.


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