All About Indian Sculpture: Styles And Materials

Examples of famous, modern and historic Indian art sculpture of different styles and materials.

Indian sculpture provides historians with a speculative insight into the cultural, regional, and religious influences of India's otherwise enigmatic past.

Finely carved seals and figures, dated to approximately 2500 to 1700 BC of the ancient Indus Valley civilization, are some of the oldest sculptures known to India.Though they were incredibly sophisticated, these sculptures were surprisingly small, ranging in size from approximately just over one inch, to one foot in height. The size of these sculptures is noteworthy considering they were discovered over the site of ancient Harrapa.Archeologists theorize that Harrapa was an urban hub which dominated the Upper Indus Valley region. For that reason, archeologists might have expected to find larger, more monumental sculptures.These small sculptures were made of stone, bronze and a few other materials.

Many of the figurines represented female figures with ornate head dresses, necklaces and chokers, flowers, and textile like patterns.On some of the headdresses, there is a black residue, and some historians and archaeologists suggest that oils or other similar chemicals may have been burned into them.These residues also hint at a possible style, for the black residues found on some of the fan-like head dresses may indicate that some women wore their hair stretched up and over a fan shaped frame.

Aside from opening a glimpse at the culture of the ancient Indus Valley, Indian sculpture also peels away the layers of India's religious history. Buddhists sculptures and art became prolific during the third century BC, when the Mayoran Emperor, Ashoka, set out to promulgate the teachings of Buddhism. Unlike the smaller figurines of the Indus Valley sculptures, these sculptures included fairly large pillars and dome shaped monuments with the engraved teachings of Buddha inscribed on them.One such monument, The Great Stupa at Sanchi, depicts two thousand year old legends and cultures of Buddhism.This monument is fifty four feet tall, and it is surrounded by a stone railing with four intricately carved gateways on each side.

Magnificently sized stone sculptures of a likeness of the Buddha have been dated to approximately the first century AD.This image, as imparted from the Mathura and Gandhara schools of sculpture, became central to Buddhist worship.This figure had a halo around the head to emphasize divinity; he had dharmachakras carved on his hands and feet (dharmachakras are wheels which can depict the eight-fold path), and he sat upon the lion throne, which represented his royal ancestry.

During the fifth century, the human features of Buddha statues became more refined in terms of detail.These statures featured delicately carved half-closed eyes, representing a meditative state, detailed folds of his garb, and smoothly carved curves of his face, hands and other features.The curvature and smooth detail of these statues evokes a serene sense of enlightenment.

Hinduism experienced a resurgence during the fourth to sixth centuries when it became the official religion of the Gupta Empire, and this resurgence inspired a plethora of sculpted Hindu gods and goddesses as well as large Hindu temples.The Hindu deities Shiva the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Mahadevi the consort of Shiva are among the many deities represented by the art of this time period. Also, many sculptures depicted scenes from Puranas (Puranas are sacred Hindu writings of legend and history from the fourth century AD). Most of these sculptures decorated major shrines.Most of these sculptures were stone carvings.

Though Hinduism experienced a surge during the fourth century, Buddhist art continued to flourish as well, and excavations revealed that during this period, numerous intricately carved sculptures adorned the wall of caves in Ajanta.Finely carved animals, figures, and legends of Buddhism, and the Buddha, were the muse for the ancient sculptors.Excavations have also revealed caves in Ellora with sculptures dating to approximately the seventh century.The detail in the Ellora caves is an intricate in detail as the sculptures in Ajanta, but the Ellora caves consisted of a mosaic of depictions from Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism.

The artistry of India's sculptures is still as evocative as it was during the Indus Valley era.The contemporary sculptures are deeply detailed, and each style can be traced to particular regions of India.Many of India's current sculptures depict icons from Hinduism and Buddhism, as they did for centuries.Intricately carved stone and bronze statues of Krishna, Shiva, Rama, Ganesha, Hanuman, Saraswati, Kali, Vishnu, and the Buddha are all popular sculptures of modern India.

Madhya Pradhesh, a central region of India is most notable for their carvings of deities from small pieces of stone.Though it is common among the different tribes of Madhya Pradesh to worship the deities carved from these stones, the types of stones used differs from tribe to tribe.The tribes of Madhya Pradesh are also known for carving memory pillars from a hard white stone.These pillars are said to be installed into the memory of the dead.

Tamilnadu, located at the southern most tip of India, is known for its alarmingly dramatic bronze renditions of religious icons.The most awe inspiring aspect of these sculptures is that these sculptures are exact copies of the image of god that is created within the temples.The original sculptures are prohibited from being taken outside the temples with the exception of annual festivals.These copies are made by molding the image in wax. A coating of clay that is fortified with ground cotton, sald and charred husk is made then applied three times.Bronze is then heated and poured into the same mold that the wax was originally heated.After the mold cools, it is carefully broken, and the sculpture is taken out.Afterwards, burnishing and final details are completed by hand.

A rare type of stone, with an incredible pliability conducive to carving, exists only in Orissa, which is located on the eastern seaboard of India. Orissa is know for its stone sculptures which are smooth, detailed, and clear in detail.

The many states of India are unique in their rich diversity of sculptures.The sculptures, even today, are unique in that they display a long standing tradition of the cultural, regional, and religious beauty of India.Contemporary artwork of India is very popular worldwide for its aesthetic prowess, and many people purchase these sculptures to enjoy the exotic artistry in their homes.It is remarkable that an art form that originated in the Upper Indus Valley of India, nearly four thousand years ago, can be found in homes all over the world today.

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