Sri Gupta, the founder of the Gupta dynasty, left an indelible mark on history through the dynasty’s contributions to the arts, sciences, architecture, religion, and philosophy. It is difficult not to appreciate their unique carvings and their relevance through the many artefacts that have been found. Did you know that the Gupta Era art included many literary descriptions from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Kalidasa’s Meghaduta? Scenes like Rama releasing Ahalya were skillfully carved.
Their unique carvings, evident in numerous artefacts, showcase the Gupta Era’s artistic excellence. It will be a shame to ignore the marvellous carving the Gupta dynasty engaged in, so let’s look into it further!
The Gupta Dynasty’s Perfectionism With Coins
The Gupta Dynasty’s commitment to artistic perfection is notably reflected in their coins. Renowned for issuing gold coins with intricate artistic lettering, the Gupta rulers portrayed regal imagery, including horses, sacrificial posts, and depictions of kings facing formidable beasts. The different kinds of coins showed the majestic appearance of the king and princes of the Gupta dynasty. The coin above is an excellent example. It contains inscriptions in the Sanskrit language: the one on the front (obverse) says ‘The great devotee of Visnu, the emperor Chandragupta’ and the one on the back (reverse) says ‘He whose prowess is unsurpassed’.
The coins represented instances of horses standing beside a sacrificial post, fighting against the king of beasts, and as a connoisseur of art and learning while showing his leisure and taste. They also depicted the prince as being tall like a tree. Apart from that, the coins also depict the princes of the Gupta dynasty being invincible, showing the great artistic creations of the Gupta sculptors.
The Beauty Of The Carvings During The Gupta Dynasty
The Gupta dynasty embraced an Indian art style, forsaking foreign influences, as exemplified by sculptures from Bhumara and Buxar. The sculptures rescued from Bhumara by R.D. Banerjee now adorn the Gupta gallery of the Indian Museum in Calcutta. They all exhibit a veritable treasure house of iconography. The museum also houses a sculpture from Buxar, Bihar, showing Ganga and Yamuna flanking a gateway. Budha is a favourite Gupta sculpture.
Another great example of the carvings, by looking at the terra-cotta panels, is the eternal Buddha. It is represented with the folds of the robe arranging themselves in a panel in the Sahet Mahet situated in the National Museum in New Delhi.
The Guptas Sculptures And Where To Find Them
Many museums house different Gupta dynasty carvings and sculptures which are celebrated for their delicacy in handling such noteworthy sculptures. These include:
- The presentation of the Kiratarjuniya and Gangaparinaya theme is preserved in the pillars from Rajauna in the Indian Museum at Calcutta.
- There is a simple, yet attractive figure of Skanda with his peacock in the Bharat Kala Bhavan in Banaras.
The Gupta sculptors are also famous for fashioning large and beautiful terra-cotta panels with which whole temples were decorated. Some of these were visible at the Bhita, Bhitargaon, Ahichchhatra, and Rajgir, and can never be forgotten. Bhitargaon has a Seshanarayana panel in terra-cotta. It is quite famous for its simplicity and effective treatment of the subject.
One of the terra-cotta panels in the Maniarmath at Rajgir showed Nagini with hoods over her head and Vishnu being flanked by a personified wheel and club. Oh, to imagine the beauty of it. These works are now preserved in the National Museum in New Delhi. The most praiseworthy figurine includes Kinnari and her lover, the prince, on her back, and the lord of learning, Dakshinamurti. There’s another piece in Bhitargaon in Uttar Pradesh. There there is a magnificent temple, still in situ, preserved in the Lucknow Museum and the Indian Museum at Calcutta.
Golden Art Age, Gupta Dynasty
The Gupta dynasty period was indeed a golden age. This is particularly highlighted by the Gupta-era art depicting such intricate designs and terra-cotta panels. This will take your breath away just by being there. Indian art needs to be highly celebrated for the intricacy and dedication that the sculptors put in to achieve a finesse incomparable to others. The ramifications of Gupta art are amazing. Seeing how in Sind many stuccos were created in the Gupta style, including the Padmapani in the Prince of Wales Museum in Bombay.
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