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Northen India

Ganga,from Bengal. Sena 12th century AD National Museum New Delhi. Jar in hand & tree behind her suggest  the river & her celestial origins where wish fulfilling trees are there.(click on pic. to see larger image)


In North India, the medieval period about the eighth century, was fraught with struggle over the wealthy and famed capital city of Kannauj between the Pratiharas of Rajasthan, the Palas of Bihar and Bengal, and the Rashtrakutas of the Deccan. This obsessive struggle rendered these powers weak and oblivious to the potential threat from the advancing Afghan armies in Sindh.

Meanwhile, at Bodh Gaya in Bihar, the place of Buddha's enlightenment, the Mahabodhi shrine (raised in Ashoka's time) was significantly added upon to give it the basis of it's present form. Close by, Nalanda, the great university of India which began with a monastry at the time of the Buddha, saw further construction by a Shalendra prince from Java, and was given more land by the Palas  for it's maintenance. The city reached the summit of it's glory at the time of King Harsha but began to decline at the time of the Palas. Chinese monks have recorded it's eminence and splendour with accounts that it had over 10,000 scholars, and numerous towering structures.The large central stupa was made to resemble the Mahabodhi shrine and cornered on four ends by smaller votive stupas, all decorated with stucco images. Many small stone and bronze sculptures were also found, created at Nalanda. About the ninth century, the Pala-Sena period, Buddhism assumed a new and complex dimension of esoterism called Vajrayana, wherein Taras emerged as saviouresses next to the Bodhisattvas and tantra (cult originating from collections of magical texts) began to assert. Around the twelfth century Brahmanism gathered much strength and Buddhism began to overlap with it in some aspects. The excellent metal sculptures of this era, done in the North Indian 'Barouque' style, were prolific and many times cast into small gold and silver images, for portability for the devotee.

Devi as Bhuvaneswari. Gurjara Pratihara, 10th century AD. Gwalior Museum. MP (click on pic. to see larger image)

Tara. gilded statuette set with turquoise & semiprecious stones. Nepalese. 8th century AD. Prince of Wales Museum.Bombay. (click on pic. to see larger image)


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Arts Indian Atelier 1999-2000