Couples(dampati)Panel from rail pillar Bharhut, Sunga.
2nd century. BC. Indian Museum Calcutta.
gifts to a young king. Ornamental
medallion,limestone.Large stupa of Amaravati.Second half
of the 2nd century AD. Government Museum Madras. King Surrounded
by his harem,his courtesans & riches. Vidusaka,the
count jester under the throne. Circular shape of the
medallion has been exploited by adopting to it the
disposition of the figures in a manner reminiscent of
but far superior to the European Romanes que style.
of the back of great stup of sanchi.Sculptors mastery with animals testifies that
Buddha's Law obtains for all forms of life..
185 BC,the last Mauryan Emperor was killed by one of his Brahmin
generals and thus began the Shunga dynasty. The carving of chambers called
chaityas, into living stone/hill-sides reached it's zenith during this
period, with the construction of elaborate and complex halls, generally with
only one window for light. These spectacular examples of giant sculptures were
painstakingly cut only by human labour, to serve as meditational retreats
resembling caves, into the escarpments of Western Ghats in present day
Maharashtra. Although the Shungas' reign of 112 years saw the decline of
Buddhism as the Imperial religion, yet the earliest amongst these chaityas is the Buddhist
chaitya hall at Bhaja, dating from
the middle of second century BC. Surrounding the expected feature of the stupa is a sculpted hall made to imitate a wooden building in structure
and unexpectedly many non Buddhist reliefs are also seen in a side porch within
this great chaitya. Next to the chaitya as in all such
chaityas are the viharas or the monasteries, cut deeper into the
stone to accommodate the monks, to afford them close proximity to their revered stupa for meditation and rituals. The greatest example of these
rock cut chaityas is at Karli, carved around second century AD,
though attributed to the Andhra dynasty. It features a stupa, a simple
hemispherical mound in a nave, which is approached and surrounded by a row of 37
columns with carved capitals. Also carved on either side of the entrance are the
donors' figures and the ever favoured Indian yaksha and yakshi couple, by now called
mithuna, symbolic of fertility. Inside the Karli chaitya, an ingenius trick focusses the light coming from the window
gently onto the stupa giving it the impression of a sacred enlightenment
in the heart of a mountain.The most elaborately carved example as yet
of the Shunga monuments is the Bharhut, which was erected when the stupas had evolved as major religious structures. The one at
Bharhut, located South-West of Allahabad, is surrounded by a stone fence with
four luxuriously carved gates. Both the gates and the elaborate enclosures
defining the stupa are carved in shallow relief and resemble the now lost
wooden predecessors from which they must have evolved. These reliefs are
veritable Buddhist 'libraries' depicting the previous lives of the Buddha called
the jatakas and the important events in his life as shakyamuni, although the
Buddha himself is never shown directly. He is depicted now by a wheel
symbolizing the first sermon of the Law, now by a pair of footprints, by the
Bodhi tree, a rider less horse symbolizing his departure from his palace or an
umbrella over a vacant space etc. The events and stories however, often
lack continuity as the patrons or donors kept changing, though as a norm
monuments of such scale were commissioned by a single royal patron. Also
stationed on the gateways of the Bharhut stupa are the yaksha and yakshi, blessing those who pass from beneath, with protection and
fertility. Bharhut is one of India's earliest and most significant
monument.During their century long
reign, the Shungas were mostly involved in warfare, countering the invading
Bacteria Greeks left over from Alexander's retreating armies, the Kalingas
smarting from their defeat at Ashoka's hand and the barbaric nomadic tribes from
the Steppes, the Scythians, followed by the Yueh-Chi (later to be called Kushans).
Yakshi.Rail pillar Bhahut.Sunga Indian Museum Calcutta.
Peculiar ornaments.such as ear coil. Karnaveshatana Necklace of
alternating placques & beads,Phalakahara.Arthasastra..
first serman in Deer Park at Banaras. Sculpture in the
Central chapel of cave 17,Ajanta.End of 5th century
AD.Note deer with wheel of law in middle.Two divine
two human listeners(smaller)
stupa detail.Royal Personage with insignia of a winged
being. End of 2nd century BC / 1st half of 1st century
AD. Indian Museum. Calcutta.
Elapatra & his retinue worshipping the Buddha.Empty
seat under tree. Panel from rail pillar from Bharhut.
Sunga 2nd century BC. Indian Museum Calcutta.