Buddhist Art of Mathura
|Author:||R. C. Sharma|
|Publisher:||Agam Kala Prakashan, Delhi|
|Pages:||377 (Throughout B/W Illustrations with Maps)|
|Other Details||11.50 X 8.50 inch|
Buddhist art of Mathura is the first comprehensive treatment of the subject based not merely on the old and newly unearthed antiquarian remain but in the overall perspective of archaeology history, numismatics, epigraphy literary tradition and foreigners recorded. It incorporates several new interoperations and identifications architectural terms and iconographic complexities. The detailed chart of the Buddhist establishments, with relevant references is of much academic interest. Besides an up-to-date account of the archaeological campaigns in the Mathura region the significance of the recently excavated rare sculptural wealth of Govindnagar has been unfold with great ability. The origin of the Buddha image has been discussed afresh with new facts and more convincing arguments. The framing of the chronology of the entire Buddhist plethora of Mathura from the 1st century IC to the late Gupta period is of outstanding value. The twelve distinct groups mark a phased stylistic development. The Socio-religious and economic factors have also been given due consideration while discussing the complicated problems of style and the recorded date.
A remarkable contribution is the account of several unknown Buddhist establishments and introduction of new names of artists of early Mathura school of sculpture. The book convincingly proves that the Buddhist pantheon had considerably developed at Mathura in the Kusana period itself. The writing is marked by restraint and dignity throughout. The author has come out with this 'magnum opus' in the fullness of times with the maturity of his judgment.
The Book is valuable contribution and welcome addition to the Indological Studies.
Dr. RC Sharma (b. 1936) is a well known authority on the sculptural art of India, especially of Mathura and the art of early Buddhism. A post-graduate in Ancient Indian History and Culture from the Banaras Hindu University, Dr. Sharma completed his research from the University of Calcutta. He received his first training in field archeology in the Archaeological Survey of India and also served this organisation for about three years, before joining the State Museum of Lucknow as Assistant Curator in 1960. During the period of service in this museum he underwent a specialised training in Museology in Paris, in 1967 68, when he also visited several countries in Europe to study the collections and methods of presentation and other aspects of museums' work of Europe.
He was promoted to the post of Curator, later Director, and Government Museum, Mathura in 1969. Since May 1980 he has been working as director, State Museum, Lucknow, the largest museum in Uttar Pradesh. He has been associated with a number of other institutions and activities as Secretary and Adviser, Vrindaban Research Institute, Member, Research Degree Committee, Agra University, Secretary U.P. Coin Committee, Editor, Bulletin of Museums and Archaeology in UP and Vice President, Museum Association of India.
Author of Mathura Museum Introduction, Mathura Sangrahalap-Parichaya, Mathura Museum and Art and Co-author with Dr. N. P. Joshi of Gandhara Sculptures in the State Museum, Lucknow, Dr. Sharma has also contributed a large number of research papers on Indian art, culture and allied subjects. The present book is the outcome of his intimate knowledge and vast experience of the subject.
Mathura has a very distinguished place in the history of the Indian subcontinent. In the centuries immediately before and after the beginning of the Christian Era, Mathura, well connected with other parts of the subcontinent, became an emporium and the headquarters of a political or an administrative unit (under indigenous, foreign and again indigenous powers). There were naturally movements of people, ideas and trade between Mathura and outside world (B.N. Mukherjee, Mathura and Its Society-The Saka-Pahlava Phase, Calcutta, 1981, pp. If and 971). As a result it became by the time of the composition of the Lalitavistara (1st or 2nd century A.D.) a "large", "populous", "prosperous" and "beneficial" city. The Lalitavistara refers to the city of Mathura, "which is prosperous, and large and beneficial, and (a place where) alms are easily obtainable and which is abounding in people" ((iyam Mathura nagari riddha cha sphità ca kshema ca subhiksa cakirna-bahujanamanusyd ca).
Life of a large number of people at Mathura was probably highly religious. In fact, religion began to play an important role in the life of the inhabitants of Mathura at an early stage of its history. Patronised by the prosperous section of the indigenous and non-indigenous population, including rich traders, religion got the necessary material support and grew receptive to outside ideas. Deeply rooted in Indian tradition, the city became at the same time an eastern outpost of several non-indigenous cultures (particularly in the age of the Saka-Pahlavas and Kusanas). Mathura was developed as a celebrated centre of religious and cultural activities and of art, the handmaid of religion.
The Mathura school of sculptural art, which had its origin in the centuries immediately before the commencement of the Christian Era, was greatly stimulated in the Kushina age, which was marked by a cultural acculturation and material prosperity (of at least a section of population). The art tradition, enriched with new ideas and stylistic traits evolved by numerous talented artists, reached its climax in the Gupta age, when Mathura was still an important religious and cultural centre, (though perhaps no longer as important an emporium or a seat of administration as it had been in the Kushana period.
Among the religions which stimulated art activities were Buddhism, Jainism, different Brahamanical faiths and minor religious cults. The sculptors, engaged by the Buddhist patrons, made significant contributions to the development of the Mathur school and also to that of icono-plastic traits of the sculptures treating Buddhist themes. Their contributions constituted the Buddhist art of Mathura, which was very much an integral part of the Mathura art milieu and yet had a distinctive ethos.
This very important segment of Indian art has not yet been probably evaluated, though art of Mathura as a whole has already attracted a large number of art historians. I am glad to note that a comprehensive study of the Buddhist art of Mathura has now been made in the present volume by Dr. R.C. Sharma, who is now the Director of the State Museum (Lucknow) and a former-Director of the Mathura Museum, has spent a great part of his professional career amidst Mathura sculptures and is one of the most well equipped scholars to deal with the subject. The monograph brings out in relief the importance of Mathura in the history of Indian culture, art and religion. It is an outstanding contribution to Indological studies
Dr. Sharma has made his study against proper geographical and historical (political as well as religious) background. He has taken into account all available archaeological materials, including the finds from the Govindnagar area of Mathura. The inclusion of the Govindnagar finds has immensely enriched the author's study.
With these materials at his disposal the author has first recounted the story of the origin and development of the Mathura school of art and then has taken up the study of Buddhist art of Mathura.
The study proper appears to consist of three parts. The first part (Chapter VIII) deals with the well-known problem of determining the date of the origin of the Buddha image. Dr. Sharma has marshalled numerous facts to advocate a pre-Kusana (really pre-Kaniska I) origin of the Buddha image at Mathura.
In course of his discussion Sharma refers to an information to which I have already drawn attention of the academic world ("New light on the Kuşana period", Monthly Bulletin, Asiatic Society, January, 1981, pp. 11f; "Earliest Datable Iconic Representation of the Buddha", Journal of the Varendra Research Museum, Vol. VI, pp. 11f.).
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