Thursday, July 18, 2024

Arts and Architecture



The Neolithic and other prehistoric men of Bihar handed down their art tradition to their progeny in the historic period. Many structural relics are still in existence to fill up the gap separating the prehistoric men for their historic descendants. 

The early Mauryan buildings and works of art were mostly wooden. Wood was the basic material of Mauryan architecture. The Pillars and fortifications of the ancient city of Pataliputra were all of wood and revealed workmanship of a high order.

Literacy sources, Sanskrit and Pali furnish indubitable evidence of the existence of a highly developed art other than sculptures in Pre-Ashokan Magadha. 

Chandragupta's palace stood in all its Mauryan splendour when Megasthenes visited the capital. A series of hypostyle halls containing pillars of wood, clasped around with vines embossed in gold and ornamented with designs of birds and foliage in gold and silver. The city of Pataliputra situated along the banks of the Ganges was surrounded by a stupendous timber palisade with loopholes for archers and protected externally by a wide and deep moat. At intervals were bastions with towers over five hundred in number. It was entered by as many as sixty-four gates. A change in this pattern of architecture occurred when magnificent monuments executed in stone began to appear in Bihar during the Mauryan period.

The use of burnt bricks and of 'Sudha' of lime was known to the ancient Magadhans. Houses were provided with pillars, windows and stairs. The 'Jatakas' are full of references to towns, palace and pavilions. Fortified cities and palaces had a wall around them interspersed with gateways and watch-towers and ditches outside. The cities had well planned streets and different classes of people occupied special quarters set apart for them. The walls of the buildings were often decorated with paintings which included figures of human beings, creepers, flowers, animals and birds, mountains and sea.

The Stupa formed an important part of the architectural achievement of Mauryan Bihar. The word stupa means 'something raised', and came to be used as a Buddhist architectural term for a mount containing the relics of Buddha. Ashoka  was the builder of cities, Stupas and Viharas excavated in hard rocks, rock-art Chaitya-halls, palaces and pillars of stone. The pillars are said to be the master pieces of Mauryan Art. The masons of Magadha delineated the natural forms of animals and plants in stone and reduced and shaped larger masses of rocks into pillars.

The beginnings  of Indian art, to a class of colossal stone statues are all Pre Ashokan and Pre-Mauryan. These statues represent  the folk art of the times and were admittedly inspired by the animistic worship of popular deities known as Yakshas and Yakshinis, Nagas or Nagis, Gandharvas, Apsaras, earth-spirits, water spirits etc. The statues made of the buff-coloured sandstone of Chumar quarries and bearing a distinctive metallic polish, have been kept in the Indian museum, Calcutta.

 The fairly large size Yakshi statue discovered by accident, at Didarganj Patna is in the same tradition and represent the highest watermark of sculptural art in the indigenous tradition. In her right hand, the female figure holds a 'cowry' and the lower part of her body is richly covered with ornaments and folded garments.