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GUPTA STYLE OF TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE


The Gupta Period (4th-7th c AD) is often described as "the Golden Age of art and architecture in India". During this period, Sarnath emerged as a school par excellence in the Buddhist art. Some of the most beautiful images of Buddha are products of this School. One of the best sculptures from Sarnath depicts Buddha giving his first sermon in the Deer Park. The image of the Buddhist pantheon include Indra, Surya, Yakshas, Yakshis, dwarapalas, Mithuna couples, winged horses and mythical animals in Hinayana stupas and viharas as at Sanchi, Bharhut, Bodhgaya, Bhaja, Karle, Bedsa, Pitalkhoda and others and the Bodhisattvas, the Buddha, Tara and others in the Mahayana monuments as at Ajanta, Ellora, Auragabad, Karle, Bedsa, Pitalkhoda and Kanheri.

This period witnessed a tremendous resurgence of Hinduism when it became the official religion of the Gupta Empire. Consequently, this era was also marked by the emergence of innumerable images of popular Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Images of Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva, Lord Krishna, Surya and Durga evolved in this period. The Udaigiri caves in Madhya Pradesh house a colossal image of Lord Vishnu. Other statues of this period found in various temples and museums are indicative of the various dimensions of early Hindu art and sculpture.

During the Gupta period a firm foundation of temple architecture was laid when the basic elements of the Indian temple consisting of a square sanctum and pillared porch emerged. The evolved Gupta temple also had a covered processional path for circumambulation that formed a part of the worship-ritual. Earlier temples of the period had a flat slab-roof, often monolithic, but the later temples in brick and stone developed a shikhara. The gradual evolution of the Gupta style is traceable through development of the plan and the ornamentation on the pillars and door-frame, the later introducing new decorative motifs like goblins, couples, flying angels, door-keepers and a figure relief in the centre of the lintel emblematic of the deity consecrated in the temple.

Sculptures of deities their consorts, celestial beings, couples, directional deities, composite animals and decorative motifs formed the mass of images that adorned the walls of the temples and their interiors. The deities consecrated in the sanctum were carved strictly according to religious cannons and installed by performing a special consecration ceremony. The genius of the Indian sculptor lay in his visualization of the deities' ideal proportions, youthful bodies and benign expressions. Temple sculptures were not necessarily religious. Many drew on secular subject matters and decorative motifs. The scenes of everyday life consist of military processions, royal court scenes, musicians, dancers, acrobats and amorous couples. Another group of non-religious figures is the apsaras or devanganas (celestial women) and vyalas (composite animals).

The Parvati temple at Nachana, the temple of Bhitaragaon, the Vishnu temple at Tigawa, the Shiva temple at Bhumara and the Dasavatara temple at Deogarh are among the best examples of the Gupta style of temple architecture.

The cave architecture also attained a great degree of refinement during the Gupta period. The Chaitya and Vihara caves at Ajanta and the Ellora caves are the best specimens of cave-architecture of the period. The rock-cut caves at Khandagiri, Udayagiri and Undavalli also belong to this period.
      


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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