Centers of Buddhist Art

The Mathura School

The early statues of Buddha in Mathura resembled the local Yaksha figures (lesser divinities) and the images of the Kushan Emperors. The Mathura sculptors brought in their experience of making the images of kings and divinities, and could not induce suddenly the higher concepts of Enlightenment (bodhi), Transcendent Wisdom (prajna) and Compassion (karuna) in the Buddha figures.

Often the various Schools, that represented the Buddha, intermingled. The Buddha Statue in Abhayamudra (posture of fearlessness) found in Sitalghati in Mathura, has strong influence of the Gandhara School of Art.

The statue is draped in regular monastic outer garment in loose fold arrangements, which distinguishes it from other Mathura figures. The transparent robe that clings to the body and leaves the right shoulder bare generally distinguishes the Mathura school. In these statues, no actual hair is visible apart from the hairline snail-shell (Kaparda)-like coil, which represents the traditional Usnisa. Lion thrones and serpentine halos are also visible.

The Gandhara School

Gandhara, located in northwest India, was a part of the Kushana Empire and emerged as a key center of Buddhist art. The main characteristics of Buddha images from this school were that either seated or standing, Buddha was shown as a short, stocky form in the frontal position. The eyes in most of the statues were open with the presence of little circle 'urna' between the brows. Usually, Buddha was represented sporting a moustache with distended earlobes and wearing a heavy cloak, which hung in deep folds. The mudras (gestures) of the hands were either in Abhaya (fearlessness), Dhyana (hands on the lap in the gesture of repose and meditation) Dharmacakra Parvartana (Turning of wheel of the Doctrine) or Bhumisparsa (touching the earth with the right hand to call the earth goddess to witness). The Bhumisparsa mudra refers to the legend of the attack of Mara, the Evil one upon Sakyamuni. Sakyamuni called upon earth goddess to witness his fitness to realize Nirvana (Salvation).

All these stances, except for perhaps the Blessing, belong to the Indian Buddhist tradition.

The Amaravati School

The Amaravati School that developed in Andhradesa, particularly in the lower valleys of the Krishna and Godavari rivers, generally depicted the image of the Buddha as a human being and other symbols side by side. The obvious co-existence of the two iconographies is attributed to the process of slow evolution from the aniconic to the iconic forms and also the habitual attachment to other artistic formulae.

All the surviving statues belonging to this school are standing figures, though evidence of a number of seated statues are there. Roman features distinguish the statues. Their hair is neatly coiled around the head in curls that cover the whole cranium. The usnisa is also visible. Their finely pleated robe, like in the Mathura school, leaves the right shoulder completely bare. The garments follow mostly like the Mathura school, but they are looser and are not transparent.

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    Gautama Buddha was one of the greatest religious teachers that the world has seen. Learn more about his life and attainment of Bodhi.
  • Buddhist Scriptures and Teachings:
    Buddhist scriptures carry the noble teachings of the Buddha. They explore and teach ways to lead a blissful life.
  • Buddha in Arts and Culture:
    Spread of Buddhism influenced the world of art in a remarkable way. Starting from sculptures to paintings, Buddhism gave rise to distinct Schools of art.
  • Buddha Mudras:
    Buddha mudras are specific gestures of the Buddha that have symbolic meanings.
  • Buddhist Pantheon:
    The various deities of the Buddhist pantheon are represented through sculptures and other artistic medium to convey different spiritual messages.

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