Explore religion, mythology and nature in Indian sculptures


Explore religion, mythology and nature in Indian sculptures

Sculptor artists project important problems through their art

“Faces” by Dhananjay Singh explores the idea that nature is synonymous with human beings (Photo: Dhananjay Singh)

Sculptures from the Harrappan ages (3300-1300 BC), the Mughal Empire (1526 – 1857 AD) and the ancient Mesopotamian period (3100 BC – 539 BC). Indian history.

One of the oldest art forms in existence, the art of sculpture has been a widespread practice since the Indus Valley civilization, when small terracotta figurines were first made, usually women or animals. Important means for historians to document life at the time, such as a war victory or a good deed, they depicted the various clothing and accessories worn, the hairstyles adopted, the musical instruments and weapons used over the centuries. .

Historical legends behind famous sculpture caves

“Imagery has always been an integral and recognized part of art in Indian history, as it is akin to the historical documentation of our cultural past,” said Monidipa Dey, art historian from Kolkata. India Media Group.

The art of Indian sculpture also largely focuses on religious themes, with artists being enamored with mythological stories of gods and goddesses and creating statues from historical epics and other literary works as in Bhasa Pratima-Nataka, where images of dead royalties were made as objects of reverence and in Ramayana, when the god Rama kept the golden idol of his wife Sita by his side in his absence.

Dey mentions that the Kailashanathar temple in Kanchipuram boasts of many intricately carved figures, such as the Bhiksatana of Lord Shiva standing inside a devakulika or a niche in a sanctuary.

“The anatomy is almost perfect, the beautifully sculpted figure showing Shiva in motion almost as if he is really walking, with his beautiful hairstyle and sandals,” Dey explains.

The Ellora Caves are a unique artistic creation made up of 34 monasteries and temples (Photo: Bruno Poppe)

Some of India’s most iconic sculpture sites are the Ellora Caves located in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, which is one of the largest rock-hewn Hindu temple cave complexes in the world. The caves have deities from Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism from the Rashtrakuta and Yadava dynasty, and represent the religious harmony and tolerance characteristic of ancient India.

Another example is the Elephanta Caves, where syncretic sculptures of Hindu and Buddhist ideas are carved out of solid basalt rock. Some of the most famous sculptures here are the Trimurti Sadashiva (Three-faced Shiva), Nataraja (Lord of the dance) and Yogisvara (Lord of Yoga). The two rock temples were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1983 and 1987, respectively.

Dey visited various museums and galleries that display a variety of sculptures from different regions and historical periods. She especially the unknown artists who created Mathura art and temple wall art from the Chola Empire of South India.

“The Chandesanugrahamurti of Shiva in Brihadishwara temple is one of my favorites. These sculptures are not just a perfect blend of all Rasas, a concept in Indian art that denotes an aesthetic and emotional flavor, but they also look like a living body, often making me feel like they can come out of their stone molds, ”Dey adds.

The Kailashanathar temple in Kanchi shows several ornate statues of Lord Shiva as Bhikshatana, a beggar begging for alms (Photo: Viki Pandit)

The inspiration behind the works of art of modern sculptors

In fact, this distinctive realism and tactile nature is what draws many contemporary artists to the medium. Dhananjay Singh, a sculptor from Bihar, has been practicing the art of sculpture since 1994. He started working with direct plaster and stone carving, before moving on to welding techniques and materials like metal, as he wanted to create juxtaposition and duality in his pieces.

“The three-dimensionality and the myriad of materials that create different shapes evoke a unique feeling in the artist as well as in the audience,” Singh said. India Media Group.

As with all art forms, modern and contemporary styles of sculpture are more representative of the artist’s self-expression or issues of his time.

Ramkinkar Baij, born in 1906, was considered the “father of modern Indian sculpture” and was mentored by Rabindranath Tagore. Baij experimented with minimalism and geometric abstraction and in 1970 the Indian government recognized his artistic talent, asking him to create two colossal sculptures at the headquarters of the Reserve Bank of India in Delhi, for which he was awarded the Padma Bhushan.

Anglo-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor rose to world fame in 2006 when he created one of the world’s most famous public sculptures – the popular tourist attraction known as “Bean” in Millennium Park from Chicago.

The Cloud Gate (colloquially known as “The Bean”) in Chicago’s Millennium Park

Somenath Hore, born 1921, another notable Indian sculptor artist, was influenced by communist and socialist ideas and created twisted bronze figurines that depicted the agonies of famine and war. Oddly enough, one of his largest “Mother and Child” sculptures, a 40kg tribute to the suffering of Vietnamese citizens during the war, was stolen the same night it was completed and has never been found.

Singh focuses on the theme of the natural laws of creation, growth and decay in his work, and his main chosen medium is metallic wire, which represents a unit of form like a cell or fiber and contrasts transparency. with the solid opacity in his art.

“The tree of life has been my main source of inspiration and I find my own life experiences there,” says Singh.

His collection of magnificent sculptures titled “Faces” was made of stainless steel and bronze and explored the idea that plants, animals, humans and all the elements of the Earth are intertwined with each other, rather than ‘a collection of isolated objects.

“There is nothing in nature that does not exist in us too, which makes me feel a sense of belonging, of connection, to the cosmos as a whole,” he adds.

The future of contemporary sculpture

Singh says he has been fortunate to receive support from connoisseurs of the art of sculpture throughout his career. His relentless efforts have paid off; some of Singh’s recent pieces are auctioned for over INR 40,000, and his record was The last tree, which sold for 48,456 USD.

However, some experts also believe that awareness of this art form should be increased. Dey attributes this decreasing focus on iconography to the lack of study of sculptures in textbooks or in the various events organized by different academic institutions and museums.

“Museums should hold regular exhibitions of the priceless sculptures they hold and shed light on the history of these dynasties to raise awareness and increase the interest of common people to go and see the beautiful interpretations of India,” like the carvings on the old temple walls, ”Dey explains.

She argues that the public should be made aware of such exhibitions more zealously, adding: “Without knowledge of all the arts, it will be impossible to understand their influence on space and time.


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