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Indian Art
Art of India beginning with Indus Valley Civilization until the Chola Period
Art History
Undergraduate 1

Additional Art History Flashcards






High Priest


Mohenjo-daro: Indus Valley Civilization

High Priest

Media: Limestone

formal, dignified sculpture looks like a deity, priest, or important official. Formal and hieratic sculpture. 

robe covers only one shoulder, geometric designs, thick lips, downcast eyes, very stylized hair

Resemples Mesopotamian art (Sumerian figures)





Nude Male Torso


Harappa: Indus Valley Civilization


Media: red sandstone

Function: unknown

Size: only few inches in size

purpose of circular incisions unknown

Description: very smooth and realistic texture, slightly protruding belly as a sign of beauty and naturalistic shape (organic)

Hellenistic/Classical Greek style of sculpture

Mainly frontal, but not as rigid as High Priest



Yogin Seal 


Mohenjo-daro: Indus Valley Civilization

Square Stamp Seal

Intaglio carving on white steatite

Often have animals as principal subject, but Yogi (or Shaman) appears here in a Yogic position.

Stiff, rigid position; geometric face and body

Has three "heads" (shaman) 

Animals surround Shaman, making it seem he's Shiva (lord of the beasts). Pictographs shown above. 

If Siva, then deities and religion of India dates back all the way to Indus Valley Civilization. 

Midway between organic figures and hieratic figures. 



Lion Capital

Polished Chunar Sandstone.


Maurya Period

ca. 274-237 b.c.e


"Mauryan polish" Highly polished sandstone

Smooth aristocratic style

Part of Ashoka pillar --> symbolizes spread of Buddhism

Lower base is inverted lotus or bell

Stylized face (nose and whiskers)

Careful rhythm and neat barbering of the mane

Lion is the symbol for royalty (Buddha was of royal blood)

Wheels on frieze are symbols of Buddha's Law

Four Lions=Four Noble Truths

Other animals found on frieze (importance of certain animals in Indian society; i.e., elephants, bulls, etc)



Chauri Bearer

Polished Sandstone,

Maurya Period, ca. 3rd century b.c.e


"Mauryan polish" 

Voluptous, organic figure with exagerrated features

Portrayal of an ideal woman's body

Elaborate jewelry; rounded facial features; detailed garment

Holds ceremonial whisk (chauri) - identified as an attendant to some eminent personage.

Most likely the most sophisticated and courtly expression of Mauryan figural style



Chaitya Hall

Exterior and interior. 

Bhaja, Late Shunga Period. 

ca. 1st century b.c.e



First important Shunga site (aniconic and very little design)

chaitya hall stands for "nave church"

vihara- refectory and cells of the clergy

Nicknamed the Buddhist cathedral because there is a central nave, two side aisles, an ambulatory in the back and a high, vaulted ceiling, with advanced capitals. 

Carved out of rock in situ, but made to look like wood structures (beams and thatches)

Focus of the nave is the stupa (burial mound). Monks circumambulate stupa. 

Celebrates the Parinirvana (most exalted condition of the Buddha) and contains relics of Buddhist monks. 

Symbol of the Buddha and his teachings and focus of the naves

Viharas are carved into the cliff of the chaitya hall



The Great Stupa at Sanchi

Late Shunga and Early Andhra Period.

3rd century B.C.E - 1st century C.E.


Stylized lining around the dome (massive Mauryan rail)

Path above that level where circumambulation happens

Railing from Shunga period. 

Consists of toranas (gateways), yakshi at top (symbolizing the central axis of the universe), jatakas on architraves (stone relief carvings on railing with various stories of Buddha's life) and a tiratna (three-pronged symbol of the Buddha, his Law and the Monastic Order). 

Large guardian figures (yakshas, yakshis, and shalabhanjikas) added in Andhra period. 



Dream of Queen Maya

from Bharhut railing of Stupa of Sanchi


Representation of the dream of Queen Maya, mother of the Buddha.

Dreams of a white elephant (symbolizes Buddha coming to her womb) 

Stiff, rigid, oversimplified representation

Sig: Represents one of the scenes from the life of Buddha

Aniconic image



Torana and bracket figure 




Projecting from colums are tiratnas, symbolizing Buddha, his Law and Monastic Order

Three architraves show jatakas

Interior of pillars carved with guardian figures (aniconic) 


Very well preserved

"woman-and-tree" pose (motif)

More developed than Chulakoka Devata.

Still frontal and archaic, but more round and complex (higher relief) (stiff arm contrasts with movement of body-juxtaposition suggests mid-movement)



Great Chaitya Hall,

Karle, Andhra period, 

2nd century


Nave has vaulted ceilings (45 ft high), colums and a stupa with a vault at top.

Columns are more sophisticated than at Bhaja (higher detail and derived from Ashoka columns) 

Somberly majestic, not severe like Bhaja.

More elaborate figural forms.

More open, flexible space. 



Mithuna Couples

on the facade of The Great Chaitya Hall,

Karle, early 2nd century C.E. 


Most important works at Karle.

Large-scale male and female figures. 

Exude physical health ("prana" means "breath"- very important in Indian rep. of figures) 

Either donors or loving couples, or both. Mithuna means couple. 

Fairly high relief (not overcrowded)

Both in their prime. Social ideology of man and woman. 



Portrait of Kanishka I

C. 120

Red Sandstone


Kushan Period


Very un-Indian compared to Andhra and Shunga styles.

Stark, geometric, abstract mainly because of costume (Scythion)

Costume typical of ruling Kushans. Very similar to Chinese

Totally different from the organic style of before

Definite Roman influence. 

Under Kushan dynasty, first representation of Buddha appears. 



Seated Buddha with Attendents,

Red Sandstone, Kushan Period,

ca. 124, Mathura region (one with broken halo and more rigid Bodhisattvas)


Standard Buddha image that emerged in Kushan period

Shown usually in meditation or preaching the First Sermon. 

Halo (symbol of the sun); lotus outline on feet; lengthened earlobes; and urna - all developed symbols of the Buddha

Missing the ushnisha

Stela- figure backed by a mass of stone

On base of throne are leogryphs (winged lions), symbolic of the Buddha's royalty

Wheel of Law

Geometric drapery, emphasis on linearity of drapery.

Natural, organic body like Nude Male Torso 

Eyes open, happy expression, flanked by two Bodhisattvas (Compassion and Wisdom) 



Seated Buddha with Attendants

Red Sandstone,

Mathura region

2nd century C.E.


2 Bodhisattvas stand next to Buddha (this time, has ushnisha), representing Wisdom and Compassion

Buddha making mudra to signify with sutra is taught

2 flying angels above Buddha, leogryphs symbolize Buddha's royalty on the base of pedestal

Stylized drapery on clothing, stylized ushnisha, simplistic halo, wide open eyes and slight smile on lips (identified with the Mathura style)


Standing Bodhisattva,


Kushan Period, 2nd century C.E

Ghandara region


Romano-Buddhism style of Ghandara region

Heavily influenced by the western Mediterranean world.

Faces resemble Mediterranean gods or heroes

Wear heavy classical jewelry and boldly organized, geometric draperies.

Pedestal has scene from Life of Buddha, where true Indian style is revealed.

Classically styled drapery, downcast eyes, straight nose, thin lips

Very well dress and stylized hair and sandals



Buddhist Triad,

Grey stone, c. 182, 

Ghandara region


Romano-Buddhist style: classical style drapery, wavy hair on Bodhisattvas and Buddha (ushnisha included)

Downcast eyes (presaging lowered glance customary later on) , straight nose, pursed thin lips

Shakyamuni Buddha w/ dharmachakra mudra

Boddhisattvas have heavy ornaments and Roman style drapery (geometric and bold)

Fully frontal image

In the back are Hindu deities Indra and Brahma

Buddha's head is Apollo-like

Highly detailed and stylized all around, like Buddha's chair and palms overhead

Writing on bottom



Standing Buddha

Red Sandstone,

Mathura, Gupta Period

Early 5th century


"String-type" drapery- not sure from where influence

Influence from Kushan empire: geometric drapery, wide shoulders, swelling chest, rigid frontality, geometric arcs in facial features

Stylized ushnisha and halo

Face and neck is more soft and round than before



The First Sermon,

Chunar Sandstone

Sarnath, Gupta Period

ca. 475


Buddha setting in motion the Wheel of the Law in Deer Park in Sarnath.

Seated in pose of yogi ascetic- soles of feet up, dharmachakra mudra. 

Frontally oriented. Wheel of Law seen from front on plinth of throne nice addition by artist.

Leogryphs present. Halo, urna, ushnisha, etc. 

Softer, more organic style than Mathura-Gupta style- seen from limp figures, incline of head, narrow body, foliage motifs.



Interior of Chaitya Hall, Cave 26

Rock-cut temples at Ajanta,

Gupta Period, Late 5th century


Greater elaboration than past chaitya halls 

Decorative columns, capitals, friezes.

Stupa taken one step further with sculpture of Buddha and a miniature representation of the interior hall on stupa. 

Buddha seated with legs pendent, turning Wheel of Law

Detailed and more pictoral (great art of Ajanta is painting) 



The Beautiful Bodhisattva Padmapani

Wall painting at Cave I, Ajanta

5th century


Distinct highligh on nose and brow

Padma means "lotus" and pani means "hand"; this is the Bodhisattva with lotus (symbol of enlightenment) in hand. 

Image is unique because this Bodhisattva is of the Heart Sutra

Paintings of the Gupta period, especially in the Ajanta region, symbolize a cultural blooming in India and a sort of emerging mysticism with the caves and paintings. 

Gold is a prominent color used in such paintings, along with other bright, rich colors. 



Boar Avator of Vishnu

Stone relief, at Udayagiri, Cave 5

Gupta Period, 5th Century


Function: to convey the triumph of Vishnu over the evil sea demon Naga

Boar rescuing the Goddess of the Earth from Naga, the witnesses are rigid rows of small deities

Naga (an evil demon symbolic of water) with gesture of veneration; woman with wide hips, small waist, and full bust.

First great Hindu monument of Gupta Period.

High relief

Use of scale (macrocosm vs. microcosm)

Static, organized in single plane, rigid rows of small deities (geometric in style) 

Composition relatively static and organized in a single plane along the wall



Shiva Maheshvara. [Shiva as Great Lord]

Stone relief at Elephanta

ca. 7th century


Principal image of the site

Shows only the shoulders and heads of Shiva rather than the whole figure. 

Dominates the interior (macrocosmic scale)

Large figures of guardians surround it. 

Represents Shiva in his threefold aspect as Mahesha. 1) The Wrathful One- Aghora; 2) Beneficient and serene- Tatpurusha;

3) Blissful One, Shiva's consort, with feminine earrings and full "bee-stung" lower lip- Uma Devi (woman figure)

All three aspects are combined into one unified form with very restrained expressions and similar headress jewelry. 



Shiva and Parvati on Kailasa.

Kailasanatha Stone Temple for Siva,

at Ellora, 750-755


Ravana sits below, shaking the foundations of the sacred mountain

Subject is a demonstration of the power of Shiva (Shiva held the shaking mountain from falling apart with just his toe). 

Representation of frenzied movement (opposite of static)

Use of light and shade creates depth, along with the involvement of all the figures in movement and emotion. 



Ellora: The Kailasantha


Shiva's hometown

Hindu temple

"Magic mountain"

With small interior space, linga inside, very ornate carvings of animals and gods, porch seperate from tower

Linga= phallus, fertility

Carved from stone



Parashurameshvara Temple

Bhubaneshwar, Orissa, India

C. 700 C.E. 


Hindu architecture, Northern style with porch (mandapa) in front,

tower (shikhara) behind with many layers, beehive shaped with an amalaka on top.

Shiva with multiple arms, depiction of devotees

Function:: Hindu temple, poor and rich give money for comission.

Very stylistic and geometric carvings



Brihadeshvara Temple 

[Temple of the Great Lord, i.e., Shiva]

Thanjavur, Chola Period

c. 1010 C.E.


Combined fort and temple, w/ elaborate battlements and a surrounding moat. 

Thanjavur represents final development of southern style, before the decadence of later times. 

General effect of strucure is angular. Horizontal steppes of tower. 

Rajaraja was the patron and Thanjavur was his hometown.

Influenced by Gupta style.

Many sculptures of Shiva standing alone

Shiva as "Lord of Dance" 



Allegorical representation of the Emperor Jahangir seated on an Hourglass Throne, 

color and gold on paper

Mughal, school of Jahangir

Early 17th century


Overlap for sense of depth

Iranian miniature painting

European Renaissance influence (European man in corner)

Ligher skin color of Emperor

Bottom left depiction of artist; European and Muslim man depicted

Bery soft spacial features and tones,

Halo around Emperor Jahangir, apsaras above halo

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