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The Art of Eastern India, 300-800

The Art of Eastern India, 300-800

Frederick M. Asher
Copyright Date: 1980
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    The Art of Eastern India, 300-800
    Book Description:

    Though scholars have extensive knowledge of the art that flourished during Pala rule in Eastern India (ca. 800-1200), little is known about Eastern Indian art during the preceding 500 years. This half-millennium includes the period of the Gupta dynasty and the two centuries that bridge Gupta and Pala rule, when no single dynasty long maintained control of Eastern India. In this study, Frederick M. Asher challenges art-historical assumptions about Pala art -- that it is a new school virtually without links to earlier art 00 by demonstrating that sculpture during the Gupta period and the subsequent three centuries evolved along lines that connect it with Pala art. In so doing, he draws attention to important sculptures, most of them never previously studied, that tell us not only about an unexplored period in Indian art but also about broader aspects of the cultural history and geography of Eastern India. Asher’s work is based on field research in Bihar, West Bengal, and Bangladesh. There he gave special attention to the sites of once-flourishing Buddhist monasteries and to Hindu images still worshipped in village India. The author’s photographs of the bronze, terracotta, and stone sculptures, and his detailed text, provide a virtual catalogue raisonne of the known works of the period. Asher’s analyses of the images and his attributions of dates to them are based upon close attention to artistic style and iconography, and the study of dynastic and social history, contemporary travelers’ reports, and religious history. Drawing together these diverse strands of information, he describes the evolution of art forms over a long period in which there was little apparent historic unity. John M. Rosenfield, professor of art history at Harvard University and author of The Art of the Kushans, says, of The Art of Eastern India, “The scholarship is scrupulously detailed and careful . . . [The book] is in the finest tradition of classical scholarship, and will be consulted or several generations.”

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6121-3
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[viii])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-2)
  3. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-12)

    . . . outside the walls is a figure of Buddha standing upright and made of copper. Its height is about 80 feet. A pavilion of six stages is required to cover it. It was formerly made by Purnavarma-rāja.

    Thus the seventh-century Chinese pilgrim Hsuan Tsang described an impressive image at the monastery of Nālandā. He tells us what it is, when it was made, and where it stood. All that is lacking to complete the picture of its original state is a description of the veneration that it was accorded, much as he provides for a nearby sculpture:


  4. CHAPTER 2 The Gupta Age
    (pp. 13-34)

    It has long been puzzling to note that the artistic remains of the Gupta period in Eastern India are far fewer in number than those in the north central part of the country, and that nowhere in Eastern India have we found even a single site with extensive Gupta works of art. Although Pāṭaliputra is widely belived to have been the capital and thus, presumably, a cultural center during India’s Golden Age, mostly stray sculptures have come to light. This, together with other evidence, has led some scholars to make a convincing case recently that Pāṭaliputra was not the Gupta...

  5. CHAPTER 3 Growth of the Style (c. 550-700)
    (pp. 35-68)

    Following the decline of the Guptas, we know little of the political history of Eastern India for a full half century, until the begining of the seventh century; then, several powers led by some of the dominant personalities in Indian history struggled for supremacy in this region and briefly sought to establish vast empires. It is not surprising that during the peak of this struggle relatively little artistic activity occurred expect in Samatata, which was essentially unaffected by the turmoil. After stability returned, especially during the time of Ādityasena (c. 650-675), the arts again flourished.

    Immediately after the final years...

  6. CHAPTER 4 Bridge to Pāla Art (c. 700-800)
    (pp. 69-101)

    At the beginning of the eighth century, the Later Guptas still ruled Magadha and probably parts of Bengal also, although the history of Bengal remains obscure until the establishment of Pāla rule about the middle of the eighth century. Jīvitagupta II (c. 715-725), last of the Magadha Gupta kings, is best known from an inscription at Deo Baruṇārk in Shāhābād District.¹ Issued from a victorious camp, the record guarantees the continuation of an endowment that his predecessors had established. At this time Jīvitagupta was Probably on his way to battle against Yaśovarman, the mighty king ruling from Kanauj.² Like the...

  7. CHAPTER 5 Concluding Remarks
    (pp. 102-104)

    At the outset of this study, I questioned the traditional division of Indian art according to the ruling dynasty, concluding that although dynastic divisions may have the potential for greater precision than the stylistic divisions customarily used in the history of Western art, they focus attention primarily on works carved during the reign of a major ruling house; they tend to neglect works of art made during intervening times, conveying the impression that styles flourish with the fortunes of a ruling family. Yet in the final chapter we note repeatedly the great impact that the Pālas made on the history...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 107-124)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 127-136)
  10. Index
    (pp. 139-144)
  11. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 147-258)