Statues and Bronzes in the Patna Museum, Bihar
high-definition creative commons photographs from the Patna Museum, Bihar showing a large collection of Buddha, Bodhisattva and other statues and bronzes from the 1st century BC to the 11th century AD, together with some further information.
The Patna Museum
The Patna Museum is the state museum of the Indian state of Bihar. It was built in 1917 during the British Raj under the directions of Edward Gait, who was then the lieutenant governor of Bihar & Orissa, to house the historical artefacts found in the vicinity of Bihar.
The present building in the style of the Mughal and Rajput architecture (Indo-Sarcenic style) was erected in 1928 and is known locally as the Jadu Ghar. There is a plan to build a new museum soon, which, judging by the design photographs, will be a tasteless, futuristic concrete block.
Items on display in the multi-purpose museum include archaeological objects, coins, instruments, textiles, paintings, thankas, bronze images and sculptures and terra cotta images by Hindu and Buddhist artists, and has one of the finest collections of Buddhist images in India.
Indian Stone Art Tradition
In the 2nd century B.C. during the Sunga period, stone art was mainly connected with architecture. Due to this, the art became descriptive and figures-in-high relief were carved out of stone blocks. The main features of the art are heavy ornamentation in case of both male and female, well-decorated coiffures and a special type of turban. Eye-lids are not noticed in the eyes of these images and there is lack of facial expression too.
Mathura and Gandhara were two important centres of Kushana stone art in between 1st-4th century A.D. Mathura sculptures were carved out in bold relief on white-spotted red sandstone from Sikri. Figures represented in this art are stout and fleshly. The clothes are in bold relief and eyes are fully open. In the early phase of Mathura art, the Buddha has been shown with shaven head but in later examples, he has been provided with the characteristic curly hair.
In the Gandhara centre of the Kushana art, stone sculptures were carved out of blue-schist stone. Originating on the Indian border lands this art, is influenced by both Indian and Greek art. The specimens of this style, display heavy eye-lids and sharp features. The clothes are carved out in bold reliefs in the form of cylindrical lines. There is wavy hair on the head. Several times, Bodhisattvas are shown wearing Greek sleepers and having moustaches. This special art style is also called Greco-Buddhist Art.
The sculptures of the Gupta art (4th-6th century A.D.) are quite effective due to its simplicity and expressiveness. Sarnath became one of the most important centres of stone art. In this style, the eyes are carved like a bow and the lips are heavy, which brings forward the unique smile over their face. The hair was arranged in a beautiful style and transparent drapery was provided; ornamentation was reduced and the halo were decorated.
During 8th to 12th century A.D. another school of art developed in the Bihar-Bengal area under the patronage of the Pala and Sena rulers. In Pala art, the artists used mainly the black basalt stone or the grey sand stone for their art specimens. In these art specimens, the norms of beauty were taken from literature, and ornamentation became popular. The cloths are indicated through lines and the hair is arranged in a beautiful style. Even in the male representations, the tenderness and softness of limbs are clearly manifest. The images were carved out of stelae and these were heavily decorated.
Text adapted from a sign in the Museum
The Patna Museum also possesses a large collection of bronze statues, which were produced mainly in the Bihar region, which is known for its metal sources. The two most important sites for these works have been found at Nalanda and Gaya, and the production of bronzes, certainly on a large scale, may have been connected to the great monastic centres, which perhaps had the resources and the necessary customer base for the production of such works.
There are all the normal Buddha statues in the customary postures, and also many Bodhisattvas, besdes other works like bronze umbrellas, bells, small stupas and pedestals, etc. With the end of Buddhism in this area in the 12-13th centuries the bronze work also seems to have disappeared, and there are only a very few works from the Hindu tradition after this date.
Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu
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