September 21, 2014

Art and Architecture of the contribution of the Sathavahanas in Indian history


Though the Sathavahana rulers were followers of Brahmanism, some of them like Gautamiputra Satakarni, Vasistiputra Pulamavi, Gautamiputra Yajnasri, etc., were not only tolerant of Buddhism but gave liberal donations to Buddhists who, in turn, contributed immensely to the growth of art and architecture in Andhra Desa. The Sathavahana queens and princesses were mostly followers of Buddhism, and were greatly responsible for the spread of Buddhism in Andhra Desa. The entire Andhra Desa came to the studded with Buddhist Thirthas (religious centres) in which Buddhist monuments of various types and sizes were constructed.

The following were the main Buddhist Thirthas in Andhra Desa:
  1. Amaravathi, Bhattiprolu, Nagarjuna Konda,Motupalli, Chejerla, Buddam, Goli, Chebrolu, etc., in Guntur district.
  2. Ghantasala, Jaggayyapeta, etc., in Krishna district.
  3. Guntupalli, Gummadidurru, Alluru, Garikapadu, etc., in West Godavari district.
  4. Kottipudi, Timmavaram, Aduru, etc., in East Godavari district.
  5. Sankaram, Simhachalam, Ramathirtham, etc., in Visakhapatnam district.
  6. Gajulabanda, Panigiri, Kondapuram, etc., in Telangana State.
  • a) Architecture: The Buddhist architecture of the Sathavahana period can be seen in three categories.
      • i) Viharas (monasteries or residences of Buddhist monks).
      • ii) Chaityas (Buddhist temples where either the statues or symbols of Buddha were worshiped).
      • iii) Stupas (Buddhist tombs where the relics of Buddha or some other famous Buddhist monk were buried and worshiped.
    • Most of the Viharas and some of the Chaityas were cave monuments, while the Stupas had necessarily to be independent structures.
    • All these three categories or types of monuments are generally found at the above mentioned Buddhist Thirthas. But some of the Thirthas with their world-famous monuments deserve special mention. Amaravati is renowned, among others, for its massive Stupa, which measures 162 feet in diameter and 100 feet in height and has a railing of 192 feet in diameter. The monolithic Stupa crowning Bijjanakonda at Sankaram is the biggest monument of its kind. The four Ayakastambhas erected on four cardinal points of this Stupa were the invention of Andhra Stupa and hence unique in the history of Buddhist Architecture. The Nagarjuna Konda valley alone has, besides the Mahachaitya, 4 Viharas, 6 Chaityas and 8 Stupas.
  • b) Sculpture: The Sathavahana period witnessed the rise and growth of a separate school of art, known as the Amaravathi school of art, in Andhra Desa. The Amaravathi school flourished in the region between the lower valleys of the Krishna and the Godavari, which had become an important center of Buddhism as early as 2nd century B.C. Though the school also had its origins in the middle of the 2nd century B.C., it matured fully only in the later Sathavahana period (1st and 2nd centuries A.D). Its main centres were Amaravathi, Nagarjuna Konda and Jaggayyapeta, though other centres like Ghantasala, Goli, Gummadidurru, etc., also contributed. Its artists mainly used white marble in their sculptures.
    • i) Buddhist statues: The Great Amaravathi Stupa is adorned with limestone (marble) sculptures depicting scenes of the Buddha's life and surrounded with free standing Buddha figures. Beautifully balanced in composition to fit the circular frames, its relief medallions convey an intense vitality and sense of rapid movement. The slender, long legged figures are portrayed in vigorous action, often rising almost to frenzy, as in the famous medallion showing a host of ecstatic demigods carrying the Buddha's begging bowl to heaven. The sculptures on the main Stupa and its railing together cover a total surface area of 16,800 square feet.
    • ii) Secular statues: The Amaravathi artists have also created a large number of beautiful human images which infact out number those of religious nature. These figures and images of males and females have been regarded as some of the best among the contemporary sculptures not only from the point of view of their size, physical beauty and expression of human emotions, but also from that of their composition. They are so composed that they seem to be interlinked with each other and present before an onlooker not distraught figures but a well composed painting. Particularly the female paintings in different moods and poses, and endowed with full breasts, heavy hips and living flesh, are its best creations. Thus, the Amaravathi school of art is among others, frankly naturalistic and sensuous.

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