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Gupta Period: Art and Culture

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  • Difficulty Level : Easy
  • Last Updated : 10 Mar, 2023
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The Gupta age (early 4th century CE to late 6th century CE) was the epitome of prosperity. The art and culture of the period were significant in Indian history. The Gupta emperors played an essential role in producing and preserving amazing art and culture. The religious beliefs of the Gupta age also created an impact on art and culture. The presence of Hinduism through art and architecture was evident during the Gupta age. Fa-Hien, the Chinese traveler’s remarks on the Gupta empire, helped to visualize the actual situation to some extent.

Features of Gupta Art and Architecture:

  • Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism co-exist in the Gupta period. The cave arts carry such examples. Stupas indicate respect for Buddhism even under the reign of Hindu kings.
  • The blue color is never used in the paintings of the caves.
  • Sculptures were made of sandstone.
  • The primary materials of temples were brick, sandstone, and granite. Nagara and Dravidian styles were quite evident in temple architecture.
  • The prosperity of literature and science was visible during the reign of the Gupta emperors.

Types of Gupta Art and Architecture:

Various categories of architecture grew and got established by the rulers of the Gupta period. We get a vivid idea from the tangible art forms that still exist after long years of establishment. 

Cave Architectures of Gupta:

  • Udaygiri caves, a group of rock-cut caves carrying Jain and Hindu religious beliefs, were built during the 4th to 5th centuries. These caves are near Vidisha, Madhyapradesh. 
  • Ajanta cave, a group of 29 rock-cut caves in Maharashtra, contains paintings exhibiting Buddha’s journey. Here are also instances of mural paintings and fresco technique painting. During the 5th and 6th centuries AD, many rock-cut architectures were built in Ajanta caves.
  • Ellora caves in Charanandri hills are a group of thirty-four rock-cut caves that exhibit Brahminical (Hindu), Jain, and Buddhist philosophy through art. All caves were built from the 6th to 12th century. 
  • Bagh caves in Dhar district, Madhya Pradesh, consist of nine caves together. These Buddhist caves are also known as Bagh Gupha. 
  • Pandav caves (B.C.250- A.D.600) in Nashik are in Trirashmi hill. These caves are magnificent examples of ancient water management systems and buddha sculptures.

Temple Architectures of Gupta:

The Gupta royals were originally Brahmins (Hindu). Vishnu, Shiv, and Shakti were three types of deities worshipped by them. 

  • Five types of temple architecture evolved during the period. The first kind of temple had square architecture and flat terraces. Pillars surround the hall areas. There was an entrance with garbagriha and also a mandapa area in such types of temples. Kankali Devi temple at Tigwa is an ideal example of it. 
  • The second type appeared almost similar to the first type except for the inclusion of a pradakshina area. The establishment of two-storeyed temples started at this time. For example, the Shiva temple in Bhumara.
  • The third type had a square shape and shikhara or pyramidical roof pattern. The platform of the temple became higher also. Dasavatara temple comes in this category. There are ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. 
  • The fourth type of temple was built with a rectangular pattern and a hollow roof shape. For example, Kapoteswara temple. 
  • The fifth kind of temple had circular architecture. The distinct shape of the four corners creating a rectangular pattern was also visible. Maniyar Math in Rajgir belongs to this category.

Nagara and Dravidian Styles of Gupta:

Nagara and Dravidian styles are known as two types of temple architecture. North Indian temples with more than one shikharas are classified as Nagara-styled temples. And South Indian temples with one Shikhara known as Dravidian-styled temples. The Nagara temples have deities inside, whereas the Dravidian ones have outside. Such temple patterns were evident in the Gupta age. 

Sculptures and Pillars of Gupta:

  • The evidence of the amazing sculpture of the Gupta age is the Buddha statue with Abhaya mudra in Mathura. It is made of red sandstone. The Buddha sculpture of Sarnath shows a calm and peaceful expression of Siddhartha. The cave sculptures are also worth a mention among Buddhist sculptures. 
  • The Gupta emperor Samudragupta’s court poet, Harisena’s words are engraved in the Allahabad pillar. It is known as prashasthi or eulogy. Another renowned pillar from the Gupta age is the iron pillar of Delhi. It was built under the patronage of Chandragupta II. This pillar is still rust-free.

Stupas of Gupta:

  • Mirpur Kha’s stupa in modern Pakistan was built during the Gupta age. The cross-legged Buddha sitting in a meditative posture is an iconic structure to mention. 
  • The patterns of the outer area of the Dhamek stupa are believed to be the work of the artists of the Gupta dynasty. The patterns, including animal figures, show instances of Gupta art.  
  • The Chaukhandi Stupa is one of the best examples of stupa architecture. It is located in Sarnath. The stupa is believed to be a memoir of Buddha’s meeting with his early disciples.

The Literature of the Gupta Period:

The development of literature during the Gupta period was incredible. Kalidasa was a famous playwright, and his works like Abhijnanashakuntala, Vikramorvasiyam, Meghduta, and Malavikagnimitra are the greatest examples of Gupta literature. Dandin’s Kavyadarshana and Dasakumaracharita are worth a mention. Vishakhadatta’s Mudrarakshasa is an amazing instance of literary work. Vatsyayana is known for his Nyaya Sutra Bhashya and Kamasutra. Magha is recognized for writing Sisupala-vadha. Vyasa’s Vyasabhasya tells about Yoga. Harisena, Bharavi, Bhasa, and Shudraka are also known for their literary contributions.

Conclusion: The remnant evidence of architecture, art, and sculpture is what we mark as the art and culture of the Gupta age. And whatever art, architecture, and literature have been retrieved proved the excellent expertise of the artists, scholars, and genius people of the age. And the initiative of the rulers helped everything to prosper. This is the reason why the Gupta age is called the golden age.

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