Art of India and Southeast Asia

Subject: Art
Type: Descriptive Essay
Pages: 6
Word count: 1555
Topics: Architecture, Art History, Painting
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There are a myriad of similarities and differences that exist between the ancient art of India in the Sanchi stupa I and Ajanta. The artistic imagery that was painted at the twenty-nine caves in Ajanta by the ancient dwellers were painted with a message in them that represented the human nature and the feelings of that time. For Instance, most of the paintings and arty pieces were paintings that showed the feelings and what people did at that point. The pictures were made with a purpose of expressing what the people of the ancient India in Ajanta felt and did at that period. “An interior view of the cave 2 shows the general appearance of a Mahayana Vihara at Ajanta… lavishly carved pillars and doorways decorate the internal affairs and carry out the iconographic message” (Zwalf 257). This is not the case in the Sanchi stupa one where the poetic imageries were not applied to the artistic nature of the paintings. In the Ajanta region and the caves, representation of what the people had in their thoughts at that timer is well shown in the walls such as the imageries of Buddha.

In this case, the significant difference can be that the people at Sanchi stupa and their artistic nature never had in their arts and also in their beliefs a perception of religion such as Buddha. A good example is in the cave paintings at Chaitya caves number 19 and 26 some pictures images Buddha as well as Bodhisattva meaning that the anthropomorphism at the time was based on the thoughts of the people and their beliefs.  The main difference is also depicted in the two sites by the Sanchi stupa images that do not depict Buddha imagery but represents the artistic with no human feelings.

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It can be explained that the creation of the earliest anthropomorphic images in part and during the earliest centuries had the artistic sources from the feelings of human beings. This means that what people drew and painted on the walls was what was in their minds and thoughts. The early man could make drawings of the creatures that they hunted or what they worshiped. The cave paintings were a way in which people of the past centuries could put into the imagery of what they did at that time, and as such, the anthropomorphic representation is presented today.

The Hinduism religion worship images because God has no definite form. In Hindu, people are given freedom to worship God in whatever form that they like, as long as the leading worship is directed to God, the creator of the universe. As a result, mental images of goddesses and gods were created. Later, this gods and goddesses were translated into images which were painted and carved images. In all the thousands of Hinduism images being worshiped that represent God on earth, the people praising them are aware that each god and goddesses are the just earthly representation of the same God. In the process of worshiping the gods and the goddesses, the worshipers get a vision and also a sight. It is this experience that the Hindu people refers to as the Darshan or as pronounced as Darshana. It is an experience of grace and connection arising from the sight of a natural and a holy being. The image below is an idol worshiped by the Hindu, which also brings Darshana.

Amongst the Hindu followers, the most common religious activity is puja, always translated as worship. The term “puja” is used to refer to the holiness of an image. Images being worshiped are called holy things on earth which translates to God, a supernatural being. The faith given to a deity involves reception and honoring as well as entertaining the gods. Puja in Hindu includes bhakti. Bhakti is when an individual has to go about and treat the image or the God with love. Selfless love is the system in bhakti that the God is devoted to practice. The love that is thought to flow in both ways is devoted to the god and vice versa. In this case, the bhakti and puja are related to darshan which is the worship and having a vision to the trust and love on the deity.

Visual Scriptures as explained by Diana Eck is what is visualized in darshan. This is the images that the worshipers see and believe to have communicated with the supernatural beings. For instance, a Christian would say “I see Jesus,” which means talking, seeing and getting help from the supernatural beings. Regarding the worship of icons, visual theology would say an imagery that the believers have to their images, for instance, in Hindu an image would represent goddess. Pilgrimage is a significant aspect of Hinduism because, it is a mission to have darshan with a deity (“BBC – Religions – Hinduism: Worship”).

The large rock relief at Mamallapuram has some interpretations both the ancient and the recent ones. A pronounced sculpted relief which is situated at a port which was visited by foreign traders who were unfamiliar with the sacred legend intended to have a view of the sculptures in universal terms of evolving karma through a portrayal of a hierarchy of beings. The hierarchy of beings is on the lower level of the Indian pilgrimage (Dehejia 192-195). Padma Kamal has a different opinion on the interpretation on the relief of Mamallapuram. The analysis of the relief is based on the carvings and the imagery of the sculptures. One of the interpretation is kinship of the holy and the royals of the past dynasties in the Indian land. The meaning revolves around the royal families and also depicts the Pallava king’s promise of protection to Indians (Kaimal 129). The site of relief played a significant role in establishing the hierarchies of pilgrimages and also the dynasties in India.

The major differences in the telling of stories through imagery art or visual art in telling the stories are that others are aniconic while others are continuous narratives like that of the Buddhists. Also, the Hindu examples at the relief sites such as the Mamallapuram are mono scenic. Aniconic is a term about the reminiscent rather than representational of an image. This means that the pictures used in the worship and the narratives are only designed in the likeness of something supernatural. Like in the Hindu religion, deities were conceived as images that have a representation of a supernatural being. The differences in these forms of narratives give a different style in that; they are giving the different image of the same imaginations of the people. Buddhist examples are all continuous stories that also gives a difference from the aniconic.

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Some of the examples of art found in the Indus valley are the plate 1 and plate 2. The plate 1 is a fragmentation of sculptures found in mahed-jo do. It is an art with a representation of a male bust carved of limestone white in color inlaid in a red paste. The plate 2 is a small male torso also in limestone situated in happy. The interpretation of the images can be that they must have been made as a deity (Fabri 14-16). The art in the Indus Valley have a similarity with those found in Mesopotamia, and as such, they can be interpreted as that the people in the Indus valley must have had contacts with Mesopotamia. The potential differences that have caused scholars to differ are the new excavations at the Valley, and also, the latest explorations have caused some scholars to have a conclusion that Indus valley culture was a domestic growth. The Indus Valley by no means depended on the Mesopotamia and Iran on the development of its culture but developed by its own (Fabri 18).

Mamallapuram had a patronage of the sculptures that depicted the relief and the activities at the time. Sanchi, on the other hand, had the sponsorship of a pattern of regional developments and finally, the patronage of Ajanta was the sponsorship of the dynasties in the Indian region. The art support in all these sites accomplishes the ancient cultures and assist in the continuation of India’s culture from one generation to the other. The arts and the artistic nature of the different sites were not the same at all locations visited. What explains the similarities and difference of the art are the messages and the reason why they were made.

The stupa is simply a hemispherical structure that contains relics, or the remains of the Buddhist nun and monks. The form, as well as the organization of the two stupas that is stupa one at Sanchi and cave 19, are comparable in the sense that they all show the images that have an imagery of Buddha.  The relationship of the stupa to the Buddha image is that they have a representation of the religious beliefs of the people and how they worship their goddess that represents Buddha.

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  1. “BBC – Religions – Hinduism: Worship”. BBC.co.uk, 2005.
  2. “Tattoos”. Pinterest, 2017.
  3. Dehejia, Vidya. “Indian art.” (1997).
  4. Fabri, Charles L. “Benjamin Rowland, The Art and Architecture of India (The Pelican History of Art) Baltimore, Penguin Books, 1953. Pp. 308; 190 pls. $8.50.” (1954): 143-145.
  5. Kaimal, Padma. “Playful_ambiguity_and_political_authority_in_the_large_relief_at Māmallapuram.” Ars orientalis (1994)
  6. Zwalf, Wladimir. “Buddhism–Art and Faith.” (1985).
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