One of the important tasks o f the National Museum has been to explore and present the heritage of Indian in the context of her enduring culture. The exhibition “Reflection of the Indian Consciousness” is the Part of our Endeavour to carry out that task. This exhibition consists of several objects that were presented in an exhibition “Treasure of Ancient India” organized by the archaeological Survey of India in four cities in China during 2006-07. While selecting the objects from the collection of site museums of the Archaeological survey of India and the National Museum it was felt to focus the attention on the great values and ideals the art objects reflect. Therefore, certain objects have been replaced by other ones befitting to the theme of the exhibition. In fact this is a joint Endeavour of the National Museum and the Archeological Survey of India.
Thus the present exhibition focuses on ideals of peace, harmony, tolerance and co-existence which are quintessentially Indian. The objects have been selected not merely for their individual quality but also to demonstrate the cultural beliefs of the Indian sub-continent. The selection of artifacts their presentation and the scheme of the catalogue suggest that the exhibition intends to serve as a mirror of Indian philosophy, religion, aesthetic, sensibility, emotion, and expression.
An exhibition of this scale and complexity depends greatly on the help of many people. Obviously it is not possible to thank all the persons in such a venture individually, but my thank goes particularly to my predecessor in the National Museum, Mr. Vijay S Madan, whose persistent efforts brought this exhibition to its present form. I am also thankful to Smt. Anshu Vaish, Director General, Archeological Survey of India, for lending some of the best specimens from the site museum of Archeological Survey of India and making this exhibition possible. Dr. Amarendra Nath, formerly Director Archeological Survey of India responsible for curating this exhibition and writing its catalogue, deserves a special thank.
The Present exhibition entitled ‘Reflections of Indian Consciousness’ has been mounted jointly by the Archaeological Survey of Indian and National Museum. There are seventy-six exhibits representing Hindu, Buddhist and Jain pantheons. The exhibits portray the Indian sprit and senceblity. These have been selected from the excavated sites of Bharhut, khajurhao, Nachna Kuthara, and Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh), Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda (Andhra Pradesh), Ratnagiri, and Udayagiri (Orissa), Nalanda and Both-Gaya (Bihar), Sarnath, Deogarh, Mathura and Ahichchhatra (Uttar Pradesh), Pitalkhora and Mansar (Maharashtra), Hampi (Karnataka) and Akota (Gujarat). Representative metal images of Tamil Nadu have been largely selected from the collection of the National Museum, New Delhi. The exhibits range from the 3rd century B.C to the 18th century A.D. However, the exhibits are not necessarily mounted in a chronological order in the gallery. The text of the entries and the plate numbers coincide with the display numbers.
Apart from the textual details of each entry, the catalogue provides a short title, provenance, name of the museum, chronology, material, size, and accession number of each exhibit. The epigraphical inferences and other vernacular words are written in Conformity with English transliteration. A few exhibits of Buddhist origin are inscribed with the Buddhist creed which may be read as under – ye dharma betu-prabhava betum tesham Tathagoto byavada tesham cha yo nirodha evam vadi Maha-shramanah. ‘Tathagata (i.e. Buddha) has revealed the Cause of those phenomena which spring from a cause and also (the means of) their cessation. So says the Great Monk.’ The text entries of the exhibits from Ratnagiri have been transpired from the writings of Dr. Debala Mitra.
We are beholden to Mrs. Anshu Vaish, Director General, Archaeological Survey of India, Shri R.C.Mishra, Director General National Museum and vice Chancellor National Museum Institute, Dr. Vijay S Madan, Additional Director General, Archaeological Survey of India for giving us the opportunity to curate this exhibition. Besides we would like to thank Dr. R. R. S. Chauhan, Shri U. Das, Shri Ranjit Banerjee, Shri K. K. S. Deori and Shri Surendra Thakur for their support in mounting this exhibition. Prof. Anupa Pande of the National Museum Institute and her students have assisted in writing the text entries listed at SI. No. 2, 3, 11, 14, 17, 26, 54, 70, & 73, while Shri J. E. Dawson 52 & 72, besides offering valuable suggestions at the proof stage. Ms. Jennifer Chowdhry, Dr. Mandira Sharma, Shri Nishant and Ms. Tripta Singh assisted us in all the technical matters pertaining to the exhibition. We also record our thanks to Dr, B. R Mani, Shri D. S. Gehlot, Dr. K. P. Poonacha, Dr. R. S. Fonia and Shri P. B. S. Senger for their good wishes.
The age-old value system of Indian consciousness revolves around the concepts of vasudhaiva kutumbakam (this world is one family) and the ekama sat viprah bahudha vadanti (the universal reality is the same, but different people interpret it by different names). These two proclamations bear the essence of eternal way of life coherent with thoughts and practices of the Upanishad, advocate adherence to the meditation, service towards others, changing oneself through self-awareness compassion and wisdom. Briefly, the Hindus follow the vision that everything is divine while the Jains believe that all living beings are related with divinity, and the Buddhists proclaim self realization by disciplining base desire through right conduct. The exhibition seeks to celebrate this eternal India consciousness running through various works of art of the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist origins.
The Indian consciousness, fro example is reflected in the triad or trimurti representing the three principal gods of Hinduism, Namely Brahma (creator) Vishnu (preserver) and Mahesha (destroyer). Around these deities revolve the Hindu pantheon with countless gods and goddesses (Acc. No.71.2/2). Embodied in the triad are three essential principles of the universe – rajas (the cause of desire), sattva (mercy, goodness and intelligence) and tamas (darkness or inertia). Similarly the dance of bliss (ananda tandava) of Nataraja (Acc. No. 56.2/1) combines the panchkrutyas, namely creation (anugraha). A few exhibits of mundane consideration include the images of Lakshmi-Narayana (Acc. No.82.225) as divine couple and Kalyanasundaramurti (Acc. No. 69.134) portraying the marriage of Shiva and Parvati. A panel depicting the conversation of Sita and Lakshmana in the Panchvati reflects an earthly feeling of distrust and obedience which led to the abduction of Sita (Acc. No. NC 17/02). Likewise Krishna lifting mount Goverdhan highlights his pastoral character (Acc. No.DGH-108). The essence of magnanimity is seen in the bronze image of Bharta (Acc. No.69, 49) carrying over his head the padukas (sandals) of Rama, reflecting the unparallel filial love and devotion of Bharata, narrated in the Ramayana. Images of Harihara (Acc. No. 76.256) and Ardhanarishvara (Acc. No. 47.109/13) of composite nature reflecting syncretic ideology, have been canonized to bring harmony and peaceful coexistence amongst the sects.
The Buddhist themes like turning of the wheel of the law of Dharma by the Buddha at Sarnath (Acc. No. 366/1986-87) signifies the establishment of the sovereignty of Dharma or righteousness while the Mahaparinirvana or the great Decease of the Buddha at Kushinagar (Acc. No. 519) endorses the teachings of the Buddha that ‘Decay is inherent in all component beings. Work out your own salvation with diligence’. The elements of ultimate sacrifice and generosity to all living beings have been narrated in the panels of Sibi Jataka (Acc. No. 52), subjugation of Nalagiri (Acc. No. CAC/Conf./314) and honey to the Buddha (Acc. No.1533). A few exhibits reflecting the esoteric nature of Indian thought which views life in a swiftly changing perspective (Acc. No. 00013) from part of the exhibition.
Jainism believes existence of soul in all living beings where it is possible for the soul to purify itself and attain enlightenment through the path of truth and asceticism and subsequent to this help other beings to attain the same. The images of Rishabhanath (Acc. No. 1352) Neminath (Acc. No. 69.132) Ajitnath (Acc. No. 47.109/171) and Parsvanath (Acc. No. 68.189) are a few exhibits displayed here for appreciation.
The beginning of Indian art may be traced back to the pre- historic times. The contemporary painted rock-shelters and artifacts recovered from dwellings provide a glimpse of their perception about nature and its value to their belief-system. Admittedly the history of Indian art beings with the emergence of the Harappan culture in the third millennium B.C, primarily in the medium of clay; sparingly in stone, ivory, bone, shell, gold, silver, copper and bronze. Some emphatic plasticity in clay modeling indicate, creative sensibility mixed with social values. The clay figurines are largely hand made, and are decorated with appliqué techniques. The Harappans adopted the lost-wax technique for casting metal images. Both these techniques become characteristic feature of the Indian art expression. The bronzes from Daimabad (Maharashtra) and the specimens of the copper hoard culture of the Ganga-Yamuna plains are the testimony of continuity of technical knowledge in the later Vedic times.
With the rise of Buddhism and Jainism in the sixth century B.C, the political struggles among the city-states finally led to the emergence of the Mauryan Empire (circa 321-185 B.C). The Maurays have left behind unique examples of magnificent art and architecture of ‘Court’ and ‘Folk’ traditions. Among the works of art of the court tradition are the remains of eighty pillared hall, free standing pillars crowned with bell capitals surmounted with animal figure bearing the edicts of Ashoka the Great besides life size images of yakshas and yakshis. A detached head shown with a turban is a masterpiece recovered from Sarnath (Acc. No. 47.24). The period also witnessed some of the most exuberant ‘folk’ tradition of the plastic art in the medium of clay.
The art in the Sunga period (circa 185-75 B.C) moved forward in producing highly abstract forms that stressed both flat and cubic shapes. The human forms were marked by bold relief at times striving for rounded contours. The stone railings and gateways around the Buddhist stupas at Bharhut (Acc. No. 72.331) and Both-Gaya (Acc. No. 46) are attributed to this period. The art of this period is characterized by simplicity and indigenous character.
A couple of remnants of railing pillars mounted in the exhibition are from Mathura (Acc. No. J. 55) belonging to the Kushana period and from Amaravati (Acc. No. 1036) attributed to the Satavahana period. The toramas (gateways) with two upright pillars and three horizontal architraves having scrolled ends are carved with narratives and gracefully flexed figure of yakshas and yakshis. The rhythm emanating from the figure becomes progressively more subtle and varied. Emotion have been expressed but the attitude of the entire body. The compositions of Amaravati and sophisticated.
Contemporary to the Satavahanas in the Deccan were the Kushanas, in the Gangetic plains who played an important role in nourishing Indian art with a certain amount of imprints borrowed from the Gracco-Romas, the Bactrians the Parthians and the Scythians in the Gnadhara region. The art of Gandhara is characterized by well-defined feature wavy hair a thick cloak the natural drapery of heavy and shallow lines and an organic relationship between the body and the drapery (Acc. No. 69.140).
The art of Mathura is characterized by red sandstone and the indigenous tradition of strong and sensuous modeling. The period witnessed formulation of divine images of the Hindu, the Jain and the Buddhist gods and goodness. Apart from this the sculptors experimented outlandish figures of courtesans and traders. The sculptures represent enormous varity of hair-styles and ornament adding value to the outward form. The Mathura sculpture of the Kushana period appear youthful with wide open eyes and a strong body from while images of the Gupta period are characterized by meditative feature and subtle body.
The Gupta monarchs were connoisseurs in the matters of art and literature. The art forms of the period assumed varied expression reckoned with the concepts of aesthetic beauty filled with emotion. The exhibit from Sarnath (Acc. No. 347, 268, 4946 & 6697), Deogarh (Acc. No. DGH – V – 01& DGH – 108) and Nachna Kathura (Acc. No. -17/02 &NC – 39/02) deserve special mention. Contemporary to the Guptas were the Vakatakas who patronized some of the best rock-cut architecture at Ajanta and the temples at Ramtek in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. Recent discoveries in Vidarbha indicate the existence of a splendid idiom which flourished under the patronage of the Vakatakas (Acc. No. L.77/2).
The medieval period has witness numerous regional idioms of highly ornate workmanship, wherein the forms are more rounded and relaxed. The Western Chalukya dynasty carried forward the rock-cut cave architecture at Aihole and Badami which culminated under the Rashtrakutas at Ellora. On the order hand the Pallavas patronized the art centre at Mamallapuram, south of Chennai. Their art forms bear impressions of continuity of arts from of the Chalukyan art of the Deccan. The Pallavas were succeeded by the Cholas Rajaraja (985 – 10189. A. D.) and Rajendra (1018 – 1033 A.D.) were two rulers who promoted the sculpture art in stone and metal, besides paintings on the temple walls at Thanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram. They also built the city of temples at Kanchipuram. The Chola art is however best represented through the bronzes notably the Shiva Nataraja (Acc. No. 56.2/1). The image as noted above exemplifies the cosmic from of dance constituting the divine rhythm and harmony of life.
A distinctive style that flourished in the lower Gangetic plains is that of the Palas and the Senas of the eastern India. The rulers patronized Buddhism and erected large temples. The Mahabodhi Temple and Nalanda Monastery under went major development during the Pala period. A few specimens of the Pala period are exhibited here from the repertoire of the Nalanda Museum (Acc. No. 00074, 10513). The images assume a graceful posture together with elegance, emphasizing subtle modeling, Sculpture retain to a greater extent the sense of weight and rounded volume of the earlier traditions. This is also true of the Sculpture of Orissan style, reported from Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri and Udayagiri. Traditional sculpture are still found working in the art forms of the medieval style.
The Gujara-Pratiharas remained a dominant political power between the 8th and 11th centuries. Their dominance was challenged but the Rashtrakutas of Deccan, Palas of Bihar and Bengal, besides the Chandellas of the khajuraho. In the early phase the aesthetic norms of the Gupta period were preferred but in the later phase the posture were exaggerated especially while formulating the images of the celestial nymphs (Acc. No. 2070, 2486, &2069). Other dynasties succeeding the Cholas in the peninsular India were the Hoysalas and the Vijayanagara (1375-1565 A.D.). The Hoysala artist displayed their originally with sheer technical skill through decorative exuberance while the Vijayanagara and their successor the Nayakas, preferred to continue with the norms set by the Cholas. The images were more articulated yet efforts were made by the artist to create an ideal balance between form and ornaments. A few sculpture and bronze images of a relatively later date (Acc. No. 47.109/19).
The exhibits on display fall within the time period of 3rd century B.C. to 18th Cent. A.D. These are not necessarily mounted in a chorological order in the exhibition. An exhibition like this with s focus on the images that reflect the ethos and value system of Indian consciousness would help in creating an awareness by ignition the minds of the viewers. The need of the hour is to perpetuate the time-tested value system fro promoting peace and tranquility in the fellow countrymen.
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