This work attempts to present an outline of the development of sculptural art in Assam.
The history of the sculptural art in Assam goes back toth e Suga period as is proved by the recent discovery of a heavily ornamented but mutilated human terracotta figure, which by stylistic consideration can be placed in 200-100 BC. The next gropu of sculutres are dated in the Gupta period, which also includes a door-frame of a ruined temple, showing the figures of Ganga and Yamuna in minute workmanship. In around 8th-9th century, there was a development of a regional style depicting tribal affinity. However, later on, greatly influenced by the Eastern Indian School of Medieval sculptures, the sculptural style of Assam reached its zenith in the 12th century. After the arrival of Ahoms from Myanmar, ht art took a separate style. In the 17th-18th century, the art were greatly influenced by the folk element.
An effort has been made in the present volume to present a coherent picture to the reader. Here, stone, metal and terracotta sculptures have been included. Images published here throw fresh light on the culture, ethnography, trade, art and religious history of the region which has been further substantiated by literary, numismatic and epigraphic evidence.
In this monograph, the important sculptures are analyzed with reference to their aesthetic value, style and iconography. Strikingly illustrated, this work is the result of authors sustained interest and study on the subject for more than four decades. This important handbook on sculpture masterpieces will be indispensable for scholars, students of comparative religion, and anyone who wants to know Assam and understand its composite identity.
Born in 1944 at Patacharkuchi in the district of BAapeta, Assam, Dr. Rabin Dev Choudhury, son of late Sri Raghunah Dev Choudhury, received his school education a t Kaithlkuchi and Patacharkuchi He graduated from Cotton College in 1963. He passed the M. A. Examination in 1965 from Sagar University, M. P. in Ancient Indian History , Culture and Archaeology. Choudhury joined the Deccan A college Post Graduate and Research Institute, Pune, as research scholar wehre he worked under Prof. H. D, Sankalia. He obtained his Ph. D. from Pune University in 1970.
Dr. Choudhry joined the Assam State Museum in the Directorate of Archaeology and Museum, Assam in 1970. He obtained a Diploma from the National Museum and was subsequently promoted as Director if Museums, Assam in 1983.
Dr, Choudhary was appointed Director? General of National Museum in 1998, an office he relinquished on superannuation in 2004. He was also the Vice-Chancellor of National Museum Institute of Art, Conservation and Musicology by virtue ofh is position. In 2004, at the invitation of Tezpur University, he joined as Professor in the Department f Cultural Studies , from where he retired in 2006.
Dr. Choudhry has published a number of books and catalogues. His important publications include Archaeology of the Brahmaputra Valley of Assam (New Delhi, 1985) and Art Heritage of Assam (New Delhi, 1998). At present, he is the Chairman of the Indian Art History Congress (IAHC) and also the Editor of Kala, the journal of IAHC.
During my tenure as Director General, National Museum, New Delhi(1998-2004), I got published as many as five portfolios sculptures of Assam. Monuments of Assam, Paintings of Assam. Kahilipara Bronzes, and Art Heritage of Tripura. Each portfolio had ten to fifteen coloured blow-ups of impressive photographs, each accompanied by a brief text. These were priced between Rs. 100 and Rs. 150 so that common people afford them. Since these were presentable, I used to carry them to the foreing countries I visited and presented them to museum officers of the Ministry and Hon. Minister, Culture, Government of India, also used to carry them for presetting to the foreign dignitaries. This definitely helped in publicizing the heritage of Assam. But I was not satisfied. I wanted that at least a few monographs with good photographs should be published so that they can give a better idea about the subject.
The present volume is the enlarged and revised version of the Sivaramamurti Memorial Lecture delivered by me on the same theme at National Museum, New Delhi in 1984. The book is the first in the series on art treasures of Assam. In this work, we have provided a clear picture of the sculptural heritage of Assam. Along with the text, quite a few illustrations have been included sot heat the reader can have a fair idea about the art styles of Assam. Here, stone, metal and terracotta sculptures have been included. The number of wooden sculptures is so extensive that it could not be included here. We are planning to write a monograph on this theme separately. The next book will be on the ‘ Terracotta Sculptures of Nanath’ for which we have already received grant from the Government of Assam. It will be a documentation work.
I am grateful to Mr. H. S. Das, Principal Secretary, Finance, Government of Assam, for his encouragement. He once visited the office of the India Art History Congress (IAHC) in the Archaeology Department, Assam, and when sought help for IAHC, he adivsedme to submit a proposal. Accordingly, we submitted the proposal to him and with financial help, we could bring out this book. I am also grateful to Mr. H. K> Sharma, Commissioner, Higher Education and Mr. P. Jidung, Driector of Higher Education, Assam. My thanks are also to Commissioner, Higher Education , who helped us in getting the required fund. The present book should have been published last ear or at least in the early part of this year. But due to my health problems, this could not be possible. If everything goes well,the forthcoming book will be published within a few moths.
I am deeply grateful to Shri R. C . Das, Treasurer, IAHC, for encouraging me to finish the book on time.
My thanks are also due ot Priyanka and papori for their assistance. I am also thankful to Mr. Vikas Arya for taking up the job of publishing the book and bringing it out within a short time.
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