Terracotta of Middle Ganga Plain - Bihar (Early Period to 600 A.D.)

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Item Code: NAR714
Publisher: B.R. Publishing Corporation
Author: Dilip Kumar
Language: English
Edition: 2017
ISBN: 9789386223579
Pages: 180 (22 Color Illustrations)
Other Details 11.50 X 9.00 inch
Weight 820 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

The Terracotta art today is accepted as a major medium of Indian art. Sculptural wealth of India is fabulous. So the majority of the past Art Historians devoted their time to exclusive study of sculptures and also to some extent, the numismatics, epigraphy and painting. Terracotta art remained neglected for long and object found during the excavations.

Terracotta's or clay sculptures occupy an important place in the history of plastic art of India. Bihar is one of the most important states which has yielded various types of terracotta figurines beginning at least as far back as third millennium B.C. down to the late period and the study of these terracotta's are essential to complete the history of plastic art in India.

The Neolithic Chiranci has added a new page in the history of India. The earliest handmade terracottas depicting human, animal and bird figurines were discovered here. We have humped bull and dove like bird, all hand-made. We have one hooded snake and a coiled snake. Neolithic terracottas figurine of bull, serpent and crude female figurine provide the earliest material evidence of religious beliefs. The most notable, however, is the archaic female figure of Mother Goddess.

The Neolithic culture was followed by the Chalcholithic cultural remains noted at Chirancl, Sonpur, Oriup, Tiradih, Chechar, Maner, Senuvar and Hajipur. The Iron Age in Bihar can be divided into two phases- the early phase and the later phase. In the former, the art which have survived are in the form of clay figurines which have been found from different sites in Patna such as Bulandibagh, Kumrahar, Mahavirghat and Sadar Gali etc.

The terracotta figurines of the Mauryan period, generally larger in size, exhibit individuality in character and style. They have been discovered from most of the archaeological sites in Bihar. During the gunga and Kanva period there was a spectacular growth in the production of terracottas. The round figures of the Mauryan period gave place to composition in flat reliefs.

The Kusana terracottas have also been found from Kumrahar, Vaigali, Chirancl, Sonpur, Hajipur and Belwa. It seems that the mould was occasionally used, particularly for producing large figurines of which the busts were hand- modeled and the heads pressed out of mould and provided with tenons.

The Gupta figures are delicate and beautiful. Another characteristic feature of the Gupta terracotta figures is the wig-like hair on the head of some male figures. The modes of dressing the hair in the female figures are more varied. From Chausa a terracotta plaque depicting the Ramayana scene has been found which is preserved in the Patna Museum. Recent excavation at Chausa has also brought out several brick like plaque.

The last group consists of the Pala terracottas which have been found mainly from Antichak, Dharawat, Bodh Gaya, Bakraur and Nalanda. However this period is not within the time limit of my research.

The aforesaid survey of ancient terracotta in Bihar right from the Neolithic period down to the early medieval period around 11th-12th Century A.D. has brought into focus certain features or elements peculiar to the terracotta forms of this region. In fact, Bihar had contributed much in the field of terracotta art and it has led from forefront even in this medium. Without the study of Terracotta art, the study of Indian Art can't be completed.

About the Author

Dr. Dilip Kumar (Born - 05th Aug, 1986) graduated from Jai Prakash University, Chapra in year 2006 with History (Hons.). He did M.A. in Ancient Indian History & Archaeology from Patna University, Patna in first class in the year 2009. He also did his Post-Graduate Diploma in Archaeology (PGDA) from Institute of Archaeology, Archaeological Survey of India, Red Fort New Delhi in year 2011. He has qualified UGC NET in June 2012 & June 2013. He has awarded Ph.D. degree from Deptt. of Ancient Indian History & Archaeology, Patna University, Patna in 2016 on the topic "The Terracotta Art of Middle Ganga Plain of Bihar (Early Period to 600 A.D.) under the supervision of Prof. B. K. Jamuar (Prof. & Head of the Dept A.I.H & Arch.).

Dr. Kumar has participated in several National & International Conferences and presented his research papers. He has more than 20 research papers published in National & International journals & edited books.

He has participated in different excavations like Malhar (Chhattisgarh), Ghora Katora (Nalanda, Bihar) & Chausa (Buxar, Bihar) as Technical Assistant. He has served Buddha Smriti Park as Project Guide / Gallery Assistant & Curator. He is also Life member of Bihar Puravid Parishad, Patna, Epigraphical society of India, Mysore, International Association for Asian Heritage (IAAH), Sri Lanka, Indian Art History Congress, Guwahati. At present he is associated with Bihar Puravid Parishad, Patna, as Joint Secretary for Exploring new Archaeological Sites in Bihar.


The Terracotta art today is accepted as a major medium of Indian art. Sculptural wealth of India is fabulous. So the majority of the past Art Historians devoted their time to exclusive study of sculptures and also to some extent, the numismatics, epigraphy and painting. Terracotta art remained neglected for long and object found during the excavations (in most of the reports published) were not adequately described by the excavators. The terracotta art in its socio-religious and technical perspective was not properly discussed in the reports. A huge collection of terracotta's in the museums and of many sites in Bihar are yet to be studied. A good numbers of scholars still assign this art a secondary position but their views need revision in the light of the numerous terracottas of various types and subjects unearthed during the past six decades.

Terracotta art offer many rare facts to Indian art history. At the same time its study is faced with intricate problems and issues. By and latge sculptural art deals with religious subjects. Hence it has scope for adopting secular scenes. Images were made according to the imagination, tradition and later on the basis of prescribed canons.

The word 'terracotta' denotes baked clay but the product more frequently relates to human or animal figures or statuettes, which either represents gods or goddesses or ritual objects with mythological themes woven round them or represents dolls or toys and other objects of visual interest. Terracotta art is widely spread in India from the remote past and has continued unabated till today.

The study of plastic art, without the study of the terracotta, will therefore, remain incomplete. Beginning from at least the Neolithic period down to the Pala period, the terracotta art is found spread as rich and significant brocade on the complete textile of India's artistic achievements. Coomarswamy has, therefore, rightly observed that "the early Indian terracottas are of great importance not only as documents of religious culture, but as documents of the history of art". Like the sculpture of stone and metal, the artist in clay also produced charming forms, but they relieved themselves from the iconographic injunctions and religious dictates.

The terracotta art took its origin from clay, one of the cheapest and easily available materials, and as such, man from the very threshold of civilization started making household utensils, toys and figurines of god and goddess from it. Though other materials like copper, iron, stone etc. were also available, clay was preferred to other materials, being not only cheap and easily available, but also due to its, soft and tractable nature. Terracottas serve to satisfy creative impulse of ordinary man, as much for aesthetic expression as for domestic and ritualistic needs. Even for individual self-expression of the artists, no material affords so much scope as does the terracotta. It is, therefore, an excellent embodiment of their sense of beauty.

The terracotta art is of great antiquity. From the earliest times of known human civilization, terracotta figurines have been an important tool of depicting the civilization, culture and socio-economic life. But it is not certain for what purpose these terracotta's were made, whether, they were toys for the children, or art work for the rich or were religious figures. Terracotta's of outside Indian territories at such ancient sites as Mesopotamia and Elam, Crete, Mycenae and Cyprus, show social and religious life of those days. Even,Greek and Roman life of the past is abundantly illustrated in terracotta finds of those times. Therefore it has been observed that the archaic terracottas possess great antiquity. These have been found in great numbers, so much so that in a village, Ajil Irivi 2000 statues and statuettes have been discovered.

In India the terracotta finds date back to at least 5000 B.C. The ancient sites of Mohen-jo-daro and Harappan have yielded a large number of terracotta. These finds serve as documents of religion, society and culture as well as denote the history of art prevalent during the ancient times. The Harappan terracotta's show links with Indo-Sumerian as well as Mesopotamian art. This is an extremely interesting point as they denote a period of migration of different cultures as well as a free access to human movements. Even before the Harappan period terracotta art prevailed in the nomadic tribes living in scattered locality of the desert of Baluchistan and Kohat at Zhob, Periado-ghundai, Moghalghundai Kaudni, etc.

The earliest example of this art of unbaked clay recorded from Mehrgarh in district Kachi (Baluchistan) period I is assigned by excavator to sixth-fifth millennia B.C., while the evidence of baked clay animals occur for the first time at Mehrgarh in period III. The stylistic evolution of this figurine is particularly marked between period IV & VII. It begins with a stick headed form in period IV and develops through the elaborate coiffure of period VI, that later culminates into the Zhob style of period VII. Majority of these forms represent females although male figurines also appear in the latest level of the site. At Mehrgarh, these stylized figurines are thus, the forerunners of a long sequence of human representations.

However, before the Harappan period the terracotta art seems to be confined to small peasant communities in village rather than to developed centre of civilization. In a way it gives us an insight into the human heart and feeling very much alike to the feeling and emotions of the present mankind. If at all any event in the human history can claim CO be a link to our past ancestors in 4000 B.C. and before any hutments and primitive dwelling, it is indeed the expressions and the feeling howsoever crude these may be displayed in the terracotta figurine.

Terracotta's or clay sculptures occupy an important place in the history of plastic art of India. Bihar is one of the most important states which has yielded various types of terracotta figurines beginning at least as far back as thired millennium B.C. down to the laste pala period and the study of these trracoota’s are essential to complete the history of plastic art in India.

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