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Indian bronzes exhibit rare charm and exquisite beauty. They are valued for their elegance and craftsmanship. The oldest group of bronze sculptures from the Indian subcontinent date back to the 3rd millennium B.C.E
A bronze sculpture, often simply called ‘a bronze’, is a three-dimensional piece of art made by pouring molten bronze into a mould, before leaving it to solidify. The earliest ‘bronze’ products were actually made from copper and arsenic, and many ancient ‘bronzes’ have later been revealed actually to be brass, an alloy of copper and zinc.The earliest bronze sculpture perhaps dates back to 2500 BCE in the form of a girl who is dancing in a tribangha posture that is Mohenjodaro. Bronze sculpture is made via a process known as casting: pouring molten metal into a mould and leaving it to solidify.
Indian Bronze Sculpture
During the medieval period the bronze sculpture reached its highest peak of development in south India and bronze images were modelled and cast during the Pallava period in the eighth and ninth centuries, some of the most elegant and exquisite statues were produced during the Chola Period:
- North India
- Dancing girl – Mohanjadaro.
- Chariot – Daimabad (Maharashtra) datable to 1500 BCE.
- Interesting images of Jain Thirthankaras have been discovered from Chausa, Bihar, belonging to the Kushana period during the 2nd century CE.
- These shows how the Indian sculptors had mastered the modelling of masculine human physique and simplified muscles.
- Remarkable is the depiction of Adinath or Vrishabhanath, who is identified with long hair locks dropping to his shoulders. Otherwise the thirthankaras are noted by their short curly hair.
- Many standing Buddha images with right hand in Abhaya Mudra were cast in the North India, particularly in UP and Bihar, during the Gupta and the Post-Gupta periods.
- The Sanghatior the Monks Robeis wrapped to cover the shoulders, which turn over the arm, while the other end of the drapery is wrapped over the left arm.
- The cloths of Buddha figures were thin.
- The figure appears youthful and proportionate in comparison with the Kushana style.
- In the typical bronze from Dhanesar Khera, UP, the folds of the drapery are treated as in the Mathura style, i.e., in a series of dropping down curves.
- Sarnath style bronze have fold less drapery and an outstanding example is that of the Buddha image at Sultanganj, Bihar, which is a quiet monumental bronze figure.
- Vakataka bronze images of Buddha from Phophnar, Maharashtra are contemporary with the Gupta period bronzes. They show the influence of the Amaravati style of Andhra Pradesh in the 3rd century and at the same time, there is a significant change in the draping style of monk’s robe.
- Buddha’s right hand in Abhaya Mudra is free so that the contemporary drapery clings to the right side of the body contour. The result is a continuous flowing line on this side of the figure.
- The additional importance of the Gupta and Vakataka bronze is that they were portable and monks carried them from place to place for the purpose of individual worship or to be installed in Buddhist Viharas.
- In the manner, the refined classical style spread to different parts of India and to Asian countries overseas.
- Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir regions also produced bronze images of Buddhist deities as well as Hindu gods and goddesses.
- Most of these were created during the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries and have a very distinct style in comparison with bronze from other parts of India.
- A noteworthy development is the growth of different types of iconography of Vishnu images.
- Four headed Vishnu, also known as Chaturanana or Vaikuntha Vishnu, was worshipped in these regions.
- In Buddhist centres like Nalanda, a school of bronze casting emerged around the 9th century, during the rule of the Pala dynasty in Bihar and Bengal regions.
- In the gap of a few centuries the sculptors at Kurkihar near Nalanda were able to revive the classical style of the Gupta period.
- A remarkable bronze is of a four armed Avalokiteswara, which is a good example of male figure in graceful tribhanga posture.
- Worship of female goddesses was adopted which is a part of the growth of theVajrayana phase in Buddhism. Images of Tarabecame popular. Seated on the throne, she is accompanied by a growing curvilinear lotus stalk and her right hand is in Abhaya Mudra.
- The bronze casting technique and making of bronze images of traditional icons reached a high stage of development in south India during the medieval period.
- Among the Pallava period bronze of the 8th century, the best one is the icon of Shiva seated in Ardhaparyanka asana (one leg kept dangling). The right hand is in the Achamana Mudra gesture, suggesting that he is about to drink poison.
- Although bronze images were modeled and cast during the Pallava period in the 8th and 9th centuries, some of the most beautiful and exquisite statues were produced during the Chola period in Tamil Nadu from 10th to 12th century AD.
- The technique of art fashioning bronze images is still skilfully practiced in South India, particularly in Kumbakonam.
- The distinguished patron during the 10th century was the widowed Chola Queen,Sembiyan Maha Devi.
- Chola bronze images are the most sought after collectors’ items by art lovers all over the world.
- The well known dancing figure of Shiva as Nataraja was evolved and fully developed during the Chola period and since then many variations of this complex bronze image have been modeled.
- A wide range of Shiva iconography was evolved in the Tanjore region of Tamil Nadu.
- The 9th century Kalyanasundara Murti is highly remarkable for the manner in which panigrahana (ceremony of marriage) is represented by two separate statuettes.
- Shiva with his extended right hand accepts Parvati’s (the bride’s) right hand, who is depicted with a bashful expression and taking a step forward.
- The union of Shiva and Parvati is very ingeniously represented in the Ardhanarisvrain a single image. Beautiful independent figurines of Parvati have also been modelled, standing in the graceful tribhanga posture.
- During the 16th century known as the Vijayanagara period in Andhra Pradesh, the sculptors experimented with portrait sculpture in order to preserve knowledge of the royal patrons for prosperity. At Tirupati, the life-size standing portrait statue was cast in bronze, depicting Krishnadevaraya with his two queens, Tirumalamba and Chinnadevi.
- The sculpture has combined the likeness of the facial features with certain elements of idealization.
- The idealization is further observed in the manner the physical body is modeled to appear imposing as well as graceful.
- The standing King and Queens are depicted in a praying posture, that is, both hands in the Namaskara mudra
Indian Bronze Sculpture – Significance
Bronze statues played a significant role in the historical period. Kings make bronze statues of their lovely queen, Goddess of the fort or city, previous kings, own statues and many more. Hence, bronze statues were popular from older era. Till today, also it maintains consistency in its valuation, quality, lasting and attraction. During Mohenjodaro and Harappan civilization, the bronze was used very much for art and statues. The bronze statues of many lady dancers, couple dancers in various acts and many kings, queens, God and goddess were found during digging up the same area. Indian sculptors had mastered the bronze medium and the casting process as much as they had mastered terracotta sculpture and carving in stone. The bronze sculptures are characterised by exquisite beauty and aesthetic appeal. The ‘Dancing Girl’ from Mohenjodaro is one of the earliest simplified figurines.
Indian Bronze Sculpture – History
The great civilizations of the old world worked in bronze for art, from the time of the introduction of the alloy for tools and edged weapons. “Dancing Girl” from Mohenjodaro, belonging to the Harappan civilization and dating back to c. 2500 BCE, is perhaps the first known bronze sculpture. Bronze is an alloy consisting mainly of copper, with lesser amounts of tin, zinc, and lead. The centuries-old tradition of casting bronze into sculptural form originates from such geographically and culturally diverse regions as Greece, Africa, Mesopotamia, and Asia.
In Buddhist centres like Nalanda, a school of bronze- casting emerged around the ninth century during the rule of the Pala Dynasty in Bihar and Bengal regions.
Bronze statues come to life differently than marble sculptures. Instead of carving a block or marble, the bronze artist uses the lost-wax technique to make a series of molds, and then pours melted bronze into the final mold to create the sculpture. This method has been around since 4500 BCE.
The ancient Chinese knew both lost-wax casting and section mould casting, and during the Shang dynasty created large numbers of Chinese ritual bronzes, ritual vessels covered with complex decoration, which were buried in sets of up to 200 pieces in the tombs of royalty and the nobility. Over the long creative period of Egyptian dynastic art, small lost-wax bronze figurines were made in large numbers; several thousand of them have been conserved in museum collections.
The 7th-8th century Sri Lankan Sinhalese bronze statue of Buddhist Tara, now in the British Museum, is an excellent example of Sri Lankan bronze statues. From the ninth through the thirteenth century the Chola dynasty in South India represented the pinnacle of bronze casting in India.
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