India is known not only for her rich heritage, history, and culture, but also for some of its oldest and finest sculptures in the world. The first Early Indian sculptures date back to the Indus Valley Civilization that existed in the second and third millennium. This civilization produced numerous stone, terra cotta, & bronze sculptures that are tour de force. In the third century BC, Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, in an attempt to spread Buddhism in the country, built some 85,000 stupas (dome shaped monuments), with their pillars having Buddhist teachings engraved. “The Great Sanchi Stupa” at Sanchi, is forty-four feet high, with remarkably carved gateways, illustrating Buddhist legends, and “The Ashoka Pillar” at Sarnath in Madhya Pradesh, are flawless models ascertaining the superiority and the finesse of the Early Art of India since its inception.
By the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries AD, a new epoch in Early Indian Sculpture surfaced. Sculptures of Hindu deities, such as Lord Vishnu, Shiva, Krishna, the Sun God, and Goddess Durga, were crafted in profuse numbers, as Hinduism became the official religion of India. A huge sculpture of “Lord Shiva” incarnated as a wild boar saving mother earth is carved at “The Udaigiri Caves” in Madhya Pradesh. Sixth century in India, witnessed the mastery in cave architecture. “The Elephanta Caves” in Maharashtra is an exemplary of the competent artisanship. A twenty-foot high sculpture of “Lord Shiva” in these caves, with three heads personifying his fierce, feminine, and meditative facets, is another spectacular piece of Art of India.
Sculptures at Khajuraho Temples, created in tenth to eleventh century AD, went to oblivion, until archeologists rediscovered the lost treasures of this unperturbed town in Madhya Pradesh that housed 85 temples, of which only 22 endured. The sculptures of this period depict Gods, Goddesses, and animals, made primarily of sandstone, with an underlying theme, symbolizing the eternal bond between male and female gender. Khajuraho Sculptures are the most sensuous, erotic, and aesthetic sculptures known to the world.
The famous “Buddhist marvels,” created over a span of fourteen centuries, and “The Ajanta & Ellora Temples,” are the other relics of fantabulous Art of India. “The Ajanta & Ellora” temples are carved out of live rocks & cliffs, and boast of the colossal sculptures of animals & Gods, paintings depicting the ancient life, and Buddhist fables, with numerous Buddha images. The most magnificent and striking creation at the Ellora is the “Kailasa Temple,” a breathtaking depiction of Lord Shiva’s abode, flanked by elephants, ornately carved out of big rocks. “The Sun Temple of Konark,” “The Arjuna’s Penance” at Mammallapuram, and the temples of “Kanchipuram,” “Madurai,” “Rameshwaram,” “Amravati,” “Nagarjunakonda,” and “Varanasi” house several impressive and magnificent sculptures.