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The Nagara style is said to have been prevalent in Northern India in the region between the Himalayas and the Vindhyas. The North Indian temple is a square with a number of graduated projections (rathakaras) in the middle of each face which gives it a cruciform shape in the exterior. In the elevation it exhibits a tower (sikhara), Gradually including inwards and capped by a spheroid slab with ribs round the edge (amalaka). The cruciform ground plan and the curvilinear tower may, hence, be regarded as the fundamental characteristics of a Nagara temple. In Orissa the small but exquisitely decorated Muktesvara temple (Bhuvanesvara) is perhaps the finest monument of this early style. The typical central Indian characteristics, gradually evolved, reached their fruition in the temples at Khajuraho of which the Kandarya Mahadeva represents the most notable creation.
It was flourished in the Dravida country, i.e. the territory between the Krishna and Kanyakumari. The two fundamental components of the full-fledged Dravida temple are the Vimana representing the Sanctum with its tall pyramidal tower, and the gopuram or the immense pile of the gateway leading to the temple enclosure. An organic and unified conception of a temple scheme in which all the appurtenances, that were to be distinctive of the Dravida style, are clearly expressed and harmoniously adjusted to one another, first comes into view in the celebrated Kalasanatha temple at Kanchipuram. Among the monuments of this style the most notable are Virupaksa temple at Pattadakal, Kailasa temple at Ellora, and the Brihadisvara temple at Thanjavur.
The Vesara style of Indian temple architecture has been equated with the Chalukyan style. The style may also be designated as Karnataka after the name of the territory in which it developed. The Chalukyan temple, like the Dravida, consists of two principal components, the vimana and the mandapa joined by an antarala, with sometimes an additional open mandapa in front. The Kallesvara temple at Kukkanur and the Jaina temple at Lakkundi exemplify an intial stage in the development of the style. The Kani-Visvesvara temple at Lakkudi and the Mahadeva temple at Ittagi are of next phase.
There are faint traces of paintings on the walls of the caves at Kanheri (Cave XIV, 6th century A.D.), and Pitalkhora (Chaitya Cave 1, 6th century A.D.), all in Deccan, in the facade of a cave at Keonjhar (6th century A.D.), in the North and in the rock-cut temples at Tirumalaipuram (Digambara Jaina, 7th century A.D.) in the Malayadipatti (Vaisannava, A.D. 788-840) both in South. More substantial remains are to be found in the caves at Bagh, Ajanta (Caves, I, II, XVI, XVII, XIX, 6th and 7th century A.D.), in the Jaina shrine at Sittannavasal and a saiva shrine at Kanchipuram.
The Gandhara art is also known as Indo-Greeco-Roman and Greeco-Buddhist etc. because it clearty exhibits the influence of Greek and Roman art. This school specialized in Buddha and Bodhi—Sattva images, stupas and monasteries. These were built mostly of blue schist stone and of stone masonry. The earlier stupas were hemispherical in shape. Later, the stupas became tall structures provided with elongated domes raised on high square terraces.
The Buddhas of Gandhara though perhaps lacking in the sprituality of those of the Gupta period, are gentle, graceful, and compassionate, while some of the plagues are vivid and energetic.
A remarkable well preserved schist relief in Washington depicts the four major events of the Buddha’s life. Its excellent condition and craft manship and detailed teonography combine to make it a major example of Gandhara Sculpture.
The Chief characteristic of the Gandhara art is the realistic representation of human figures, distinguished muscles of the body and transport garments.
The Mathura school was somewhat influenced by the Gandhara school in the first half of the second centary A.D. Some scholars believe that the Mathuran Workshops, schooled in the production of Jain art, created a Buddha icon at least as early as did Gandhara. It is fact that the images of Buddha of Gandhara were copied here but in a more refined way. In turn, it also influenced the Gandhara school of art. They were often inspired by Hellenistic models but thoroughly Indianized them. The Mathura art reprsents an important formative them. The Mathura art represents an important formative stage in the history of Indian art.
It is here that one fully studies the symbolism and the inconographic forms that were adopted later. For example, the forms of Brahamanical deities became crystallized at Mathura for the first time. The stone figure of Kushan rulers and deities of Tokri Tila, the standing Yakshi figures, the Mathuran Bodhisattava from Sarnath, and the seated figure of Buddha are some of the classic examples of Mathuran art. The Kushan art style at Mathura led to the supreme development of the Buddha icon in the Gupta period.
The Amravati school serves as a link betwen the earlier art of Bharhut, Gaya and Sanchi on the one hand and the Gupta and Pallava art on the other. The Amravati school created beautiful human images. The images of the Buddha were built and the great Stupa of Amravati was adorned with limestone reliefs depicting scenes of the Buddha’s life.
During this period, for the first time the Indian art of sculpture became closer to the physical and emotional needs of man. The feminine beauty has been depicted here more successfully even as compared to Mathura. The art of Amravati is frankly naturalistic and sensuous.