Sripura (Archaeological Survey)

by Bikash Chandra Pradhan | 2011 | 37,938 words

This study examines the Archaeological remains of Sripura from the period A.D. 650-800, revealing all varieties of archaeological materials, viz., art and architecture, coins, copper plate and stone epigraphic records and seals etc. highlighting the history and cultural heritage of Shripura. This ancient city was the capital of South Koshala under ...

The number of bronze and the few copper Buddhistic images of Sripura—a few of which have been preserved in different museums and the presently discovered 80 bronze icons of Buddhist divinities and ritual-object are uniqe from the standpoint of artistic grandeur and beauty. They exhibit extraordinary talent, aesthetic sense and superb craftsmanship of the artisans. It is said that a hoard of about 60 images come out on the surface of the earth during a digging work made by some laborers in 1939. A description of those are given by Sri Muni Kant Sagar in a book called ‘Khandharon Ka Vaibhav’. Three of them are sent to Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, two to the museum of Nagpur and four to M.G.M. museum of Raipur. The fate of the rest of the images is not known.

Be that as it may, many of the present stock of metal images contain inscriptions whose characters help us to assign them to time of 7th and 8th centuries A.D. Secondly, the greater majority of icons, as said earlier, are Buddhistic—those of the Buddha, Manjusri, Tara, Avalokitesvara, Padmapani and Vajrapani etc. but a few of them belong to other religious cults. Sri Muni Kant Sagar obtained an image of Rsabhanatha, the first Tirthankara of the Jainas, attached with the nine planets of the Hindu Pantheon and a copper image of Lord Visnu in the adjacent forest region. These are preserved in M.G.M. museum Raipur. It suggests that metal image-making art was not the preserve of the Buddhist only. The Jain as well as the Brahamanic cults vied with Buddhism in the art pattern. Thus, Sripura in the 7th-8th century A.D., was a veritable center of metal icon making. It is vouchsafed by the availability of the implements of a goldsmith, discovered during excavations by M.G. Dixit in 1955 and A.K. Sharma in 2000-01, which were used in making the idols. Further Dixit’s excavation has yielded implement for melting metals, the test-stones bearing the marks of testing, a small hammer, a pair of forks, two pairs of scissors and an iron implement to straighten gold wire etc.

It is generally said that the Nalanda School of metal art profoundly influenced the metal icon-making style. It has been pointed out in ‘History’ that the Panduvamsi queen Vasata hailed from a royal house of Magadha and the tradition migrated in the trail of her marriage. All the images were cast in a mould first and they were attached with ornaments, sacred thread, hair-do or seats. The images were given a coating of gold with eyes gilded with silver, lips made red with copper and hair blackened with a black dye. Such metal images are found in Nalanda, Kurkihar-Akol and Vasantgarh.

Umakant Shah however is of the opinion:

Sirpur being advantageously located, assimilated characteristics of both the Eastern and Western schools, as is evidenced by the beautiful bronze. Tara, now in the collection of Muni Jinavijaya is assignable to cir. 900 A.D. is a masterpiece of postGupta period in North India though it shows predominantly Pala rather than Western influence, the latter can not be denied.

A.K. Sharma, who has discovered 87 bronze images with Shah but adds that local characteristics are also seen in the bronze images. He writes:

The bronze sculptures of this hoard (87 discovered in 2008) and earlier hoards though closely follows, Gupta traditions, they have a definite local stamp and are testimony to the well developed sculptural art of Daksina Kosala nearly fourteen centuries back. The Daksina Kosala Art School originated sometime between the last quarter of seventh and first quarter of 8th century A.D., the time when the most dynamic Somavamsi ruler Mahasivagupta Balarjuna was ruling over Daksina-Kosala. Sirpur School of Art has impact of both Western and eastern schools due to the fact that it had direct trade contacts with Gujrat particularly with Surat and matrimonial relation with Magadha as mother of Mahasivagupta Balarjuna, Vasata was the princess of Magadha.

Of all the Buddhistic images, that of Tara, preserved in Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, Mumbai, exhibits the most excellent metal art. With a height of 1½ and a width of 1’, it is constructed of seven metals though the portions of gold appear to dominate the rest of the metals as described by Sri Sagar in his book. The decorative art of the anklet, bracelet and the necklace arrangement is very delicate, assembling that of the Gupta time. The eyes are gilded with silver while her cloth’s border is studded with flowers of silver. The symmetry of the physical features and grace of the countenance is unparallel in the realm of such art.

There are two images of Tara in the M.G.M. museum, Raipur. One of the two exhibits is exquisitely charming artistic appearance with two female devotees in worshipful posture below her seat and Buddha Amogha Siddhi on the top flanked by Bajrapani and a lotus flower. The other (Antiquity No. 3772) seated in ‘Lalitasana’ with the stalk of a lotus in left hand and right hand in ‘Abhayamudra’ has the famous Buddhist mantra: ‘Ye Dharma Hetu Prabhava…..’ on her backside.

Three bronze images of Manjusri, the other important female Buddhist deity (Antiquities Nos. 377, 3770, 68.148) are excellent pieces of metal work. These are gilded with gold over the body and studded with gems in ornaments and crown and silver coverings on their eyes. It is an enchantingly lovely image where the artistic skills of goldsmith, the coppersmith and the sculptor have a pleasant mingling. It was exhibited in the India festival organized in 1985 in the museum of Washington. The third one contains the name Dronaditya in Nagari script of the 7th-8th century A.D., who was probably the sculptor.

In addition to the above icons, two of the Buddha in ‘Bhumispars Mudra’, one in ‘Varada mudra’, one of Avalokitesvara Padmapani, three of Padmapani, one of he Vajrapani, preserved in the MGM museum, Raipur are wonderful specimens of metal work. One of the Buddhas (Antique No. 0013) sitting in Padmasana on a Jagati (seat) has the expression of serenity and comeliness with a gentle smile on his lips. The backside of the icon contains that famous manta “Ye Dharma Hetu Prabhava ……” and the name of the sculptor Dronaditya. Here Buddha in Varada Mudra (Antique No. 0020), seated on a Jagati in the design of an inverted lotus, has curled hair, elongated ears, silver-gilded eyes, and coppertinged lips.

The exquisitely charming Avalokitesvara image, of the height of 17 cm, is seated on a Jagati in the Lalitasana. He has put on Kirtti-Kundala on his left ear and Ratna-kundala on the right ear. His ornaments—necklace, armlets, bracelets, Katimekhala (waist band) and Ghunghuru (ornaments for ankles) are studded with gems. The name of one ‘Kumaradeva’ in Nagari script of 7th-8th century A.D. occurs in the bottom portion. The image resembles that of the National museum, New Delhi, which was taken from Nalanda. The characteristics of the Pala art pattern of Nalanda are visible in the image. Other images are the prototype of this image.

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