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Amaravati School of Sculpture

Amravati School of Sculpture

Introduction:- The Amravati School of Art gained fame for its Amravati stupa. Among the three renowned schools that emerged with the spread of Buddhism, this school held a significant place. As Buddhism flourished in the first and second centuries. It led to the establishment of three distinctive art schools in India. These schools, namely the Gandhara School of Art, Mathura School of Art, and Amaravati School of Arts. They were named after the locations where they prominently developed.

These art schools reflected the diversity and richness of artistic expressions during the flourishing period of Buddhism in India.

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Historical Background of the Amaravati School of Art
Historical InformationDescription
DurationFlourished in India for approximately six centuries, from 200 to 100 BC.
PatronThe Satavahanas were the first patrons of this school.
DevelopmentDeveloped and flourished in the lower valleys of the Krishna and Godavari rivers in Andhra Pradesh.
Sculpture FormsIncluded both religious and secular images.
Notable LocationsAmravati, Nagarjunikonda, Goli, Ghantasala, and Vengi.
InfluenceIndigenous, with no outside influences.
Later DevelopmentsPallava and Chola buildings evolved from this style later.

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Major Features of the Amaravati School of Art
Narrative ArtA prominent feature of the Amaravati school.
MedallionsCarved in a way that depicts natural occurrences.
White MarbleThe Amravati stupas are made of striking white marble.
Sculpture FormsAmaravati sculptures have a sense of movement, vitality, and profound naturalism.
SymbolismIncludes a symbolic picture of Buddha’s life, yet he is also personified in two or three places.
Pradakshina PathaThe Amaravati Stupa also has a pradakshina patha contained by a vedika on which various narrative stories from the life of Buddha and bodhisattva predominate, but its structural anatomy is more intricate.
Comparison of Amaravati, Mathura, and Gandharan styles of ancient Indian art
AspectAmaravati styleMathura styleGandharan style
Geographical locationSouthern IndiaNorthern IndiaPresent-day Pakistan and Afghanistan
Time period3rd century BCE to 250 CE2nd century BCE to 12th century CE1st century CE to 7th century CE
MaterialWhite limestoneRed sandstone, schistGrey-blue schist
Sculptural formSlim, intense emotions, tribhanga poseFull-bodied, sensuousNaturalistic, Greco-Roman influence
InfluenceSouth India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast AsiaNorthern IndiaCentral Asia, western regions of the Indian subcontinent

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More Detailed Comparison of Gandhara, Mathura, and Amaravati Schools of Art
SchoolGandhara SchoolMathura SchoolAmaravati School
External InfluenceInfluenced by Greek or Hellenistic sculpture, hence called Indo-Greek artDeveloped indigenouslyDeveloped indigenously
Material usedEarly period used bluish-grey sandstone, later period used mud and stuccoSculptures made of spotted red sandstoneSculptures made of white marble
Religious InfluenceMainly influenced by Buddhist imagery, influenced by Greco-Roman pantheonInfluenced by all three major religions of the time i.e. Hinduism, Jainism, and BuddhismMainly influenced by Buddhist imagery
PatronageKushana rulersKushana rulersSatavahana rulers
Area of developmentDeveloped in North-West Frontier, in the modern-day area of KandaharDeveloped in and around Mathura, Sonkh, and Kankalitila, famous for Jain sculpturesDeveloped in the Krishna-Godavari lower valley, in and around Amravati, Nagarjunakonda, Goli, Ghantasala, and Vengi
Features of Buddha sculptureSpiritual Buddha, Sad Buddha, Bearded Buddha, less ornamentation, great detailing, Buddha in Yogi postures, Greek influenceDelighted Buddha, less spiritual, shaven head and face, muscularity, energetic, graceful posture of Buddha, seated in PadmasanaSymbolic representation of Buddha’s life, lives of Buddha in both human and animal forms

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Amaravati School of Art Overview

The Amaravati School of Art thrived for six centuries, from 200-100 BCE, predominantly in the Vengi region between the Krishna and Godavari Rivers in Andhra Pradesh. Key sites include Jagayyapetta, Amaravati, Bhattiprolu, Nagarjunkonda, and Goli, receiving patronage from the Satavahanas and Ikshvakus.

Features of Amaravati School
Development locationBanks of the Krishna River, Andhra Pradesh, India
PatronageSatavahana rulers
Sculptural formIntense emotions, slim figures with movement, complex anatomy
Material usedWhite limestone
Prominent placesAmravati, Nagarjunikonda, Goli, Ghantasala, Vengi
Symbolic representation of Buddha’s lifeSymbolic representation, narrative stories from Buddha’s life
Religious and secular imagesPresence of both religious and secular images
TransformationLater transformed into Pallava and Chola architecture
Carving preservationSculptural remains in the British Museum and the Madras Museum, Carvings of Nagarjunakonda preserved in entirety at the site

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Main Features of Amaravati School
  • Distinctive white marble also used in the “Stupa.”
  • Narrative art as a distinguishing characteristic.
  • Presence of both religious and secular images.
  • Buddha’s life events represented symbolically.
  • Intense emotional expressions in sculptural figures.
  • Slender figures with dynamic movements and tribhanga posture.
  • Complex sculptural compositions showing a sense of 3D space.
  • Important sites include Amravati Mahachaitya, Amaravati Stupa, Guntapalle, Rock-cut stupas at Anakapalle, and Sannati.
Amaravati Stupa Details
LocationAmaravathi, Palnadu district, Andhra Pradesh, India
Period of construction3rd century BCE to 250 CE, with enlargement and replacement of sculptures starting around 50 CE
ProtectionUnder the Archaeological Survey of India
SculpturesMostly in relief, lacking large iconic Buddha figures
InfluenceOne of the three major styles of ancient Indian art; had a significant impact on art in South India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia

The Amaravati School of Art and its iconic stupa also marked by intricate narratives and symbolic representations, played a pivotal role in shaping the artistic landscape of ancient India.

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