Developement of Art in Gupta periods


Sanskrit once again attained the status of a lingua franca and managed to scale even greater heights than before. Poet and playwright Kalidasa created such epics as Abhijnanasakuntalam, Malavikagnimitram, Raghuvansha and Kumarsambhaba. Harishena, a renowned poet, panegyrist and flutist, composed Allahabad Prasasti, Sudraka wrote Mricchakatika, Vishakhadatta created Mudrarakshasa and Vishnusharma penned Panchatantra. Vararuchi, Baudhayana, Ishwar Krishna and Bhartrihari contributed to both Sanskrit and Prakrit linguistics, philosophy and science.

Varahamihira wrote Brihatsamhita and also contributed to the fields of astronomy and astrology. Genius mathematician and astronomer Aryabhata wrote Surya Siddhanta which covered several aspects of geometry, trigonometry and cosmology. Shanku devoted himself to creating texts about Geography. Dhanvantri’s discoveries helped the Indian medicinal system of ayurveda become more refined and efficient. Doctors were skilled in surgical practices and inoculation against contagious diseases was performed. Even today, Dhanvantri’s birth anniversary is celebrated on Dhanteras, two days before Diwali. This intellectual surge was not confined to the courts or among the royalty. People were encouraged to learn the nuances of Sanskrit literature, oratory, intellectual debate, music and painting. Several educational institutions were set up and the existing ones received continuous support.


What philosopher and historian Ananda Coomaraswamy said in The Arts & Crafts of India & Ceylone, about the art of the region must be remembered here,

The Hindus do not regard the religious, aesthetic, and scientific standpoints as necessarily conflicting, and in all their finest work, whether musical, literary, or plastic, these points of view, nowadays so sharply distinguished, are inseparably united.

The finest examples of painting, sculpture and architecture of the period can be found in Ajanta, Ellora, Sarnath, Mathura, Anuradhapura and Sigiriya. The basic tenets of Shilpa Shasrta (Treatise on Art) were followed everywhere including in town planning. Stone studded golden stairways, iron pillars (The iron pillar of Dhar is twice the size of Delhi’s Iron Pillar), intricately designed gold coins, jewellery and metal sculptures speak volumes about the skills of the metalsmiths. Carved ivories, wood and lac-work, brocades and embroidered textile also thrived. Practicing vocal music, dance and seven types of musical instruments including veena (an Indian musical stringed instrument), flute and mridangam (drum) were a norm rather than exception. These were regularly performed in temples as a token of devotion. In classic Indian style, artists and litterateurs were encouraged to meditate on the imagery within and capture its essence in their creations. As Agni Purana suggests, “O thou Lord of all gods, teach me in dreams how to carry out all the work I have in my mind.”

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