The Evolution of Indian Sculptures in Bronze Age and Beyond

Co-existence of Harappan Civilization amidst the Bronze Age

The Harappan civilization is marked by a large number of copper objects. Apart from making artefacts out of pure copper, Harappan craftsperson alloyed copper with arsenic, tin or nickel. Copper and bronze artefacts included vessels, spears, knives, short swords, arrowheads, axes, fish hooks, needles, mirrors, rings and bangles. Usually, tools like knives, axes and chisels, which needed hardened edges were alloyed. At Mohenjodaro, the number of bronze tools increased from six per cent to 23 per cent from the lower to the higher levels. One hoard found at Harappa consisted of a large cooking pot with a bronze cover. Inside were several copper tools. Seals were also made using Bronze as part of Harappan craft.

Apart from utilitarian items made from Bronze and copper, a few pieces of metal sculpture have been found at Harappan sites. Two bronze female figurines were found at Mohenjodaro. One of them is the famous ‘dancing girl’. This figurine was made by the lost wax method. The sculpture represents a very thin woman standing with her right hand on the back of her hip and her left hand resting on her left thigh. Her arms are unnaturally long and she wears a necklace and 24-25 bangles on one hand. The ‘Dancing Girl’ from Mohenjodaro is perhaps the earliest bronze sculpture dated to 2500 BCE. Similarly, a hoard of bronze artefacts was discovered at Daimabad village stable to 1500 BCE. They reveal considerable casting skill and aesthetic finesse. These artefacts do not seem to have been utilitarian objects. They may have had a religious or ritualistic significance, and the fact that they were on wheels suggest that they were part of a procession. Metal figures of this kind have not been found elsewhere in India.

             The 'Dancing Girl' of Mohenjodaro


           Sculptures found in Daimabad

Sculptures in Bronze

The transition to the early Vedic period with texts like Rig Veda Samhita gives us an idea about the usage of metals during that time. The hymns in Rig Veda mention many crafts and occupations but there are hardly any references to metallurgical activities in it. The word ayas occurs in several contexts which could have meant copper, copper-bronze or a generic term for metals.

It is, however, certain that it was an article of common use in the 3rd century B. C. It is mentioned in both the medical treatises of Charaka and Shusruta as well as in Kautilya’s Arthashastra. Shusruta gives directions for drinking water in bronze vessels (besides those made of gold, silver, crystal or earth). The lawgiver Manu gives directions for the purification, amongst others, of brass and bronze vessels. Then again from the large quantities of ornamental bronze articles excavated at Tinnevelly in the Madras Presidency, it appears certain that bronze was known in Southern India at a very remote time. It is to be noted, however, that these bronze articles were either used as household utensils or for ornamental purposes and along with them were associated weapons made of iron.

Bronze sculptures in India of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain icons can be traced back to the second century until the sixteenth century. Most of these were used for ritual worship and are characterised by exquisite beauty and aesthetic appeal. At the same time, the lost-wax method that was used since the Indus Valley Civilisation continued to be utilised for making articles for various purposes of daily use, such as utensils for cooking, eating, drinking, etc. 

Hindu Deities

Starting from Medieval times, till today the bronze sculptures of Hindu deities are renowned for their exquisite craftsmanship and beauty. Statues of Ganesha. Lakshmi, Shiva, Krishna, Tirupati Venkateswara etc. are some of the most popular among these.

The Bronze Nataraja sculpture of the Chola epoch is one of the greatest masterpieces of the world of art. Many variations of the Nataraja statue, especially the Panchaloha statue from Swamimalai radiate the same aura and divinity of Lord Shiva's Tandav. The bronze sculptures of Lord Ganesha are also among the most sought-after statues due to their auspiciousness and ability to ward off negativities. Similarly, bronze sculptures of Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Vishnu in his different incarnations are a blessing to the eyes. The bright gold appearance and durability makes bronze a desired material for sculptures. 

Double Arch Nataraj|Handmade|Panchaloha Bronze from Swamimalai

Gautam Buddha

Many standing Buddha images with the right hand in Abhaya mudra were cast in North India, particularly Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, during the Gupta and Post-Gupta periods. In Buddhist centres like Nalanda, a school of bronze casting emerged around the ninth century during the rule of the Pala Dynasty in the Bihar and Bengal regions. In the gap of a few centuries, the sculptors at Kurkihar near Nalanda were able to revive the classical style of the Gupta period. A remarkable bronze is of a four-armed Avalokitesvara, which is a good example of a male figure in graceful tribhanga posture.

                    Standing Lord Buddha

Apsaras

Sculptures of Apsaras are also an important part of our culture. Multiple prominent Apsaras appear in their specific myths told inside larger texts such as the Mahabharata or the Rg Veda. Some examples of these Apsaras are Urvashi, Rambha and Tilottama. Archaeological evidence in various parts of India indicates the presence of Apsaras in mythology. Many temples still have the carvings of the celestial nymphs. The dancing panel sculptures found in Prasenajit pillar, Bharhut, Ramappa temple, Kakatiya, Palampet etc. shows the mastery of Indian sculptors in making heavy stones levitate and gyrate. Similarly, the sculpture of a celestial nymph from Gyraspur, Gurjara-Pratihara is also one of the finest creations in this category. Exotic India has a wide range of Apsara statues which perfectly captures the ethereal beauty and grace of apsaras. They are available in different postures which are unique to our collection. Standing Apsara, Apsara applying vermillion, dancing Apsara etc. are some of the most aesthetic and alluring statues which are sure to add an otherworldly aura to your home and other surroundings.

                      

                        Standing Apsara

Animals

There are some statues of animals of importance in Indian cultures such as Nandi, the sacred bull of Lord Shiva, Kamadhenu, the celestial cow and the lion which is traditionally regarded as the king of the forest, who has a specific meaning in the early Buddhist tradition which are ideal for decorating your house. 

                                     Kamadhenu

Presence of Bronze in Different Kingdoms

Interesting images of Jain Tirthankaras have been discovered from Chausa, Bihar, belonging to the Kushana Period during the second century CE. These bronzes show how the Indian sculptors had mastered the modelling of the masculine human physique and simplified muscles. The hoard of bronzes discovered in Akota near Vadodara established that bronze casting was practised in Gujarat or western India between the sixth and ninth centuries.

The Guptas, Kushanas and Vakatak dynasties also have great examples of Buddhist bronze sculptures. The typically refined style of these bronzes is the hallmark of the classical quality. The additional importance of the Gupta and Vakataka bronzes is that they were portable and monks carried them from place to place for individual worship or to be installed in Buddhist viharas. In this manner, the refined classical style spread to different parts of India and Asian countries overseas.

Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir regions also produced bronze images of Buddhist deities as well as Hindu gods and goddesses. Most of these were created during the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries and have a very distinct style in comparison with bronzes from other parts of India. Large size bronze sculptures of the Pala-Sena dynasty of the 8th century are remarkable for execution and finish. The 11th-century artists have made these lifeless figures come alive on stone. The bronze sculptures also flourished simultaneously in the 10th to 12th centuries. 

The casting of bronzes became the most distinctive form of sculpture in South India. The period of the imperial Cholas was an age of continuous improvement and refinement of Dravidian art. The Chola bronzes were created using the lost wax technique, which is known in artistic terms as ‘Cire Perdue'. 

Exotic India offers a wide range of Handmade Panchaloha Bronze statues from Swamimalai made by Madhuchista Vidhana or the Lost-wax process. Browse through our amazing catalogue to embellish your home with the best bronze.

     

Chathurbhujadarini Devi Lakshmi                                                           

 

   Bronze Trinity Lamp   

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