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The Buddhist Art of Kausambi

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Item Code: IDJ927
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Author: Aruna Tripathi
Language: English
Edition: 2003
ISBN: 8124602263
Pages: 342 (Black & White fig. 322 & Col. Illustrations: 54)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11.0" X 9.0"
Weight 1.50 kg
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Book Description
About the Book

One of the major centers of Buddhist art in ancient times, Kausambi provides evidence of an uninterrupted art tradition spanning centuries. Pointing to the scant attention Kausambi has received from scholars in the past, this work attempts to highlight its art treasures through a highlight its art treasures through a study of its stone sculptures. Based on scrutiny of stone sculptures found at various sites in Kausambi and its vicinity and housed in different museums, it presents perhaps the first extensive documentation of the Buddhist art of the region from the Mauryan to post Gupta period.

It examines in details over 300 stone sculptures, paying special attention to their iconographic features, types of stone, techniques of carving, grinding and polishing and their aesthetic appeal. All this comes with a background throwing light on the history of Kausambi and its association with Buddhism, the early archaeological explorations in the region, and the individuality and uniqueness of Kausambi art as compared to Mathura and Sarnath schools.

The book presents over 225 black and white and over 50 coloured photos of Buddhist sculptures, which are neatly classified and systematically analysed. It would prove invaluable to scholars and students of Buddhist art.

About the Author

Aruna Tripathi (nee Bhatt), belonging to a family of scholars and litterateurs of Allahabad, obtained her M.A. degree in Ancient Indian History and Culture from Lucknow University. Her childhood fascination for Kausambi took a concrete shape when she started working on the theme of the Buddhist art of Kausambi region. She has been contributing occasional papers in various research journals and also writing and broadcasting on historical, cultural and social themes.


Buddhist art attracted the attention of foreign scholars and historians from the very inception of archeological explorations in India. The early historiography of ancient Indian art also concentrated on Buddhist art. One of the reasons for this was the evident connection between Indian Buddhist art in Gandhara with the Graeco-Roman tradition of art. Increasingly the main focus of Indian art history has shifted from the question of its foreing affiliations to its inner dynamism. The study of Buddhist art from different centers like Mathura or Sarnath has received much attention.

The present monograph gives an exhaustive account of Buddhist sculpture from Kausambi. It traces the history of Kausambi and of the introduction and the growth of Buddhism there. Dr. Aruna Tripathi has done a great service to the students of Indian art by exhaustively documenting Buddhist art from Kausambi, even though she does not accept the idea of a Kausambi School of Buddhist Art. She however draws pointed attention to the fact that the art of Kausambi is suffused with the ideas, motifs and forms characteristic of a pan-Indian tradition.

The present work is the result of detailed and painstaking study based on the first hand research. It uses literary as well as archeological sources and provides not only a reference work for other researches but also a virtual gallery of visual representations, which make Kausambi come alive. I am sure that the work would be welcomed by all students of Indian culture and Buddhist art. The author deserves to be congratulated for the work.-G.C. Pande


I must have been six or seven years old when I first heard the name of Kausambi. I had gone to Allahabad to visit my great grandfather, Pt. Braj Mohan Vyas. It was a big joint family and one day when the children of the house, including myself, wanted to sit in the car, the driver asked us to go away saying that Babuji (Pt. Braj Mohan Vyas) along with his friend Rai Krishan Das was going to Kausambi. The unusal place name together with the atmosphere of celebration in the house, due to the visit of an honoured friend, made a great impression on my mind and I decided that Kausambi must be a very important place, a very beautiful place. I realized how true this childhood impression was when I started working on 'Buddhist Art of the Kausambi Region' in the Department of Ancient History, Culture and Archaeology of the University of Allahabad. I was lucky to receive the guidance of Prof. G.C. Pande in this work for which I was awarded the D.Phil. degree in 1990. The present work is a thoroughly modified and enlarged version of the said study.

The Present book deals with the Buddhist art of Kausambi from 300 BC to AD 500, essentially with reference to stone sculptures. The art objects found at Kausambi consist of stone sculptures, terracotta and miscellaneous objects like beads, bangles, pottery, etc. Among these the Buddhist nature of the objects can be established only in the case of stone sculptures and just a few terracotta images. The present study is, therefore, confined essentially to stone sculptures. Three terracotta images, excavated from the site of Ghositarama monastery, have also been incorporated.

In the present work the stone sculptures from ancient sites situated in the vicinity of Kausambi have also been included because it was felt that confining the study only to the site of Kausambi would make it somewhat incomplete. These sites are Mainhai (which is situated only 2 km away from the ruins of the eastern gateway of Kausambi), Bhita, Mankunwar and Deoria (both near Bhita).

Stone sculptures from the Kausambi region are housed in various museums, the largest collection being in the Kausambi Museum of the Department of Ancient History, Culture and Archaeology, University of Allahabad. For the present study nearly three thousand stone sculptures, mainly from the sollections of the Kausambi Museum, the Allahabad Museum and the State Museum Lucknow were examined and their details recorded on index cards. Nearly 550 objects out of these were photographed of which 322 representative sculptures have been catalogued in this book. For a comparative study, Mathura Museum, Sarnath Museum, Bharat Kala Bhavan, and the Salarjang Museum, Hydreabad were also visited and the relevant sculptures preserved in these museums were examined.

The period chosen for the present work is bracketed between 300BC and AD 550; i.e., from the Maurya period to the Gupta period. Very few Buddhist sculptures of a date later than the sixth century AD have been discovered at Kausambi. Thus, the time-span of the study covers the entire period of beginning, growth, maturity and decline of Buddhist art at Kausambi. The study traces the historical evolution of the Buddhist art of Kausambi with special reference to technical aspects of the plastic art.

I am deeply indebted to Prof. G.G. Pande under whose guidance this work has been done. He has further obliged me by writing a Foreword to the present volume. I am also deeply grateful to Mrs. G.C. Pande for encouraging me and making me feel welcome in her home. I have no words to thank Dr. S.P. Gupta, the then Director of Allahabad Museum and now the Chairman, Indian Archaeological Society, who, in spite of being a very busy man, always found time to help me and without whose help this work would not have been completed. He was also kind enough to go through the manuscript of this book and make a number of valuable suggestions. He has also written an introduction to the book for which I am grateful. I also thank Shri Susheel K. Mittal of D.K. Printworld for taking great pains to ensure that the printing of this volume is flawless and attractive. Needless to say I received all sorts of help and encouragement from my family members, especially from my grandfather the late Pt. Janardan Bhatt, my aunt Smt. Gayatri Dubey and my husband, Shri C.D. Tripathi without whose cooperation this book would not have been published.-Aruna Tripathi


Mathura and Sarnath have been known to art historians as centres of Buddhist Art with their individual styles in sculpture. These have also been called 'schools' because each one of these styles was supposed to have been followed at other places of production as also by the local artists. The model presented to us was that of a Great Teacher with a specific thought on economics, history and art history, like Marx, Collingwood and Coomaraswamy, respectively whose students and followers took their master's viewpoints from one place to various places. It is like a banyan tree and its branches, which keep on spreading in time and space. This concept was extended to Gandhara Style also which too was called 'School', although the term 'Gandhara' stood for a region and not for a particular place. However, the underlying idea was one and the same since for Mathura and Sarnath also scholars did argue in terms of 'regions', 'Mathura' stood for 'Mathura Region' and 'Sarnath' stood for 'Sarnath Region'. Art historians applied the same concept to paintings also. We have thus Kangra School, Pahari School, Kotah School, Bundi School, Bengal School, etc.

In recent years an attempt has been made to project Kausambi also as having an individual School of art comparable with the Mathura and Sarnath schools.

It is for this reason that more than a decade and half ago when Ms. Aruna Tripathi approached me with the desire to undertake a subject of art history for D.Phil. Degree, I suggested her to take up the subject of 'Buddhist Art of the Kausambi Region'. She had her grandparental roots in Allahabad which is only 60 km from Kausambi. Not only that, the site of Kausambi, particularly the Buddhist monastery of Ghositarama, was excavated by Prof. G.R. Sharma, Head of the Ancient History, Culture and Archaeology Deptt. of the Allahabad University between 1949 and 1964. The excavated material was housed in the Museum of his own Deptt. in the University, popularly known as the 'Kausambi Museum', which was different from the Allahabad Municipal Museum which also had a small collection of sculptures from Kausambi, but all of them collected from the surface. A few other sites, such as Bhita, Manhai and Mankunawar, within the overall Kausambi region, were also known to have yielded some good sculptures for comparative study. Fortunately, she agreed with me. Since I did not belong to the university system, I was in the National Museum, New Delhi. I suggested to her to enroll herself for D.Phil. in the Allahabad University under the guidance of Prof. G.C. Pande, who was not only the Head of the Deptt. at that point of time but whose erudition and scholarship was known world over. It worked. Ms. Tripathi started working on the subject with great zeal and earnestness.

And here is the proof in the form of this book, a modified version of her D.Phil. Thesis, which is undoubtedly the first Source Book on the Buddhist Art of Kausambi Region. It is now doubtful if any one else will take so many pains, as Ms. Tripathi took, to open bag after bag in the dusty godown of the University Museum to write a full report on the excavations conducted by, now late, Prof. G.R. Sharma, so very meticulously.

The present work is not only a very good documentation and catalogue of Buddhist sculptures from Kausambi region, it is also a very good analysis of the material and the concept of 'Kausambi School of Art'. The author is convinced that it is a misnomer since although Kausambi produced locally a large number of sculptures from Mauryan through the Gupta period, they do not exhibit at any period of history individual characteristics either in terms of drapery or in terms of treatment of eyes, nose, lips, face, torso, legs or mudras and they also do not show that these were followed elsewhere also, to justify the use of the term 'School'. On the basis of stone, some were clearly the imports from Mathura to Kausambi (Buddha head in blotchy red sandstone) but such examples are very few indeed. Unfortunately, on the basis of stone we cannot say if any one of sculptures was an import from Sarnath. The reason is that while Mathura is known for a particular type of stone, not found anywhere else except in the Mathura-Agra belt, Sarnath is known for fine-grained buff sandstone which is also found in the Kausambi region, for example in the Pabhosa hills, adjacent to Kausambi. There is only one exception. During the Gupta period, a local whitish coarse grained, very fragile, sandstone was used which was not used at Sarnath. Significantly no other site in India seems to have imported any sculpture made of this stone at Kausambi. But stone does not determine the 'style' or 'school'. We have, therefore, to depend on the style of drapery, proportion of limbs, etc., for working out individuality in style, if any. It is not always easy to do it unless one carries out that kind of analysis and collect data on that. It has not been done so far.

Speaking in terms of style, one finds that it was only during the Gupta period that Kausambi seems to have really established a regular workshop for producing stone sculptures on a large scale, earlier to that only limited number of sculptures were carved out. Unfortunately, the sculptors in the Gupta period seem to have followed the Gupta idioms as practiced at Sarnath. But will it mean that Kausambi was only an extension of Sarnath? Have we to take it that Kausambi sculptors were only slavishly copying the Sarnath idiom? Here we leave the real imports from Mathura, there is hardly any sculpture produced locally at Kausambi, of any period which was a copy of the Mathura style sculptures.

I will like to view the case of Kausambi as follows.

During the Gupta period, the entire northern India, from Gandhara and Kabul Valley through Mathura, Sarnath, Ajanta, Samlaji and Mirpur Khas witnessed what we generally call 'Gupta Idiom', marked by particular treatment of body parts - the head, the hair, the eyes, the nose, the lips, the neck, the chest, the hip, the legs - and cosumes, coiffure and ornaments. However, in the context of Ajanta scholars started using the term 'Gupta-Vakataka', since, politically speaking, Ajanta, during the fifth-sixth centuries, fell into the kingdom of the Vakatakas. This, however, did not find much favour with the art historians since they feel that the use of dynastic names by them in the periodisation of India's art-history has been only for convenience sake since in the beginning art history was generally written by historians of political history who used the works of art and architecture only as appendix to their battles. Unfortunately, those who took up art history as a distinct discipline, like Percy Brown, A.K. Coomaraswamy, V.S. Agrawala, C. Sivaramamurti, Benjamin Rowland and many others, did not try to break this model. However, even to these authors, it was clear that there were regional differences in each period of their art history, for example, in the Gupta idiom there were differences in the Rajasthan and Gujarat where the Maitrakas ruled. There were also differences between the Ajanta Art and Gandhara Art of the Gupta idiom. That there were differences in the Mathura and Sarnath regions in the same Gupta idiom is known to everyone. What is then the lesson for us from this situation? We will come to it a little later.

There is yet another problem of Inida's art history. It was created by scholars like Fergusson. Fergusson, like many of the Western scholars, was groomed at looking art history in terms of Darwin's Theory of Evolution existing in Natural history. He looked at the History in terms of Darwin's Theory of Evolution existing in Natural history. He looked at the History of World Art also in the same model; Birth, Growth and Decay, or, Archaic, Classical and Decadent, or, Primitive, Mature and Late, or, Early, Mature, Late and Renaissance. That is why Sunga was called 'Primitive', Gupta 'Classical', and post-Gupta 'decadent'. The trouble, however, arose as a to how to treat the bronzes of the Cola period or the stone sculptures of Khajuraho which were very beautiful but without following the Gupta idiom. The problems also arose in giving judgement on the post thirteenth-century art of India when new idioms characterized the Indian art in different regions. It was often labeled 'Medieval' which in fact meant 'decadent'. The first half twentieth-century Indian art styles, such as the Bengal School, were called 'Renaissance'. Presently, Indian art is rootless, generally a poor copy of the Western art styles. We are, therefore, at the cross-roads. We need to evolve our own terminology in periodisation also.

Coming back to the first problem of Kausambi Art being a 'school' or not we argue for critical evluation of 'regional art styles' within the broad category of 'pan-Indian art schools'. I, therefore, clearly see 'Kausambi Style of Gupta Art School' (Here I am retaining the present usage of political labels for schools). My analysis admits the fact that the fifth century art of Kausambi cannot be called either Mathura or Sarnath since it was not a slavish copy of any of these two. The sculptors of the Kausambi region did infuse in their works of art elements of decorations, proportions, facial features, etc., which made them distinctive although the overall treatment of the bodies shared the pan-Indian features of the Gupta idiom.

Foreword-G.C. Pandevii
Preface-Aruna Tripathiix
Introduction - S.P. Guptaxi
Transliteration Chartxvi
Location and Identification1
Kausambi as Centre of Trade and Traffic2
Kausambi as a Prominent Center of Art Activities3
Previous Works4
Literary Sources5
Brahmanic Tradition
The Tradition of the Brahmanas - The Tradition of the Epics-The Tradition of the Puranas
Tradition in Secular Sanskrit Works8
Buddhist Literary Tradition9
Jaina Tradition10
Accounts of Foreign Travellers 11
Archaeological Sources11
Evidence of Pottery 12
Epigraphic and Numismatic Evidence 13
3.Buddhim in Kumasaki21
Traditions about Buddha's Visits to Kausambi21
Royal Patronage22
King Udayana22
Queen Samavati23
Bodhi Rajakumara24
Buddhist Establishments in and near Kausambi25
In Literature-Epigraphic Evidence about Ghositarama-Archaeological Evidence Regarding the Monastery of Ghositarama-The Plan of the Monastery- Decline of the Ghositarama Monastery
Ghositarama and other Buddhist Establishments of Kausambi in Foreing Travellers accounts30
Identification of Other Buddhist Establishments31
Schism in the Sangha and Kausambi32
Objects pertaining to Mauryan Period43
Objects pertaining to Sunga Period45
Objects pertaining of Late Sunga - Early Kusana Phase76
Objects pertaining to Kusana Period84
Objects pertaining to Late Kusana - Early Gupta Phase123
Objects pertaining to Gupta Period129
Coloured Visuals227
Mauryan Art247
Mauryan Pillars247
ring Stones249
Sunga Art250
Capitals of Monumental Pillars251
Inverted Lotus Capital With a Series of Animals on the Abacus - Inverted Lotus
Capital with Lions and Honeysuckle or Nagapuspa on Abacus - The Palm-Leaf
Animal Figures which may have Crowned the Pillars Horse (or Bull?)-Crocodile252
Fragment of a Four sided Pillar Carved on all Sides252
Yaksa Head253
Stupa Railing or Vedika254
Railing Posts-Corner Pillars-Cross Bars-Coping-Railing Fragment-Torana Architrave
Frieze Showing Nativity of Buddha261
Decorated Fragments261
The Late Sunga-Early Kusana Art: Transitional Phase262
Kusana Art264
The Bodhisattva-Buddha Images265
Standing Images - Seated Images-Torsos-Seated Images
Showing Gandharan Impact-Fragments of Buddha Images
Slab with a Buddha Figure274
Fragments of Columns275
Decorated Fragments275
Darpana Yaksi275
Terracotta Images from the Shrine of Hariti276
The Late Kusana-Early Gupta Art: Transitional Phase276
Buddha Heads276
Standing Buddha Image277
Votive Stupa278
Fragment of Standing Bodhisattva (?)278
Decorated Fragments278
Gupta Art279
The Buddha Images280
Standing Images - Seated Images - Fragment
Fragments of the Buddha/Bodhisattva Images291
Halos -Parasols -Feet on Lotus Pedestal
Images of Other Dieties293
-Nagaraja-A Female Diety -Sri Laksmi
Miscellaneous Sculptures295
A Panel Showing Nagaraja and Other Figures - Male Figures Carved on Slabs- A Slab with Two Male Figures in a Niche -Fragment of Two Standing Human Figures
Architectural Fragments293
Fragments of Doorframes - Pilaster Fragments- Pillars -Capital of a Pilaster- Decorated Fragments
Yaksa Images301
Yaksa Head -Fragments of Yaksa(?) Images
Images of Female Devotees302
Mother and Child Images302
Heads of Devotees and Bodhisattvas302
Carving Technique306
Dressing - Detailing -Carving Panels on One and the Same Plane - Final Finish-Grinding and Polishing-Painting
8.Summary And Conclusion311
The Kausambi Region: Vatsabhumi311
Archaeological Sites and Excavations313
Art Tradition at Kausambi: Historical and Economic Background313
Buddhism in Kausambi: Archaeological Remains314
Buddhist Sculptures of Kausambi: A Resume315
Was There a Kausambi School of Art?321
Maurya Period323
Sunga period323
Kusana Period323
Gupta Period324
Art Tradition at Kausambi: Its Significance and Place in Indian Art327
Plan of Ruins of Kausambi329
Location of Kausambi on Ancient Trade Routes330
**Contents and Sample Pages**

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