Art, being an important part of religion and society, flourished from time to time under the patronage of the rulers in India. It reached up its golden time in Gupta period as well as in Chola period.
Art captured an important position in the religion as well as in society. Along with the rock-cut architecture, temple architecture, sculpture, dance, music and drama; painting captured a significant hold in all these arts. But up to 10th Century AD most of the art was done In the rock-cut temples and temple architecture. To promote religion and show dedication of rulers, they made many temples in their empire and regions.
The paintings in the Ajanta Caves depict a range of subjects, including scenes from the life of Buddha, Jataka tales, and various deities. They also depict scenes from everyday life, such as hunting, dancing, and farming. The themes are often intertwined with religious teachings and provide a window into the socio-cultural milieu of the time.
Depiction of Animals for aesthetic purposes
While the animals depicted in the Ajanta paintings often have significant symbolic or religious meanings, they are also frequently used for aesthetic purposes. The depiction of animals in the paintings is an essential aspect of the overall art style, and they are often portrayed in intricate detail with a focus on their physical form and movement.
The artists who created the Ajanta paintings were skilled in portraying the natural world, and the animals they depicted were often rendered with a high degree of realism. The use of color, shading, and texture helped to create a sense of depth and three-dimensionality, and the animals were often depicted in dynamic poses, capturing their natural movements and expressions.
The paintings are made in fresco technique here many animals are depicted at required places. Bull is not depicted as the part of the composition but as decoration or design.
No other design or anything had been made in the painting along with these two bulls as to put full attention on the act. The spectator should enjoy the movement and rhythm in the painting as well as the balance and harmony in the motion.
During this period, animal depictions in art were often created for both aesthetic and narrative purposes.
One of the significant sources of animal depictions during the Gupta period was the Jataka tales, which are a collection of stories about the previous lives of the Buddha. These tales often feature animals as the main characters and provide rich material for artistic and literary expression.
Animal depictions in Gupta art were also highly stylized and ornate, with a strong emphasis on symmetry, balance, and proportion. For example, the depiction of peacocks, elephants, and lions in Gupta art was often characterized by their elaborate details and intricate patterns, which added to their aesthetic appeal.
According to the Jatak stories, this is the story of Nandivishala. Gautam Buddha took a birth of a bull named Nandivishala who was a reared bull of a Brahmin. See Nandivisala Jataka Jataka Pali No.28.
Different ideologies in Gupta and Mauryan Art
Religion and politics were both essential aspects of ancient Indian society, and the art of the Gupta and Mauryan periods reflected these differing emphases.
Gupta Art: Gupta art is characterized by its elegance, refinement, and attention to detail. Gupta art often depicted religious themes and mythological stories, reflecting the dominant role of Hinduism and Buddhism in this period. Hindu and Buddhist deities were often depicted in sculpture and painting, with intricate details, lifelike poses, and expressive features. The Ajanta caves in Maharashtra, India, are famous for their murals depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha, and Hindu gods and goddesses, such as Vishnu, Shiva, and Devi, were often depicted in stone and bronze sculptures.
Mauryan Art: Mauryan art, on the other hand, was primarily focused on political and ethical messages. The Mauryan period was marked by the reign of Emperor Ashoka, who converted to Buddhism and promoted it as the state religion. Ashoka’s edicts, which were inscribed on pillars and rocks across his empire, promoted ethical and moral principles, such as nonviolence, respect for elders, and religious tolerance. Mauryan art, therefore, reflected these political and ethical messages, with a focus on monumental architecture and sculpture. The Sarnath Lion Capital, which features four lions sitting back to back on a circular abacus, is a famous example of Mauryan art. The lions represent the power and authority of the Mauryan empire, while the inscriptions on the capital promote ethical and moral values.
In summary, Gupta art often depicted religious themes and mythological stories, reflecting the dominant role of Hinduism and Buddhism in this period, while Mauryan art focused more on political and ethical messages, reflecting the reign of Emperor Ashoka and his promotion of Buddhism as the state religion. Both styles of art, however, shared a common interest in creating monumental architecture and sculpture that showcased the skill and artistry of ancient Indian craftsmen.