The 1st century had witnessed the division of Buddhism in two different sects of Hinayana and Mahayana. The Mahayana Buddhism then encouraged Buddha’s worship like a god in human form. Thus as a result, a large number of Buddha images were constructed in different regions across India. There were three major schools for sculptural art and culture, which developed in this period. These schools are – the Mathura school of art, the Gandhara School of art and the Amravati school of art.
This prominent school of art developed at Mathura in UP. The Mathura school’s major contribution to the contemporary art was the type of images of Buddha which were created as the precedent of the art form. The Mathura artists were using local red stone which had black spots to create the Buddha images.
The Mathura school yielded a large numbers of sculptures of Jaina deities as well besides the ayagapatas(stone slabs) to place objects of worship on them.
There was Brahmanical influence on the art of Mathura school, which is evident in the sculptures. Also, during the Kushana period a number of sculptures of brahmanical deities were also carved, like Kartikeya, Vishnu and Kubera. These show that Brahmanical influence.
The Gandhara School of Art
The Gandhara School of art deveolped around the area surrounding Peshawar. This school of art was at its peak during the 1st and 2nd century A.D.
This region had seen successive rule of the Greeks, the Mauryas, the Sungas, the Shakas, and the Kushanas for many centuries. This gave a distinct character to the Gandhara school of art.
Since it began around the Christian era, it has also been known as Graeco-Roman, Indo Greek, Graeco-Buddhist art form because it has all the influences coming from the Roman, Greek and Indian styles.
The theme of sculptures in Gandhara school is predominently Buddhist ,but the style is Greek.
The chief patrons of the Gandhara school of art were the Shakas and the Kushanas. The stones used for making the idols of Buddha and Bodhisattava was primarily blue-grey schist.
The chief characteristics of the Gandhara school of art is its beautiful portrayal of human figures complete with distinguished muscles of the body.
In the sculptures, Buddha is depicted with a distinct type of garment draped in Graeco-Roman fashion, with very curly hair. These beautiful images are considered the best pieces of sculptures of Buddha.
The Amravati School of Art:
The Amravati school of art had flourished in Andhra Pradesh region located between the lower valley of river Krishna and Godavari. Major patrons of Amravati art form were the Satavahans of Deccan, but it continued even later.
This art flourished between 150 BC and 350 AD. The sculptures of Amravati school of art are mainly found located on the railings, the plinths and other such parts of the stupas.
The representations on the sculptures include the themes of stories from the life of Buddha. That is why an important characteristic of the Amravati school is its ‘narrative art’.
There are medal- lions carved in a particular manner that they depict an event in a very natural way. For instance, one of the medallion depicts a whole story about taming of an elephant by Buddha.
Another significant feature of the Amravati art is- use of white marble for carving the figures of humans. The specific emphasis on human figures over the nature is also a distinct feature of the Amravati art school.