Gandhara (Gandharva) School of Art

Gandhara Art and its Importance

The Gandhara School of Art (also Gandharva School of Art) occupies a high place in the history of the Indian Art. This art form has played an important part in the development of the Indian art.

It is even believed that this school of art produced far reaching effects on the art of such distant countries as China, Japan and Central Asia.

Some historians call this school of art, as “Greeco-Buddhist.” or Indo-Greek” because the Greek technique was employed to illustrate Buddhism and depict Indian personalities (e.g. Lord Buddha).

Features of the Gandhara School of Art

The Gandhara style might have been originated under the Indo-B­actrian and Indo-Parthian rulers but it was under Kanishka that made a rapid development. Some of the chief features the Gandhara style are the following:

  1. Unlike the older schools of art, under Gandhara school of art there was dominance of lively statues of Gautama Buddha. His existence was shown only by symbols such as foot-prints, the Bodhi-tree, a vacant seat or the umbrella.
  2. In this school a great care was taken to show the physical features, muscles and moustaches, etc. of a figure in as natural a way as was possible.
  3. A great importance was attached to refineness and polish in the Gandhara School of Art.
  4. The technique and forms applied were Greek in nature but the ideas, inspirations and subjects were all Indians.
  5. The Gandhara art was mostly used to make statues and images of Lord Buddha. But from a study of certain speci­mens of this school that are now placed in Lahore, Calcutta and Peshawar museums, we can say that sometimes this art was used to depict certain scenes from Buddha’s life and also to make statues of the Kushan rulers.
  6. Most of the specimens of this school were executed in stone but the discovery of a large number of images in stucco, cement, terracotta and clay, show that along with stone, sometimes stucco, cement, terracotta and clay were also used for making statues, images and sculptures concerning the Buddhist faith
  7. The chief centre of the Gandharva School of Art was no doubt Gandhara itself but the discovery of Gandhara specimens from Afghanistan and Taxila goes to prove that this Indo-­Greek art flourished over a vast region.

Gandhara School of Art, compared with Sanchi and Bharhut Schools of Art

The Gandhara School of Art was diffe­rent from the Sanchi and Bharhut Schools of Art.

In the older schools the dress and ornaments were seldom used but in the Gandhara School of Art an excessive use of dress and ornaments was made and every attempt was made to show each and every fold and turn of the dress.

Again, in the Bharhut and Sanchi Schools of Art not much attention was paid to refinement and polish but these were the chief characteristics of the Gandhara School of Art.

Thirdly, the earlier school, portrayed scenes from Buddha’s life but he himself was never carved in stone. His existence was shown by symbols like Bodhi-tree, foot-prints, a vacant seat or the umbrella. Hence-forward the lifelike statues of the Lord began to be made in large numbers by the Gandhara artists.

Fourthly, under the earlier schools not much attention was paid to portray the physical features of the human being very accurately but now every attempt was made by the Gandhara sculptors to show the physical features (muscles, nerves, nails, moustaches) as naturally as was possible.

While everything can be said in favour of the Gandhara School of Art, we have to admit that it lacked the grace and vigor of the art of the Gupta period.