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Mathura School of Art flourished mainly during reign of Kushana emperor Kanishka and reached its
peak during Gupta period in 6th or 7th century. Mathura School had developed indigenously. It
established the tradition of transforming Buddhist symbols into human form. The main traditional
centre of production in this school was Mathura, and other important centres were Sarnath and
Kosambi. The material used in this school was the spotted red sandstone.

The earliest sculptures of Buddha were made keeping the yaksha prototype in mind. They were
depicted as strongly built with the right hand raised in protection and the left hand on the waist. The
figures produced by this school of art do not have moustaches and beards as in the Gandhara Art.
The standing Buddha figures resembles the yaksha figures and seated figures are in the
padmasana posture. The Guptas adopted the Mathura School of Art and further improvised
and perfected it. The most striking remains are beautiful, richly jewelled female figures of
yakshinis, naginis and apsaras.

Types of Sculpture

The Mathura School of Art, noted for its vitality and assimilative character, was a result of the religious
zeal of Brahmanism, Jainism and Buddhism. Images of Vaishnava and Shaiva faiths are also found at
Mathura but Buddhist images are found in large numbers. The images of Vishnu and Shiva are
represented by their weapons and consorts. Images of the Buddha, Bodhisatvas, Yakshas, Yakshinis,
Shaivite and Vaishnavite deities and portrait statues are profusely sculpted.

Theme may vary from Buddhist to Brahmanical to sometimes secular. Several Brahmanical Deities
were first crystallized by this school.

In these sculptures, Buddha was depicted as Human and the main theme was Buddha and
Bodhisattavas. Both sitting and standing posture of Buddhas statues were carved out in the Mathura
school. Buddha image at Mathura is modelled on the lines of earlier Yaksha images whereas in
Gandhara it has Hellenistic features.

The Jina Image and Indigenous style of Buddhas image was a remarkable features of Mathura art.
The Sarvatobhadrika image of 4 jain Jinas standing back to back belongs to the Mathura

The Standing Buddhas of the Sravasthi, Sarnath and Kausambhi belong to the Mathura School.
The sitting Buddha of Mathura School is in padmasana and soles of the feet have been decorated
with Tri ratna and Dharmachakra signs.

Buddha attended by 2 Bodhisattvas. Mathura,

2nd century CE. The presences of the two
attendants by the side of Buddha who hold
Chanwars is a feature of the Mathura school
and this figure has been later inspired the
images of Indian Deities.

The art of Mathura features frequent sexual

imagery. Female images with bare breasts,
nude below the waist, displaying labia and
female genitalia are common.

Salient Features of Mathura School of Art

More stress is given to the inner beauty and facial emotions rather than bodily gesture.
There is boldness in carving the large images. The first Mathura image makers never intended to
sculpt an anatomically correct human Buddha. Their images were a composite of 32 major and
80 minor laksana, or marks. Later, the Human Buddha images evolved associated with humanly
beauty and heroic ideals.
The early images of the Buddha and the Bodhisattva are happy, fleshy figures with little
spirituality about them. They have block like compactness and smooth close-fitting robe, almost
entirely devoid of folds. The volume of the images is projected out of the picture plane, the faces
are round and smiling, heaviness in the sculptural volume is reduced to relaxed flesh. The
garments of the body are clearly visible and they cover the left shoulder.
In the 2 century AD, images got sensual with increased rotundness and became flashier.
The extreme fleshiness was reduced by the 3 century AD and the surface features also got
The trend continued in the fourth century AD but later, the massiveness and fleshiness was
reduced further and the flesh became more tightened. The halo around the head of Buddha was
profusely decorated.

Vaishnava and Shaiva images

The images of Vaishnava and Shaiva faiths are also found at Mathura but Buddhist images are found
in large numbers.

Jaina Images

The Sarvatobhadrika image of 4 Jinas standing back to back belongs to the Mathura school.
Position of women in Mathura art

Woman was at the centre of the picture and there are few creations in the whole range of Indian art
which can vie (compete or contend) in elegance, delicacy and charm with the lovely feminine figures
created by the Mathura artists.

Comparison with Gandhara Art

As mentioned above, the Mathura school had developed indigenously and the human Buddha image
had rather modelled on existing Yaksha images. On the other hand, Gandhara School Buddha was
modelled on existing Hellenistic (of or relating to the Greeks or their language, culture, etc., after the
time of Alexander the Great, when Greek characteristics were modified by foreign elements.) images
and had such features.


How Mathura art was a formative art that gave impetus to other forms of art styles?

In many ways, Mathura school of art was a formative art which gave an impetus to other forms of art
styles. It is here that one can fully observe the transition from symbolism to iconographic forms that
were adopted later. Further, the forms of Brahmanical deities became crystallised at Mathura for the
first time. The influence of Buddha image of the Mathura school spread far and wide both in India and
Central Asia, reaching the great art centre of China. For example, the Buddha images at Tiang-lung
Shan in Shansi are so similar to the seated images of Mathura that they seem to be the work of an
Indian artist well acquainted with the Mathura school.


Greco-Buddhist art is the artistic manifestation of Greco-Buddhism, a cultural syncretism between the
Classical Greek culture and Buddhism. Gandharan sculptures show strong Greek influences in the
depiction of a man-god and of wavy hair, sandals and extensive drapery. The depiction of Buddha as
a man-god in Gandharan sculpture is believed to be inspired from Greek mythology. Some examples
of Gandharan art depict both Buddha and the Greek god, Hercules.

Examples of Gandhara Art

The Bamyan Buddha of Afghanistan were the example of the Gandhara School. The other
materials used were Mud, Lime, Stucco. However, Marble was NOT used in Gandhara art. Terracotta
was used rarely. Bimaran Casket has yielded the earliest specimen of the Gandhara Art.

Major Centres

Jalalabad, Hadda, Bamaran, Begram & Taxila were the main centers where art pieces of Gandhara
School have been found.

Salient Features

Gandhara style of art that developed in sculpture was a fusion of Greco-Roman and Indian
styles. Gandhara school was heavily influenced by Greek methodologies, the figures were more
spiritual and sculpted mainly in grey, and great detail was paid to exact depiction of body parts.
It is also known as Graeco-Buddhist School of art.
The Gandharan Buddha image was inspired by Hellenistic realism, tempered by Persian,
Scythian, and Parthian models.
Theme is mainly Buddhist, depicting various stories from the life of Buddha.Sculptors constructed
Buddhist images with anatomical accuracy, spatial depth, and foreshortening.
The images of Buddha resembled Greek God Apollo. Buddhas curls were altered into wavy hair.
The Buddha of Gandhar art is sometimes very thin, which is opposite in Mathura art.
More stress is given to the bodily features and external beauty.
It looks like the Mathura, Gandhara arts cross-fertilized in due course of time, and the bulky
Mathura Buddha gradually gave way to the slender elegance of the Gandharan image. The result
of this synthesis ennobled, refined, and purified the Buddha image that appeared in the Gupta
period. This Gupta style became the model for Southeast Asian Buddha images.

Material Used

Grey sandstone is used in Gandhara School of Art. The Bamyan Buddha of Afghanistan were
the example of the Gandhara School.
The other materials used were Mud, Lime, Stucco. However, Marble was not used.
Terracotta was used rarely.
Stucco provided the artist with a medium of great plasticity, enabling a high degree of
expressiveness to be given to the sculpture.


Abhayamudra (No fear), Dhyanamudra (Meditation), Dharmachakramudra (Preaching),

Bhumisparshamudra (Touching the earth)
Main Differences Between Mathura School of Arts and Gandhara School of Arts

(1) Origin

Mathura School: No foreign Influence, however, later it cross fertilized with the Gandhara
School. Its development took place indigenously.
Gandhara School: Strong Greek influence. Was based on Greco-Roman norms encapsulating
foreign techniques and an alien spirit. It is also known as Graeco-Buddhist School of art. Initially
inspired by Yaksha Images Assimilating various traits of Acamenian, Parthian and Bactrian
traditions into the local tradition is a hallmark of the Gandhara style. Initially inspired by
Hellenistic features.

(2) Material Used

Mathura School: Spotted Red Sandstone

Gandhara School: Blue-grey Mica schist / Grey Sandstone

(3) Image Features

Mathura School: Early period: Light volume having fleshy body. Later Period: Flashiness
reduced. Buddha carved out in various Mudras. Not much attention to detailed sculpting. Buddha
is stout.
Gandhara School: Finer details and realistic images. Buddha carved out in various Mudras.
Curly hair, anatomical accuracy, spatial depth, and foreshortening. Buddha is sometimes thin.

(4) Halo

Mathura School: The halo around the head of Buddha was profusely decorated. Images are
less expressive.
Gandhara School: Not decorated, generally.The images are very expressive.


Evolved in Amaravati, situated in the eastern Deccan, Andhra Pradesh, flourished for nearly six
centuries commencing from 200-100 BC. It was patronized first by the Satavahanas and later by the
Ikshvakus and also by other groups. The Amaravati school of art occupies a pre-eminent position in
the history of Indian Art with its sculptural wealth that designed the Mahachaityas.

The lotus and the purnakumbha motifs are typical of Amaravati Art expressing
auspiciousness and abundance.
White Marble was used in this art and the themes were Buddhas life and Jatakas tales.
The curly hairs of Buddha are a feature that is influenced by the Greeks.
In this school, the Kings, Princes, Palaces etc. have got prominence.
Among the events of Buddhas life, the most popular to be depicted, are his descent from heaven
in the form of a white elephant, queen Mayas conception, the casting of his horoscope after his
birth, the great renunciation, the transportation of Gautams head-dress to heaven, the scene of
temptation, the Naga- Muchalinda protecting the Buddha from rain with broadhood, the first
sermon, and the mahaparinirvana represented by the stupa.

The sculptures of Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda are fully inspired works and display a mastery in
which detailed ornamentation and elegance of figure sculpture are joined in a rare harmony. They
have slim blithe features and they are represented in most difficult poses and curves. They unfold the
cultural story of a glorious people who had adopted Buddhism as their creed and linked it with their
dynamism both on land and sea as merchants and mariners.

Numerous scenes of dance and music adorn these reliefs, which are very tender in conception and
bespeak an irrepressible joy of life.

The Amravati Stupas began about the time of Christ but the perfection of form and proportion seen in
the middle phase of Amaravati as well as some of the themes continued to influence art at
Nagarjuankonda and also later Vakataka and Gupta art styles.

All the railings of the Amaravati stupa are made out of marble while the dome itself is covered with
slabs of the same material. Currently, the entire stupa is in ruins. Fragments of its railings have been
partly taken to the British Museum.

Features of Amravati School of Art

The stupas at Amaravati are predominantly made of a distinctive white marble.

The sculptures at Amaravati have a profound and quiet naturalism in human, animal and floral
forms. There is a sense of movement and energy in the sculptures.
The human figures are slender and slightly elongated.
The faces are oval with sharp and well delineated and expressive features.
The animals such as makaras have scaly naturalism and the vegetation environment is lush
There is emphasis on the narrative element with stories from the life of Buddha and
bodhisattva dominating such episodes relating to the Birth, the miracles, Enlightenment and
the victory over Mara, Sundari, Nanda, Tushita heaven and Angulimala.
There are few Jataka scenes such as the Shibi, Nalagiri and Chhadanta Jatakas.
The technical excellence of sculptures in caging plants and flowers; particularly die lotuses at
Amaravati are most admirably represented in this school.
The Buddha is mostly represented by symbols.