Depiction of Buddha in Mathura, Gandhara, Sarnath school of art

Depiction of Buddha in Mathura, Gandhara, Sarnath school of art

Question:- Write a note on the salient features of Mathura, Gandhara and Sarnath schools of art and their depiction of Buddha.


- The region of Gandhara situated in the north-western part of the Indian sub-continent, was under the influence of various kingdoms like the Greeks, Mauryans, Parthians, Kushans and the Sythians. This lead to a school of art which had traditions from borrowed from all.

- The hybrid culture found expression in the eclectic school of art that greatly flourished. The sculpture represented an art that was different from what was found at Sanchi. The material initially used was a dark gray slate with stucco and terracotta dominating later.

- The Gandhara school gave its own features to the image of Buddha which came to be characterized by Hellinistic features. The haor was wavy with a top knot, at times the face had a mustache, urna between the eyebrows. The image is clothed in a garment with thick pleats covering both the shoulders, a muscular body and a halo behind the head. A calm look on the face becomes the centre of the image.

- The Gandhara school is often known as the Graeco-Buddhist although the school became prominent after the end of Greek rule. The technique employed is doubtless Hellenistic, however is modified by Iranian and Scythian contacts; but the themes depicted are Indian and almost exclusively Buddhist.

- The main centres where pieces of Gandhara school of art were Bamiyan in Afghanistan, the Swat Valley, Taxila, Takht-i-Bahi, Bala Hisar, Charsada, Palatu-Dheri, Ghaz Dheri, Begram etc.


- Developed around Mathura, UP, it was not limited to only the images of Buddha but also the Hindu gods. It was purely indigenous in nature, reaching its zenith under the Kushanas. It drew inspiration from ancient Indian art of Bharhut and Sanchi.

- Carved in sandstone, the image of the Buddha was characterized by curly hair, roundness of flesh, transparent drapery with folds that are visible and a heavily decorated halo.

- The images of Buddha though were a conspicuous feature of the Mathura school which was known all over for its absorptive character of Indian themes and its vivacity. The ardor of Brahmanism, Jainism and Buddhism is well distinguished in the paintings of Mathura School of Art.

- The smile on the face of Buddha is probably the earliest appearance of the only means by which the Indian sculptor managed to show the inner contentment and peacefulness of the Buddha's nature.


- As the name suggests, this school developed near Sarnath in Bihar. The images are seen in a plain, transparent drapery that covers the shoulders with a halo behind the head bearing some ornamentation.

- This school of art is better known for its elegance, simplicity and sublimity in form.

- The standing figure of Tara is one of the best specimens of Late Gupta sculptural art of Sarnath. This image is profusely ornamented although with an elegant bent in the appearance.
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