Architecture in association with sculpture enjoyed the liberal patronage of Kanishka. The style of this age is known as the Gnadhara. The forms of Greek art were applied to Buddhist subjects with reasonable amount of success. Images of the Buddha appeared in the likeness of Apollo and Yaksha Kubera in the fashion of Zeus of the Greeks figures. The drapery follows the Hellenistic models. This particulars style was later transmitted to the Far-East through Chinese Turkista. The figure of the Buddha in Chiana and Japan reveal distinct traces of the Hellenistic modes of vogue at the court of Kanishka. Excavatations in the Kotan (Chinese Turkestan) prove that it was the meeting place of four civilization - Greek, Indian Iranian and Chinese.
The Kushan dynasty reached its apex-during the days of Kanishka, who ruled over a flourishing nation strategically located to control to gates to the rice network of trade crossing Asia. He even sent to an envoy to the Emperor Trajan in Rome. Kanishka coins also reveal his desire to live harmoniously with various people and religions within his domain and beyond it. The elaborate parathion struck on the face of his coins illustrates particularly the various religions, practised beyond Gandhara-deities of Persia and Gods of Rome, Alaxandria and the Hellanised orient and finally Shiva and Skand Kumar representing brahminical India. The most remarkable image appeared on a gold coin of Kanishka with standing figure of the Buddha.
The Gandhara sculptures have been found in the ruins of Taxila and in various ancient sites in Afganishtan and in West Pakistan. They consist mostly of the images of the Buddha and relief sculptures presenting scenes from Buddhist texts. A number of Bodhisatava figures were carved out. A figure of Gandhara shows the first sermon in the deer park and the death of the Buddha. In all these figures there is a realistic treatment of the body although it is draped. In these sculptures there is a tendency to mould the human body in a realistic manner paying great attention to accuracy and physical details particularly in the presentation of muscles, moustaches, etc. Also the representation of the thick bold fold lines forms a distinct characteristic. Thus the Gandhara sculptures offer a striking contrast to what has been discovered elsewhere in India.
The Gandhara art primarily depicted the Buddhist themes. The mother of the Buddha resembles an Anthenian matron. Apollo-like face went into the making of a Buddhist scene. Perhaps one of the loveliest Gandhara sculptures reflecting a western subject is the figure of Athena of Rome at Lahore. This sculpture is made out of blue-grave schist, which is found only in Gandhara. Although the technique of Gandhara was essentially borrowed from Greece this particular art is essentially Indian in spirit. It was employed to give expression to the beliefs and practices of Bhddhists. Except for a few exceptions no Greek art motif ahs been detected in the extanct specimens. The Gandhara artist had the hand of a Greek, but the heart of an India.
There are large Gandhara stupas and monasteries survived as ruins at Guldara in Afganishta. Later a votive stupa from loriyaan Tangai in Gandhara has been found. If this is treated as the model of stupa in Gandhara, the stupa has undergone great changes form great stupa at Sanchi with its dome structure. It Gandhara the dome grew taller while the square railing at its summit was enlarged and elaborated.
The greatest of all gandhara stupas as the one erected by Kanishka outside the gates of modern Peshawar. Here also the stupa had not survived but a reliquary (receptacle for relics) of Kanishka have been found. One more such beliquary has been found at Bimaran in Afganishtan.
This particular kind of Gandhara style continued at least till the 8th century. It was along with Caravan route joning Taxila with Bactria that one of the greatest monastic centers of Buddhism flourished. It is the Bamiyan valley. The paintings in the valley reveal the motives adopted from Sassanian fabric designs. The most spectacular creation carved from the cliffs at Bamiyan are two colossal standing figures of the Buddha, the largest of them began as high as 175 ft. in its stone niche. It was finished with lime plaster. The image reflects the Gupta style of early fifth century. Above the figure's head are fragments of painting resembling those created by Gupta Buddhists at Ajanta.
Stucco was a popular technique in Gandhara art. A large number of monasteries of Afganishtan are decorated with stucco images. Also terracotta was used particularly among those who could not afford stone sculpture. Terracotta figures were also used as decorations in homes and as toys. All these provide interesting glimpses of the dresses and fashions of the time.
Another revealing features is the presence of the images of Mother Goddess as the worship of this goddess remain an essential religious expression of the ordinary people. Buddhism, too came to be associated with fertility cult and other popular religious cults. This association in evident from the symbolic importance of the stupa and the brackets with female figures as to be seen at Sanchi. As a matter of fact, these figures are sophisticated version of Mother Goddess images.
Apart from Gandhara sculpture appeared at Sarnath near Benaras. Mathura on the Yamuna and 'Amravati' and in Andhara Pradesh. They all offer many examples of excellent sculpture. Each of them has a distinct style. The most well-known are the elaborate base relief from Amravati. Over many years this form was pursued. Most of it was probably execute in Huvishka reign.
Simultaneously with the appearance of Buddha icon in Gandhara Buddha portrait based upon Yaksha model began to be created in the southern worship or Mathura. This place was a religious center even before the arrival of the Kushans. Under standably the Jains continued their activities along with those of the Buddhists in the Kushan and Gupta periods. Some scholars believe that the Mathura worship created a Buddha icon at least as early as Gandhara. Close to Mathura is a sanctuary consisting of stone figures of Kushan rulers and deities. Only mutilated aculptures are recovered. They are carved from sikri sand-stone which is red mottle with cream spots. Two great fragmentary protrains are of king Vima Kadphises and standing king Kanishka. The garments worn by the Kushans can be know from these two pieces.
Apart from creating the Buddha figures in the form of Bodhisattva the Mathura school did produce the master-piece of Buddha in the mid 2nd century. It is carved from the local sand-stone and it is a sitting figure. Unlike the majority of statis Buddhas of Gandhara wropped in the toga-like sanghatis this Buddha of a warmer clime is dressed as a true Indian wearing transparent muslim garments. Such like transparent textile being shown in a distinctive Mathura feature.
Some hold the view that the Buddha image was evolved independently both at Mathura and Gandhara since there is a striking difference between the two. The Gandhara school laid stress on accuracy of an actomical details and physical beatury while that of Mathura strove to impart sublime and spiritual impression to the figures. The first was realistic and the other idealistic.
Others hold the view that the Hellenistic artists of Gandhara are the earliest iconographers while others attributed to the sculptures of Mathura. However, it is generally held that sculptures made by the former have been reckoned as those belonging to the gandhara school, while those made by the latter have bee ascribed to the Mathura school. It is probably that images came to the made and almost simultaneously by both the schools. For the sculpturala and iconographic features of their products differ in essential details.
Other Schools of Mauryan Period
Talking of other schools, Amravati school is the foremost. Its sculptures shows a mastery of stone sculpture. The monuments at Jaggayyapeta, Nagarjuna-konds and Amaravati are a classes by themselves. The Andhra sculpture is generally known as Amaravati schools. The stupas at Amaravati were made of a distinctive while green marble probably it was began about the time of Christ, and received its final carved faces and railings from about 150 A.D. to 200 A.D.
The nature art of Amaravati region is one of India's major and district styles. A great number of graceful and elongated figures on the reliefs imbue a sense of life and action that is unique in Indian art, not only that each figures is animated by an internal vitality, the quality of the surface further enhances the action of having a gluid quality reminding one of water-worn pebbles.
One of the great stupa railing (probably of the 3rd century A.D.) show the Buddha in Human form subduing a maddened elephant which had been sent by his jealous cousin, Devadatta, to attack him.
In the field of sculpture a round figure appears belonging to the 3rd century of A.D. It has a sure certain modulation of the flowing sculptural volume and illusion of life, both hallmarks of the late Amaravati school.
All the railings of the Amaravati stupa are made out of marble while the dome itself is covered with slabs of the same material. Unfortunately, the entire stupa is in ruins. Fragments of its railings have been partly taken to the British Museum. The sculptures of the stupa are quite different in style from those of northern India. The figures of Amaravati have slim blithe features and they are represented in most difficult poses and curves. However, as the scenes are mostly over-crowded, the general effect is not very pleasing, Indeed one characteristic and Amaravati is not disputed. The technical excellence of sculptures in caving plants and flowers, particularly the lotuses at Amaravati are most admirably represented in this school. The Buddha is mostly represented by symbols.
It is only recently excavations have revealed art works at Nagarjunakonda. Slabs of limestone illustate scenes from the Buddha's life.
Although the period under review is not known for architecture, there came into existence beautiful temples and monasteries. The famous tower of Kanishka of Peshawar was one of the wonders of Asia. Unfortunately, no trace has been left behind.
There is only one class of buildings which merit some attention and they are the caves hewn out of solid rocks. The caves of the Ashokan period were plan chambers. But the caves of this period are adorned with pillars and sculptures. Some were used as Chaityas or halls of worship. There are many such chaitya caves at Nashik, Bhoja, Bedsa, and Karle. The last one if regarded as the finest specimen because of the beauty of the sculptures on the front wall. The chaitya of Karle is the most impressive specimen of massive rock architecture. Monasteries or Viaharas were excavated near the chaityas. We have three viharas of this kind at Nasik.
Apart from these caves we know of several free standing pillars as the Garuda-dhavaja of Heliedorus. This period of times is really famous for independent for Buddhis structures. The most important of days monuments are the stupas distributed over an area of 125 kilometers all around Ellora. The most famous of them are at Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda.