Mathura Sculptures (A Catalogue of Sculptures of Mathura School in the Indian Museum, Kolkata)

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Item Code: NAG593
Author: Mangala Chakrabarti
Language: English
Edition: 2006
Pages: 226 (92 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.5 inch X 7 inch
Weight 850 gm
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Book Description

About the Book


Mathura occupies a distinctive position. in Indian Art History and produced a large number of art objects. A portion of these art pieces is housed in the Indian Museum, Kolkata. The present monograph mainly deals with these antiquities and gives as far as possible their descriptive information. The work has been divided into three sections - (i) Introduction, (ii) Catalogue of the antiquities and (iii) Handlist of the antiquities for the benefit of scholars and researchers.


About the Author


Born in 1948 at Kolkata, Smt. Mangala Chakrabarti graduated with Honours in Ancient Indian and World History. She did M.A. (double) in Ancient Indian History and Culture (C.U.), Museology (C.U.), Diploma in School of Archaeology from the Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi, Diploma in Russian Language from the All India Institute of Russian Language, New Delhi, Post Diploma from the Russian Cultural Consulate, Kolkata.


She was appointed as a teacher in the Russian Language in different Institutes affiliated by AIIRL, New Delhi and delegated in the International Seminar of Russian Teachers to the Patris Lumumba University, Moscow in 1982. She has been awarded a Cultural Scholarship from the Govt. of USSR to the Pushkin Institute of Russian Language, Moscow in the year 1985-86, and has translated and published several Russian writings in different journals. During her stay in Moscow she had travelled widely in USSR, visiting important Museums and Cultural centers.


She has been associated with the Museum Association of India since 1976 and is connected with the several academic bodies. Smt. Chakrabarti has organised many National and International exhibitions. She is devoted student of Indian Art and Archaeology and contributed a number of research papers in various art and antiquarian journals.


At present she is working as a Sr. Technical Assistant, Indian Museum, Kolkata. In 1995 she curated the International exhibition entitled - "Buddha in India - Early Indian Sculptures" in Vienna.


A Kaleidoscopic knowledge in art and archaeology the author has a future plan to publish new idea with opening horizon of museum studies.




Mathura in Early Indian culture and icons

Mathura in the early and so-called medieval times was on the main route connecting India (Indian sub-continent) with the outer world through trade, culture and religion. This route happens to be in the north. north- west. South, south-east and south-east Asia. In all these directions it received and disseminated its influences. It was natural that several religious cults rose in and around Mathura and icons were produced. These were the productions of an art school called after Mathura (and its off-shoot at Sarnath?). Numerous cult icons had been found and collected here and ultimately deposited in the Indian Museum. Calcutta (Kolkata).


A catalogue of such icons has been meticulously prepared by Smt. Mangala Chakrabarti. This is now at the final stage of publication.


I am sure that the published catalogue will be considered by the relevant scholars, iconographists and the interested public as a significant addition to their knowledge.


I like to congratulate Smt. Chakrabarti on the preparation of this




Mathura is one of the most important historical sites which received the highest amount of scholastic attention in comparison to other historical sites and monuments of India. There have been a number of periodic evolutions of Indian sculptures, which convey a judicious picture to the stylistic evolution of the plastic art of which Mathura sculptural legacy became a distinctive school of art. Mathura legacy covers the entire period from the 2nd / 1st century B.C. or little earlier to the 9th / 10 th century A.D. when the centre has been shifted to another place Le. Benaras. Sculptural heritage of Mathura has encompassed mainly on stone and served the needs of Brahmanical, Buddhist and Jain religious faiths. At the same time several other minor cult deities have mingled with these main streams. As a result it produced thousands of sculptures and icons preserved in different museums of India and abroad. Some of these sculptures have been preserved in the Mathura Museum, the State Museum of Lucknow, Bharat Kala Bhavan (Benaras). British Museum (London). Being the premier museum of the country, the Indian Museum, Kolkata also possesses a good number of antiquities of the Mathura school of art. Since the publication of the Catalogue and Handbook of the Archaeological collection in the Indian Museum in 1883 by John Anderson, including only a few Mathura specimens. which have been acquired from the Asiatic Society. Bengal, no attempt has been taken to catalogue other Mathura objects lying in the museum. This is my humble endeavour to prepare a monograph as far as possible with detailed description.


A few words about the system of arrangement of the objects are necessary. The sculptures have been brought under some broad headings, such as icons of Brahmanical. Buddhist, Jain and Minor Cult deities. Then I have made Yaksha and Yakshr figures and secular and social themes into separate groups. For architectural and miscellaneous objects, separate sections have been dedicated. The author's aim has been to present materials in an authentic chronological order for formation of an idea of stylistic development. I have also attached a hand-list for the benefit of scholars and students. It is my readers to judge how far I have been successful in this regard.


It is my great privilege that the foreword has been written by my esteemed teacher Professor B. N. Mukherjee, former Carmichael Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture. University of Calcutta. I am very much indebted for his encouragement and guidence which I have received during my work. 1 shall remain ever grateful to him for this. I am also indebted to my former teacher and family friend late Prof. Amitabha Bhattacharyya, Reader. Ancient Indian History and Culture. Calcutta University for his keen interest in my work all along and some valuable suggestions.


It is a pleasant duty to acknowledge my debt to Dr. R. C. Sharma. ex-Director, Indian Museum. Ex-DG of National Museum. who has been kind enough to grant me the permission to prepare this monograph. He had also begun to correct my catalogue. but was unable to complete it due to the August call to serve the National Museum. New Delhi.


I should also express my obligation to Dr. S. K. Basu, the present Director. Indian Museum. for his kind sympathy to publish this book.


I like to show my heartful gratitude to those of my colleagues specially to Dr. Anasua Das, S.T.A. (Arch) Smt. Rita Dutta. S.T.A. (Arch) whose endeavours have helped me to find out some interesting Mathura pieces hidden in the treasure of the Indian Museum.


My acknowledgement will be incomplete if I don't offer thanks to my friend Dr. Somnath Mukherjee, Prof. of Govt. College of Art and Craft. Kolkata and my childhood friend and colleague Dr. Santipriya Mukherjee, STA (Arch.) for their constant support and encouragement which I have received during my work.


I have no words to adequately express my sincere thanks to Smt. Ruplekha Choudhury, my didi, who has painstakingly checked the English expressions.


I shall remain thankful to photography unit. Indian Museum, specially to Sri Subhas Chakraborti and Sri Debasis Gayen. Photo Officer, for kind help by supplying photo-print as and when required. Thanks are also due to Sri Arun Kasyapi, Superintendent (Presentation), Indian Museum, for preparing the cover design. Last, but not the least are my thanks to Sri Ananta Das, Publication Unit, for the unfailing courtesy and kind attention which were shown to me while the book was going to the press.




Mathura, a district town in the state of Uttar Pradesh, stands on the right bank of the river Yamuna al a distance of 58 km. to the North-West of Agra and 145 km. to the South-East of Delhi in latitude 27°31' N and longitude 77°41' E. According to early literary texts. Mathura was known by various names such as Madhura, Mathura Mandala, Surasena. vraja etc. The Ramauana tells us that the city of Madhuvana was founded by Satrughna, the third brother of Rama.! The Mahabharata mentions Mathura as the city of the Yadava or Yadu family' and as the supposed birth place of Vasudeva Krishna, the great epic hero. Mathura was also known to Panini, the great grammarian of the 5th century B.C. Patanjali (c. 2nd century B.C.), the famous commentator on the Astadhyayi, also refers to the general condition of Mathura and compares its residents to those of Sankasya and Pataliputra.


On the other hand. Arian, on the authority of Megasthenes (end of the 4th century B.C.) refers 10 Mathura as the capital of Surasena which, according to him, comprised of two cities Methora i.e. Mathura and Kleisobora (not yet identified). Arrian also mentions the city on the bank of the river Jomnes (Yamuna). The Milinda Panho (datable to the 1st century AD.) includes Mathura in the list of notable cities of India.


From an early age the locality of Mathura was convenient for human settlement because of its congenial geographical situation. The surface collection of Palaeolithic and Chalcolithic tools and cells from the Govardhan hills of Mathura may indicate the occasional presence of man of those periods". Painted Grey Ware and Northern Black Polished pottery found from the lowest level at Sonkh also bear witness to human settlement". The beginning of a rural settlement around Ambarish lila at Mathura is now archaeologically datable to a period ranging from c. 6th cenlury B.C.


Human settlement following some developed distinct cultural pattern began in the area concerned probably in or by c. 6th century B.C. Urbanisation of Mathura, as the available archaeological data indicate. progressed in the age ranging from the late 4th century B.C. to c. 200 B.C. In the Lalitavistara the land of Mathura has been described as fertile and densely populaled. It refers to the city as "prosperous", and large" and "beneficial". where "alms" are easily obtainable.


During the reign of the Lunar dynasty (Chandra-Vamsa) Mathura and its surrounding regions came to be known as the Surasena country which in the 6th century B.C., in the life time of the Lord Buddha, was one of the Mahajanapadas. along with other fifteen in the list (Solasamahajanapada).


By the end of the 5th century B.C ., the Surasena country became an integral part of the Magadhan Empire. When Chandragupta Maurya rose to power in Magadha. Mathura subsequently passed into the hands of the Mauryas. After the downfall of the Mauryas, Mathura came under the suzereinty of the Sungas in about 185 B.C. During this period the flourishing condition of the people of Mathura is known from the Mahabhashya of Patanjali.


Later some petty chieftains such as Mitras and Dattas rose into prominence, after the Sungas as is evident from the coins.


In the 1st century B.C., Mathura came under the sway of the Saka- kshatrapas, among whom Rajubula and Shodasa are most noteworthy. The Sakas in their turn were defeated by the Malavas: but in the subsequent period Mathura was ruled by another branch of the Sakas known as the Kushanas. Under the great Kushana emperors like Kanishka. Huvishka and Vasudeva, Mathura saw the golden days of its art and culture.


After the end of the Kushana power. Mathura for sometime came under the sway of the Nagas. In the 4th century A.D. the Guptas appeared in the political arena of North India. With the growth of their power. Mathura became a part of the Gupta empire.


During the last part of Kumaragupta's reign. Mathura suffered unending tribulations due to the huna invasions. The political condition of Northern India became highly unstable after the downfall of the Imperial Guptas.


The reason behind the rise of Mathura to an eminence of metropolis was its ideal location on the ancient trade routes. It is situated on the junction point of many important land routes. Several roads which radiated from Mathura had ultimately joined with two important highways of early India viz. Dakshinapatha (the Southern Highway) and Uttarapatha (the Northern Highway). These two routes helped to link to many other capital cities of the then India such as Ujjayini, Aparanta, Mahishmati, Pratishthana (Paithana), Sakala (Sialkotl), Takshasila (Taxila). Pataliputra etc. The silk transit trade route also passed through Mathura. In this connection a route is mentioned in the Periplus (c. Ist century A.D.) from Thianae (China) through Bactria to Barygaza (Bharukaccha i.e. mod, Broach). The same route probably was used for the import of gold and lapis lazuli from central Asia.


Thus due to its situation on a nodal point of communication on the one hand and its connection with the different parts of the country on the other. commercial activities of Mathura grew rapidly and this made the city a lucrative centre for the traders settled there or visiting it. particularly in the Kushana age when itinerant merchants could travel with their commodities through a vast territory (from Central Asia to Inner India) controlled by a single central authority under the Kushanas. These factors made an enormous .impact on commercial activities of the traders and at the same time enhanced the importance of the city.


Evidence from the Arthasastra indicates that Mathura was not only a trading centre but also a profitable area chiefly in the items of cotton and copper." It is also stated that cotton cloth of Mathura is of high quality. The cotton even today is the most important cash-crop cultivated in the kharif season in the Tahsils of Mathura and Chhata.


The ideal geographical position and network of roads and tracks transformed Mathura into a meeting place of several cultural currents through traders. political aspirants, religious leaders and devotees.


Brahmanical, Buddhism and Jainism along with its original Yaksha and Naga cults had given shape to its religious life. The patrons of these religions were the affluent class of the society or the trading community who had money and power to control or influence the religious or socio-religious as well as economic activities of the people of Mathura.


The city rose into a prominent centre of human activities during the rule of the Saka-Kshatrapas. This was further enhanced under the rule of the Kushanas. The political stability and prosperity earned under them. and the eclecticism of the Kushana rulers had made an impact on the local art and industry. In the 1st/2nd centuries A.D ., an indigenous art style developed in the region round Mathura, known as the Kushana art or Mathura School of art named after the city.




List of Illustrations












List of antiquities





Sample Page

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