From the first century CE, Gandhara and Mathura (northern India) became prominent art centres. Mathura and Gandhara gave the symbolic Buddha a human appearance. Gandhara’s sculptural tradition merged Bactria, Parthia, and native Gandhara traditions.
Mathura’s sculptural heritage became so strong that it extended throughout northern India. The best example is the stupa sculptures in Sanghol, Punjab.
Mathura’s Buddha image is based on previous Yaksha representations, while Gandhara’s is Hellenistic.
Gandhara school of art flourished in Afghanistan and present-day North-West India, whereas Mathura school of art emerged and flourished in Mathura and parts of Uttar Pradesh.
The Gandhara school flourished from the first century BC to the fifth century AD, whereas the Mathura school flourished from the first century BC to the twelfth century AD. Aesthetically, the Gandhara style was influenced by Greek and probably Macedonian art, whereas the Mathura school was entirely indigenous.
The Gandhara and Mathura schools of art were influenced by Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. Gandhara employed blue grey and grey sandstone, while Mathura used spotted red sandstone.
Gandhara Buddha is tranquil, reclining in Padmasana, with right hand in Abhyamudra and left hand on left thigh, symbolising masculinity.
The Gandhara school of painting did not adorn the Halo around Buddha’s head as much as the Mathura school of art did. The other two notable schools were Amaravati and Sarnath. These art schools were largely religiously oriented and left a rich legacy.
The Art of India represents a unique chapter in human history. It reveals the human mind’s darkest recesses and reflects the Indian soul. Many of India’s artistic masterpieces express the spiritual and religious components of its creative brilliance.