Civilization, sophistication and curtains apparently go together; for as urbanization grows, man closes the Windows of his house, veils them with colourful drapes and shuts out light. So too does he screen his mind with cherished beliefs and makes them proof against doubts and new concepts. Occasionally, some one arrives, begins to doubt and starts questioning the established views. S.P. Gupta does exactly this in The Roots of Indian Art. He has pushed aside the blinds, thrown open the Oeil-de-boeui and allowed light to pour in so that the Formative Period (300-200 B.C. Mauryan and Late Mauryan) of Indian art and Architecture is better illuminated.
The root of the huge tree of Indian Art goes deep into time and spreads over a large part of the Oriental world. To trace the roots of this towering evergreen is no mean task. The colossal nature of the undertaking can be gauged from the fact that the geographical territories covered here include vast areas from three continents — Europe, Asia and Africa—with their diverse traditions in art, architecture, culture, language, race and people. Yet The Author has encompassed his them within the confines of a single, fully documented and comprehensive volume. He has marshalled a large array of facts and figures and presented them in six chapters, such as The Pillars, The Ringstones, The Sculptures and Art Motifs, The Terracottas, The Rock-cut Caves, and the Architecture, each one neatly divided into short bibliography arranged in historical perspective, complete documentation and highly penetrating discussion. He has provided aids to comprehension in the shape of hundreds of illustrations, such as maps, charts, sketches, photographs and coloured plates. Further, he has encapsulated the quintessence of his thesis in the chapter, titled The Polemics' and also 'Summing Up'. The 'Backdrop' discusses some of the fundamental questions regarding the background of the Formative Period of Indian art.
This Book shall serve as a beacon to all research scholars, students and interested readers tormented by doubts and questions and enable them to appreciate the art and architecture of Early India more intimately than hitherto.
Swaraj Prakash Gupta (1931-2007) was a well-known Indian Archaeologist and Art historian.
From childhood Gupta was a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. He was a scholar, writer of great repute and an authority on Indian art history He has written scores of articles and books on the subject of his interest.
Dr. Gupta also undertook several excavations in Harappan sites. Dr. Gupta remained a bachelor throughout his life. At the time of his death he was busy establishing the Indian History and Culture Society as a full-fledged research centre.
Dr. S.P. Gupta was born in 1931, and at the time of his death in late 2007 was Chairman, Indian Archaeological Society, New Delhi.
He worked and lectured in more than 30 countries of the world. He authored a number of books including Disposal of the Dead and Physical Types in Ancient India (1971), Tourism, Museums and Monuments (1975), Archaeology of Soviet Central Asia and the Indian Borderlands—two volumes (1978), The Roots of Indian Art (1980)—the French edition of which was published in 1990 and Cultural Tourism in India (2002). Dr. S.P. Gupta 3 retired as Director, Allahabad Museum.
He was also the editor of several volumes of the Puratattva, the Bulletin of the Indian Archaeological Society. He was a distinguished archaeologist and art historian who was awarded several gold medals and the Sir Mortimer Wheeler Prize for excellence in archaeology. The ,first "Dr. Vishnu Shridhar Wakankar; National Award" of Madhya Pradesh State Government was presented to the celebrated archaeologist Dr. S.P. Gupta in recognition of his devotion and contribution to archaeological research.
General : Origin of Mauryan art; Source Material; West-Asian centric approach; Second Urbanization :its impact on Indian art: Factors of change in art :King's Will and Social Mobility; Oral Tradition
1. The Pillars
General : Directional changes in the study of Asokan Pillars and short Bibliography; Documentation; Discussion—Irwin's theory of Gilded-copper capitals on wooden shafts; Structural considerations; Who erected the pillars and for what purpose ?; The problem of pre-Asokan pillars.
2. The Ringstones
General : Background and short Bibliography; Documentation; Discussion-Differing views on the nude Mother Goddess and rituals connected with her.
3. The Sculpture and Art Motifs
General : Background and short Bibliography; Documentation; Discussion -I: Sculptured motifs; Complete figures; Fragments; The Architectural bulls; Stone-brackets; Discussion—II: Human figures; Free-standing yakshas and yakshas
Motifs :General; Leaf-and-Dart; 'Honeysuckle' or palmette or nagapushpa; Lion; Symbolism of Sarnath Pillar Capital: A fresh interpretation; About other pillars
4. The Terracottas
General : Background and short Bibliography; Documentation; Discussion: Do terracottas represent only Folk Art ?; Terracotta art and Urbanism; Icons and non-Icons in terracottas; The temple plaques; Directional changes in the art of terracottas; Distributional pattern of Pottery and Terracottas; Terracotta vs. Stone; Growth of the Middle class; Use of burnt bricks and stone; Role of Organized Religions and the Middle Class; Some terracotta styles; The evaluation ISO; Conclusion
5. The Rock-cut Caves
General : Background and short Bibliography; Documentation; Discussion; A Fresh Look : The Developmental stages of Mauryan and Late Mauryan Caves; Functional approach to Mauryan caves; Some problems of Lomas Rishi Cave—Excavation techniques; Polishing; Slippage in rock; Was facade a later addition ?; The dale of Lomas Rishi Cave; Fresh Look at the Lomas Rishi Facade; Fresh Look on plans of Early caves
6. The Architecture
General : Background :md short Bibliography; The Palisade; Location of Old Pataliputra and the Pillared Hall at Kumrahar; The pillars: Architectural details; Discussion; The Stupa—background; Vaisali; Piprahwa; Lauriya-Nandangarh; Amaravati; Yidisa; Bairat temple; Discussion
7. The Polemics
General; I. An Outline History of Western Asia; II. The Men behind the Mauryan Art A Reappraisal; III. Pre-Mauryan and Mauryan Crafts; IV. Engravings; V. The problem of Pataliputra-Sarnath School of Late Mauryan Art; VI. The Legacy of Mauryan Art; VII. Do the Bulandibagh and Buxar Terracottas show Greek influence?; VIII. Do Asokan Pillars represent Indradvajas?; IX. The problem of Rubble Fortification of Rajgir; X. Did the Egyptians get Padma lotus from India? The evidence of Herodotus; XI. The Lion :in Nature and Art; XII. Naga and Nagapushpa motif; XIII. The problem of Origin of Srivatsa, Triratna and Trisula motifs; XIV. The earliest Copper Plate from Sahgaura