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Pala and Medieval Eastern School

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 4:49 AM
Bhikshatana and Moini, Nayaka, late seventeenth century A.D., Chidamabaram.
The early school of eastern India has excellent examples in Bihar and Bengal and the sculptor has excelled in his art. Magnificent images in metal from Kurkihar and Nalanda proclaim the wealth of imagination and the fine artistic taste of the early sculptor. The beautiful Taras, Buddhas and scenes from the Master's life including his descent, his first sermon, subjugation of Nalagiri, the Avalokitesvaras and other figures of the Buddhist pantheon are master pieces. The flames of the aureole, the petals of the lotus, the folds of Buddha's garments, the jatas of Brahma, the crown of Sakra, the peace and charm on the face of every one of these figures are all characteristic of this school.

The Pala School of painting very closely follows the great traditions of sculpture. The earliest manuscripts of this school are on palm-leaf and wooden covers of manuscripts. There are also some excellent incised drawings on metal like the famous one from Sundarban in the Asutosh Museum, Calcutta, which are quite noteworthy. The Pala School of book illustration presents the figures in the classical tradition and the outline drawings are sinuous, full of vitality and grace. The paintings that come in the centre with the text on either side mostly illustrate Buddhist texts like the Prajnaparamita, Gandavyula Sadhanamala, etc. Iconography is usually the main theme. These pictures follow the mural traditions and appear just like reduced copies of their originals. One of the best specimens of an illuminated Prajnaparamita manuscript is dated in the sixth year of the king Mahipala.

Lakshmana’s fight with Indrajit, Eighteenth century A.D., Mattancheri Palace, Cochin.
The Palas and Senas were patrons of art and literature and several beautiful illuminated manuscripts were produced during their day. This art extended to Nepal and it was Pala art in this region also. By the thirteenth century, stylization started in eastern Indian art and it may be easily noticed that the incised drawing of Vishnu and devotee on metal plate from Sundarban has a marked affinity with the angular treatment in the western Indian Jain school of Gujarat.

When Bihar and Bengal came under Muslim domination in the thirteenth century, the angular figures resembling the western Indian school in eastern Indian art imbibed certain Muslim elements in dress and other features and, by the fifteenth century, the book illustrations on paper from Oudh, Jaunpur and other places resembled closely the style in Malwa with similar Hindu and Muslim confluence of ideals.

Similarly palm-leaf manuscripts were produced in Orissa and Jayadeva's Gitagovinda easily provided a joyous theme to be lovingly handled. It is from similar angular representations, to a certain extent influenced by the Vijayanagara School at a later date, that late manuscripts like the Gitagovinda and the Ramayana from Orissa, now preserved in the National Museum, were produced. 
Writer – C.Sivaramamurti
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