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Mains Answer Writing

20-November-2023

1. One of the most significant sources of our understanding of early Indian art and history is the architecture seen in rock-cuts. Discuss

ANSWER

Rock-cut architecture refers to structures, buildings, and sculptures built by excavating solid rock and chiselling it to

mold it into the desired form. The main forms of rock-cut architecture were temples, tombs, cave dwellings, etc.

ROCK-CUT ARCHITECTURE AS A SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGE FOR EARLY INDIAN ART

  1. 1. Petroglyphs: They were prehistoric paintings that were generally executed on rocks. The first set of prehistoric paintings was discovered in Bhimbetka caves in Madhya Pradesh. Bhimbetka caves represented the use of various colours like red ochre, yellow, green, etc. obtained from natural sources.
  2. Caves and pillars: Barabar and Nagarjuna caves with the highly polished finish of the interior walls and decorative gateways provide knowledge about Mauryan art. It was characterized by the creation of monolithic structures through intricate carvings and polishing on stones.
  3. Stupas: They were burial mounds prevalent in India from the Vedic period consisting of Medhi, toranas, etc. representing Mauryan architectural style. It tells us about the use of unburnt bricks and decoration by wooden sculptures at the time. Eg: Karle Stupa.
  4. Mural Painting: Post-Mauryan art like mural paintings are illustrated on the rock-cut architecture in Ajanta and Ellora caves representing new art forms and were themed on existing religious and social practices such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, etc.
  5. Dravidian art: Rock cut architecture during Pallavas like Pancha Ratha of Mamallapuram, Open Air Rock Reliefs such as Descent of the Ganges, and Shore Temple Complex represent skills and expression during their time.

ROCK-CUT ARCHITECTURE AS A SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGE FOR EARLY INDIAN HISTORY

  1. Society: The rock-cut architectures, paintings, and stories represented on the cave walls are valuable sources of historical information about the society. Eg: Bhimbetka Caves paintings showing dancers with musicians, scenes from hunting, etc.
  2. Religion: The stupas, viharas, and chaityas during the Mauryan period depicted the prevalence of Buddhism in the period. Eg: Jataka stories are depicted on the railings of the Sanchi stupa.
  3. Economy: Temples and caves being sponsored by traders signify the growth of trade at the time. The presence of stupas and viharas on major trade routes implies traders travelling with Buddhist monks and providing them patronage.
  4. Moral foundations: Moral and philosophical ideas of ancient times were propagated through rock-cut architectures as witnessed in the propagation of the concept of Dhamma through Ashokan rock-cut edicts and pillars.
  5. Growth of Hinduism and the decline of Buddhism as witnessed through the increased number of temples in the Gupta and Pallava periods.

Rock-cut architectures occupy a very important place in Indian history and their significance has been recognized by including Ajanta caves, the Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram, etc. in the UNESCO world heritage list.

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