Jain bronzes in Karnataka: some art historical and technical aspects
Publication Type:Journal Article
Source:IUP Journal of History and Culture, IUP, Volume 5, Number 2, p.2–9 (2011)
Keywords:Archaeometallurgical Studies, Chola Masterpieces, Chronological Consistencies, Compositional Analysis, Eastern Chalukyan Jain Bronzes, Eastern Chalukyas, Government Museum, History and Culture Journal, Jainism, Medieval Jain Bronzes., South Indian Bronzes, Structural Temples, Western Indian Bronzes
This paper provides an overview of selected art historical and archaeometallurgical aspects in the study of Jaina bronzes from Karnataka. Despite the relative paucity of studies on Jaina bronzes from the Deccan region and Karnataka it is pointed out that these form a significant body of bronzes for study also from an archaeometallurgical perspective. This is partly because they are often inscribed (unlike most Hindu images) which provides some sounder basis for chronological attributions. It is illustrated here that archaeometallurgical studies and lead isotope finger-printing in particular, have potential for throwing further insights into the questions of dates, stylistic attribution and provenance of Jaina bronzes and those from the Deccan and Karnataka. In particular, the case of certain bronzes which show affiliation with Chola and western Indian bronzes are touched upon, as well as the case of an inscribed Jaina image from Karnataka which may represent Ambika or Saraswati, for which the 9th-10th century attribution is also supported from lead isotope fingerprinting studies. Jainism has a long history in Karnataka with Jain sculptural art traditions especially coming into prominence under the Western Chalukyas. A powerful Southern Hindu dynasty ruled from Badami in Northern Karnataka from about the 6th century with superlative stone sculpture at their rock-cut excavations and innovative free-standing structural temples at Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal. Under the Ganga dynasty, the most visible and renowned example of Jainism in Karnataka was erected: the colossal freestanding monolith at Sravanabelagola of Bahubali/Gomateshwara, c. 948, towering at 59 feet. Several bronzes have come to light which have been attributed to Karnataka to the Chalukyas or the Gangas. It was the Digambara (sky clad or naked) Jain sect which was most popular in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, whereas more bronzes of the Svetambara (white-clad) sect have come to light in Gujarat. As pointed out by Shah (1975), no Jaina bronze or stone sculpture from the south which can be assigned to a period before the 6th century AD has so far been published. Nevertheless, several of the finest known Jain bronzes in India come from southern India, bearing something of the animated and sensuous quality of Chola masterpieces?rather than the static quality often conveyed by Jain images?and several ranking amongst the finest expressions of Indian art. However, it has to be said that, compared to the bronzes of Tamil Nadu, there is far less clarity in the study of Jain bronzes from Karnataka in terms of the period, style, or provenance. Furthermore, Jain bronzes were also made under the eastern Chalukyas of Andhra Pradesh and the Rashtrakutas of Maharashtra, often following shared conventions, so that it is often difficult to tell apart bronzes of different schools of the Deccan.
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