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Indian heritage & culture

5 Solved Questions with Answers
  • 2019

    1. Highlight the Central Asian and Greco-Bactrian elements in Gandhara art.

    Gandhara art is a style of Buddhist visual art that developed between the 1st century BCE and the 7th century CE in what is now northwestern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. The region came under the political influence of a variety of kingdoms which resulted in the emergence of a mixed school of art. The sculptural tradition in Gandhara had the confluence of Bactria, Parthia and the local Gandhara tradition. However, the real patrons of this school of art were the Scythians and the Kushanas, particularly Kanishka.

    Features of Gandhara art borrowed from Greco-Bactria:

    • The Gandhara school drew upon the anthropomorphic traditions of Roman religion and represented the Buddha with a youthful Apollo-like face, dressed in garments resembling those seen on Roman imperial statues. Its significance lies in the fact that until then Buddha was not represented in a human-like figure.
    • Wavy hair in a top knot, sometimes a moustache on the face, urna (a dot or third eye) between the eyebrows, elongated earlobes, garment with thick pleats usually covering both shoulders, and muscular formation of the body are other resembling features.
    • Other motifs and techniques that Gandhara school incorporated from classical Roman art, include vine scrolls, cherubs bearing garlands, tritons, and centaurs.
    • The images having physiognomic features depicting symbolic expression such as of calmness, sharp outlines, smooth surface, expressive images etc. are the centre point of attraction.

    Gandhara art not only assimilated the features of Hellenistic art but also borrowed many West Asiatic and Central Asiatic features such as:

    • Disc-shaped attribute behind the head of Buddha was associated with solar deities of ancient Persian and Greek art.
    • Figures with conical and pointed caps on their heads resemble the Scythian caps of similar design.
    • The regular depiction of fire worship in the Gandhara art, a trait which was probably derived from Iranian sources.

    The foreign elements imbibed in the Gandhara art not only placed it on a high pedestal of artistic achievements but also made possible the naturalistic depiction of the human form for the first time in the Indian art history.

  • 2018

    1. Safeguarding the Indian art heritage is the need of the moment. Discuss. (2018)

    India has a vast basket of diverse art and cultural heritage which need institutional support and encouragement to address areas critical for their survival and preservation.

    We need to preserve our art heritage because of the following reasons.

    • Presently, many Indian art forms are on the verge of extinction such as Manjusha painting of Bihar, traditional art of Puppetry, Parsi embroidery, Naga craft, Dhokra handicraft, etc., which need protection and preservation.
    • India has a unique identity in the world for its art and culture which represents Indian civilization on world platform and if it vanishes the uniqueness of India will get affected.
    • For many tribal communities, art and craft is the source of income.
    • This is also the source of attraction for tourism which contributes to economic development of the country.
    • Art heritage also represents “unity in diversity” of India and builds a bridge between people living abroad to get connected with their native country.
    • Art and culture is also a part of soft power in world politics.

    Government has started many initiatives to preserve the rich art heritage of the country, such as, Scheme for Conservation of Wall Painting (1996-97), Ek Bharat Shresth Bharat programe, Tribal haats, GI tag to the local products, e-haat, etc. Apart from strict implementation of such programmes, Government should provide financial assistance to strengthen regional and local museums, preserve art heritage through virtual media, and promote local paintings on products like wallet, mobile cover, pillow cover, etc.

  • 2016

    1. Early Buddhist Stupa-art, while depicting folk motifs and narratives successfully expounds Buddhist ideals. Elucidate. (2016)

    After the death of the Buddha, Stupas were raised in his honor. The relics of the Buddha were distributed to different kingdoms and Stupas were erected over them. The Buddhist Stupa transcends its predecessor, the burial mound, by shifting the emphasis from a particular relic to a higher transcendental actuality as realized by the Buddha, i.e. the Buddha's enlightenment.

    • The Jataka stories were depicted on the torans of Stupas. The Jataka stories are a method of teaching Buddhists the lessons of karma, samsara and dharma. The overall structure of the Jataka Tales is about the cycle of samsara that the Buddha had to experience before reaching enlightenment.
    • The main structure of the Great Stupa consisted of a flattened hemispherical dome, called an anda, placed atop a cylindrical base. Anda, literally an egg, alluded not only to the shape, but to its deeper significance as a symbol of latent creative power.
    • The anda was also intended as an architectural replica of the infinite dome of heaven, representing the cycle of death and rebirth.
    • The harmika, located at the summit of the anda, symbolized the zenith beyond life and death (nirvana). Its resemblance to a sacrificial altar was of particular significance for the attainment of nirvana required the sacrifice of the self and the world (what was below needed to be sacrificed to reach the top).
    • The parasol was always a distinguishing feature that implied royalty and dignity; it symbolized the sacred Tree of Life or enlightenment.
    • The three elements of the chattra at Sanchi represented the Three Jewels of Buddhism: the Buddha, the Dharma (the Law), and the Sangha (the community of monks).
    • Vedikas were repeated around the stupa and on the terrace on which the anda rested (medhi level). They served to demarcate the boundary of the sacred precinct with the secular world.

    In this way Buddhist stupa-art successfully expounds Buddhist ideals.

  • 2017

    1. How do you justify the view that the level of excellence of the Gupta numismatic art is not at all noticeable in later times? (2017)

    Gupta coins are among the most remarkably detailed coins from ancient India featuring exquisite artistic details. They stand out from coins crafted during the reign of other dynasties on following counts:

    • Achievement of remarkable craftsmanship was evident by the finesse of the variety of images carved on both faces of the coin and its smooth and even wedges.
    • Detailed carvings ranged from Chandragupta riding a horse to Samudragupta playing a Veena and the Goddess Lakshmi to a sacrificial horse for Ashvamedha ceremony and so on.
    • Apart from these detailed images, there were inscriptions as well, often adding details of the image inscribed on the coin.
    • Also, most of the important kings of Gupta dynasty are now believed to have had multiple coin-types during the course of their reign, in which older designs were dropped and newer motifs were adopted.
    • Scholars have pointed out that such designs were made possible by use of clay-molds by skilled mint-masters.

    In the post-Gupta period, not only the quality of gold coins fell, but also the numbers of gold coins being issued dropped drastically. Due to systemic economic distresses, town-based artisans producing good quality coins were forced to migrate to the countryside causing a decline of craft production and a decay of townships. Without urban centres and foreign trade, and with increasing decentralisation of political power which had resulted from the urban to rural migration of artisans, the excellence of Gupta numismatic art could not be sustained or recreated in the times that followed.

  • 2016

    2. Krishnadeva Raya, the King of Vijayanagar, was not only an accomplished scholar himself but was also a great patron of learning and literature. Discuss. (2016)

    Krishnadeva Raya who ruled the kingdom of Vijayanagara was one of the greatest statesmen which medieval South India had produced. Called variously as ‘Kannadaraya’, ‘Sri Karnata Mahisa’ and ‘Kannada Rajya Ramaramana’, his rule saw all round prosperity of South India, culturally and materialistically.

    Krishnadeva Raya was a great patron of literature and was known as Abhinava Bhoja. Himself being a scholar, he wrote the Telugu work Amuktamalyada and a Sanskrit play, Jambavati Kalyana.

    • He had eight great scholars called Ashtadiggajas in his court. They included Allasani Peddana often described as the Andhra-kavitapitamaha. His famous work was Manucharitamu; another famous poet was Nandi Thimmanna, the author of Parijathapaharanamu.
    • Other eminent literary luminaries were Tenali Ramakrishna, Kumara Dhurjati and Rama Raja Bhushana.
    • He asked the Kannada poet Thimmanna to complete the Kannada Mahabharatha started by Kumara Vyasa.
    • Telugu poet Peddanna was personally honoured by him for his proficiency in Telugu and Sanskrit and Krishnadevaraya himself gave a helping hand to lift the palanquin in which the poets book 'Manucharitamu' was placd and taken in a procession.

    It is said whenever Krishna-devaraya met the poet while riding on his elephant, he gave him a lift. According to Nidatavolu Venkata Rao, the reign of Krishnadevaraya is a glorious chapter in the South Indian literary history. The imperial court had representatives of Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada and Tamil poets, who contributed largely to their respective literatures.

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