Continuing my series of blog posts showcasing the highlights of the National Museum in New Delhi, it’s time to turn our attention to the Gupta and medieval sculptures that are housed in the collection.
As you will shorty see, the museum is blessed with a staggering set of masterpieces encompassing this period – I struggled to get the number of images down to a decent number for a single blog post.
I’m also experimenting a little with removing the background from the images, which in a museum context can be frustratingly distracting, so these images purely focus on the sculpture themselves. Please add a comment below as to whether you think it enhances the viewing experience (or not!). My
blog post on pre-Gupta sculpture shows similar images without the background removed. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.
I have ordered the images in chronological order, starting at the 5th century and taking us through to the 14th century. As always, click on any image to view it in a larger format.
Vishnu Gupta – 5th Century A.D. – Mathura, Uttar Pradesh This impressive Vishnu depicts the deity as four-armed, wearing a jeweled crown, sacred thread, and a long garland made of flowers. The sculptor has depicted two necklaces, one of twisted pearl strands and the other of graduated beads. When complete, this image probably had a large halo and unfortunately the lower arms and legs are now also missing. This is widely considered the finest Hindu sculpture of the Gupta period from Mathura.
Ganga Gupta – 5th Century A.D. – Ahichchhatra, Uttar Pradesh From the Gupta period onwards the two sacred rivers of North India, the Ganga and Yamuna, are often presented as river goddesses flanking the entrance to many Hindu Temples. Symbolising fertility, abundance and untamed energy, Ganga is represented here as a bejewelled and beautiful young Goddess, standing on her aquatic vehicle (makara, or crocodile). Standing at a height of 1.7m, this is one of a pair of Ganga sculptures excavated from the remains of a large brick temple at Ahichchhatra.
Frieze showing Chaitya window motif of animal and floral designGupta – 5th Century A.D. – Sultangarhi, Delhi
Left : Ekamukha Shivalinga – Gupta – 5th Century A.D. – Madhya Pradesh Right : Ekamukha Shivalinga – Gupta – 5th Century A.D. – Khoh, Madhya Pradesh
Rama redeeming AhiyaGupta – 5th Century A.D. – Deogarh, Uttar Pradesh
Nataraja Gupta – 5th Century A.D. – Nachna, Madhya Pradesh
Left : Leograph – Gupta – 5th Century A.D. – Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh Right : Lakshmana disfiguring Surpanakha – Gupta – 5th Century A.D. – Deogarh, Uttar Pradesh
Left : Dvarapala (Doorkeeper) – Gupta – 5th Century A.D. – Nachna Kuthara, Madhya Pradesh Right : Buddha Head – Gupta – 5th Century A.D. – Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh
Left : Mother Goddess – Gupta – Early 7th Century A.D. – Vardhana, Madhya Pradesh Right : Chauri Bearer – Western Chalukya – 7th Century A.D. – Patansheru, Medak, Andhra Pradesh
Female BustVardhana – 7th Century A.D. – Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh
Left : Vishnu – Pallava – 7th Century – South India Right : Kali – Post Gupta – 7th-8th Century A.D. – Madhya Pradesh
Siddhaikavira (a form of Manjusri)Pala – 8th Century A.D. – Nalanda, Bihar Freestanding stone images, mostly Bodhisattvas and usually slender and elegant, do not appear until the early Pala period at the end of the 8th century. They are in a buff sandstone until the beginning of the 9th century, after which images of dark grey and black schists from further east start to take over.
Left : Vishnu – Pratihara – 8th Century A.D. – North India Right : Agni – Pallava – 9th Century A.D. – South India
Left : Elephant Lion Capital – Pala – 9th Century A.D. – Nalanda, Bihar Right : Pillar – 10th Century A.D. – Sagar, Madhya Pradesh
Shiva, Parvati and FamilyEarly Western Chalukya – 10th Century A.D. – Aihole, Karnataka
Yogini VrishananaPratihara – 10th-11th Century A.D. – Lokhari, Banda, Uttar Pradesh
Dvarpalas Early Chola – 10th Century A.D. – South India
Yoganarayana Chandela – 10th Century A.D. – Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
Yama (God of Death)Pratihara – 10th Century A.D. – Jhalawar, Rajasthan
Saptamatrikas (Seven Divine Mothers)Pratihara – 10th Century A.D. – North India
Nataraja Sena – 11th Century A.D. – Eastern India
Mother and ChildPala – 11th Century A.D. – Bengal
Vishnu Pala – 11th Century A.D. – Eastern India
SaraswatiParmara – 11th Centiry A.D. – Rajasthan
Lakshmi-Narayana (Vishnu with his consort, Lakshmi)Chandella – 11th Century A.D. – Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
Pair of Vishnu ImagesPala – 11th Century A.D. – Bengal
Neminatha Chahmana – 11th Century A.D. – Narhad, Rajasthan This image represents the 22nd Jina. The term ‘Nemi’ means ‘wheel-rim”, and establishes a connection with the Hindu God Krishna, as Neminatha was a cousin of Krishna. There is much fine detail in this carving, enhanced further by the simply magnificent polished finish.
Lintel showing Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva)Western Chalukya – 11th Century A.D. – Karnataka
Chamunda (form of Durga)Sena – 11th-12th Century – Eastern India
Couple11th Century A.D. – Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh
Huntress (left) and Musicians (right)Hoysala – 12th Century A.D. – Halebid, Mysore
Lakshmi-Narayana on Garuda Hoysala – 12th Century A.D. – Halebid, Mysore
Lakshmi (left) and Dvarpala (right)Late Chola – 12th Century A.D. – South India
Saraswati (Goddess of learning and wisdom)Chahamana – 12th Century A.D. – Pallu, Rajasthan Saraswati is the Goddess of music, learning, eloquence and intelligence. She is considered as the sakti (energy) of Brahma in the pantheon of Brahmanical deities. In the Vishnudharmottara Purana she is an independent Goddess of white complexion, dressed in a white garment, carrying a pen, manuscript, lotus, rosery, vina and a vessel of nectar. The modelling of her limbs is soft and delicate, but notice just how sharp and pointed her nails are !
Mohini (a female representation on Vishnu)Western Chalukya – 12th Century A.D. – Gadag, Karnataka
Lintel showing Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva)Kakatiya – 12th Century A.D. – Warangal, Andhra Pradesh
Surya (Sun God)Pala – 12th Century A.D. – Eastern India
Vishnu and his manifestationsGahadavala – 1147 A.D. – Mehrauli, Delhi
King Narsimha (left: on a swing; right: worshipping Jagannatha)Eastern Ganga – 13th Century A.D. – Konark, Odisha
Vishnu with ConsortsEastern Ganga – 13th Century A.D. – Konark, Odisha
Shina on BullEastern Ganga – 13th Century A.D. – Konark, Odisha
Surya (Sun God)Eastern Ganga – 13th Century A.D. – Konark, Odisha This is one of the finest sculptures from the Sun Temple of Konark, and may have once been installed for worship in the sanctum. Surya is depicted standing, holding full-blown lotuses in both hands, riding on a chariot driven by charioteer Aruna, drawn by seven galloping horses. The deity is flanked by attendant figures; Danda, Pingala, Chhaya, and Suvarchasa. Before the 5th century images of Surya depicted him dressed in a tunic, girdle and high boots with a dagger in his hand and only being pulled by four horses on his chariot. These earlier depictions are mostly likely due to the solar cult being heavily influenced by the Zoroastrian cult of Iran. It is from the Gupa period onwards that see images more similar to the example above.
Wooden Pillar of Sun TempleCirca 14th Century A.D. – Katarmal, Uttar Pradesh
Wooden Door LeavesCirca 14th Century A.D. – Katarmal, Uttar Pradesh Note how worn the door is at the bottom, with much of the intricate carving worn away. One can only imagine just how many times this door has been kicked open over the centuries.
That concludes my short virtual tour of the Gupta and medieval period sculptures at the National Museum in Delhi. Further posts on some of the other galleries (e.g.
pre-Gupta sculpture, bronzes and paintings) will be appearing over the next few weeks, which combined together will hopefully give a reasonably comprehensive account of what can be seen here.
If you are planning on visiting this museum, I would suggest at least a full day is set aside and that you arrive early.
The National Museum opening times are usually :
Tue – Fri (10:00 AM to 6:00 PM)
Sat & Sun (10:00 AM to 8:00 PM) (Closed on Mondays and National Holidays)
Please ‘Like’ or add a comment if you enjoyed this blog post. If you’d like to be notified of any new content, just sign up by clicking the ‘Follow’ button. If you have enjoyed this or any other of my posts, please consider buying me a coffee. There’s a facility to do so on the righthand side of this website for desktop users, and just above the comment section for mobile users.
If you’re interested in using any of my photography or articles please get in touch. I’m also available for any freelance work worldwide, my duffel bag is always packed ready to go…