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The Sublime and the Ascetic in Early Indian Sculpture

18.09.2003 to 04.01.2004

One of the highlights of this year's Asian-Pacific weeks, this exhibition organised by the Museum of Indian Art shows sculptures from the 1st century BC to the 6th century AD, from the school of Mathura and contemporaneous schools.

Different religions existed harmoniously side-by-side in Mathura, and their ritual images shaped a manifold and extraordinarily varied art. As other schools of the time created mainly Buddhist art works, the Hindu art of Mathura developed along new and original lines, creating, for example, the prototypes of the multi-armed gods. In contrast (notably in the early part of the period), are the modest, ascetic Buddhist and Jinistic religious images and also, in yet another tradition, figures of traditional fertility goddesses with sensual expressions, called Yakshis.

An important feature of the exhibition is the monumental stone sculptures from major museums in India. These originate from the pre-classical and classical periods and are made of reddish, speckled sandstone, which is only to be found in the north Indian region Mathura. Repeated invasions of foreign peoples from the 6th century led to the complete destruction of this major centre of art, and its significance can now only be seen in works surviving in the museums of the world.

In addition to these images, sculptures of other early schools are included in the exhibition, to allow visitors to experience the impressive variety of forms in the early art of India.