Hindu and Buddhist Art
The main difference between Buddhist art and Hindu art in India was its subject matter. Buddhist art often portrayed the Buddha or bodhisattvas, who were potential Buddhas. Hindu gods, such as Vishnu and Ganesha, were common subjects in Hindu art. Beyond the differences in subject, Hindu and Buddhist beliefs had little influence on Indian artistic styles. For example, a Hindu sculpture and a Buddhist sculpture created at the same place and time were stylistically the same. In fact, the same artisans often created both Hindu and Buddhist art.
This bronze Buddha was made in India during the sixth century. Each detail of a Buddhist sculpture has meaning. For example, the headpiece and long earlobes shown here are lakshana, traditional bodily signs of the Buddha. The upraised hand is a gesture that means “Have no fear.”
The Great Stupa
Built during the third to first centuries B.C., the Great Stupa is a famous Buddhist monument in Sanchi, India. This stone structure is 120 feet across and 54 feet high; it has a staircase leading to a walkway that encircles the stupa. Stupas serve as memorials and often contain sacred relics. During Buddhist New Year festivals, worshipers hold images of the Buddha and move in processions around the circular walkway
Devi Jagadambi Temple in Khajuraho
Hardly any Hindu temples from the Gupta period remain. This temple, built in the 11th century, shows architectural trends begun in Gupta times. These include building with stone rather than wood; erecting a high, pyramidal roof instead of a flat roof; and sculpting elaborate decorations on the walls.
Carved in the fifth century B.C., this stone sculpture represents the elephant-headed god Ganesha. According to Hindu beliefs, Ganesha is the god of success, education, wisdom, and wealth. He also is worshiped as the lifter of obstacles. The smaller picture is a recent image of Ganesha, who has gained great popularity during modern times.
1. How do the Buddhist stupa and the Hindu temple differ?
2. What might be the reason for those differences?
3. Why do you think Ganesha is a popular god among Hindus today? Explain.