Sarnath School of Art

During the Gupta period, Sarnath developed its own unique style of sculptural art.

Distinctive features of Sarnath School of Sculpture are:

  1. Standing Buddha: Both the Gandhara and Mathura school only produced seated Buddha sculptures. However, the production of standing Buddha was a special feature of Sarnath school of sculpture. However, sculptures of seated Buddha were also produced at Sarnath.
  2. Mudras: Buddha in Sarnath school is mainly seated in padmasana. While in Mathura and Sarnath, Buddha’s hands are shown in Abhaya mudra, Dhyana mudra or Dharmachakra mudra, however, in the Sarnath school there is a greater preference for Dharmachakra mudra.
  3. Execution of facial features: Eyes are cast downwards; nose is sharp and lips are carved in a gentle smile. The Buddha of Sarnath school has a delicate face that has great tranquillity and enlightenment.
  4. Mahapurusha lakshanas are absent: Mahapurusha lakshana’s such as elongated ears, ushinsha (raised hairs) and urna (circle on the forehead) are absent in Sarnath school.
  5. Body posture: Sculptures are made in abhanga pose in which body is tilted either leftwards or rightwards.
  6. Drapery: Sculpture is covered in transparent clothes which could be missed by the viewer but for the crease near the waist and slight projection on right and left.  
  7. Halo: The Halo in Sarnath school is executed in two forms. 
577px Sarnath standing Buddha 5th century detail

Fig: Sarnath Standing Buddha

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