"Dr. P.K. Agrawala deserves our hearty thanks for collecting this scattered and vast material and presenting it in a more plausible classification and chronology. Moreover, the present in-depth study has gone into the minutest details of these specimens. The supporting explanations are similarly educative, interesting as they are. This exercise would give new directions to the future students and scholars as it would be profitable to the present generation. The task commenced by Cunningham and carried on by Coomaraswamy or V.S. Agrawala, finds a logical conclusion in the following pages."
From the Foreword by Prof. Rai Ananda Krishna.
The world of occult wisdom manifested through art-forms as cult objects. Never would these be fully understood by us without entering the sphere of supra-consciousness which gave rise to these thoughts and forms. The language of symbolisms which these cult objects speak is made available through comparable evidence and the late tradition enshrined in the texts or visual representations. Nothing seems to be purely decorative in these cult objects nor were these simply playful imaginations of the artists who created them.
The present-day art historian is confronted with these and many more challenges. For a long time we could easily explain the highly finished art and a special type of sculptural experience which was supposed to be an outcome of a fancy of the great patron of art and religion, Asoka. The style has been—rightly so—designated a court art, to an extent inspired by western forms and has a brief history limited to the Great Empire, may be continued in a way by his immediate successors and to be overwhelmed by the “native” art forms, the “real Indian” sculptural traditions. With the availability of the so-called “ring stones” (actually Yoni-Pithas) from a much earlier period leaves no doubt that highly sophisticated art from was handy to the Asokan atelier, which received a new fillip through the Imperial patronage. But these discs, as they are fully analysed in the present dissertation, necessarily had a much wide clientele and therefore represent a broader social base, or an art-consciousness of the sophisticated social order than the Court itself. The original of Asokan sculpture, therefore, should be seen in these and similar examples.
Like the Asokan Brahmi and the court language (a special from of Pali), these do not fail to impress us that the cult and also the art form with minor variations had an extensive geographical horizon that they appears as far west as Taxila down to Pataliputra in the east and the ancient Ujjayini region in central India. This leaves the impression that before the advent of Gandharan art in the Kushan period, our country was so closely knit in its art forms besides language, culture and religious consciousness. One can see some western influence here or there in these examples but they did not influence the basic expressions and vast material and presenting it in a more plausible classifications and chronology. Moreover, the present in-depth study has gone into the minuets details of these specimens. The supporting explanations are similarly educative, interesting as they are. This exercise would give new directions to the future students and scholars as it would be profitable to the present generation. The task commenced by Cunningham and carried on by Coomaraswamy or V.S. Agrawala, finds a logical conclusion in the following pages.
Undoubtedly the “Pama-sabari” aspects of the Mother-goddess is not missed in some of these representations especially in the imbricated motif freely used in her lower, i.e. kilt-like garment. It is worthy of notice that these and other motifs are related not only to the “historical” specimens—both in the high art forms and the popular forms like the early terra-cotta art—with the Matrka appearing in different manifestations but also in the context of the “pre-historic” or the “proto-historic”.
As I wish all good-luck to the erudition, I feel that such whollistic study on this theme was called for which is fully answered by the present publication. My congratulations!
Forward by Prof. Anand Krishna
Ancient Indian Mother-goddess Votive Discs:
List of Illustrations
List of Line Sketches
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