Bihar’s craftsmen have excelled in manufacturing artistic goods which have great demand in local and international market. The fine skill and perfection of Bihari craftsmen is clearly manifested from various archaeological excavations in Kumhrar, Bulandibagh,Nalanda and other places.
Art and Architecture in Ancient Bihar (Bihar GK in English)
The rich cultural heritage of Bihar is reflected in the art and architecture of the ancient period.
Art in Mauryan Period
Evidences of ancient architecture in Bihar can be traced back to Mauryan period (about 4th century BCE). At this time, Sculpture and Rock arts were at the peak.
Kumhrar in Patna and Rajgir, Barabar hills near Gaya have evidence of this period architecture.
Burnt bricks and stones were used for external construction and interiors or palaces were built of wood. The walls and pillars were decorated with designs of flowers, creepers,mountains and figures of animals, birds and human beings.
The chief characteristic of this period was single stone use for the pillars and round shape at the top. Single stone pillars are the typical feature of Asokan time. Lauriya Nandangarh, Lauriya Areraj, Rampurva and Basarh have evidence of Ashokan single stone pillars. The pillars were either carved in red sandstone, white sandstone or fine grained hard sandstone having small but dark coloured spots.
The Mauryan pillars are finest examples of art, architecture and sculpture. These pillars have average height of 40ft. Usually the top portion of the pillars were carved with animal figures. The monolith (single rock column) on the top of the pillar represents capital or janpad of the Mauryan empire which was either bell shaped or lotus shaped. The national emblem of India which is taken from Lion Capital of Asoka is the most famous example of Mauryan Art. The wheel Ashoka Chakra from its base was placed into the centre of national flag. It was placed on top of the Asoka pillar established at Sarnath in about 250 BCE. The sculpture is carved out of a single rock of polished sandstone that sits on top of a pillar. A similar sculpture of Mauryan period is found at Vaishali. It consists of a single lion and is called Single Lion Capital.
Palaces were an important feature of Mauryan period. The palace of Chandragupta Maurya had a line of pillars. It was also known as wooden palace because the interiors were made entirely of wood.Megasthenes mentioned this palace as the most magnificent one. Palace of Chandragupta Maurya was excavated from Kumhrar that had a large hall with 80 pillars.
Buddhist stupas held special place in the art and architecture of Mauryan period.
They were dome shaped monuments that enshrined sacred relics and were made of brick and mortar. All the stupas had similar shape. The stupas were mostly built by Samrat Asoka.
The caves were cut into large halls known as Chaitya halls.Group of four caves at Barabar near Jehanabad shows the cave architecture prevalent in this period. Caves such as Sudama or Nyagrodha and Karma Chaupar bears inscription of Asoka. Lomas Rishi cave is the most prominent work of this period.Other caves are found at Nagarjuni hill, bearing an inscription of Daratha. In Sitamarhi, near Rajgriha a small cave is found that is made out of a single isolated granite boulder. The interiors of all the caves are polished like glass.
Sculpture in Mauryan period consisted of very detailed statues, human like appearances and forms and a bright polish with a mirror like finish. Yaksh and Yakshini statue are the examples of finest sculpture from Patna. The Yaksha statues are in Kolkata museum. The Pillars of Asoka and statue of Didarganj Yakshini are estimated to be at least 2,000 years old and were carved out of a single piece of stone.
Didarganj Yakshini statue depicts the contemporary women fashion style. The statue is well proportional and depicts a well built muscular women that represents beauty and fertility. The Yakshni statue holds a chauri in one hand and her entire body is covered with ornaments.
The statue shows the folded garments very distinctively worn by the women.
Ancient statues are found throughout Bihar. Some of these sculptures were made from bronze, an advanced technique at that time. e.g. the Sultanganj Buddha Statue, estimated to be 1500 years old, is about seven feet tall and made of 500 kg of bronze, making it the largest statue of that period.
Art in Post Mauryan Period
Small kingdoms such as Shungas and Kanvas succeeded the Mauryas. Their art form were centered around Stupas, Yakshas and Nagas. In Bodh Gaya, there was a Bodhi Ghara i.e. a shrine of the Bodhi tree, built in the reign of Asoka. It was enclosed by a sculptured railing. It was later replaced by a straight-edged Shikhara temple with a Buddha image.
Art in Kushana Period
In the brief reign of Kushana dynasty, that ruled from Mathura, the Mathura school of art was formed. Bihar was also under the Kushana empire. Remarkable feature of Kushana art and architecture is the making of temples thus popularising Hinduism.
The sculptures discovered from Nawada district belongs to Kushana period. The most popular sculpture is of Ekanamsa trio which means the three deities i.e. Vasudeva, Balram and Eknamsa. The statue is preserved in the Patna Museum.
Art in Gupta Period
The Gupta and Later Gupta period art was lesser in quality as compared to Mauryan period.Gupta period art was influenced by Mathura style and therefore reflects Hindu religion more than Buddhism. Rohtas, Bhojpur, Rajgir,Gaya, Vaishali, Sultanganj and Patna have evidence of this period sculpture.
The temples during Gupta period reflected a mix of Dravidian and Nagara style of architecture. Brahmanical temple,Dasavtara temple, Vishnu temple at Dighwara, Shiva temple at Bhumarah, reflect the architecture of that period. Cave temples, Chaitya halls were also popular during this period.
Buddhist architecture during the Gupta period consisted of stupas that were made up of bricks. They are found from Giriak in Patna and Kesariya in Champaran.
Buddhist shrines at Bodh Gaya also represent architecture of that period.
The Bodh Gaya image of Buddha is the earliest sculpture in Bihar. A 7.5 feet copper statue of Gautam Buddha discovered from Sultanganj in Bhagalpur clearly tells about the art of that period. The style of Buddha’s clothing is inspired by Roman Sculpture designs of hellenistic forms.
This statue is now preserved at Burmingham Museum, England.Mandar Hill features the unique image of Lord Vishnu (from the Gupta period) in his man-lion incarnation. The image is 34 inches high and made of black stone.
Most of the Hindu and Buddhist sculptures in Bihar were destroyed by Muslim invaders. Stonecraft of Bihar is evident from the ancient sculptures of the Mauryan period.
Many statues, ranging from Hellenistic Gods to various Gandharan lay devotees, are combined with what are thought to be early representations of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas. The information about emergence of Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara emergence is not known.However, evidence from Sirkap indicates that this style of art was already highly developed before the advent of the Kushanas.
Art during the Palas
The early medieval period saw the development of art and architecture during the reign of Pala dynasty. Statues made up of stone, copper and a mixture of eight different metals became popular. This period was marked by the building of many temples, stupas, viharas and chaityas.
Apart from stone and brass, the statues were also made of Ashtha Dhatu (a combination of eight metals). Buddhas images were produced in various attitudes and mudras. Events related to Buddha’s life was also carved out. Rajgriha, Vaishali, Nalanda, Biharsharif, Bodh Gaya, Patna, Kukrihar, Tehera,Gunderi, Bishanpur and Dharawat are main centres from where metal and stone sculptures of Pala period have been discovered.
Brahmanical sculptures such as Uma-Maheshwara, Shiva, Vaishnava images produced in twelfth century are also found. Bronze figures of Bodhisatva (Avalokitesvara,Manjushri,Maitreya, Vajrapani and Brahminical images also found from these places).
These images has dated back to ninth century. Taranath names two artists, father and son,Dhiman and Bitpalo, as being the founder of Schools of Cast Metal Images, Sculptures and Paintings. The Pala sculptures also present examples of artistic beauty carved out of stone sculptures. This style of sculpture as popularised by Pala dynasty came to be known as Poorvi style of sculpture.
Monasteries, Stupas and Temples
Dharampala and Devpala of Pala dynasty build the Buddha Viharas in Odantpuri, Nalanda and Vikramshila. There were a number of temples built during this period that includes Vishnupad at Gaya, cave temples at Kukrihar and Kahalgaon (Bhagalpur).
Pala dynasty architectures show the presence of both Buddhism and Hinduism in that era. The period saw the revival of Hinduism. This period also had tantric art influence. VikramshilaMahavihar shows archaeological remains of this period.
Stupas at Nalanda had more than one terraces and were crowned by many umbrellas.
The curvilinear Shikhara of Shiva temple at Konch in Gaya is a wonderful architecture of that period.
Art and Architecture in Medieval Bihar
The emergence of Turks, Afghans brought the elements of Islamic art and architecture in Bihar in 12th century AD. The effect of Turks, Afghan and Mughals can be found in its art form. The distinctive style of architecture includes the monument enclosed within walled and moated boundaries with large gates and multi-storied structures.
In 1547 AD, Palace of Rohtas has been completed which represents an example of the Akbari style. PhulMahal or Palace of Flowers is another example of this style.
Makhdum Shah Daulat’s tomb built in 1617 in Maner (Patna) is an important example of Mughal style.
It was made in red sandstone. It was built by Ibrahim Khan Kakar during the reign of Jahangir. The main building of this tomb follows the typical Chaar Bagh Mughal style. Shiva temple at Baikathpur, located 18 miles from Patna was constructed by economic help from Raja Mansingh.
Harishchandra temple at Rohtasgarh fort is also built by Raja Mansingh. The Golghar is twenty seven meters high in the shape of an inverted arice bowl. It resembles to the Indo-Saracenic architectural style. It is made of brick and mortar.
Temples, Tombs and Mosques
The temples in medieval period in Bihar were built of brick, timber on quadrilateral, circular or elliptical plains. The gateway arches or toranas were hugely popular. The tombs,mosques etc were built on sandstone and marble and showed Persian influence.
Tomb of Malik Ibrahim in Bihar Sharif was built in Turkish period. Effect of Afghan style can be seen from Sher Shah’s tomb of Sasaram. Sher Shah’s tomb is built on rectangular platform.
Modern Architecture in Bihar
European influence in architecture was observed with arrival of European traders in Bihar. Patna college and Patna Collectorate are built in Holland architectural style.
Bankipur church has Gothic influence while Raj Bhawan,High Court and Secretariat were built in European style. Indo-Islamic influence can be seen in Patna Museum.
Mughal architecture has Indo-Islamic style and mostly consists of dome building features adorned with intricate designs. Patna and Munger has many monuments that show Mughal architecture.
Crafts in Bihar (Bihar GK in English)
It is made on clay. Bihar had a rich history of clay pottery work. Since, the time of Mauryan and Gupta, this art has been in practice in Bihar. The archaeological excavations at places like Nalanda and Rajgir had confirmed the existence of this artistic craft in Bihar. Beautiful earthen utensils and tiles are made by potters of Bihar.
They have the abilities and skill to do artistic and beautiful paintings on earthen pots. Patna is very famous for such work. Patna is also famous for making earthen statues of various Gods and Goddess.
As a form of art and craft, it was very famous during Mauryan times.During such period wooden houses were made by carving out of wood. This ancient art has not only been preserved, but also has been converted into a means of livelihood by artists of Bihar which in one of the few places where wood carving work is still practiced.
Bihar is one of the few places where wood carving and inlay work is done with wall plaques, table tops, pens and paper cutters being made from wood and inlaid with diverse materials ranging from metal, ivory, stag horn to chips of different wood.
Presently, Patna is well known for manufacturing of carved doors and windows.
From time immemorial, Bihar had a history of wooden craft which consist of manufacturing of wooden furnitures and toys. Right from the time of Mauryan and most particularly from the time of Asoka it has remained high on scale in terms of artistic beauties, creativity, durability and cheap price.During Asoka’s reign beautiful royal throne, royal gates or doors and panels of temples were manufactured by wood artists of Bihar. This ancient and rich tradition of wooden work has now converted into a big industries because of their huge demands in Indian and international markets. Patna and Danapur are very famous centres of wooden toy making.
It is a craft whereby the craftsmen turn a grass or a weed thriving on most of the river bank into beautiful decorative objects. This craft is particularly practiced by women artisan in Bihar.
Beautiful toys and wares are manufactured out of this grass. After collecting and drying they stitch these grasses into various shapes like elephant, bird, snake and are coloured to make attractive. Sikki grass dyed in red, blue, black and gold is imaginatively wrought into a variety of articles such as baskets and boxes, human figures, replicas of Gods and Goddesses, toys, animals, birds and models of chariots and temples. The desired forms are generally shaped with ordinary grass called khar which is coiled and encased in the soften sikki, while many of the motifs are derived from the local tantric traditions.
The brass work of Bihar is a continuation of the brass craft done in pre-historic ages but this form of art was at its peak during Mauryan and again during Gupta and Pala period. It has been confirmed from many archaeological excavation sites like Nalanda and Rajgir. Even now artists of Bihar are very skillful in making images of God/Goddesses, utensils, iron pitchers and other household utility articles with great fineness. They have great demand throughout the country. Brass is mixed with other metals to make figures of Panch Dhatu.
Zari Craft and Artistic Embroidery
It is very famous in Bihar and is also a livelihood business for many families. Some of the finest Zari works can be found in shamiyanas, kanath, chandwas, pillow-covers, covers for musical instruments, table cloth, window curtains, blouse pieces, sari, borders etc. Patna is very famous for Zari and embroidery works. Sujini are traditional quilts made in Bihar. The embroidery on the quilt is done in running stitch in a scale pattern, which depicts village scenes such as peacocks dancing, boys flying kite, etc.
The appliqué work of Bihar is called Khatwa, which is used in decorative tents, canopies, shamiyanas etc. The applique designs for tents are Persian type trees, flowers, animals and birds.
Textile printing is as ancient in Bihar as other form of art and crafts. Particularly, Patna is very famous for this art which is specialised for making chunris having motifs like, parrots, peacocks, elephants,mangoes, conches, fish and various deities.
The Kasida embroidery work is a very ancient form of art. Kasida embroidery is done with gold and silver metallic threads beads, silk and sequins on satin or velvet having the motifs of birds, leaf and many other. Kasida embroidery with geometrical patterns is very famous in Bihar. Patna is a known center of such type of Kasida embroidery.
It has remained a culture of Bihar throughout the ages and time. Right from the pre-historic time forest dwelling tribes are experts in bamboo and cane work. They used to make many utility items like baskets, household wares, woven mats, furniture and cane products like cane furniture and other decorative objects. By utilising their skill and techniques they turn these lifeless bamboo and cane into living object which are of great value in everyday life.
It is an ancient craft of Bihar that was used for the preparation of masks for different dance forms. It is a construction material made from a paper pulp.
Newspaper or waste paper,multani mitti,methi powder (for fragrance and protection from insects) and adhesive made from water and wheat flour is used for paper mache crafts. The masks are a popular attire in Chhau dance also.
It is a form of craft made from broken glass. The craftsmen first melt the broken glass and then give its shape and design. Patna is very famous for manufacturing of this craft. The chief markets of Tikuli are Varanasi, Patna and Kolkata.
Silver and gold jewellery making is associated with the history of Bihar which was cornerstone of Indian history particularly during the ancient times. Therefore, silver and gold jewellery works are very special in Bihar.Goldsmiths of Bihar are very famous for making beautiful and artistic ornaments of gold and silver. Particularly the carving or kundan work on silver jewellery is highly praiseworthy because it requires high degree of skill and concentration.
Bihar was highly famous for lacquer works and had a rich past of highly artistic and beautiful lacquer ware craft. Bihar’s lacquer ware artisans are very famous for decorating various items beautifully with lacquer ware work like legs of beds, boxes, bangles and stools.Muzaffarpur,Darbhanga and Madhubani are famous for the lacquer-work, especially for production of lac bangles. Lac bangles are worn by married women of aboriginal tribal people of Bihar including Bhumij,Mo,Munda, Oraon and Santhal tribes.One of the ancient items is the round conical box in which the bride’s parents present her with a nose ring at the time of marriage which has interesting symbols of fertility and longevity inscribed on its red body. The other colourful and ornamental articles are chapatti boxes and dry fruit containers.
Paintings of Bihar (Bihar GK in English)
Paintings belonging to Maurya, Pala,Gupta and other ancient and medieval kingdoms/empires has been discovered in Bihar. Painting flourished in Pala Period.
Paintings on manuscripts depict Buddha and other God. Tantrik effect on these paintings has also been observed. Cave paintings of Pala period have also been found which has different motifs.Mural painting has been discovered from Sarai in Nalanda district. In these paintings elephant, horse, dancers and Boddhisattva has been depicted.
Patna Kalam Painting
Mughal rule in India has influenced the social, cultural, political and economic life style of the Indian people but the area which was most influenced was art, architecture and culture. As far as painting is concerned, Jahangir’s reign was known as the golden era ofMughal paintings. Combining the Persian style with the Indian traditional style, they introduced a new way of painting.
Many Indian schools of paintings flourished afterwards and they were heavily influenced by Mughal paintings.One among these was Patna School of Painting or Patna Kalam or Company painting. Patna Kalam was an offshoot of Mughal painting flourished during early 18th to mid 20th century in Bihar. During the rule of Aurangzeb,Hindu artisans of Mughal paintings faced prosecution because of his anti-Hindu policy and distaste in art and painting.
Thus these Hindu painters took refuge in Patna and introduced a new school of painting known as Patna Kalam. Although, they followed the basic features of Mughal painting, their subject matter was different. Unlike Mughal painting whose subjects were mainly royalty and court scenes, painters of Patna Kalam were deeply influenced by daily life of common people.
Their main subjects were bazaar scenes, local rulers, local festival and ceremonies.
Later Patna Art School was founded by Shri Radha Mohan. These paintings are exhibited in Patna museum and Khudabaksh Library.
Features of Patna Kalam Paintings
➤ The paintings in Patna Kalam have light coloured sketches and life like representations. Landscape, foreground and background is not painted in Patna Kalam. The paintings are painted straight with the brush as Pencil is not used in the initial stage. This type of technique is known as Kajli Syani. The human figures are shown prominently and features of the face are highlighted to show expressions.
➤ The Patna Kalam paintings are made on glass, mica and ivory sheets. The theme ranges from showing daily routine life of the people, work of the labour class, people selling petty things to saints giving sermons.
➤ Brushes used in these paintings were made of hairs of animals like camel, deer, squirrel, etc and feathers of birds like pigeon, eagle, etc. The colours used in Patna Kalam paintings were naturally extracted from plants, bark of trees, flowers, minerals and metals. Red colour was extracted from vermillion, blue from stones, white colour from shells and yellow from flowers and minerals.
➤ There is not much use of background and landscape in these paintings as making landscapes and background would make the paintings costly.
Renowed Painters of Patna Kalam Paintings
Sevak Ram was the first painter to be recognised for his art. Hulas Ram, Mahadev Lal, Madholal, Yamuna Prasad, Shiva Dayal were renowned painters from the Patna Kalam School of Art. Ishwari Prasad is considered the last renowned painter of this style.
Some examples of Patna Kalam paintings :
n Ragini Gandhari painted by Mahadev Lal depicts the pain of separation of a woman.
n Virahini Nayika painted by Madholal shows a woman with a veena (musical instrument).
n Muslim Vivah by Shivdayal Lal depicts the proceedings of a Muslim wedding.
It is the folk art of Bhagalpur district and dates back to 7th century. This art form originated from the story of Bihula-Bishari and is associated with Bishari Puja. It was one of the skills that was generated in the families of the Mithila region,mainly by women Manjusha.
Painting was usually done on walls during festivals, religious events and other milestones of the lifecycle, like birth, Upanayanam(the sacred thread ceremony of the Brahmins) and marriage.Manjusha Kala or Angika Art is another Bihari art form, practiced in the Anga region.Main colours used in this kind of paintings are pink, green and yellow.
Yellow colour signifies sacrifice and green colour signifies happiness. Five kind of borders are drawn on the edges of this painting namely Lehriya, Belpatr, Srp ki Ladi, Mokha and Tribhuj.
The main artists of these paintings are Chakravati Devi,Nirmala Devi,Manoj Pandit and Ulupi Jha.
This is the most famous painting of Bihar. It is basically practiced in Mithila region of Bihar, particularly by women. It is being done since the time of Ramayana.
Originally, the painting was done on freshly plastered mud wall of huts, but now it is also done on cloth, hand-made paper and canvas. The theme of Madhubani painting are nature and Hindu religious figures and the themes are generally associated with Hindu deities, natural objects like Sun,Moon and religious plants like tulsi.
The empty spaces on the painting are filled up with motifs of flowers, animals, birds and geometric designs. Its main feature is paintings filled with vivid and contrasted colours. The linearMadhubani paintings do not require colour as only the outlines are drawn. Tradition states that this style of painting originated at the time of the Ramayana, when King Janak commissioned artists to do paintings at the time of his daughter Sita’s marriage to Lord Ram.
These paintings are made with brush, colours and paper. The brush is made by cotton tied to a very thin bamboo stick. In these paintings mainly yellow, green, red, black, blue, orange, etc colours are used. Yellow colour is used to make land, red is used for fire, black is used for wind, blue in used for sky, etc.
The artists prepare the colours with natural products like turmeric for yellow colour, root for black, indigo for blue, apple tree leaves for green, palash flowers for red and orange colours.
Nowadays some amount of synthetic colours are added to the natural ingredients for a long lasting effect.
Styles of Madhubani Paintings
Madhubani paintings are prepared in five distinctive styles. The styles are Bharni, Kachni, Tantrik,Godna and Kohbar. All these styles show the pair of Gods like Shiv-Parvati, Radha- Krishna, Ram-Sita. The paintings have a border and various symbols like tortoise represents long life, bamboo represents children, parrot represents knowledge.
Types of Madhubani Paintings
Madhubani Paintings are of two types i.e. wall paintings and floor paintings known as Aripan:
Aripan These paintings are paintings drawn on the floor. These are similar to Alpana floor paintings of Bengal. In this art form, women draw various figures and drawings to decorate their homes on special occasions. Rice powder, water and natural colours are used to draw various figures on the floor.Geometrical shapes, flowers, leaves, animal figures are drawn beautifully. These Aripan shapes form the main part during tulsi puja,marriage or festivals.
Wall Paintings These are of two forms, i.e. decoration of Gosauni room and decoration of Kohbar room.
(i) Kohbar Room Kohbar rooms are the bed rooms and they are decorated with paintings that are bit erotic in nature. Figures of Yaksh and Yakshini are also made. Bamboo is drawn to show the family tree, tortoise represents long life. Kohbar rooms and their paintings are very popular in Mithila region. Picture of clan deity is drawn in Kohbar room during the time of wedding using turmeric and other natural materials. In Kohbar,mainly tortoise (for Bride-Groom’s longevity), bamboo (for raising the family) and parrot (for gaining knowledge) are drawn.
(ii) Gosauni Room The decoration is done by way of paintings of religious figures. Figures of Radha-Krishna, Shiv-Parvati, Ram-Sita, Vishnu-Laxmi adore the walls. The figures are drawn by women of Brahman and Kayastha families.
Notable Madhubani Artists
Many artists from Bihar have received national and international recognition for their exceptional art. Some of the notable artists are mentioned below:
Ganga Devi She was born in Mithila region. She popularised the Kachni style of painting. She was awarded with Padma Shri in 1984.
Sita Devi She was born in Jitwarpur village of Madhubani district. She received state award in 1969 and national award in 1975. She was conferred with Padma Shri in 1981, Bharat Ratna in 1984 and received the title of Shilp Guru in 2006.
Mahasundari Devi She is also a renowned painter born in Madhubani district. She created a cooperative society to support Madhubani painters. She received national award in 1982, Tulsi Samman in 1995 and Padma Shri in 2011.
Karpuri Devi She was a native of Ranti village in Madhubani district. She was an acclaimed artist and the winner of several state awards and national merit certificate given by Ministry of Textiles, Union Government. She brought the Mithila art form on the global map of the folk art.
Main Centres of Madhubani Paintings
The state has a number of institutions to teach this style of painting. The state Government of Bihar has opened Mithila Art Institute in Madhubani for the preservation, development and popularising this form of art.
State Government centres are running in Madhubani, Bhawanipur, Leharia Sarai, Leharia Ganj, Jitwarpur and Simri. Since 1990, Japan has also shown a keen interest in Madhubani paintings because of the initiatives of Hasegawa who established Mithila Museum in Tokamachi where Madhubani paintings are exhibited.
These are sacred paintings related to Buddhism. It started around 10th century. It is usually done on cloth and paper. These paintings are hung in monasteries, temples and Tibetian houses.
These paintings show various aspects of Buddha’s life. They are drawn artistically with intricate patterns. It takes lot of time and patience to draw Thangka paintings.
Around 109 paintings form the precious collection in Patna Museum.
Mineral oxides were mixed with other ingredients like glue, lac, alum, chalk, soot, indigo, vermillion in various proportions to get the desired colour.