CHENNAI:If you head to the Egmore Government museum and walk into one of its most popular gallery — The Amaravati — you will surely be transported to a different time and age. Sculptures, pillars and fragments of a Buddhist stupa dating back to the 2nd century BC, astounding art that is of historic, aesthetic, religious, epigraphic value and relevance, all brought to the museum in the middle of the 19th century, from an abandoned city of the Satavahana era, to get its due attention. R Gopu, a popular city-based historian, who will be curating a talk and walk on one of the great treasures of the Egmore museum, the Amaravati gallery, this weekend, gives us a peek into what’s in store.
“Amaravati sculptures are as important as the Sanchi and Behrut sculptures. The depictions are so unique,” he says. In an earlier talk on Amaravati through its sculptures, as part of International Museum Day celebrations, Gopu had said, “The sculptor knows how to speak to the viewer in such a powerful way that it creates a lasting impression.”
The stone sculptures in the gallery are from Amaravati, near Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, an ancient Buddhist site. “Several sculptures and slabs from here were taken to Kolkata, Chennai, and England,” he shares. But unfortunately the gallery doesn’t draw a crowd, and Gopu rues, “It’s shocking that the gallery in the museum, in the heart of the city, does not get the required traction.”
Perhaps, it is the unfamiliarity of the themes depicted in the pieces and seemingly confusing compositions that’s challenging for people to understand. “I will be juxtaposing these sculptures to the ones in Ajanta, and will also talk in-depth about the various representations, including the Jatakas,” he explains. Episodes from the Jataka stories including Kavi Kumara Jataka, Soumanasa Jataka and Vidura Pandita Jataka are intricately cut inside the circular frames and part of the casing slabs. “Some of them are extremely unique and are preserved in our museum,” he says.
The Amaravati sculptures have some of the earliest lithic work of significance in the southern part of the Indian peninsula. Some remains of the panels can be still found in south India. “Amaravati is known to have been one of the three most flourishing art schools...the type of artwork featured here would have set the trend for art in the later periods. But, there is no documented record,”he explains.
Gopu will also focus on different aspects of artistic rendering from differentiated planes, etching, distance and perspective. He asserts that students and the general public should be exposed to Indian artworks and styles. “The art of Amaravati, Badami and Mahabalipuram should be part of school syllabus. Most art schools teach about international artists and fail to focus on the intricacies of Indian art. People should put in the effort to develop their knowledge on art,” he adds.
The talk will be held on August 4 at Arkay Convention Center in Mylapore from 5.30pm. The walk will be conducted on August 5 at Egmore Museum
At the talk
Gopu will focus on different aspects of artistic rendering from differentiated planes, etching, distance and perspective. He asserts that students and the general public should be exposed to Indian artworks and styles