Gandhara school of art was one of the major school of art in the history of ancient India. Although being an intricate part of Indian history, it is uniquely associated with the Graeco-Roman styles of art.
The culmination of these Graeco-Roman and Indian ideas and styles along with influence of other foreign traditions such as from China and Iran resulted in the formation of a distinct style known as the Gandhara School of art.
This style of art was closely connected to the Mahayana Buddhism and hence the main theme of this art was Lord Buddha and bodhisattvas. Thus it can be very clearly concluded that in idea and conception this style was Indian and in execution it was foreign. One example of the Gandhara style of art is the Bamiyan Buddha.
It mostly flourished in the areas of Afghanistan and the present North-Western India. The prominent locations were taxila, Peshawar, Begram and Bamiyan. The period around which the Gandhara school of art flourished could be said to be from 1st century BCE to 4th century CE.
There was an extensive use of black stone and stucco. Stucco was a kind of plaster that was used for the many structures including the freestanding ones under this style of art. The free standing structures included many chaityas, Viharas, stupas constructed.
The striking feature of Gandhara School of art was the very realistic, and the depiction of natural features in perfection. Although it was dominated by the themes of lord Buddha, however there were images on other subjects also made such as the images of Greek god Apollo and certain kings.
The Graeco-Roman effect on the Gandhara art can be traced through :
- Halo around the head of lord Buddha
- Buddha’s wavy hair
- The forehead lines
- Drape and style of the garments
Thus, Gandhara School of Art can be said as an influence and culmination of both the Indian as well as foreign traditions due to its strategic location.