Title of the Book : Himalayan
Art (UNESCO Art Book)
Year of publication:1968
Publisher :New York
Graphic Socity Ltd
Madanjeet Singh, a well known
scholar and a photographer; has contributed a great deal to
provide an in-depth knowledge of the Himalayan art. He has
to his credit many books like Indian Sculpture in Bronze and
Stone and Ajanta.
Himalayan art deals with the wall painting and sculpture
of Ladakh, Lahaul, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan.
The book deals with the Himalayan range, the people living
there and the contribution made by the inhabitants. He also
describes the role of Hinduism and Buddhism in these areas
for the development of Art and Architecture, the influence
of Gandhar, Kushan and Gupta schools of art. Singh not only
has provided the photographs of the paintings and sculpture
of Himalayan range of antique value but has also illustrated
the existing birds of the various species and their relation
with the paintings.
The author has provide examples from ancient cannons of Indian
Buddhist Art from Guhyan-samaja,
Manjushrimulakalpa, Sadhanamala, Nishpannayogavali
and many inscriptions of India from fifth to seventh century.
Various schools of Tibetian Buddhist and their influence on
the Arts of Ladakh, HimalayanPradesh , Sikkim, Bhutan and
Nepal are also described.
The history of Hindu and Buddhist art of Ladakh along –with
the secular art of the place are illustrated. The symbolic
representation of Yamantaka and other Tantric divinities is
also prominent in this book. The bodhisattva from Alchi monastries
influenced by the Viswarupa Vishnu is well illustrated.
Singh also gives a glimpse of the architecture of Nepal after
providing a geographical introduction of the country. The
Terracotta Head of Benjarahi is compared with that of the
art of pre-Christian era from the Indian Gangatic plains.
The so called real personage from Mrigasthali, now in the
collection of the National Museum, is believed by various
scholars to be the Sun God. This idea is based upon a round
nimbus on his head. The designs of his lower garment and the
detailed work show an early feature of Indian Art .The finding
of the statue of King Java Verma dated 185 A.D. and carvings
of goddesses from many parts of Katmandu have proved the hypothesis
of the author, namely the magnitude of the influence of Kusan
art in Nepal. His idea that many Indian artists after 466
A.D. Who took refuge in the Katmandu Valley introduced the
Gupta Style art can not be accepted any more. From the very
beginning of the Lichchhavi rule two different schools of
art developed in Nepal. One school followed the traditional
style while the other school encouraged the classical Gupta
style. The learned author has missed many aspects of Nepalese’s
culture. The so called Virupakshya is described by him as
a noble man. If the author had studied more carefully he would
not have missed the third eye indicating that the figure is
one of the manifestations of Shiva and not a noble man. Sometimes
he has jumped to the wrong conclusion such as Amsuvarma entering
into a matrimonial alliance with Tibet by giving away the
hand of his daughter, Bhrikuti, to the Tibetan King. The idea
is not accepted any more. He compares Budhanilkantha with
the Ananta Vishnu of the Vishwarupa friezed at Changu Narayan.
The motives of these two are completely different .The greatest
contribution of the writers is the detail in the photographs
of the wall paintings of the court yards of Bhaktapur palace.
He has not only provided the best photographs possible but
also studies them carefully and has identified them properly.
In some cases, his dating has been challenged by the Nepalese
scholars. Like the standing images of Lokeshwar from Hirayana
Varna Maha Vihara. He dates the standing Padhamapani Lokeshowar
of the same place from seventeenth century, whereas the same
now has been dated by the scholars as belonging to the eleventh
century. His dates for the Vishnu mounted uponGaruda from
Changunararayan and the Mahishasamabara of National Museum
have been challenged by the scholars. Almost all t5hese paintings
of Bhaktapur palace have faded and have not been restored.
Singh then looks at the art of Sikkim both in general and
academic way.Sikkim was influenced by Tibetan Buddhism from
the very beginning .Thus the study of Sikkimese art has to
start from the history and art of Tibet. One surprising things
is that he did not find any art forms in Sikkim that can be
scientifically dated to be prior to fifteenth or sixteenth
century of the Christian era. He describes the early art work
after the sixteenth century, as seen in Chhortens, to be rather
crude. The indigenous people were practicing Buddhism long
before the said periods. The clay statues and wall paintings
from various Nyingma Schools are described. The Bronze Statute
of Buddha, Bodhisattva, supplied to meet the demands of Sikkim,
were sent from Nepal. The Nepalese artist and the bronze casters
were summoned by the Namgyals to caste the Bronze Buddhas.The
Shakyas of Mahaboudha area used to visiting Sikkim on invitation
from the monasteries and aristocrats of Sikkim to cast the
Bronze statues, paintings and other works of art. This fact
has been ignored by the author.
Finally he deals with the art of Bhutan. Two great centers
of Bhutanese art, culture and learning are Paro and Thimpu.
People from Tibet came, lived and popularized the then Buddhism.
The Bhutanese script has its origins in Tibet. The wall paintings,
the embroidery works, the architecture and the monastic life
are also like that of Tibet.
Nepal provided many Bronze Sculptures to Bhutan prior to
1950, as many Sakyas visited Bhutan to cast the Bronze figures.
The whole of Bhutan is influenced by the Nyingma-pas School
and Padmasabhava is highly venerated. This facet of the history
of Bhutan is not properly mentioned in this Book.