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Theresa McCullough

Figure of a seated Ascetic
India; Northern India, Ganges Valley
1st - 2nd c.
terracotta
Height: 6.3 cm (2 1/2 ins)

Small terracotta figures, both male and female, appear to have been made in abundance in the Ganges Valley in the Shunga and Kushan periods. Whilst the female figures are often clearly recognised goddesses, the identity of the male figures is often uncertain, but they appear to have been associated with specific ceremonies. Male figures such as this are believed to represent a class of ascetics who performed certain rituals for the community; to this day such individuals are sometimes invited to feasts following religious festivals in order to ensure the eventís auspiciousness.

This figure exactly captures the appearance of the ascetic. He is slender bodied, his hair casually coiled on top of his head and his expression is deeply thoughtful, indicating meditation. The whole impression is one of spiritual intensity. By this period terracotta figures were made by professional potters, which clearly shows in the careful modelling and the application of a surface slip before firing.

References:

Jayaswal, Vidula; Kushana Clay Art of Ganga Plains, Delhi 1995, p.29 Desai, D; The Social Milieu of Ancient Indian Terracottas 600 BC - 600 AD.

Poster, Amy; From Indian Earth, Brooklyn 1986.

all text, images © Theresa McCullough

 

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