Punjab is India’s window towards the west. And, since the earliest times, has been a gateway for many an alien invasion – even if foreign ideas and influences too made inroads into the region. In medieval times, particularly, it suffered the devastating onslaughts of iconoclastic hordes, one after the other. Islamic fundamentalism resulted in desecrating, damaging and wiping out standing temples and sculptures. Resultantly, not a single ancient temple is to be seen in the region. And the sculptures too are a rarity here. Which is why, Punjab – till the discovery of Kushana railing pillars at Sanghol in 1982 -- had almost been a terra incognita with regard to sculptural art. And whatever else has been discovered by archaeologists remains in archives, museums, brochures, and newspapers – or even has been pilfered. Against this background, Devendra Handa tries to reconstruct a comprehensive picture of sculptural art in Punjab.
Growing from the author’s four decades of persevered study and research, this volume presents over three hundred specimens of art from the present-day Punjab, with their indepth stylistic and iconographic attributes. Besides the Buddhist and Jaina sculptures, the author examines the Gupta era terracottas, medieval sculptures, metal as well as marble images of the major Hindu deities like Vishnu, Siva, Sakti, and Ganesa – which, in their togetherness, also highlight the culture, ethnography, art and religious history of the region. Claiming that most of these sculptures, including the unfinished images of Hindu deities, are published for the first time, the author brings out the artistic, aesthetic and iconographic achievements of the artists, who created these masterly works. Illustrated with 62 sketches and 328 plates, the sculptures, presented here, according to him, would perhaps convince anyone that the present-day Punjab, even if much-truncated, is no more a terra incognita in sculptural art.
Devendra Handa: former Professor of Art History at the Panjab University, is a recipient of many prestigious awards/honours and extensively published author. He has been Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla; Senior Fellow of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR); and also Senior Fellow of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.