1. Buddha's Mahaparinirvana - AD 477

Location: Cave 26, Ajanta - Maharashtra

This 23 foot long sculpture of Buddha symbolizes the Mahaparinirvana of Buddha. He is depicted as lying serenly supported by a pillow. The devotees are depicted sitting by his side grieving in his departure from the earth. However on the top rejoicing heavenly beings are depicted. They are joyfully praising  Buddha's victory over death and attainment of Nirvana. It is a colossal sculpture showing the mastery of sculptors of ancient  India. 

10 best sculptures of ancient India- Buddha's Mahaparinirvana - Ajanta
Buddha's Mahaprinirvana - Ajanta

2. The Dancing Shiva - circa 570AD

Located in :   Badami , Karnataka

This elegant sculpture of Dancing Shiva is found in the Badami caves. It is located on the side wall of the cave number 1. It was built during the early time of Chalukya empire of Karantaka. Shiva is performing the dance named “Thandava”. Each hand of Shiva is a symbol from the Indian classical dance “Bharatanatyam”. Nandi- Shiva’s vehicle -  is at his feet along with the drummers and musicians. There is one drummer on the right side of the Shiva who is of great interest. He is the attendant named “Tandu”. Hence the dance named "Shiva Tandava".

10 best sculptures of ancient India - The Dancing Shiva, Badami
The dancing Shiva 

3. Vishnu in Rajasabha (Royal court) - Badami 578AD

Located in :   Badami , Karnataka

It is an iconic image of Badami. This sculpture is found in the grand cave number 3 of Badami. It was built by the Chalukya King Mangalesha.  It is a sculpture of God Vishnu sitting on top of the coils of serpent “Shesha”. The elegance of Vishnu resembles that of an Emperor sitting in his royal court. It is also enhanced by the intricately carved pillars on both sides. Together with the carved pillars and the orientation of the sculpture it resembles a Raja Sabha or Royal court. The below picture shows the full view of this sculpture. 

10 best sculptures of ancient India - Vishnu in Rajasabha (Royal court) - Badami
 Vishnu in Rajasabha (Royal court)
10 best sculptures of ancient India -Vishnu in Rajasabha (Royal court) - Badami
 Vishnu in Rajasabha (Royal court)

4.  The ten handed dancing Shiva (“Dashabhuja Nataraja”) - circa 540 AD

Located in :   Aihole, Karnataka

This sculptural masterpiece stands unnoticed in the Ravanphadi cave of Aihole. It is known as the “Dashabhuja Nataraja” or “The ten handed dancing Shiva”. The sheer beauty and perfection of Shiva, dancing with consort Parvati, sons Ganesh and Karthikeya accompanied by Sapta Matrikas is breathtaking. The composition and posture of Shiva, the dynamics it conveys is beyond description.

10 best sculptures of ancient India  - The ten handed dancing Shiva (“Dashabhuja Nataraja”) - Aihole
The ten handed dancing Shiva

5. The Descent of Ganges  - 640AD

Located in :   Mahabalipuram, TamilNadu

This is just not a single sculpture, it is a huge stone canvas of 90 feet width and 30 feet height. It was created during the Pallava King Narasimhavarman. This sublime creation of ancient Indian artists depict the event of River Ganges descending from heaven to earth. There are around 126 individual characters in this sculptural panel including Bhageeratha, Shiva, Vishnu, Surya, Chandra, Kinnara, Kim Purusha, Gandharva, Animals, birds and reptiles. Read More.. 

10 best sculptures of ancient India - - The Descent of Ganges - Mahabalipuram
The Descent of Ganges 

6. Goddess Durga Slaying Demon Mahisha (Mahishasura Mardini) - 650 AD

Located in :   Mahabalipuram, TamilNadu

It is a dynamic scene from the battle between the elegant and slender Durga and the stout and powerful Mahishasura . It is built during the time of Narasimhavarman Mahamalla (630–668 AD) of the Pallava dynasty. The characters in this panel are perfectly positioned in time and space. Durga about to strike an arrow at Mahishasura, the Asura in a quite frightened and awed posture trying to hit one last time. It also portrays the vigorous army of Durga and the disheartened army of Mahishasura. The emotion of not only the main characters, but on every living being in this panel is perfectly captured.

10 best sculptures of ancient India - - Goddess Durga Slaying Demon Mahisha (Mahishasura Mardini) - Mahabalipuram
 Goddess Durga Slaying Demon Mahisha

7. Sun God Surya riding his chariot with Aruna - circa 745 AD

Located in :   Pattadakkal, Karnataka

This incredibly detailed sculpture can be found on the porch ceiling of Virupaksha temple in Pattadakkal. This sculpture was made during the time of Chalukya King Vikramaditya II, by his wife Lokamahadevi. It is a beautiful carving of Sun God Surya riding his chariot. The Charioteer is Aruna. He is accompanied by his consorts Usha and Sandhya (Dawn and Dusk respectively). According to Indian mythology Sun God Surya rides a chariot drawn by seven horses representing each day of the week. Other celestial beings and Gods are also depicted in the panel. 

10 best sculptures of ancient India - Sun God Surya riding his chariot with Aruna - Pattadakkal
Sun God Surya riding his chariot 

8. Gaja Lakshmi - AD 756-773 

Location: Kailasanatha temple, Ellora - Maharashtra 

The GajaLakshmi(Lakshmi with elephants) sculpture is found in the entrance porch of the legendary Kailasanatha temple of Ellora.  In Indian mythology, GajaLakshmi is one the Ashta Lakshmis(One of the eight manifestations of the Goddess of prosperity Lakshmi). GajaLakshmi is often depicted as seated in a pool on top of a lotus. The Goddess is flanked by elephants on either sides who pour water over her. eventhough much corroded, this sculpture is a masterpiece due to the attention to the details of the sculptor.

10 best sculptures of ancient India - Gaja Lakshmi - Ellora
Gaja Lakshmi 

9. Ugra Narasimha with serpent hood  - AD 1528

Location: Hampi, Karnataka

The Lakshmi-Narasimha statue is located quite close to the Bala Krishna temple. It is the biggest monolithic sculpture in Hampi measuring 6.7 meters high. It depicts Narasimha – the half man, hald lion form -  the fourth Avatar of Vishnu sitting in a yoga posture. Due to it's fierce appearance, this statue is known as "Ugra-Narasimha". It is believed that King Krishnadevaraya has commissioned this sculpture. Narasimha has a fierce expression on his face, which is aggravated by the protruding eyes. The Lakshmi-Narasimha sculpture got its name from the peculiar construction which cannot be observed now. In the original form of the sculpture had Lakshmi – Consort of Narasimha- sitting on Narasimha’s lap. It was destructed during the Mughal raid of Vijayanagara in 1565. The remnant of Goddess Lakshmi’s statue is also visible on the close inspection.

10 best sculptures of ancient India - Ugra Narasimha with serpent hood - Hampi
Ugra Narasimha

10.  Matanga Yaksha and Siddhaika Yakshini - circa AD 850

Location: Cave 32, Ellora - Maharashtra

The famous Jain cave 32 of Ellora is also called the Royal court of Indra by historians. This cave is famous for colossal yet delicate sculptures. Out of of them there are 2 masterpieces. One is the Matanga Yaksha(left) - the God of prosperity- sitting on an elephant under the Banyan tree. The second one is the Siddhaika Yakshini - the Goddess of fertility - sitting under a mango tree. Even though the sculptures are much more than life size, the attention to detail is enormous. One can even observe the monkeys and parrots are carved on the mango tree and they are depicted as eating mangoes.

10 best sculptures of ancient India - 10 best sculptures of ancient India - Matanga Yaksha and Siddhaika Yakshini - Ellora caves
 Matanga Yaksha and Siddhaika Yakshini


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